TIME Nepal

Half a Million Animals Saved as Nepal Nixes the World’s Largest Slaughter Festival

Gadhimai
Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images Butchers raise their blades at a temple before the first animal sacrifices by priests are conducted for the Gadhimai festival in the village of Bariyapur, Nepal, on Nov. 28, 2014

Experts say around 500,000 goats, chickens and buffalos were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009

Nepal’s Gadhimai Temple Trust, which oversees the world’s biggest animal sacrifice every five years, announced Tuesday that no slaughter would take place at this year’s festival.

The announcement comes on the heels of an international movement against the event, which led the Indian Supreme Court to prohibit animals from being shipped or shepherded across the border to be killed as offerings.

“With your help, we can ensure the festival in 2019 is free from bloodshed,” chairman of the temple trust Ram Chandra Shah said in a statement announcing the ban. “Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.”

Gauri Maulekhi, consultant for Humane Society International/India (HSI) and trustee for People for Animals Uttarakhand, who was among the petitioners in the Supreme Court case, called the move a “tremendous victory for compassion” but acknowledged that the hardest task is still to come. Maulekhi said the HSI would spend the three and a half years until the next festival in 2019 educating would-be celebrants in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal about the temple’s decision.

HSI estimates that more than 500,000 goats, chickens and buffalos, along with other animals, were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009. The festival, which dates back about 265 years and which some say has even more ancient roots, is based on a dream founder Bhagwan Chowdhary had featuring Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power. In the dream, Gadhimai demanded a sacrifice after freeing Chowdhary from prison, promising power and prosperity in return. Chowdhary prepared an animal offering, establishing a legacy of tradition and blood that would last nearly three centuries.

TIME Nepal

Is It Really Safe to Go Trekking in Nepal Again?

Plenty of well-meaning organizations say the best way to support quake-ravaged Nepal is to spend your tourist dollars there, but many local tour operators have concerns

Nepal’s Himalayan tour operators are criticizing a new government-sanctioned report that declared one of the country’s most popular trekking circuits safe for tourists after massive earthquakes ravaged the country in late April.

They say the study was hastily conducted, without enough fieldwork to back up the findings.

The report, funded by the U.K. and conducted by structural-engineering company Miyamoto, found that the Annapurna circuit was not as badly damaged as initially feared, the BBC says.

The government welcomed the report’s conclusions that very few trails in the area needed repairs after quakes on April 26 and May 12 killed more than 9,000 people across the tiny mountain nation.

Several companies and associations that facilitate trekking expeditions across the Himalayan mountains surrounding Nepal, however, are less enthusiastic. Most say they were not consulted for their input, despite their intimate familiarity with and practical knowledge of the region.

“Such assessments need to have the involvement of stakeholders like us to have any credibility,” Ramesh Dhamala, president of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), told the BBC.

Nepal Mountaineering Association president Ang Tshering Sherpa added that the report was “totally insufficient” because only one week of fieldwork was carried out.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Their criticisms come just over a month after U.N. officials voiced their fears over the safety of several quake-damaged World Heritage Sites reopened by the Nepalese government.

Speaking to the New York Times in June, Christian Manhart, the head of UNESCO Kathmandu, said that his organization had encouraged authorities to delay the reopening of certain monuments — including some of the country’s most popular attractions — because of concerns that some buildings were still unsafe or vulnerable to looting.

He also told the Times that Archaeology Department director general Bhesh Narayan Dahal implied to him that he was under pressure to reopen damaged monuments in order to collect entrance fees to support reconstruction efforts.

Meanwhile, representatives of Miyamoto told the BBC they involved multiple trekking and mountaineering companies in compiling their report on the Annapurna circuit.

The global engineering firm, which is based in Sacramento, Calif., is also compiling a similar safety report on the world’s tallest peak Mount Everest and its surrounding areas.

Dhamala, however, says operators belonging to TAAN will not be sending tourists to either region based on Miyamoto’s findings.

The association’s CEO, Ganga Sagar Pant, said in an interview with TIME on May 8 that they were conducting “assessment” expeditions of their own to ensure the trails were safe for visitors. Pant, along with other government officials and tour operators, insisted at the time that Nepal was safe for tourists — but that was before the second earthquake, which struck a week after the interview.

