World news in brief
Turkey to hold presidential vote in May
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, yesterday announced parliamentary and presidential elections for 14 May – one month earlier than planned. The elections could determine if Turkey will take a more democratic path or continue on Mr Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian course. Mr Erdogan has ruled over Turkey since 2003 – first as prime minister and as president since 2014. But this year’s elections may be his most
challenging. The country is struggling with a troubled economy, soaring inflation and the aftermath of the February earthquake that left 46,000 dead and hundreds of thousands across 11 Turkish provinces sheltering in tents or temporary accommodation.
Mr Erdogan said the elections had been brought forward because the planned date of 18 June clashed with university exams, summer holidays and travel to the Hajj pilgrimage. He said his campaign would focus on recovery after the earthquakes and would not use any music. All parliamentary candidates from his AK Party will have to make a “generous” donation to the earthquake fund of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.
Earlier this week, Turkey’s disparate opposition parties, including nationalists, Islamists and conservatives, ended months of uncertainty and nominated a joint candidate to run against Mr Erdogan. The six opposition parties, which have pledged to roll back the erosion of rights and freedoms, united behind Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the 74-year-old leader of the centreleft, secularist Republican People’s Party. Reuters and AP
Saudi Arabia and Iran agree to resume ties
Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed yesterday to re-establish relations after seven years of hostility which had threatened stability and security in the Gulf and helped fuel conflicts in the Middle East from Yemen to Syria. The deal was announced after four days of previously undisclosed talks in Beijing between top security officials from the two rival Middle East powers.
Tehran and Riyadh agreed “to resume diplomatic relations between them and reopen their embassies and missions within a period not exceeding two months”, according to a statement issued by Iran, Saudi Arabia and China. Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for missile and drone attacks on the kingdom’s oil facilities in 2019 as well as attacks on tankers in Gulf waters. Iran denied the charges. Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement has often
carried out cross-border missile and drone attacks into Saudi Arabia, which has led a coalition fighting the Houthis.
In yesterday’s agreement, Saudi Arabia and Iran also agreed to activate a security cooperation agreement signed in 2001, as well as another earlier accord on trade, economy and investment. Both countries thanked China, as well as Iraq and Oman for hosting earlier talks in 2021 and 2022. The agreement was signed by Iran’s top security official, Ali Shamkhani, and Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser Musaed bin Mohammed AlAiban. Reuters
Pakistan’s ‘Aurat March’ highlights street harassment
Organisers of Pakistan’s “Aurat March” (women’s march) set up an art installation in the shape of a tunnel on a street in Lahore playing recorded catcalls by men to highlight street sexual harassment. Aurat March is an annual demonstration in cities such as Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta to observe International Women’s Day. “The tunnel piece is an exercise in empathy, in conveying our gendered experiences of walking down the streets, in marketplaces, through office doors,” said a spokesperson for Aurat March. “Ask any gender minority what they feel when they are in public spaces: each one of us will have many stories of harassment, of discomfort, of instances where the streets didn’t feel like ours.”
US experiments on ferrets with Havana Syndrome
Experiments on ferrets are being conducted by the US government in an effort to understand the Havana Syndrome, which has afflicted hundreds of officials. The experiments are being funded by the Department of Defence and seek to determine if radio frequency waves may be the cause of the perplexing illness. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence found last week that there’s no credible evidence that a foreign power is using any kind of weapon to cause the
syndrome, but the Defence Department is still looking at that possibility.
Wayne State University in Michigan was handed a $750,000 (£623,000) grant in September by the army to look at the effects of radiofrequency waves on ferrets, whose brains are similar to those of humans. The study is attempting to understand if the experiment will cause symptoms similar to those experienced by US government personnel in Havana, Cuba, and China. The reported symptoms include serious headaches, temporary hearing loss, vertigo, and other afflictions similar to a brain injury.
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