TIME Turkey

American BASE Jumper Dies in Parachute Accident

Ian Flanders
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images American base jumper Ian Flanders seen in Turkey before accident.

Ian Flanders was 37

A BASE-jumping exhibition in Turkey ended in tragedy on Tuesday when 37-year-old American Ian Flanders fell to his death in the country’s Erzincan province. His legs had reportedly gotten tangled in the lines of his parachute. He had been jumping from an altitude of 8,200 feet.

Flanders became the 264th BASE jumper to die since record-keeping began, according to CBS. Two others — Dean Potter and Graham Hunt — died in Yosemite National Park in May.

At the time of his death, Flanders had been working on a documentary about the rash of deaths in the BASE-jumping community.

[USA Today]

TIME World

See a Lake in Turkey That Naturally Turned Completely Red

Evaporation has allowed the algae to thrive

A salt lake in Turkey turned completely red as a result of an algae bloom.

Lake Tuz Gola, the country’s second-largest lake, has been evaporating in the hot summer, Stony Brook University marine ecology research professor Christopher Gobler told ABC News. The evaporation has killed plankton, which eat algae, allowing the sea organisms to thrive.

“The algae is thriving and will probably [be] red until the lake fully evaporates, probably next month during the peak of summer heat,” he said.

Tourists often walk across the dry lake during summer, and water returns in the winter.

TIME Turkey

Explosion Kills 28 People Near Turkey’s Border With Syria

Suruc Turkey Syria Border
Serhat Ozturk—Le Journal/SIPA Men sit on the street after an explosion that killed many and injured even more, at the municipal culture center in Suruc, Turkey on July 20, 2015.

More than 100 were injured in the attack on a Kurdish cultural centre

ISTANBUL — An explosion rocked the Turkish city of Suruc near the Syrian border on Monday, killing 28 people and wounding nearly 100 others in what Turkish authorities said appeared to be an Islamic State-inspired suicide bombing.

The mid-day explosion took place at a cultural center in Suruc as a political group, the Federation of Socialist Youths, was wrapping up a news conference on plans to rebuild the Syrian city of Kobani, a witness said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but one senior government official told The Associated Press that Turkey suspected IS was behind the blast in its southeastern city.

Suruc is just across the border from Kobani, the scene of fierce battles between Kurdish groups and the Islamic State group. Kobani, a city populated heavily by Syrian Kurds, was the Islamic State group’s biggest defeat last year since the militants established control over large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Its ruins have become a symbol of Kurdish resistance.

Fatma Edemen, 22, said the federation of about 200 youths had been pressing for more access to help reconstruction in Kobani before the blast that police told her came from a suicide bomber.

“One of my friends protected me. First I thought ‘I am dying’ but I was OK. I started to run after I saw the bodies,” she told The AP by phone as she headed to a hospital to get treatment for minor injuries to her legs.

Her voice shaking, she said her group had believed Kobani was relatively safe and ready to rebuild.

“Our friends went there and it didn’t seem dangerous at that time. We couldn’t even think something like that would happen,” she said, adding that they had hoped to build a kindergarten or something else for children in the devastated city.

“We wanted to do something, but they would not let us,” she added.

Kobani was also the scene of surprise IS attacks last month that killed more than 200 people.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Cyprus on an official visit, was briefed on the investigation, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

“I personally and on behalf of my nation condemn and curse those who perpetrated this savagery,” Erdogan said in a news conference broadcast on Turkish television.

In a statement on Twitter, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan called the bombing a terrorist act. “Such despicable terrorist attacks on #Turkey’s integrity and peace will never reach their goal,” he said.

The prime minister’s office and the Interior Ministry gave the casualty tolls in a phone call Monday to The AP and in a statement. The senior Turkish official said authorities had evidence that the attack was a suicide bombing. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Another explosion went off Monday south of Kobani. One Kurdish official initially described it as a bomb, but Kurdish official Mustafa Bali later said it happened as Kurdish militiamen were removing mortar shells from a dump. He said the blast killed three Kurdish fighters.

Suruc also hosts the largest refugee camp in Turkey, which has seen nearly two million Syrians cross its border to flee the fighting in their homeland.

More than 220,000 Syrians have been killed and at least a million wounded since the country’s crisis began in March 2011, according to the U.N.

____

Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Lori Hinnant in Paris and Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed to this report.