Around 17,000 fewer tourists have visited Nepal between May and July compared to the corresponding period last year, severely depleting one of the mainstays of the small landlocked country’s already struggling economy.

TIME Nepal

Richard Engel Spotlights Heroes and Victims of Everest Avalanche

NBC News Richard Engel at Everest Base Camp.

NBC will air a special edition of Dateline on Sunday, June 28, at 7 p.m. ET

It’s been two months since a massive earthquake in Nepal left more than 8,500 people dead, leveled thousands of buildings and homes and triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. On Sunday, NBC will air “Avalanche,” a special episode of Dateline led by the network’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, featuring eyewitness accounts from one expedition climbing Mount Everest during the quake on April 25. Engel, who reached Nepal with a crew shortly after the earthquake struck, talks with TIME about what he found in the country and what he has taken away.

TIME: At what point did you learn an avalanche had apparently hit Everest Base Camp?

Engel: It was social media, the first pictures taken by witnesses of the avalanche at Base Camp. But it wasn’t a complete picture. We just knew something bad had happened there, but we didn’t know: Were hundreds dead? Were thousands missing? Were people stranded at altitude? Were they going to be freezing to death? Starving? You get stranded at Everest or you get trapped under an avalanche on the highest peak in the world, it’s a strong possibility that there’s no help coming.

I think we were the first television crew up to Base Camp. So after we saw the pictures, we were up there I guess within 48 hours. But we got lucky, too. We got to the lower camp. There happened to be a time when there was good weather. We happened to have a chopper pilot who was willing to go. So we had a pretty fortuitous sequence of events to get us there quickly.

We follow, mostly, the experiences of one expedition, called the Madison Expedition Group, and it’s quite a well known outfitter that takes climbers up to Everest. And they had a very, very tough run. They lost a team member, they had a documentarian with them who was filming. They had a very strong, compelling story. We got to the story early. It’s on Everest, and it’s a story about that team and what happened to Base Camp, but it’s also representative of what this mountain means to Nepal, what this earthquake meant for the people of Nepal. We talk about all the 8,000, maybe 9,000, maybe 10,000 people—it’s still unclear how many people died—how this was a terrible turn of events for an expedition and a terrible turn of events for a country.

TIME: What happened when you arrived to Base Camp?

Engel: Well, I almost collapsed. Not because of what I saw, but because of what I felt. I wasn’t acclimated to the altitude, so I went from Kathmandu, which is at low altitude, to 17,598 feet in an afternoon, and that’s not an ideal way of doing it. The pilot basically told me, if you stay at this Base Camp for longer than an hour or two hours or three hours, you’re going to need medical attention. So I got out of the chopper, and I wasn’t alone—there were three of us: the pilot, myself and a cameraman—and the cameraman and I were dizzy. It was difficult to speak. It felt like my tongue was very thick in my mouth. So we were lucky. We were there for only a brief amount of time and got off and there was no medical problem, but I was struck by the altitude, I would say. That was the most immediate sensation.

TIME: You met a lot of sherpas and climbers and guides. Did you get a sense of how they deal with something like this when it happens?

Engel: For the sherpa people, Everest and that entire section of the Himalayas is sacred. This is a holy place. It is a place where you only approach after receiving the blessings of holy men. They construct altars before they go onto the mountain. So for the sherpa people, the dangers of Everest is something that they always are conscious of, something that they always ask the Gods to grant them safe passage. They clearly bore the brunt of this earthquake. A lot of these stone villages were devastated and they are still recovering from this. But it is also a fact that the sherpas make their livelihood from the Everest climbers and from the business that comes with it. So they respect the mountain, they fear the mountain, but they also live and work on the mountain.

It was the sherpas who decided this year that no more climbers would go up Everest. We saw some climbers who, even after the avalanche, they wanted to keep going. They wanted to push. They’d spent a lot of money, they’d been training, they’d had their sights set on the summit. But it was the sherpas who said this year, “Climbing season is done. We’re not doing this anymore.” So they still very much own the mountain.

