From Aaron Swartz to Assange, Monsanto to Manning, fracking fears, Iraq carnage and more, here are RT’s "Top 13 of 2013." These vastly underreported stories are some of the biggest ones to fly under the mainstream media’s radar this year.
The visionary cofounder of Reddit and open access advocate who played a key role in how we navigate the web today, Aaron Swartz was young, precocious and determined to change the world. But with “the trial” looming large over his head, the tech genius succumbed to the pressure on January 11,hanging himself with his own belt in the Brooklyn apartment he shared with his girlfriend.
In February, many of the men being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility launched a hunger strike against camp conditions. It was sparked by a disrespectful treatment of Quran. One month into the strike, attorneys for the men, many housed at the facilities infamous Camp 6, said the number refusing food had already reached 100.
Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the surveillence of US military police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AFP Photo / Shane T. Mccoy)
On March 29, ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline burst near the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, flooding the town with the equivalent of over 10,000 barrels of crude oil. Nearly two dozen homes were evacuated following the accident, which the US Environmental Protection Agency categorized as a “major spill”.
‘Remember, remember the Fifth of November’, when protesters donning white-faced Guy Fawkes masks gathered in an estimated 450 locations worldwide to protest corporate greed, corrupt governance, and the ever expanding surveillance state.
The event, dubbed the “Million Mask March,” was associated with the hacktivist collective Anonymous and the horizontally organized Occupy movement. Originally growing out of the image board 4chan, Anonymous became increasingly political following the 2011 Arab Spring, targeting governments and corporations like the internet’s answer to white blood cells.
FBI agents shot an unarmed Chechen man in the head during questioning over his suspected ties to the Boston Marathon bombings of May 2013. The FBI has since aimed to sweep the incident under the rug, blocking the release of Ibragim Todashev’s autopsy and intimidating those associated with him.
A member of the FBI enters the apartment of Ibragim Todashev, 27, in Orlando, Florida, May 22, 2013. (Reuters / Phelan Ebenehack)
Public anger against GMO food products and GMO giant, Monsanto, erupted in massive global protests in May and October against the company’s stranglehold on global food production. Millions went out in 50 countries, with signs reading ‘Hell no GMO’.
People hold signs during one of many worldwide "March Against Monsanto" protests against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and agro-chemicals, in Los Angeles, California October 12, 2013. (Reuters / Lucy Nicholson)
This year was a busy one for hacktivist group Anonymous, as well as for attorneys representing alleged members of the collective.
Online operations waged over the past year by the internationally-dispersed band of hackers and activists attracted the attention of people across the globe. But it wasn’t just ordinary citizens keeping an eye on the group; governments and prosecutors were doing the same. In fact, 2013 witnessed numerous global efforts aimed at taking the group down.
If you’re looking for proof that the mainstream media failed Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, look no further than statements made by the imprisoned WikiLeaks source herself.
Not only was the three-month military court martial of Manning largely ignored by established media outlets, but the former private first class said while on the stand that her own efforts to attract the attention of the press years earlier - before she turned to anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks - were ignored as well.
Fort Meade : Chelsea Manning arrives alongside military officials at a US military court facility to hear her sentence in his trial at Fort Meade, Maryland on August 21, 2013. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
WikiLeaks victories as Assange incarceration in Ecuador embassy reaches 3rd anniversary
WikiLeaks won a court case in April that landed Visa with million-dollar fines for its financial blockade of the site. Julian Assange, still holed up in Ecuador’s London Embassy, said it was a victory over Washington's attempt to silence WikiLeaks.
December 7 marked the third year of his detention, despite no charges being filed against him in the country. Assange remains under threat of extradition to Sweden, with the journalist being wanted for questioning in connection with a sexual misconduct investigation, which he labels as politically motivated. He believes Sweden will, in turn, extradite him to the US, where he could face espionage charges, which could carry the death penalty.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (Reuters / Chris Helgren)
Syrian Christians persecuted and forced to flee Maaloula
Maaloula, an ancient Christian town where the locals speak western Aramaic - a language spoken by Christ - has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the Syrian civil war, with attacks on Christians who were eventually forced to make desperate escapes.
Christians and Muslims used to coexist in Maaloula peacefully and despite the civil war raging around them had agreed that their town must remain one of peace. But when Maaloula was taken over in early September by the Islamist fighters from jabat al-Nusra, a group with links to Al-Qaeda, not one of the town’s 5,000 Christian residents or virtually a single member of the 2,000 strong Muslim community remained. All have now fled, fearing for their lives. Maaloula has become a ghost town.
A Syrian army tank is seen in the Christian town of Maalula on September 11, 2013. (AFP Photo)
Two years after the NATO-backed deposition of Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, the country is in chaos. 2013 has witnessed the siege of Libya’s Foreign ministry, the Russian embassy falling under attack, high-ranking officials kidnapped, as well as repeated and deadly clashes between the Libyan army and Islamist militia.
In April, Libya’s foreign ministry was besieged by some 200 men armed with AK-47 assault guns and sniper rifles. Demands were made to sack key foreign service officers in Libya’s embassies and consulates abroad. Intense negotiations followed.
Iraq has been embroiled in a bloodbath this year, with over 9,000 killed in total, according to Iraq Body Count - making it the most violent year the country has seen since 2008. RT’s timeline of the annihilation was set up to keep track of its escalation.
Nearly two years after US troops withdrew from Iraq, security forces are struggling to combat the violence. Iraq has been plunging deeper into inter-ethnic violence, prompted by ever-growing tensions mostly between the country’s majority Shiite community and the Sunni minority.
Iraqis gather around a burning car at the scene of an explosion in the Shiite Muslim Al-Amin district of Baghdad on December 8, 2013. (AFP Photo)