TIME Iraq

Children Told to Behead Dolls at ISIS Training Camps

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
Reuters A member loyal to ISIS waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria, on June 29, 2014

"They told me it was the head of the infidels"

(SANLIURFA, Turkey) — The children had all been shown videos of beheadings and told by their trainers with the Islamic State group that they would perform one someday. First, they had to practice technique. The more than 120 boys were each given a doll and a sword and told, cut off its head.

A 14-year-old who was among the boys, all abducted from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, said he couldn’t cut it right. He chopped once, twice, three times.

“Then they taught me how to hold the sword, and they told me how to hit. They told me it was the head of the infidels,” the boy, renamed Yahya by his ISIS captors, told The Associated Press last week in northern Iraq, where he fled after escaping the IS training camp.

When Islamic State extremists overran Yazidi towns in northern Iraq last year, they butchered older men and enslaved many of the women and girls. Dozens of young Yazidi boys like Yahya had a different fate: ISIS sought to re-educate them. They forced them to convert to Islam from their ancient faith and tried to turn them into jihadi fighters.

It is part of a concerted effort by the extremists to build a new generation of militants, according to AP interviews with residents who fled or still live under ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The group is recruiting teens and children using gifts, threats and brainwashing. Boys have been turned into killers and suicide bombers. An ISIS video issued last week showed a boy beheading a Syrian soldier under an adult militant’s supervision. Last month, a video showed 25 children unflinchingly shooting 25 captured Syrian soldiers in the head.

In schools and mosques, militants infuse children with extremist doctrine, often turning them against their own parents. Fighters in the street befriend children with toys. ISIS training camps churn out the Ashbal, Arabic for “lion cubs,” child fighters for the “caliphate” that ISIS declared across its territory. The caliphate is a historic form of Islamic rule that the group claims to be reviving with its own radical interpretation, though the vast majority of Muslims reject its claims.

“I am terribly worried about future generations,” said Abu Hafs Naqshabandi, a Syrian sheikh who runs religion classes for refugees in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa to counter ISIS ideology.

The indoctrination mainly targets Sunni Muslim children. In ISIS-held towns, militants show young people videos at street booths. They hold outdoor events for children, distributing soft drinks and candy — and propaganda.

They tell adults, “We have given up on you, we care about the new generation,” said an anti-ISIS activist who fled the Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremists’ de facto capital. He spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve the safety of relatives under ISIS rule.

With the Yazidis, whom ISIS considers heretics ripe for slaughter, the group sought to take another community’s youth, erase their past and replace it with radicalism.

Yahya, his little brother, their mother and hundreds of Yazidis were captured when ISIS seized the Iraqi town of Sulagh in August. They were taken to Raqqa, where the brothers and other Yazidi boys aged 8 to 15 were put in the Farouq training camp. They were given Muslim Arabic names to replace their Kurdish names. Yahya asked that AP not use his real name for his and his family’s safety.

He spent nearly five months there, training eight to 10 hours a day, including exercises, weapons drills and Quranic studies. They told him Yazidis are “dirty” and should be killed, he said. They showed him how to shoot someone from close range. The boys hit each other in some exercises. Yahya punched his 10-year-old brother, knocking out a tooth.

The trainer “said if I didn’t do it, he’d shoot me,” Yahya said. “They … told us it would make us tougher. They beat us everywhere.”

In an ISIS video of Farouq camp, boys in camouflage do calisthenics and shout slogans. An ISIS fighter says the boys have studied jihad so “in the coming days God Almighty can put them in the front lines to battle the infidels.”

Videos from other camps show boys crawling under barbed wire and practicing shooting. One kid lies on the ground and fires a machine gun; he’s so small the recoil bounces his whole body back a few inches. Boys undergoing endurance training stand unmoving as a trainer hits their heads with a pole.

ISIS claims to have hundreds of such camps. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented at least 1,100 Syrian children under 16 who joined IS this year. At least 52 were killed in fighting, including eight suicide bombers, it said.

Yahya escaped in early March. Fighters left the camp to carry out an attack, and as remaining guards slept he and his brother slipped away, he said. He urged a friend to come too, but he refused, saying he was a Muslim now and liked Islam.