Everest has a special place in all of our imaginations. For centuries, Everest was a little bit like the moon. It was the place where everyone wanted to go. Empires wanted to be able to say that they were the first to put a climber on top of Everest. So it has long been part of our collective history. And part of our collective imagination. So when a tragedy happens up on that mountain, I think it has a global resonance. Everybody’s heard of Everest. Everybody knows what Everest is and what it means, and the significance.

TIME: There’s a Swiss helicopter pilot who is central in this Everest story. You credit him with saving dozens of people stranded on the mountain.

Engel: On the morning of the earthquake, there was solid cloud cover and the pilots couldn’t get up there. A few pilots that were nearby couldn’t get up to Base Camp. So, like we knew down below in Kathmandu that something bad had happened, the rescue pilots knew that something bad had happened. They just didn’t know what, and they didn’t know how severe. So this one pilot, a Swiss pilot named Reto Rüesch, who was locked under this cloud cover getting increasingly frustrated, saw a little hole, decided to punch through that hole, get above the clouds and go to Base Camp. He was the only pilot in the sky for many hours, and single-handedly rescued about 70 people. Afterward, we went and saw him in Switzerland.

TIME: And how is he reflecting on what he did that day?

Engel: The most humble guy you’ll ever meet. He told no one back home in Switzerland what he did. He was embarrassed that we even wanted to come and interview him. He said “Sure, I guess, if you want, you can come and talk to me.”

TIME: What will you take away from your time in Nepal?

Engel: I was just amazed at the people. They were so calm and resilient. I didn’t see any looting. I didn’t see any violence. There was no hostility toward us. They were resourceful, and just really astonishingly lovely. I was really impressed … because everyone moved outside. Think about like—an earthquake happens in Manhattan and all the social services are destroyed, all the phones are gone, the Internet’s gone, the banking’s gone, the buildings are damaged, and everyone just on their own moves into Central Park and lives there, without any orders form above. And there’s no fighting, no arguments, they’re just living under tarps in Central Park. It was beautiful, in a way. Tragic, but the way they came together was beautiful.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Read next: Cover Story: ‘This Is the Earthquake We’ve Been Waiting For’

TIME Nepal

Go Inside the Effort to Rebuild Nepal

As delegates from around the world gather in Kathmandu for an international conference on rebuilding Nepal, here's how the country's farmers are recovering from an earthquake that, two months ago, claimed thousands of lives

Two months ago, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, centered in a mountainous region northwest of Kathmandu, devastated Nepal, shaking apart ancient temples, splitting roads, leveling homes and bridges, and setting off angry landslides and avalanches across the Himalayan nation.

The temblor, which struck shortly before noon local time on April 25, was felt in neighboring China and India, and even as far away as Pakistan. A series of panic-inducing aftershocks followed, and then, on May 12, the country was rattled by a magnitude 7.3 quake centered northeast of Kathmandu, near the country’s border with China.

In Nepal, the death toll from the two earthquakes stands at nearly 9,000, with over 22,000 people injured. (Deaths were also recorded in neighboring countries.) Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. The country’s health infrastructure suffered a body blow. According to a recent government report, nearly 450 public heath facilities, including five hospitals, were completely destroyed. In what was already one of the region’s poorest countries, the earthquakes—the result of an ancient geological fault deep below Nepal—are estimated to have pushed an additional three percent of the population into poverty. That, according to the World Bank, means “as many as a million more poor people.”

As Nepal slowly rebuilds, among the most pressing challenges is supporting agriculture in a country were two-thirds of the population depends on farming. Rice is a staple food in Nepal—and for many rice-farming communities, the earthquakes “struck at the worst possible time,” according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). June is when the annual monsoon rains arrive in Nepal. And the weeks leading up to them are critical for farmers who must ensure that their rice saplings are in the ground before the rains hit. But as many half of all farming households in the country’s worst affected districts are estimated to have lost nearly all their stores of rice and other crops in the earthquakes.

The rice farmers of Samantar Village in Nepal’s Dhading district, whose struggle to plant their rice crop ahead of the monsoon is chronicled in this TIME video by Nehemiah Stark and Nick Wilson, were among those who lost their supplies in the April 25 quake. “The rice seeds in people’s houses were ruined,” Bakhat Bahadur Rai, local agricultural leader, says.“The houses fell down and the seeds became a part of the rubble.”

