TIME Turkey

Transsexual TV Reporter Becomes Turkey’s Face of LGBT Rights

In Turkey, legislation does not discriminate against transsexuals, but the country has a long way to go when it comes to LGBT rights, advocates say

Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread and activists hope to make the country an example of respect towards the LGBT community.

Michelle Demishevich, a prominent LGBT rights activist, is the country’s first transsexual TV reporter. While Turkey’s gay and transgender communities enjoy better rights than their counterparts in most Muslim countries, her achievement is rather unique.

In the video above, reported by the AFP, the activist talks about the fight for LGBT rights in Turkish society.

TIME russia

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: Kerry Tells Russia to Take Responsibility

John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attends the Strategic Dialogue expanded meeting with Chinese officials including Wan Gang, Chinese Minister of Science and Technology during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on July 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. Pool—Getty Images

The Secretary of State says Russia supplied Ukraine separatists with missile systems

Secretary of State John Kerry asked Russia on Sunday to “step up” and take responsibility for the Ukrainian rebels who are suspected of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.

“It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia,” Kerry said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Kerry said the U.S. observed significant arms supplies, including rocket launchers and tanks, moving from Russia into the hands of separatists in the Ukraine in recent weeks. The U.S. also intercepted conversations about the transfer of a missile system that the U.S. suspects downed the airplane, which was carrying close to 300 people. There were no survivors.

“The separatist are in control,” Kerry said in a separate Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. “And it is clear that Russia supports the separatists, supplies the separatist, encourages the separatists, trains the separatists, and Russia needs to step up and make a difference here.”

TIME Israel

Israel and Palestinians Report Highest Number of Deaths Yet in Gaza Offensive

Thousands of Palestinians are fleeing their homes

Updated 12:16 a.m. ET Sunday

Sunday marked the third and deadliest day of Israel’s latest offensive into the Gaza Strip, as both sides of the conflict reported a record number of deaths. At least 87 Palestinians died Sunday, Palestinian health officials said, the New York Times reports, while Israel’s military said Sunday that 13 Israeli soldiers were killed.

The deaths come as Israeli military forces escalated their ground offensive against Hamas militants on Sunday. Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which is targeting Hamas rocket sites and tunnels leading into Israel, began Thursday after several days of rocket and air attacks between Israel and Hamas as well as other Islamic factions in Gaza.

“From 12:30 a.m. until 4 a.m., all you could hear is heavy bombardment, the smell of fire and the smell of death. By 4:30, and after the call for the prayer, we were able to get in an ambulance,” said Jawad Hassanain, a Shijaiyah resident who fled to his sister’s neighborhood with his family after their house was shook by explosions.

The Shifa Hospital in Gaza quickly overflowed Sunday morning, with some doctors treating patients in the hallway. The Red Cross proposed a two-hour afternoon ceasefire to help evacuate the injured from the conflict zone Sunday, but that lull in fighting fell apart in under an hour, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Palestinian death toll has reached 425 people since July 8, according to Palestinian health officials. Before the 13 soldiers were killed Saturday, Israel’s military said seven Israelis, including five other soldiers, had been killed. Israeli hospitals say dozens of soldiers have been wounded as well.

The most recent wave of violence between Israel and Hamas began after the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian teen in June and July.

[NYT]

TIME Ukraine

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: Rebels Put Bodies in Railcars

They also say they're turning over the black boxes

The bodies recovered from the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 will stay in refrigerated train cars in the insurgent-occupied town of Torez until U.N. aviation officials arrive, a top Ukrainian rebel leader said Sunday. The comments from Alexander Borodai, the self-appointed Prime Minister of a pro-Russian “People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, come after other European officials said rebels had rounded up victims’ bodies and put them on railcars bound for an unknown destination.

The rebels also said Sunday they will turn over the black boxes from the Boeing 777 to officials from the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. body that oversees global aerospace issues. The aircraft’s black boxes were earlier rumored to have been sent to Moscow for examination.

Flight 17 is widely believed to have crashed in eastern Ukraine after being shot down Thursday.

Both Ukraine’s government and the rebel forces have alleged the other was responsible for downing the Boeing 777.

A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s government said rebels forced emergency teams to give up the bodies recovered at the crash site without revealing where they were taking the corpses. Associated Press journalists had previously reported seeing bodies in bags piled together in the heat on Saturday.

Borodai denied that rebel forces were interfering with the crash investigation and said he was disappointed with how long it had taken Malaysian aviation experts to arrive at the scene.

The U.S. embassy in Kiev has concluded “that Flight MH17 was likely downed by a SA-11 surface-to-air missile from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.” It said Russia had supplied military equipment to the insurgents, though Russia has denied the claims.

