Home Features 2013: The Year That Was

2013: The Year That Was

Image credits: Gene Hunt
Image credits: Gene Hunt

Another year is nearly over, and whether it’s been a good one for you or not such a good one, it has been undeniably eventful. To say our final goodbyes to 2013, Online Features Editor Imogen Watson refresh your memory of some of the year’s biggest and most interesting events, month by month.


The New Year never sees an end to the previous year’s events, and 2013 was no different, with ongoing conflicts in Syria, and the Central African Republic continuing to rage on.

Back here in the United Kingdom, the joint report between the Metropolitan Police and the NSPCC into the Jimmy Savile affair was released, announcing the recording of some 214 criminal offences of sexual abuse on Savile’s part over 54 years and across 28 different police regions in the country. Jim Davidson, another television presenter, was also arrested under Operation Yewtree – the investigation into the scandals – although no further action has been taken against him.

Internationally, Google Maps was able to expand its map coverage of North Korea, detailing labour camps and landmarks.


Pope Benedict XVI. Image credits: zoutedrop
Pope Benedict XVI.
Image credits: zoutedrop


Despite its reputation as being just a little bit dull, February was quite the interesting month. A meteor struck over Russia at nearly 60 times the speed of sound, exploding over Chelyabinsk nearly 14.5 miles above the ground, releasing between 20 and 30 times more kinetic energy than Hiroshima and injuring nearly 1500 people.

Four days previously, although it’s likely unconnected, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from his position at the head of the Roman Catholic Church – the first to do so since 1415 – citing his strengths as “no longer suited to… the Petrine ministry”. Others have suspected intra-Vatican power struggles as more likely for the shock abdication.

And how could we leave February behind without mentioning the horsemeat scandal? Maybe you have got over it now we’ve made it into December or perhaps you’re still a tad cautious, but back in February 2013 there was outrage when it turned out everyone’s beef lasagnes were actually horse…


Demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. Image credits: kalleboo
Demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.
Image credits: kalleboo


March saw North Korea in the news again for making nuclear threats against the United States, having claimed to have tested nuclear weapons in mid-February. They withdrew from all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, stated they were closing their borders and cutting off its hotline to the Southern part of the peninsula – the last method of communication between the two countries. Later in the month, it launched a cyber-attack and then declared a state of war against South Korea, promising “stern physical actions” in response to “any provocative act”. The North Korean crisis, as termed by the media, continues…


It’s possible that April could not have been a busier month had it tried.

Here in Britain on 8 April it was announced that the only female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, had died at the age of 87 after a stroke. A controversial figure, Baroness Thatcher caused plenty of debates in death as in life, including the cost of her funeral (held on 17 April) and who should fund it (the coverage of which you can read here).

Baroness Thatcher's coffin being put into the hearse. Image credits: Joshua Irwandi
Baroness Thatcher’s coffin being put into the hearse.
Image credits: Joshua Irwandi

On the 15 April 2013, two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts, USA, killing three and injuring approximately 264 others. Later, a police officer was killed by gunshot wounds. A terrorist attack, the FBI began their hunt for the suspects, who were quickly identified after the release of photo and surveillance footage. In a very American style, a manhunt began for the two suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, brothers of Russian nationality, who were later arrested and await trial.

In late April, an eight-storey building in Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1100 people and injuring 2515. One woman was pulled out alive after seventeen days within the wreckage. Although cracks had been noticed the previous day, workers had been ordered to return to work despite warnings against doing so. The commercial building contained factories for clothes shops such as Primark, Walmart and JC Penney; in subsequent meetings of the twenty-nine implicated companies, less than nine have been involved.


On 1 October 2012, five-year-old April Jones went missing from her home in Wales, having been seen getting into a car nearby. In May 2013, Mark Bridger was convicted of both her abduction and her murder as well as perverting the course of justice – he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation from the judge that he never be released. Her body has never been found, although Bridger claims to have disposed of it in a nearby river; the police suspect he in fact scattered her remains across local countryside.


The end of June saw the Russian government adopting laws to ban any positive discussion of gay relationships, imposing 5000 ruble (£90) fines on its own citizens (and 50,000 – £900 – for any public official) and the potential arrest and deportation of foreigners caught in any way making a non-heterosexual relationship seem like normality. With the 2014 Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi, Russia, these laws prompted strong reactions from around the world with many, including Stephen Fry, calling for a boycott.