What followed was a race against time to secure new seeds for planting before the rains for a healthy harvest. Samantar was lucky. With the help of an Israeli NGO called Tevel b’Tzedek, the rice farmers of Samantar managed to get new supplies in early June, before the rains. Elsewhere in Nepal’s hardest hit areas, the FAO has distributed 40,000 five kilogram bags of rice seeds to farmers for the current planting season.

But much still remains to be done across Nepal, where the government puts the total cost of recovery and reconstruction at some $6.6 billion over five years. It is an enormous challenge, and one that Nepal can’t meet on its own—the estimated cost equates to roughly a third of the size of the country’s economy. To help with the effort, the government is hosting an international donors conference with delegates from the around the world, including the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers.

As the visiting delegates consider the challenges ahead, over in Samantar, attention is focused on this year’s rice crop. “I have a feeling that I will survive,” Phoolmaya Rai, a local rice farmer says, “if there’s not another earthquake.”

TIME Nepal

Here’s How Much the Nepal Earthquake Moved Mount Everest

Mount Everest Nepal Earthquake Moved
Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images A view of Mount Everest towering over the Nupse, from the village of Tembuche in the Khumbu region of northeastern Nepal on April 20, 2015.

The April 25 quake left more than 8,500 people dead

The earthquake that struck Nepal was powerful enough to move a mountain, Chinese authorities said Monday.

Mount Everest shifted three centimeters southwest after the 7.8-magnitude quake on April 25, according to data from a satellite set up in 2005 by China’s National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, its state-run news organization Xinhua reports. That’s a significant movement for Mount Everest, which the agency said has moved only 4 cm. annually on average between 2005 and 2015 due to crustal movements.

Authorities said the geophysical impact of the devastating quake, which left more than 8,500 people dead, did not change the height of the world’s tallest peak, at some 29,000 feet.

[Xinhua]

TIME Nepal

Heritage Sites Damaged in the Nepalese Quake Have Reopened Despite Safety Concerns

Remains of a collapsed temple are pictured at Bashantapur Durbar Square
Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters Remains of a collapsed temple at Bashantapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, on May 7, 2015

Tourism chief insists they "should not remain closed forever"

Several Nepalese World Heritage sites previously closed due to earthquake damage were reopened on Monday, the result of nearly two months of work stabilizing structures and removing rubble.

But some United Nations officials expressed concerns that some buildings—damaged during the April earthquake that killed more than 8,700 people—were still too unsteady, the New York Times reports.

Nepal’s tourism secretary, Suresh Man Shrestha, nonethess told the Times “The treasures of the Nepalese economy should not remain closed forever.”

More than 700 monuments in Kathmandu and its environs were damaged in the quake, and the cost of rebuilding is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. Some of the most notable reopened monuments include the plazas and courts of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, as well as the central squares of both the ancient city of Bhaktapur (the entirety of which is a UNESCO site) and Patan, a traditional center for handicrafts.

Christian Manhart, the head of UNESCO Kathmandu told the Times that his organization had encouraged authorities to delay the reopening because of concerns that some buildings were still unsafe or vulnerable to looting.

“At Kathmandu Durbar Square there is the huge palace museum—one very big building which is totally shaky,” he said. “The walls are disconnected from one another so this big wall can fall down at any moment.”

In response, Nepal’s Tourism Department said that museum would not reopen and that other safety measures, such as providing helmets to visitors, would mediate these concerns.

But Manhart said that even allowing tourists in proximity to unstable buildings could pose a risk. He also told the Times that Archaeology Department director general Bhesh Narayan Dahal implied to him that he was under pressure to reopen damaged monuments in order to collect entrance fees to support reconstruction efforts.

Dahal was not available for comment.

[NYT]

TIME Photojournalism Links

The 10 Best Photo Essays of the Month

A compilation of the 10 most interesting photo essays published online in May, as curated by Mikko Takkunen

This month’s Photojournalism Links collection highlights 10 excellent photo essays from across the world, including Stephanie Sinclair’s compelling National Geographic photo essay on young Newari girls in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley who are worshipped as living goddesses.

