The following are some of the major events that have been dominating the global headlines in the month of June:
Increased tension in Middle East following US-Iran dispute
Tension in the Middle East ratcheted up by a notch throughout June following the downing of a US drone by Iranian forces. While US President Donald J. Trump has always been critical of Iran including its nuclear ambitions, the escalation marked a sharp decline as Tehran was being accused of flexing its arms in the Persian Gulf. Prior to the downing of the drone, the US also blamed Iran for attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Although evidence was inconclusive, there have been suggestions that the latest situation might be a signal for Iran to the world, particularly the West that it is capable of disrupting one of the world’s most important shipping lines should situation worsens, and an armed conflict becomes unavoidable. This is as the country began to feel the pinch of heavy US sanctions following the collapse of a nuclear deal in 2018. Trump has also imposed more sanctions that targeted the Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the so-called “hostile conduct” of the regime. As Iran rejected the sanctions, the window to revive the collapsed nuclear also became smaller amid fears that hardliners might strengthen their position in the regime, ultimately pushing the country on a brink of war with the US.
Large protests grip Hong Kong amid controversial extradition bill
Street protests made a return to Hong Kong after a controversial extradition bill that sparked fears of growing encroachment of the former British colony by China. Pro-democracy and human rights activists said the bill could be used by Beijing to target those dissenting with views for trial in the mainland, where torture and forced confessions among others are not unheard of. In recent years, there have been accusations that the territory’s autonomy is being gradually taken away while the voices of its people on several major issues including universal suffrage being ignored by Beijing. As the government initially refused to back down from the bill, millions of protesters poured to the streets of the world’s financial hubs, paralyzing movements in the Central district while forcing a number of departments to close. Clashes broke out occasionally between the police and protesters and after days of pressure, the Chief Executive of the territory, Carrie Lam announced that the bill was to be suspended, blaming the lack of explanation and communication by her government for the anger. While the move appeared to have appeased some protesters, it was unlikely to completely end the stalemate as activists have called for the bill to be scrapped altogether as well as Lam’s resignation. As such, a prolonged stand-off between the protesters and government is still highly likely with the former launching sit-ins at various locations in the city, similar to those seen during the 2014 Umbrella Movement.
Ex-Egyptian president Morsi dies during court trial
Thefirst democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi collapsed and died later during a court a trial in mid-June. As one of the key leaders in the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, Morsi has been charged with unlawful detention of protesters as well as torture after being overthrown in a military in a 2013 coup. Since then, he had appeared periodically in court though activists have constantly criticized the military government under Abdul Fattah al-Sisi for depriving the former of family visits and basic needs including medicines, which eventually led to his death. There have been calls for an independent inquiry into Morsi’s demise by the United Nations as well as countries such as Qatar and Malaysia though they are unlikely to be heeded. Cairo had instead accused the UN of politicizing Morsi’s death. While Morsi may have been quietly buried, the uptick in violence by Islamist militants ever since his removal is likely to continue with this latest development.
Erdogan suffers setback following Istanbul election loss
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered a setback at the Istanbul mayoral election re-run in June following the victory of opposition candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu. The loss of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party was a huge blow to Erdogan who has been leading the country as a strongman since 2003. While the jubilant crowds cheered on the streets of Istanbul, the mood was more subdued in Ankara as Erdogan moved to contain the fallout from the loss with his top circles. Once being credited for lifting Turkish economy, Erdogan’s support has been eroding in recent years as he moved toward the conservative path to stay in power. An economic recession and financial crisis also made matters worse while his dictatorial tendencies have also alarmed some voters. For many voters in Istanbul, the victory of the opposition has been regarded as the beginning of a new chapter in the country’s politics where the AK party has maintained a strong grip in the past. Attention will also be focused on Erdogan’s next move amid the election losses. A cabinet reshuffle has been tipped as a possibility though it is unlikely to trigger broad-based reforms in the short-term.
Regional leader killed in attempted coup in Ethiopia
A coup attempt was reported in one of Ethiopia’s nine regions. The President of the Amhara Region, Ambachew Mekonnen was killed in Bahir Dar after a nationalist element of the local security forces went rogue. As the situation unfolded, the country’s army chief, Se‘are Mekonnenin was also killed by one of his bodyguards in Addis Ababa. The two events were later found to be related and linked to the Amhara nationalist factions. The latest killings continued to underscore the fragility of the country’s ethnic federalism system despite the new leadership of reformist president, Abiy Ahmed. While Abiy has been credited for embracing democratic and economic reforms, his move has also proven to be divisive as various ethnic groups jockeyed for power and resources. As the Tigrayans that had long been a dominating voice in the country continue to be in decline, many Amhara nationalists are in the view that this could be the time for them to reclaim the so-called “lost territories” due to the adoption of the new constitution of 1995. With ethno-nationalistic sentiment on the rise, Abiy will now have the unenviable task of maintaining unity ahead of a critical election in 2020.