The Highlights (and Dimlights) of 2014: A Year in Review

Sheema Ahanin

2014 has been a good year for some. Germany won the 20th FIFA World Cup – which took place in Brazil – against its Latin American counterpart, Argentina. Malala Yousafzai, a 17 year-old activist from Pakistan – who was nearly assassinated by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating women’s education – became this year’s co-recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize. Just recently, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States would lift its embargo against Cuba and would be resuming normal relations with the country after over 50 years of hostility between the two nations.

While some aspects and events of 2014 were positive many were not. It was not a year for airlines – as the world saw tragedy unfold with two Malaysia Airlines aircrafts as well as an Air Algerie aircraft where hundreds lost their lives. There was a rise in insurgency in the Middle East, Ukraine and Nigeria. Ebola, a disease that affects humans and is often fatal, became a household name as thousands began contracting the disease – first in Africa, and then ultimately across continents.

Starting from January 2014 to December 2014, here are some of the significant events that unfolded around the world:


  •  January 1 – Latvia becomes the 18th member in Europe to adopt the Euro as its official currency.


  •  The Ebola virus is recognized as an epidemic in West Africa, infecting and killing thousands of people.
  • February 7 to 23 – The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia begins. Despite the rising political and civil tension between Ukraine and Russia, the decision is made to keep Russia as the host country for this year’s 2014 Winter Olympics.
  • February 26 – The Ukrainian parliament votes to remove President Viktor Yanukovych and is replaced by Oleksandr Turchynov.
  • Civil unrest in Kiev leaves dozens dead and pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine leads to the annexation of the country’s southern region of Crimea by Russia. There is a rise in insurgency in the eastern regions of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk.


  •  March 8 – Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 goes missing en route to Beijing, China from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Despite weeks of search and rescue efforts, there is no trace of the missing aircraft carrying all 227 passengers and 12 crewmembers.
  • March 16 to 27 – A referendum for the state of Crimea is held. Russia formally annexes Crimea and the UN General Assembly rejects the referendum as it recognizes Crimea within Ukraine’s borders.


  •  April 14 – Over 200 schoolgirls and women are abducted and held hostage in Nigeria.
  • April 16 – A Korean ferry sinks, killing over 200 people, mostly high school students.
  • The U.S. imposes economic sanctions on companies and individuals with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.


  •  May 5 – Boko Haram militants kill approximately 300 people during a night attack on Nigeria’s northeastern town of Gamboru Ngala.
  • May 20 – The recent attacks in Nigeria are followed by bomb detonations in Nigeria’s mid-belt city of Jos on May 20, which kills over 100 people.
  • The Royal Thai Army overthrows Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan’s government after it fails to resolve the political unrest in Thailand.


  •  June 5 – The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, begins its offensive through Northern Iraq. The militant group becomes known for the kidnappings and gruesome murders of Westerners, Shiites, religious minorities of the region as well as moderate Sunnis.
  • June 12 – The first day of the FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil, kicks off. The month-long event ends with Germany winning 1-0 against Argentina.


  •  July 8 – Israel launches Operation Protective Edge on the Palestinian Gaza Strip following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the murder of a Palestinian teenager. Israel launches numerous missile strikes followed by a ground invasion. Casualties accounted for are 2,100 Palestinian lives and 71 Israeli lives.
  • July 17 – The second Malaysia Airlines aircraft, Flight 17, suffers a casualty after a missile in Ukraine shoots it down. All 298 on board die.
  • July 24 – A third aircraft, Air Algerie Flight 5017, crashes in Mali, killing all 116 on board.


  •  August 8 – The U.S. military begins an air campaign in northern Iraq to fight the ISIS militants who have taken over parts of the region.
  • August 9 – Michael Brown, an 18 year-old resident of Ferguson, Missouri, is shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson after a brief confrontation between the unarmed Brown and officer Wilson. The death of Michael Brown sparks protests nation-wide against racial profiling and police abuse.


  •  September 22 – The U.S. and the Arab coalition begin an airstrike campaign in Syria to battle the growing militant group ISIS.


  •  October 10 – Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani advocate for girls and women’s education, becomes the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • October 22 – Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 32 year-old Canadian from Montreal, opens fire at the Canadian National War Memorial as well as at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. Corporal Nathan Cirillo is shot and killed at the Canadian National War Memorial. Upon entering the premises of the Parliament, Bibeau is shot and killed by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, Kevin Vickers.


  •  November 24 – The nuclear accord between the EU 3 + 3 and Iran, which had an initial final agreement date of November 24, is pushed to June 2015. Despite disagreements and staggering, prolonged talks, the Obama administration, as well as several Western nations, express their willingness to re-open dialogue for economic ease and talks of resuming business with Iran.


  •  December 16 – Taliban gunmen, who storm into a school in Pakistan’s northern city of Peshawar, kill over 100 people – mostly children.
  • December 17 – The U.S. announces the embargo lift against Cuba, which was imposed in January 1961. U.S. President Barack Obama expresses its plans to normalize relations with Cuba after nearly six decades of tension and hostility.

As 2014 comes to an end and the world rings in the new year, many wonder what 2015 will hold across the globe. The U.S. may find new trade partners with the likes of Cuba and Iran, while continuing to fight global terrorism with its allies around the world. Despite military campaigns, fundamentalism may continue to grow in certain areas of the world, such as the Middle East and several regions in Africa as well as Asia. Leadership around the world may shift as some nations fight to maintain stability in the region while others thrive and lead the way as an example of stability and growth.

For what it is worth, the international community can only hope for the best in the next coming year.