Stephanie Sinclair: Living Goddesses of Nepal (National Geographic)

Daniel Berehulak: Caught in Nepal’s Earthquakes (The New York Times Lens blog) Powerful images by a photographer who just received a Pulitzer Prize for his Ebola coverage.

James Nachtwey: Nepal Pt1. | Pt. 2 (TIME LightBox) Two sets of pictures and text by the TIME contract photographer, who spent two weeks covering the quake’s aftermath.

Carolyn Drake: Sins of the Aral Sea (National Geographic) Photo essay highlights the current state of the vast inland sea that is now 90 percent gone.

Kirsten Luce: The Corridor of Death: Along America’s Second Border (TIME LightBox) Luce continues her strong documentation of the US-Mexico border.

Lynn Johnson: High Science (National Geographic) The magazine’s veteran documents the issues surrounding marijuana’s potential benefits and drawbacks.

Bryan Denton: Disabled and Facing More Challenges in Afghanistan (The New York Times) These pictures capture the struggles of injured Afghan soldiers and policemen.

Adam Ferguson: Cambodia’s Child Grooms (Al Jazeera America) Early marriage is on the increase in the country’s highlands.

Jerome Delay: Mob Attacks Suspected Militia Member in Burundi (NBC News) Dramatic sequence from Burundi’s capital by AP’s Africa chief photographer. Delay was also interviewed on TIME LightBox.

Alessio Romenzi: Gambling for a better life across the Mediterranean (Al Jazeera English) These pictures document the crowded conditions faced by migrants held in Libya’s detention centers.

TIME FIFA

Major FIFA Sponsors Don’t Want to Talk About Qatar, Either

adidas Starts Production of Brazuca Match Balls
Lennart Preiss—Getty Images for adidas Brazuca match balls for the FIFA World Cup 2014 lie in a rack in front of the adidas logo on December 6, 2013 in Scheinfeld near Herzogenaurach, Germany.

Few want to discuss soccer's most important crisis

After Wednesday’s news that the U.S. government indicted top soccer officials on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, FIFA’s corporate sponsors expressed concern, saying they were monitoring the situation. They did their predictable finger-waving.

“Our sponsorship has always focused on supporting the teams, enabling a great fan experience, and inspiring communities to come together and celebrate the spirit of competition and personal achievement,” Visa, one of FIFA’s parters, said in a statement. “And it is important that FIFA makes changes now, so that the focus remain on these going forward. Should FIFA fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship.”

But companies like Visa should have reassessed their FIFA sponsorship long before the arrests. Because while the scale of the alleged corruption — over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks, according to the Justice Department — is shocking, another scandal has been brewing for years now. And this one involves the loss of many lives.

In December 2010, FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a tiny, oil-rich Gulf state with little existing World Cup infrastructure and a dangerously hot climate, for both players and the thousands of migrant workers that have been needed to built the World Cup edifices. As a result, a humanitarian crisis has unfolded. According to a March 2014 report from the International Trade Union Confederation, 1,200 World Cup workers from Nepal and India have died in Qatar since 2010. The ITCU estimates that 4,000 workers could die before the 2022 World Cup kicks off. The Washington Post, drawing on multiple sources, created a graphic comparing World Cup worker deaths in Qatar with fatalities associated with other major sporting events, like the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The differences are stunning.

On top of that, the Nepalese labor minister recently told The Guardian that many World Cup migrants from Nepal have not been permitted to return home from Qatar to mourn family members killed in the April 25 earthquake, which claimed over 8,000 lives.

So FIFA’s most galling corruption isn’t directly connected to the headline-grabbing U.S. indictments. (Yesterday, the Swiss government announced it has launched a criminal investigation into the bid process for both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 Cup in Qatar). If anything, the publicity surrounding the arrests will shine further light into the Qatar crisis.

And what do Visa and other sponsors have to say about Qatar? Not a whole lot.

