Nothing spelt change better in 2018 than the news of Saudi Arabia lifting its ban on women drivers. This was a huge step forward in women’s rights. Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that had banned women from getting behind the wheel, threatening jail time or even lashes if they did so.
When Saudi King Salman made the announcement in June, it sparked jubilation all over the country as women took to the streets shortly after the ban lift to celebrate, and female drivers and people throughout the country took to social media to express their joy.
The new step forward also signifies an important step in decreasing influence of the country’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain consent of a male relative for major decisions.
This also opens doors to boost economy by providing jobs for women and allowing them to be productive at work, in line with the country’s economic reform.
The Great Rescue
One incident that diverted attention from the FIFA World Cup in June was the story of 12 Thai boys and their football coach who were trapped in Thailand’s Tham Luang cave for 17 days.
The final rescue gripped the world, uniting people from around the globe who prayed for their safe return. Experts worldwide came together to devise a rescue plan; the incident itself united Thais who were politically divided and differences were put aside with one goal in mind – bringing the boys out safely.
It took an elite group of international cave divers from Australia, Britain, China and the United States working together with Thai SEALS to rescue the boys.
About 10,000 people took part in the rescue efforts that tragically claimed a life of a diver – he died during the extraction attempt. The event inspired the world, with a clear message that once united, mankind can change for the better and accomplish almost anything.
A Murder Most Foul
If you were not familiar with the name Jamal Khashoggi, chances are by now you would have heard about the Washington Post journalist. The Saudi Arabian journalist disappeared in early October and was subsequently found murdered at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
It sent shock waves all over the world, sparking off a political maelstrom to the embarrassment of Saudi Arabia. What was more disturbing was the implication of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman in the whole affair and the effect it would have on US-Saudi relationship, a feature of the Trump administration.
It also raises questions about the viability of the Crown Prince’s economic reform agenda, which counted on international investment to help diversify the Saudi economy away from its current dependence on oil and energy revenues.
For the first time ever, four countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei – stood united against MasterChef UK judges who criticised Malaysian contestant Zaleha Kadir Olpin on the show for her rendition of nasi lemak with chicken rendang for not being “crispy enough”.
Netizens slammed the show’s judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace on all social media platforms, questioning whether they were qualified to judge Asian food at all.
The controversy, dubbed “rendang-gate”, stirred a myriad of emotions among Malaysians, uniting people from all walks of life and political divide to rally behind Zaleha’s dish. Malaysian food is definitely crossing borders and gaining traction the world over, but we’re keeping our rendang not crispy, thank you!
One of the most keenly watched political meetings of the year was between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.
Kim has only publicly left his country three times since taking power after his father’s death in 2011 – twice to China, once to South Korea. After attending several bilateral meetings, he told reporters that “the world will see a major change” while Trump described it as “pretty comprehensive”.
Earthquake Wreaks Havoc
2018 was riddled with natural disasters from earthquakes and tsunamis to floods and wildfires, which claimed many lives all over the world.
Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami in September resulted in widespread devastation to the Sulawesi island. It also rendered more than 330,000 people homeless and close to 3,000 dead, making it one of the worst disasters of 2018.
The earthquake shifted landscape and washed away the shore, villages, public parks, residences, monuments, and more were destroyed in the aftermath.
Brexit Bill Passed
The clock is ticking away on a Brexit deal as the official departure date for the UK to leave the EU is March 29, 2019. Parliament passed the Brexit bill in June when Prime Minister Theresa May obtained the “meaningful vote” despite a revolt by the Tory MPs.
The amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill sent to peers from the House of Commons was accepted. This month, the British PM survived a no-confidence vote on her leadership, buying her more time to try to sell her unpopular Brexit deal to a deeply divided parliament.
Revolution Calling For Change
This has been the most challenging year for France. Unhappy with their lifestyle of poverty and hardship, and thirsty for change, thousands of people dressed in yellow vests (gilets jaunes), particularly those from the rural areas, took to the streets in November to protest the increasing cost of living, demanding for change, and a better life for their children.
Dubbed the “Yellow Vest Revolution”, the movement sprang in response to hikes in fuel taxes and taxes meant to curb pollution. It quickly turned into a bigger movement against President Emmanuel Macron, with discontent against growing inequality between the urban elite and the rural poor. Blockages all across the country caused mayhem, and destroyed public property and cars.
What’s In A Name
After almost three decades and countless protests that divided Greece and Macedonia, the two nations finally agreed to end the row over what to call the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The tiny state will no longer be known by its acronym or as Macedonia, but as the Republic of North Macedonia.
The dispute arose in 1991, when the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia seceded from Yugoslavia and declared its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia. The name was changed to end any fear of future claims by Athens of territorial ambition against the neighbouring Greek province of the same name.
The End Of The Castro Era
In Febuary 2018, Raul Castro stepped down as president of Cuba, ending almost six decades of Castro rule on the Caribbean island nation. Raul had taken over from his elder brother Fidel, father of the 1959 revolution.
Taking over from Raul as Cuba’s new president was Miguel Diaz-Chanel, who had served as first vice-president since 2013.