Well, 2011 was a hell of a year and a lot of countries made a play for their place in the list of the worst of 2011 with unexpected and out of character descents into dangerous territory everywhere from Greece to Norway and the UK. The Middle East saw massive changes and Mother Nature really showed off her power in other parts of the world. This however, is the top 10 list where things really went downhill for the year – and here’s where that happened in a big way.
Tunisia – From a young man setting himself on fire in protest at being strong-armed out of making an honest living by the police to the fall of the first of many governments in the Middle East. Tunisia set off a chain of events that will go down in history (and that really made a mark on this year’s list). Hopefully that will lead to a better life for a lot of people, but for a while there it looked like things were not going according to plan for anybody.
Egypt – While the danger in Egypt went in fits and starts, you probably didn’t want to be a regular protester or even (in some cases) a journalist reporting on them. Mubarak fell, the army took over and then folks started getting pissed at that too. Enter round two of the protests. Many of the maimed have even taken to wearing their injuries as a source of pride.
Libya – 18 months ago, if somebody had predicted that Ghaddafi would be gone by now, they would have been laughed at. One of the big casualties of the Arab Spring was the Colonel and he didn’t die pretty. Things drew out for a little while, but the rebel forces backed by Western air support finally ousted him. While the country was a very ordinary place for much of the year, hopefully it will be off next year’s list.
Syria – While 2011 has ended, the fun in Syria is only just getting started. The security forces are killing people daily and the demonstrations against the Assad regime continue to grow in momentum. Hopefully 2012 sees the people of Syria reclaim their country.
Sudan – South Sudan – welcome to the world! While things are going downhill slowly here, they’re definitely going downhill. The right call was made with the formation of this new country, but now we get to see what that means in reality. For the time being, it means fighting.
Japan – From arguably the safest country in the world, Japan shot up the charts to see a place in the 10 worst due to the huge tsunami and associated nuclear meltdown. Not a good place to be with thousands of people confirmed dead and the great unknown of nuclear pollution now hanging over a huge population of people.
Afghanistan – It’s difficult to see when this place will ever get off the list. Same country. Same crap. Different year.
Iraq – 2011 finally saw the removal of the US army. Now things can really get down to business with the Sunni and Shias starting to go for each other’s throats. It’s been a difficult 10 years for them and now we get to see if they can finally bring it together. We’re not taking bets.
Pakistan – This was the year they got Bin Laden. Unfortunately, the whole fiasco proved to the world once and for all how messed up the internal workings of the country really are. With the military and intelligence services playing both sides and the slew of tribalism and independence movements, not to mention the strong hold of Islamism, it’s difficult to see Pakistan turning into Sweden any time soon.
Somalia – With piracy, Islamism and foreign machinations in the country, this one deserves a spot in our hall of fame. You’ve heard the story before, and not much has changed in 2011. Though, with US banks now refusing to transfer money to the country (mainly from the large group of Somali expats living in the US who send money to their families) it’s difficult to see this one getting better, let alone a little less sucky for the people living there.
And while we haven’t forgotten our friends in Mexico, Djbouti, Nigeria, Honduras or even even Yemen, Middle Eastern history stole a march on them in 2011. And so onto 2012 – the year that the Mayans predict the end of the world. For some, that may not come soon enough. So remember your luck. Remember what makes life worth living and be good to your fellow humans. Some day, you might need them.