A year of terror or light at the end of the tunnel? These were the first two titles to run through my mind before I remembered that cryptic headlines belong to the printed press and online media likes simple, straightforward ones. So let us make a straightforward appraisal of the year that was 2015 and reach our conclusion.
Reading through the list of main news events which occurred month-on-month during 2015, the bottom line is terror, from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris on January 7 to the cancellation of fireworks and public gatherings in Brussels on December 31, the European terror network being centered on these two cities throughout the year.
Where yesterday it was al-Qaeda filling the headlines, today it is Islamic State committing massacres and murdering innocent civilians against every grain of what is set forth in the Qu'ran, in so doing committing the ultimate outrage and blasphemy against the noble religion of Islam in general and the Sunni denomination in particular.
The list of atrocities is long and depressing, highlighted by the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris on January 7, in which twelve people were murdered in cold blood. Here, the perpetrators simply failed to understand the psyche of French cartoon satirical culture, a part of French society since the days of the Revolution, a part of the French way of life to make humor through caricatures, none of which is supposed for one second to be serious.
This, and the ensuing massacres in the Jewish supermarket on January 9 (4 victims) claimed the front pages of the Press for the whole week, while the Boko Haram massacre in Baga, a town in Nigeria razed to the ground with hundreds if not thousands of people unaccounted for, reached the inner pages of the dailies but then again, Baga is in Africa and Paris, oh là là!... Boko Haram was later to pledge allegiance to Islamic State in March.
February began with decapitations by Islamic State cowards standing over terrified civilians with their hands tied behind their backs, powerless - and the violence spread to Denmark, which suffered its worst terrorist attack with one dead and three police injured on February 14.
On March 18, a massacre in the Tunis Bardo National Museum murdered 22 people; on March 20, 140 people died in attacks against mosques in the capital city of Yemen, Sana'a. Then in June, a lone psychopath took Tunisia off the tourist destination map, murdering dozens of people (38) at Port el Kantaoui resort, near Sousse and ruining the livelihoods of millions of Tunisians who made a living from the tourist trade.
The intensifying violence in Syria, coupled with an economic crisis and unrest in North Africa and across Asia sparked the refugee crisis as refugees from war zones and economic migrants fled northwards and westwards to Fortress Europa, a continent keen to export its policies and customs through imperialist and colonial practices in the past but not so happy when the coin is turned the other way around.
In August, an example of what can happen when the public decide to have a go - the Thalys train attack thwarted in Paris when the (Moroccan) would-be terrorist had the daylights smacked out of him by two Americans and a British tourist. The message: if you see a terrorist attack starting, you are probably going to die anyway so have a go and see if you get lucky. The alternative is to sit back and totally lose control of the situation.
And ISIS destroyed another temple, at Palmyra in Syria, thousands of years of treasures, the property of Humankind, lost forever because of a minority of demented and psychopathic bigots and blasphemers.
In September, it was the turn of the Taliban to make the headlines, whatever the Taliban is (a very strong element being the drugs warlords who have flourished since NATO took over Afghanistan, or parts of it, in 2001) by taking the city of Kunduz, the first of two major successes despite fighting against dozens of nations whose collective military budget is 1.2 trillion USD a year, every year, three or four times more than it would take to eradicate poverty, worldwide, forever in one fell swoop.
One week in November blackened the horizon again, with the coordinated attacks in Paris (again) on November 13 creating 130 victims in suicide bombings and shootings at a concert hall, cafés and restaurants, followed by the attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, in which 27 people were murdered and 170 were taken hostage.
Russia entered the fray in the second half of the year with a serious and determined anti-terror campaign in Syria, following the precept that those who take up arms illegally against the proper authorities are terrorists, period, and not following the western stance that there are good terrorists and not-so-good terrorists, or bad terrorists and not-so-bad terrorists and one has the right to intervene, arm terrorist groups and turn a blind eye when they commit atrocities and massacres, and expect themselves to be exonerated from any responsibility.
The black sheep once again was Turkey, which on November 24 shot down a Russian aircraft carrying out an anti-terror campaign in the execution of its mission, an act which was as unprovoked as it was unnecessary proving everyone's suspicions that Erdogan's Turkey is a pariah state heavily involved with Islamic State. Why else would it have shot down a military aircraft combatting terrorists?
More hypocrisy from Kiev, which complains about the actions of rebels but then itself violates peace agreements and tries to occupy places which its armed forces lost, blaming Russia as usual without a shred of evidence (let us be honest, if Russia was involved Ukraine would have ceased to exist within two weeks)...but then again Kiev does what it is told. Check out the influence the Biden family has in the country's energy sector.
And despite more interference from Washington against Venezuela with sanctions imposed on Caracas right at the beginning of the year in January, some progress was made in international relations. The Ukraine conflict quietened down at least, everyone recognizes that President Assad is fighting terrorists and is not the terrorist himself, the relations with Cuba thawed with the opening of embassies in April and Washington taking Havana off the state-sponsored terrorism list in May (an absurd situation from the beginning when the terrorist was Washington. Check out Posada Carriles).
And Iran has begun to appear on the international stage, aiding Iraq against Islamic State in March and signing a nuclear deal in July, again a reflection of Moscow's diplomacy which was felt around the world. Some good notes, then, among these the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar whose opposition won a landslide victory in free and fair democratic elections in November and the COP 21, from November 30 to December 12 in Paris, where for the first time all the nations of the international community pledged to reduce carbon emissions.
With the 2015 Millennium Development Goals milestone reached and partially successful, maybe we can get back on course and concentrate on peace and development, education, employment and provision of public services as we draw up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.
This is a quest for love, peace and brotherly relations. We have spent the first decade and a half slipping back into dark ages which have nothing to do with the hearts and minds of humankind. Maybe 2016 will be the turning point and we can conclude that 2015 was a year of terror, but with light at the end of the tunnel.
After all, in the end the New Year celebrations went ahead. Celebrations of light in the darkness, celebrations of good over evil and celebrations of hope for the future, the same celebrations which were enjoyed thousands of years ago when Europeans believed that during the dark Winter months, the underworld and our world became closer, so fires were lit to ward off the spirits of demons.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.
The decision to exclude Portugal, the country with one of the best records in managing Covid-19, is typical of a Government that has lost the plot