May 26

Middle East round-up: More fighting in Sudan, despite ceasefire


Fighting shows few signs of slowing down in Sudan, Turkey’s presidential election campaign enters its final stretch, and a warning about future extreme temperatures in the Middle East. Here’s your round up of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Al Jazeera Digital’s Middle East and North Africa editor.

Yet another ceasefire in Sudan came into effect on Monday, and just as in previous truces over the past six weeks, it failed. The latest truce, which was supposed to last seven days, was signed by the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Saturday. That gave the deal some level of heft, particularly since a US-Saudi team was designated to monitor its enforcement. The hope is that it would allow for humanitarian aid to reach the millions in need, both in the capital Khartoum, and elsewhere in the country.

[READ: No escape, no aid, as fighting intensifies in Sudan’s West Darfur]

And yet, with trust only at a bare minimum, the shooting has not ceased. People in Khartoum and Omdurman reported ground assaults and air attacks straight after what was supposed to be the beginning of the ceasefire, which continued into Tuesday. Come Wednesday, there was a lull, but aid workers said humanitarian deliveries were still slow, for logistical and security reasons. And as a relative calm descended on Khartoum, Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan reported on the outcome of the fighting: bodies decomposing in the streets, and the stench of death in the air. More than 860 civilians have been killed, according to medics, and more than 1 million people have been displaced, with 25 million in need of aid.

Courting Nationalists in Turkey

With the clock ticking towards Sunday’s presidential run-off in Turkey, both campaigns have taken on a more overt nationalist tone, with the opposition’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu promising to force Syrian refugees out of the country now being a centrepiece of his campaign. One of the reasons for the dominance of a nationalist narrative is the 5 percent of voters (or thereabouts) who didn’t vote for either President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or Kilicdaroglu, in the first round vote on May 14. Their votes instead went to Sinan Ogan, a (you guessed it) nationalist.

[READ: Turkey’s Camlica Mosque: Ottoman heritage or modern nationalism?]

After teasing both campaigns, Ogan has thrown his lot in with Erdogan, despite being pretty fiercely critical of him in the past. But Kilicdaroglu got his own nationalist backing, in the form of the fairly infamous, far-right politician, Umit Ozdag, a man whose platform is largely built on being anti-immigration, and who has hinted that his deal with Kilicdaroglu means he will become interior minister if the opposition leader wins.

That is still a pretty big ask for Kilicdaroglu, who finished almost a full 5 percentage points behind Erdogan in the first round. How can he claw that back, you might ask? Potentially by doubling down on his anti-refugee rhetoric, being more of a tough guy, and making sure his supporters still believe they can win. You can read more here.

Extreme Middle East Heat

The temperature in Doha this week should reach a high of 43 degrees Celsius. That is to be expected for the Gulf at this time of the year. But things could get even worse, according to a new study published in the journal, Nature Sustainability. The study looked at the potential for global temperatures to rise by both 1.5C and 2.7C, and how that would impact the Gulf region. The latter temperature rise would see the entire population of Qatar exposed to “unprecedented” heat, with almost everyone in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain facing the same situation. For an already sweltering region, that could spell disaster for millions.

And Now for Something Different

The traditional wooden boat known as a meshhouf has been around for thousands of years, since the time of the Sumerians, according to those who know about these sorts of things. Unfortunately, modernity means that on Iraq’s waterways, motorboats are far more common. That battle has clearly been lost, but some Iraqis want to at least make sure the meshhouf, and the history and culture that the vessels represent, don’t disappear completely.

This aerial view shows traditional traditional “meshhouf” wooden boats lying on the ground outside a workshop in the area of al-Huwair in the sub-district of al-Madinah in Iraq’s southern Basra province. [Asaad Niazi/AFP]

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