Kate and William. image credits: UK_repsome
Kate and William.
image credits: UK_repsome


Whilst the UK finally experienced some sunshine after an extremely cold spring, Royal Baby fever finally descended. Bets were placed on the gender and name of the most highly anticipated baby of recent years before Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge was born to William and Kate on the 22 July 2013. The world’s media went crazy, and so did many members of the general public, snapping up Royal paraphernalia and camping outside the hospital waiting for that all-important first glimpse of the future King.

Meanwhile, July was also a big month for LGBT rights, with the British government passing a law legalising gay marriage from March 2014 and marking a significant step forward in equality laws.


Although the enduring conflict in Syria continued throughout the year, it was on the 21 August when the world stopped as the Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons on its own people. Thus began an international dance around Bashar al-Assad and his denial of using them, and whether the global community ought to act in response; it has since been confirmed that traces of sarin gas have been found at the alleged attack site. United Nations inspectors were sent into the country and eventually Syria agreed to have its weapons stocks destroyed.


Syrian flags painted on government walls.  Image credits: Freedom House
Syrian flags painted on government walls.
Image credits: Freedom House


After the uproar and outrage of December 2012 when a woman was brutally gang-raped and murdered on a bus in Delhi, India, the four men – Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Guptathe – who attacked her were sentenced to death by hanging in September of this year. India retains the death penalty for certain crimes, including a new amendment in 2013 for death or permanent vegetative state caused by rape, likely brought about by the violent protests in India after the incident occurred.

A little more than a week later, on

21 September and the International Day of Peace, masked gunmen began an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, a raid that lasted for three days and killed a minimum of 72 people from across thirteen different countries (although a majority were Kenyan) in total, including six soldiers; the New York Police Department investigation concluded that it was likely the gunmen themselves escaped. The Islamist group al-Shabaab initially claimed responsibility as retribution for Kenyan involvement in military operations in Somalia.


This month we all witnessed the US political system turn into a crazy mess as the government shut down. The US Congress, responsible for raising the debt ceiling and controlled by the Republican Party, locked horns with the Democratic President Obama in the White House over the level of US debt and balancing the federal (central government’s) budget. Before the Democrats would be allowed their budget to govern for the next year, the Republicans were determined to attach amendments which would, in some way, remove funding for or dismantle entirely Obama’s healthcare reforms passed, subject to lots of debate and scrutiny, in 2012.

Capitol Hill, the home of the US Congress Image credits: Ron Cogswell
Capitol Hill, the home of the US Congress
Image credits: Ron Cogswell

As a result, the deadline for sorting out the argument passed and the government had no choice but to shut down certain federal services, sending home around 800,000 workers indefinitely without pay and asking a further million to work without knowing when they would be paid. The world’s biggest economy unable to pay its debts would have meant another economic disaster, but thankfully a deal was finally passed on 16 October and signed into law just after midnight the next day.


November brought poor luck, to put it very lightly, for the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan struck parts of Asia but significantly the Philippines, killing over 6000 people there alone and destroying large parts of the infrastructure. Several regions were placed under a state of national calamity, the devastation was so vast. As with so many natural disasters, the initial medical requirements of broken bones soon became more chronic conditions, and international appeals were launched to help the masses of the population displaced from their homes. Approximately $374.5 million was donated in money by governments across the world, and supplies were also sent by other nations. The situation, naturally, is still ongoing and dire for many people.

The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Taclobane. Image credits: UK Department for International Development
The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Taclobane.
Image credits: UK Department for International Development


And now that December has come around, what can we reflect upon? As another towering political figure of the 20th century, clearly the death of Nelson Mandela reverberated around the world; despite his old age and long-running illness, no one can quite prepare for the death of such an icon. Any long-term impacts on South Africa and the rest of the world are waiting to be seen, but it cannot be denied his lifetime has seriously changed South Africa for the better.

To finish the year off, what else is happening? Well, the UK’s storm is currently disrupting the travel as people try to get home, Russia is releasing some political prisoners and a few more governments are being accused of spying on each other. As always, it’s fun and games in our globalised world, with not a little bit of argument and tragedy.

What will 2014 be like? Time will soon tell and in the meantime, all that’s left to do is to wish you all a Happy New Year.

Imogen Watson, Online Features Editor

Have we missed something? Which do you think is the biggest event of 2013? Let us know in the comments!

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