TIME reached out to six companies listed in FIFA’s “2015-2022 sponsorship portfolio:” FIFA partners Adidas, Coca-Cola, Hyundai/Kia and Visa, and World Cup sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev and McDonald’s. We did not seek comment from the seventh sponsor, Russian gas giant Gazprom, whose sponsorship is listed as “2018 only” — connected with the World Cup in Russia. We asked each of them: “how can your company support an organization that is staging an event in Qatar, a place where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded during World Cup preparations, a place where, according to one report, at least 1,200 people have died during World Cup preparations, a place where migrant workers were reportedly not allowed to go home to mourn earthquake victims in Nepal?”

No company made any executive available to answer this question. TIME directly emailed the question to John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s and Lucas Herscovici, vice president consumer connections (media, digital, sports & entertainment) at Anheuser-Busch InBev. Neither executive directly responded. We got a flurry of statements. A Visa rep directed TIME to the statement it posted Wednesday in response to the arrests. “Our disappointment and concern with FIFA in light of today’s developments is profound,” the statement said, in part. “As a sponsor, we expect FIFA to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization. This starts with rebuilding a culture with strong ethical practices in order to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere.” When we pointed out that that statement was not specific to the loss of life in Qatar, the rep directed us to an earlier statement, released May 19. “We continue to be troubled by the reports coming out of Qatar related to the World Cup and migrant worker conditions. We have expressed our grave concern to FIFA and urge them to take all necessary actions to work with the appropriate authorities and organizations to remedy this situation and ensure the health and safety of all involved.”

An Adidas rep sent along a statement: “The adidas Group is fully committed to creating a culture that promotes the highest standards of ethics and compliance, and we expect the same from our partners. Following today’s news, we can therefore only encourage FIFA to continue to establish and follow transparent compliance standards in everything they do. adidas is the world’s leading football brand and we will continue to support football on all levels.” This statement, too, is a response to the arrests, not our Qatar question. We pointed this out to Adidas. A spokesperson said this was the company’s standing response.

More than 20 hours after this story was published, Adidas sent another statement: “The adidas Group is committed to ensuring fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain. These active efforts are guided by our core values as a company as well as by our Workplace Standards – contractual obligations under the manufacturing agreements the adidas Group signs with its main business partners. The Workplace Standards are based on the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) core labour rights conventions.

“We are in a constant dialogue with our partner FIFA and know that FIFA has repeatedly urged the Qatari authorities to ensure decent conditions for migrant workers in the country. There have been significant improvements and these efforts are ongoing; but everyone recognizes that more needs to be done in a collective effort with all stakeholders involved.”

A Hyundai representative also did not answer the question directly, saying through a statement, “as a company that place the highest priority on ethical standards and transparency, Hyundai Motor is extremely concerned about the legal proceedings being taken against certain FIFA executives and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” A Kia official said in a statement: “Kia Motors takes seriously any reports concerning the poor treatment of migrant workers involved in the construction of venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is our understanding that FIFA and related authorities are taking immediate steps to secure appropriate standards of welfare for all workers involved in these projects, and we will continue to monitor developments in Qatar very closely.” Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

The statement from McDonald’s: “McDonald’s is committed to doing business around the world in a manner that respects human rights. We have expressed our concerns to FIFA regarding human rights issues in Qatar and know they are working with local authorities to address those concerns.”

Coke: “The Coca-Cola Company does not condone human rights abuses anywhere in the world. We know FIFA is working with Qatari authorities to address specific labor and human rights issues. We expect FIFA to continue taking these matters seriously and to work toward further progress. We welcome constructive dialogue on human rights issues, and we will continue to work with many individuals, human rights organizations, sports groups, government officials and others to develop solutions and foster greater respect for human rights in sports and elsewhere.”

Anheuser-Busch InBev: “We expect all of our partners to maintain strong ethical standards and operate with transparency, and are committed to business practices that do not infringe on human rights. We continue to closely monitor the situation through our ongoing communications with FIFA, including developments in Qatar.”

“It’s very bad business right now to be associated with FIFA,” says Ben Sturner, president and CEO of Leverage Agency, a sports marketing firm. “The Qatar situation is going to force more sponsors away. They have to go away. It’s the humane thing to do.” Do iconic brands like McDonald’s, Coke, and others really feel this way?