Yahya’s mother was in a house nearby with other abducted Yazidis — he had occasionally been allowed to visit her. So he and his brother went there. They travelled to the Syrian city of Minbaj and stayed with a Russian ISIS fighter, Yahya said. He contacted an uncle in Iraq, who negotiated to pay the Russian for the two boys and their mother. A deal struck, they met the uncle in Turkey then went to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Dohuk.

Now in Dohuk, Yahya and his brother spend much of their time watching TV. They appear outgoing and social. But traces of their ordeal show. When his uncle handed Yahya a pistol, the boy deftly assembled and loaded it.

And he will never forget the videos of beheadings ISIS trainers showed the boys.

“I was scared when I saw that,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to behead someone like that. Even as an adult.”

___

Jannsen reported from Dohuk, Iraq. Associated Press writers Salar Salim in Irbil, Iraq, and Vivian Salama in Eski Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report

TIME Thailand

Thailand Defends Its Decision to Forcibly Return Uighur Migrants to China

The move has been condemned by the U.N., Washington and human-rights groups

Thailand’s junta government has defended the forcible return of more than 100 Uighur migrants to China despite their fears of persecution.

“Thailand has worked with China and Turkey to solve the Uighur Muslim problem,” Colonel Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, deputy spokesman for the Thai government, told reporters Thursday. “We have sent them back to China after verifying their nationality.”

The move has been condemned by the U.N., Washington and human-rights groups, and led to violent scenes in Turkey when pro-Uighur protesters attacked the Thai consulate in Istanbul with clubs and rocks.

Uighurs are a Muslim minority in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang, but they are ethnically, culturally and geographically closer to the Turkic peoples of Central Asia than to the Han — China’s dominant ethnic group. Thousands have fled the escalating violence and perceived abuses in Xinjiang in recent years.

Despite hosting hundreds of thousands of displaced people, mainly from Burma, within its borders, Thailand has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and still does not have functioning asylum procedures.

The 109 Uighurs returned Wednesday “self-identified as Turks, expressed fear of being sent to China and expressed the strong desire to go to Turkey,” Vivian Tan, Bangkok-based spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency, tells TIME. Their forced return “violates international law,” she adds, notably prohibitions on “sending people back to a place where their lives and freedoms could be in danger.”

Washington echoed U.N. concerns about the deportations. “We strongly urge the government of Thailand, and other governments in countries where Uighurs have taken refuge, not to carry out further forced deportations of ethnic Uighurs,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

The reaction in Turkey was particularly fierce. Late last month, Thailand won approval in Turkey — but a stern rebuke from Beijing — by sending a group of 170 Uighurs there. Bangkok’s decision to send the present batch of Uighurs to Beijing is seen as kowtowing to the Chinese leadership, which is extremely sensitive to the Uighur issue.

“The international community needs to take a firm stand to guarantee the rights of Uighur refugees,” said Alim Seytoff, president of the Uyghur American Association, in a statement. “Governments and multilateral agencies must not permit China to disregard international human rights norms.”

Xinjiang is rich in natural resources, boasting China’s largest deposits of oil, natural gas and coal. It is also comparatively underdeveloped and sparsely populated, with its wide open spaces a tempting prospect to settlers from the rest of densely populated China.

An influx of Han Chinese has raised overall living standards, says Beijing, though Uighurs claim of marginalization and the erosion of their traditional culture. During the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan, for example, all students and state employees, among them many Muslim Uighurs, were forbidden from fasting.

Such grievances have spurred an insurgency, often targeting Chinese civilians (as was the case in March 2014, when 29 were killed during a bloody knife attack at Kunming’s train station in western China’s Yunnan province). Many Turks see themselves as having a cultural and spiritual bond with the Uighurs, and the unrest has strained relations with Beijing. The attack on the Thai consulate was preceded by fierce protests outside the Chinese consulate and badgering of Chinese tourists in Istanbul.

Thailand’s junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha warned Thursday that “we might temporarily have to close the embassy in Turkey” should the situation deteriorate. As Thailand currently holds another 50 Uighur migrants while “their nationalities are verified,” this fear is very real. Thai authorities must weigh Beijing’s ire, their international responsibilities and another backlash from Turkey. However, owing to close socioeconomic ties — China is Thailand’s second biggest trading partner — Beijing no doubt remains favorites in this ethnic tug of war.

