Heroes of 2016
The White Helmets
A group of volunteer rescue workers with branches all over Syria, the White Helmets risk their own safety to rescue people from bomb wreckage. Hurtling around streets, driving their van towards every new cloud of smoke on the horizon, the group is dedicated to pulling their stricken brothers and sisters from the remains of hospitals and markets and cafes. Their humanity in the face of death and destruction - levels of which have not been seen in the 21st century - provides a glimmer of hope for the future of Syria.
Dismissed early on by critics as an angry black woman unsuited for the tradition-bound role of US first lady, Michelle Obama is bowing out with approval ratings higher than Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and even her own husband Barack. In a year of dismal political discourse, her speech at an October rally in New Hampshire was a standout moment. Voice shaking, she issued a powerul message about empowering women to rise up against sexual abuse and harassment in every context. She may have said she has no interest in the top job, but Obama 2020 could prove to a difficult proposition to beat.
The US gymnast was the breakout star of the Rio Olympics, capturing the imagination of viewers across the globe with her winning smile and uncomparable excellence and astounding even the most grizzled of gymnastic veterans with her swivel-of-the-hip showmanship. Biles's upbringing was troubled, but her attention to detail and consummate ease in the limelight has brought her to the hearts of many.
On 16 June, Labour MP Jo Cox died after being stabbed and shot outside her constituency surgery by Thomas Mair, a 53-year-old inspired by White Supremacism. Her death in the middle of the heated EU referendum campaign shone a light on the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric used by modern politicians. Cox bucked the trend of unpopular MPs and was lauded for her tolerance and good grace, using her maiden speech to celebrate her constituency's ethnic diversity, campaigning on issues relating to the Syrian civil war, founding and chairing the all-party parliamentary group Friends of Syria. The Independent described her as having "campaigned tirelessly for refugees" and she was held as a beacon for the Labour Party's future.
In a year of numerous sporting highs for the home nations, it was the boy from Dunblane who stole the show. For Andy Murray, 2016 was his annus mirabilis, becoming the first British singles tennis player to ever reach the world number one spot. He added another Wimbledon title to his achievements along with his second consecutive Olympic gold medal, but it was his performance in the ATP Masters final against Novak Djokovic that will be most remembered. Two old friends locked in battle for the top spot in the finale of the year-end championships, it was a film script in the making. But there was to be no nail-biting hollywood finish as Murray blew the Serb away with some of the best tennis of his career.
Lamiya Aji Bashar and Nadia Murad
Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar were abducted with other Yazidi women in August 2014, when their home village of Kocho in northern Iraq was attacked by Islamic State jihadis. Their subsequent escape and refuge in Germany is inspirational in itself, but both women have become public advocates for the Yazidi community in Iraq, a religious minority that has been the subject of a genocidal campaign by IS militants. The pair were awarded the prestigious Sakharov prize for freedom of thought by the European Union this year with the committee describing them as "inspirational women who have shown incredible bravery and humanity in the face of despicable brutality".
The nation's favourite crisp-eater, Gary Lineker has cemented his national treasure status with a series of tweets concerning the plight of child refugees. His stance was widely applauded by numerous charities and he even managed to appear on Match of The Day in just some ill-fitting boxers without turning people against him.The fact he went from "England football hero" to "leftie luvvie" literally overnight in the pages of some of the nation's tabloids didn't seem to bother him neither.