If so, they aren’t saying.

TIME Nepal

Rohingya Say Quake-Ravaged Nepal Is Better Than Life at Home or Death at Sea

Hassan Hassan, left, and other Rohingya refugees on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal
Sabrina Toppa for TIME Hassan Hassan, left, with fellow Rohingya refugees on the outskirts of Kathmandu in July 2014

“In Burma, just being Muslim is like a crime”

After last Tuesday’s magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck Nepal, the fear of aftershocks prompted Hassan Hassan to sleep on the street. The temblor sliced off his door, shattered his windows, and cracked the walls of the ramshackle dwelling he shared with almost 30 other refugees on Kathmandu’s outskirts.

Hassan is an ethnic Rohingya Muslim from western Burma, a country now officially known as Myanmar. Along with tens of thousands of Rohingyas, the 22-year-old fled recent pogroms initiated by his homeland’s Buddhist majority in search of a better life elsewhere.

But while most Rohingya escape on rickety boats, facing possible extortion or execution in Thai trafficking camps en route to safety, Hassan instead trundled overland more than 100 km into the snow-capped Himalayas.

And despite the wanton devastation, half-million homes flattened and at least 8,500 lives lost, the recent twin quakes and numerous aftershocks have not stopped Hassan from counting his blessings.

“I am lucky,” he tells TIME. “If I had gone to Thailand, maybe I also would’ve died.”

Out of Nepal’s total 37,000 refugees, some 120 are Burmese, of whom 70% are Rohingya, according to the local U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) office. While the 21,500 camp-based Bhutanese are recognized as legitimate refugees, “urban refugees” like the Rohingya are officially deemed illegal migrants.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim group of 1.3 million that mainly live in Burma’s westernmost Arakan state, and are dubbed “one of the world’s most persecuted peoples” by the U.N. The Burmese government refuses to grant them citizenship and claims they are in fact interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh, even though many have lived in the country for generations. Bangladesh similarly shuns them as non-citizens.

Rohingya in Burma face restrictions on travel, education, marriage and land ownership. However, when politically expedient to the military-dominated government, Rohingyas have occasionally been allowed to vote.

“Many of them have been killed,” says Silvia di Gaetano, a Burma researcher at the Rights in Exile Programme. “Those who remain suffer malnutrition and starvation; severe physical and mental illness; and above all discrimination and persecution.”

Confined to squalid displacement camps, many Rohingya have fled east, potentially to die in the sea on the way to Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia. Now, however, these nations have started turning the boats away. And in recent weeks, mass graves have been uncovered in the thick jungle where Thailand tapers into Malaysia, belonging to Rohingya who fell prey to human traffickers that demand exorbitant ransoms to set them free. Those without wealthy connections are slain as a warning to others.

Activists have raised alarm that the Andaman Sea’s transformation into a “floating graveyard” is imminent, as the world witnesses a startling uptick in Rohingya’s perilous cross-border journeys. The U.N. reports that in this year alone, these voyages have nearly doubled, with almost 25,000 people estimated to attempt the journey, and 300 deaths already projected from unsuccessfully charting it.

As this humanitarian crisis deepens, most Rohingya in Nepal have expressed gratitude for the nation’s willingness to take them in and donate tents and critical relief supplies, despite recent quake-related hardships.

“For Rohingya, Nepal is still better than Burma,” says 30-year-old Zafir Miya, who also traversed South Asia — from Burma through Bangladesh and India to Nepal — in order to find a safe haven.

Hassan, who believes he is Nepal’s first Rohingya refugee, arrived in August 2012 — by mistake. “When I went from Bangladesh to India, the currency changed, so I knew I was in a different country,” he recalls. “But when I entered Nepal, they were still using Indian currency.”

Hassan did not realize Kathmandu was the capital of Nepal, a distinct country. Growing up in the Maungdaw district of Arakan state, Hassan says he lacked access to radio, television — Burma banned Rohingya-language broadcasts in 1965 — or even a SIM card, which before recent reforms would cost over $2,000.

When Hassan made his way to Kathmandu, he first scoured the city’s jails for the familiar faces of his missing kin, as many urban refugees are rounded up by police for illegal stays.