TIME OECD

These Are the Best Places in the World to Be a Woman in Politics, According to the OECD

Banking And General Views As Iceland's Bankruptcy-to-Recovery Mode Proves Viable
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The city skyline is seen illuminated by lights at night in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Friday, Aug. 10, 2012.

Most countries are not hitting benchmarks for female representation in politics, however

Aspiring female politicians should consider moving to Finland or Sweden, where women have the most representation in government, according to new OECD data.

The findings, published July 6 as a part of the OECD’s Government at a Glance report, saw Nordic countries leading the way for women’s representation both in lower houses of parliament and in ministerial positions.

These countries are likely to benefit greatly from this representation, the OECD says. More equal gender representation can help governments institute better policies surrounding work-life balance, gender violence and equal pay.

But the overall trend is not as promising in the rest of the OECD, where things have only gotten marginally better for women’s representation in politics since 2002.

The report found that 16 out of the 34 OECD countries are failing to meet the desired 30% threshold of representation in both lower houses of parliament and ministerial positions.

Among the worst performers are Hungary, South Korea and Turkey. The U.S. and the U.K. also showed below average representation.

You can read the full report here.

TIME Greece

This Greek Island Is Being Overwhelmed by Thousands of Migrants

The massive influx is exhausting resources on the island of Lesbos

The Greek island of Lesbos is facing the worst migration crisis in all of Europe, a Medecins Sans Frontieres official told the BBC.

Around 15,000 migrants arrived on the island in June. Lesbos has a total population of just 86,000, and the BBC says the massive influx has exhausted most available resources and left officials scrambling.

The migrants often arrive on the northern tip of the island close to Turkey, and then walk over 25 miles to the other side of the island to apply for papers that let them stay in the country for up to six months.

The island’s chief of police told the BBC that 1,600 migrants arrived on Saturday alone. Police said they were working 24 hours a day to process the new migrants, but still only manage to get through between 300 to 500 a day.

An abandoned race track and the island’s only detention facility house the migrants, but have been stretched to more than full capacity, the BBC reports.

Over 63,000 migrants have arrived in Greece this year already, according to the BBC.

The total number of migrants arriving in Europe in 2015 has more than doubled since 2014.

[BBC]

TIME Turkey

Turkish Police Break Up Gay Pride Parade With Rubber Bullets

It's not clear why police wanted to break up the parade

Police in Turkey broke up a gay pride celebration in Istanbul Sunday with water guns and rubber bullets.

An annual gay pride celebration has been held in Istanbul for years and it is not immediately clear why police wanted to break up the celebration, Reuters reports.

Some speculated that conservative Muslim officials took issue with the event because it fell during the month of Ramadan this year. Homosexuality isn’t illegal in Turkey, but many in the predominately Muslim country still don’t approve of gays and lesbians.

The pride event was held in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a large public gathering place that has been home to protests against the Turkish government. The Agence France-Presse reported that police targeted the crowd after hearing slogans accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of engaging in “fascism.”

The violence captured the attention of some high profile figures in the U.S., where Pride Week celebrations are also under way:

[Reuters]

TIME United Nations

There Have Never Been More Displaced People Across the World Than Now

If the number of displaced persons formed a nation, it would be the 24th largest country in the world

The total number of people forcibly displaced by war, conflict and persecution rose to a record 59.5 million at the end of 2014, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) has said.

The agency’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released Thursday, found forced displacement worldwide has reached unprecedented levels, with a record annual rise of 8.3 million more displaced people since 2013. Some 38.2 million of the total were internally displaced in their own countries.

If the number of displaced persons formed a nation, the report said, it would be the 24th largest country in the world.

Speaking in Turkey on Thursday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres confirmed worldwide displacement was at the highest ever recorded.

“When you see the news in any global network, we clearly get the impression that the world is at war,” he said. “Indeed many areas of the world are today in a completely chaotic situation and the result is this staggering escalation of displacement, the staggering escalation of suffering, because each displaced person is a tragic story,” he said.

Syria overtook Afghanistan to become the biggest source of refugees last year, with 1.77 million Syrians having fled the nation’s ongoing civil war.

Just over half of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility worldwide came from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. The report also pointed to new and continuing conflicts in South Sudan, Ukraine and Iraq, among others, which have caused suffering and widespread displacement.

Guterres warned that humanitarian organizations were “no longer able to clean up the mess.”

“U.N. agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross — we no longer have the capacities and the resources to respond to such a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs,” he said.

