Middle East roundup: Five more years for Erdogan

Here’s a roundup of Al Jazeera’s Middle East coverage this week.

Erdogan giving a speech in Turkey

Erdogan re-elected in Turkey, fears that fighting in Sudan will escalate and a border battle between Iran and Afghanistan. Here’s your roundup of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi. 

Five more years for Erdogan

Before the first round of the Turkish presidential election on May 14, the expectation from the opposition was that this was its big chance to unseat the incumbent, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after 20 years in power. But a strong performance by Erdogan, just shy of the 50 percent plus one vote he needed for a first-round victory, abruptly ended most of those hopes. And even with the opposition’s desperate attempt to shift its narrative on refugee policy to the (far) right before Sunday’s run-off, it was pretty obvious how this thing was going to go.

And so, once again, Erdogan has won an election, punctuated by victory speeches in Istanbul and Ankara. Preliminary results gave Erdogan 52.2 percent of the vote to opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s 47.8 percent.

But what comes next? Turkey’s problems – particularly the economic oneshave not suddenly disappeared. And how will Erdogan now deal with relations that have soured with some Western countries? Then there’s the Turkish opposition and the questions it has to ask itself after yet another electoral failure. It will have to recalibrate – and surely pick someone who is not called Kilicdaroglu, to lead it into the next elections.

Sudan’s army withdraws from ceasefire talks

On Monday, representatives of the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) agreed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to renew a ceasefire for another five days. But by Wednesday, the army had pulled out of further talks, accusing the RSF of not being serious in implementing the agreement or maintaining the ceasefire. The decision has led to fear that there will now be an intensification of violence in Sudan, particularly in the capital, Khartoum, where the RSF has a strong presence.

(Listen: Sudan’s doctors battle to keep people alive)

Another area where RSF fighters are concentrated is West Darfur, and the state has been the scene of some of the worst fighting in the conflict so far, a continuation of sorts of the 20-year civil war that once plagued Darfur and only ended with a peace deal in 2020 after 300,000 people had been killed. An estimated 90,000 people have now fled the current violence and escaped to neighbouring Chad. Al Jazeera’s Virginia Pietromarchi met some of the refugees there who are trying to find shelter any way they can. They told her their stories of escape – and of the killing that started as soon as night fell.

Iran-Afghanistan border battle

A rare border confrontation took place on Saturday between Iranian border guards and Taliban fighters, killing at least two people on the Iranian side and one on the Afghan. The immediate cause of the fighting is unclear, with both sides blaming each other. But the two neighbours have had recent disagreements over water rights, with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi accusing Afghanistan of restricting the flow of the Helmand River, which usually supplies eastern Iran.

Why is that so important? Well, Iran has been going through a bad drought over the past decade while Afghanistan is trying to dam the river to generate electricity and provide water for agriculture. Both sides have tried to calm things down since the border incident, but the underlying issue has not gone away – and offers yet more evidence of how water is at the root of more and more disputes between neighbouring countries in the region – think Turkey and Iraq, Israel and Jordan, and Egypt and Ethiopia. In increasingly dry climates, control of precious rivers is all – and if you sit upstream, you’re king.

And now for something different

This week featured more evidence of the growing interest in space exploration on the part of some countries in the Gulf region as the first Arab woman to be sent into orbit, Saudi national Rayyanah Barnawi, returned to Earth. In fact, Barnawi’s arrival at the International Space Station (ISS) was the first time three Arab astronauts had been on board the ISS simultaneously with her fellow Saudi, Ali Alqarni, and the Emirati Sultan Alneyadi also present. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates announced it was going to launch a mission to an asteroid belt to increase understanding of the origins of life.

Whitewashing Syria

Now that the Syrian government has cosied up to its fellow Arab states at last month’s Arab League summit, authorities across the region are trying to start all over with President Bashar al-Assad. But millions of refugees, in places like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, are still living in desperate conditions, too afraid to return home. For Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Syria researcher, that means Syria’s government has a lot to answer for. “No matter how much Arab leaders invest in rehabilitating the Syrian government’s image through invitations to global conferences and diplomatic overtures, they will not be able to erase 12 years of war crimes,” she says in this opinion piece.


Israeli shot dead near settlement in occupied West Bank | Saudi freed in Lebanon after kidnapping | Libya court sentences 23 to death for ISIL campaign | Ukraine’s parliament approves sanctions against Iran | Saudi Arabia executes two Bahrainis accused of “terrorism” | Palestinian Authority officer killed by Israeli forces in Jenin | Cristiano Ronaldo’s mixed first season in Saudi football | New Al-Aqsa provocation is building up on Israel’s far-right | Egyptian activists arrest sparks safety fears in Lebanon | WFP cuts aid to 200,000 Palestinian families | Egypt unveils ancient mummification workshops and tombs | Israeli settler kills Palestinian after alleged stabbing | Jordan’s Bedouins take on the struggles of climate change | Iran frees Belgian aid worker | Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt resigns as political party chief | UAE withdraws from US-led maritime coalition | Five Palestinian fighters killed in Lebanon blast blamed on Israel |

Quote of the week

“I witnessed a lot of prejudice towards Syrians, such as thoughts about them bringing violence and economic crisis to our country. But I feel that these tensions disappear in this place. It might seem like a utopian paradise, but those who come here are people with a really open mind, willing to go beyond.” | Ayse Yilmaz, a Turkish humanitarian worker in Gaziantep who is a regular at Room41, a techno and electronic music club run by Syrian refugees. DJs who fled Aleppo have tried to re-create the city’s lifestyle across the border in Turkey.

Source: Al Jazeera