“Most [refugees] have been overstaying in Nepal for years,” says UNHCR Nepal spokesperson Deepesh Das Shrestha. The refugees are subject to a $5 per day overstay fine, possibly accumulating thousands of dollars in debt they cannot pay, because they are not allowed to work.

Without labor privileges in Nepal, most Rohingya are forced to stay idle, surviving on a UNHCR stipend of slightly more than $42 per month. For Hassan, this means his memory is awash with details of family he has not seen since before the 2012 Arakan state riots. He stays awake thinking of his mother Hafiza Begum, 43, whose towering stature distinguishes her from most Rohingya women. Hassan’s black-bearded father of 6 ft. 5 in., Mohammad Amin, 50, is marked by a 1.5-in. scar above his nose. All members of his family, except his 4-ft. 8-in. sister Rubina Aziz, are taller than the average Burmese citizens, including his four brothers: Emrun Faroque, Mojibur Rahman, Mahfujur Rahman and Tareq Aziz.

“If they are in Burma, they are dead,” says Hassan. “But if they escaped, there is a chance I can find them.”

According to UNHCR Nepal, nearly 60% of Nepal’s refugees from Burma are single men searching for family members. When communal riots first erupted in Arakan, Hassan was working in Bangladesh as a seasonal laborer, but planned to return home to observe the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

But when he did, Hassan found an empty home amid a forsaken desert of torched houses. A neighbor said his relatives might have fled to Bangladesh during the violence, so Hassan left on a fisherman’s boat under the cover of night to examine Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazaar.

Finding no answers there, Hassan had few options but to follow rumors that his family might have pushed on into India. After searching fruitlessly in Darjeeling and West Bengal, Hassan went to Nepal.

For all its challenges, Nepal pales in comparison to stories Hassan says he hears from those trapped in Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia. And Hassan, like the majority of Rohingya, has found a sense of community with Nepal’s minority Muslim community, which accounts for a mere 4% of the population of 30 million.

“In Nepal, they don’t look at the difference between a Hindu or Muslim,” Miya tells TIME.

“In Burma, just being Muslim is like a crime,” Hassan adds.

Yet the nagging question of missing relatives remains. Nepal is a transit point, a temporary shelter before the Rohingya weather the next storm. UNHCR has set up psychosocial counseling for refugees to alleviate earthquake-related anxiety, but the larger problem remains: How does a Rohingya refugee build a life between one location and the next? How does he track down loved ones without papers — lacking any state recognition — that remain in perennial flight, floating in seas, trundling across borders, always fleeing one threat only to face another?

In spite of its seismological perils, Nepal affords the Rohingya an opportunity to carve out a life freer than Southeast Asia, and many hope to bring kin — if they ever find them — to also settle in Kathmandu.

Though far from perfect, quake-ravaged Nepal may offer the best hope to a community whose statelessness remains a source of horrific vulnerability.

“This is the situation of the Rohingya,” says Hassan. “The person who is not a citizen anywhere has no limit to the punishment he can suffer.”

TIME Nepal

The Nepal Earthquakes Are Now the Nation’s Deadliest-Ever Disasters

Aftermath of Earthquake in Nepal
Anadolu Agency —Getty Images A Nepalese woman carrying her child walks past a destroyed building in Sankhu village in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 16, 2015.

More than 8,500 people have died as a result of the back-to-back earthquakes

On Sunday, Nepal’s Home Ministry confirmed at least 8,583 deaths from the past month’s two major earthquakes and subsequent tremors, making the combined disaster the deadliest in the country’s history, reports Reuters.

The last massive temblor to rock the landlocked Himalayan nation killed 8,519 people in 1934.

On April 25, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake erupted approximately 85 miles east of the capital, Kathmandu, killing more than 8,000 people and destroying a half-million homes nationwide. Three weeks later the country was struck again by a 7.3-magnitude tremor near Mount Everest that killed more than 100 people and triggered fresh landslides.

MORE: 6 Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

U.N. officials report that millions of people remain in need of basic humanitarian assistance as the looming monsoon threatens to inundate the country’s fragile transportation network and hamper ongoing aid efforts.

[Reuters]

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