Turkey overtook Pakistan to become the nation hosting the most refugees in the world with 1.59 million people currently displaced within its borders. Guterres praised Turkey’s willingness to keep its frontiers open and called on richer countries to do more.

“That has a special meaning in a world where so many borders are closed or restricted,” he said. “And where new walls are being built or announced.”

TIME Turkey

Here Are 3 Good Things That Happened in the World This Week

TURKEY-VOTE-RESULTS kurdish
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images Young supporters of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) celebrate in the streets the results of the legislative election, in Diyarbakir on June 7, 2015.

Turkey, Nigeria and the E.U. all saw positive stories in a week when most of the news was depressing

Follow the news these days, and it’s hard to be an optimist. Ukraine’s ceasefire is a fiction. ISIS is capturing new ground and drawing new followers. The U.S. and China seem at odds in the South China Sea. The Greeks sometimes seem determined to stumble their way out of Europe. The list goes on. But with the real exception of Ukraine, these risks are exaggerated, and there are positive stories out there that deserve more attention. Here are three:

1. Turkey

Start with last weekend’s election results in Turkey. Not so long ago, this country was considered a major emerging market success story. That’s mainly because then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had helped unlock much more of the country’s growth potential by empowering development and entrepreneurship in the country’s Anatolian heartland. Under his leadership, per capita income tripled in a decade.

Unfortunately, Erdogan, now president, has drawn comparisons with Russia’s Putin by shifting focus from economic gain to a bid for lasting political dominance. To corner his enemies and expand his power, he has compromised the independence of Turkey’s courts, police forces, and central bank. His foreign policy has become a mix of nationalist paranoia and anti-Western resentment. He has also polarized his country.

But Turkish voters reminded us on June 7 that Turkey is not Russia, and Erdogan can’t become Putin. His Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, earned another victory, but not the supermajority Erdogan needed to rewrite Turkey’s constitution to give himself more power. In fact, for the first time in 13 years, the AKP didn’t even win a simple majority and will now have to form a coalition government.

Make no mistake: Turkey will be a mess for some time to come. Expected intensified political infighting over the next couple of years, but the big news is that there are still checks on Erdogan’s ambitions, even within his own party. It’s a step back for Erdogan–and a step forward for his country.

2. Nigeria

After years of corruption and stagnation, Africa’s largest economy needed new political energy. March’s presidential election provided exactly that. After 16 years of one-party rule following the country’s shift from military control to democracy in 1999, opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari won a clear victory and a strong mandate. The incumbent accepted defeat, and power changed hands peacefully. That’s crucial in a country where stability depends on a delicate political balance between Christians in the south, Muslims in the north and various ethnic groups and provincial factions.

With majorities for his APC party in parliament and governorships, Buhari brings energy for reform. A capable economic policy team is now settling into place. A badly needed revitalization of the oil sector is underway. Government spending restraint will earn greater investor confidence in Nigeria’s enormous potential. Buhari, a Muslim and former military commander, will more aggressively target Boko Haram, Muslim militants based in the country’s northeast, than his predecessor did.

3. Europe

Even in Europe, despite intense media focus on the risks of Grexit and Brexit—Greek and British exists from the E.U., respectively—there is cause for optimism. Last week, the Pew Research Center released a report detailing evidence of a revival of public faith in the broader European project. Pew surveyed 6,028 people in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK, countries that make up 70% of the EU population and provide 74% of its GDP. Though many of those questioned still say their economies are in rotten shape and won’t quickly return to pre-crisis levels, they do sense improvement—and credit the European Union for it. Despite the rise of Euro-skeptic parties like Spain’s Podemos, Britain’s UK Independence Party and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, public support for the EU within these member states has actually risen since 2013. In Britain, support for exit from the EU trails support for continued membership by 55 to 36 percent. Interestingly, majorities in Spain (70%), Britain (66%), Italy (58%), and Germany (50%) say the rise of “non-traditional” parties is a “good thing,” perhaps because they provide a useful check on the power of European institutions.

There’s no doubt that Ukraine’s conflict will deepen, tensions with Russia will rise further, Greece has a long way to go and the Middle East will burn hotter for longer. But add reform momentum in India, Italy, and Mexico, and there are still plenty of good news stories beyond the headlines.

Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME. He is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, and a Global Research Professor at New York University. His most recent book is Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World

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