[AP]

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Rebels Haul Away Victims of Malaysia Airlines Crash

Emergency Workers carry a body at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region July 19, 2014.
Emergency workers carry a body at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 19, 2014. Maxim Zmeyev—Reuters

Victims' families have been forced to wait and wonder as pro-Russian separatists load bodies of the dead onto trucks

The engine of the old Zil military truck sputtered as the rebel fighter put the gearbox in reverse, mixing the smell of exhaust fumes with the sickening stench of death already hanging in the air. Behind him on the side of a country road in eastern Ukraine was a row of corpses, roughly two dozen in all, concealed in black body bags. They were some of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash that took nearly 300 lives on Thursday, and as the driver moved his makeshift hearse into position alongside them, he came within a couple feet of driving over one of the bodies before a few of his buddies yelled for him to stop.

Whatever hopes remained of a thorough and professional investigation of the crash ebbed away on Saturday evening as the workers began to lift the bodies into the bed of the truck, stacking them on top of one another. They all refused to say where the victims were being taken. They refused to say whether the flight recorders had been found among the debris, which was scattered over an area several kilometers in diameter. “Just let us work!” one of them snapped at a TIME reporter. “We’ve been here for three days, sleeping three hours a night in the fields with the corpses all around us.”

But that hardship probably pales in comparison to the suffering the victims’ relatives are experiencing. So far no relatives of the victims have been to the crash site, which lies inside the region of eastern Ukraine that is controlled by pro-Russian separatist militias. Their fighters, who are widely suspected of shooting down the plane in the first place, possibly by mistake, have refused even to allow a group of European observers to fully inspect the crash site.

“Unfortunately the task was made very difficult,” said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, which sent a delegation on Thursday to monitor the wreckage and the condition of the victims’ remains. “Upon arrival at the site,” he added during a press conference on Friday, “we encountered armed personnel who acted in a very impolite and unprofessional manner. Some of them even looked slightly intoxicated.” One of the gunmen fired shots into the air, Bociurkiw said, and the observer mission left after about an hour.

The OSCE observers’ access was not much better on Saturday, when the local workers – who were dressed in the uniforms of emergency personnel – waited until the foreign observers were gone before they began loading the dead into the trucks. Outrage over the apparent disrespect for the dead, the obvious contamination of the crime scene, and the lack of access for relatives, has poured in from around the world. But it seems to make little difference to the rebel commanders, who turned two regions of eastern Ukraine into lawless breakaway republics about three months ago. Every arm of the Ukrainian government – from traffic police to coroners – have effectively abandoned these territories to the rebels.

Even accessing the site on Saturday from the nearby city of Donetsk required passing through at least four rebel checkpoints, where haggard and stone-faced gunmen peered into the passing cars, checked the documents of their passengers and sometimes rummaged through the trunks and cabins in search of weapons. Many of the fighters are poorly trained and mishandle their weapons, switching off the safety switches on their Kalashnikovs and holding their fingers on the triggers as they interrogate motorists and passersby.

Numerous cases of kidnapping and violence have occurred at the rebel checkpoints over the past few months, so the Ukrainian government has discouraged the victims’ relatives to pass through these regions. “Our efforts to arrange the procedures [at the crash site] in a proper way are being impeded by the terrorists,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry said in a statement to the victims’ families on Friday. The ministry offered to put the relatives up at hotels in nearby cities outside of rebel control, where they would have to endure the agony of waiting to see the victims’ bodies.

It is impossible to say with certainty how long that wait would be, but with every day that passes, the rebel fighters who control the crash site have more time to tamper with the evidence of what actually happened over the skies of eastern Ukraine on Thursday afternoon. Unless their commanders are forced, pressured or convinced to allow outside investigators to access the wreckage and the remains of the victims, there may never be closure in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

TIME World

Plus-Size Parking Spaces in China Spark Accusations of Sexism

CHINA-SOCIAL-GENDER-TRANSPORT-OFFBEAT
Mall manager Yang Hongjun in front of cars parked in pink spaces in front of the Dashijiedaduhui, or World Metropolis centre, in the seaport city of Dalian, July 7, 2014. The parking spaces are distinctive: marked out in pink, around 30 centimetres wider than normal, and signposted "Respectfully reserved for women". Johannes Eisele—AFP/Getty Images

Mall managers said women had trouble with navigating standard width spots

Extra-wide parking spaces outside a mall in China designed for women have sparked a debate on social media in the country over allegations of sexism.

The mall, located in the northern Chinese port city of Dalian, has 10 spaces with an extra 30 centimeters marked in pink outside the main entrance that were provided after women had trouble parking in the standard basement slots, managers said.

“We just wanted to make things easier for women, who make up most of our customers,” said manager Yang Hongjun, a woman herself.

China’s official line is that of gender equality—Mao Tse-tung said that “women hold up half the sky”—but in reality, sexism persists in the country. Beijing police said in a microblog last year that women drivers “lack a sense of direction” and often “hesitate and are indecisive about which road they should take,” Agence France-Presse reports.

Driving for both men and women is a perilous endeavor in China, where in 2012, 60,000 people died on the roads.

[AFP]

TIME language

Russia’s Spin Job of the MH17 Crash Brings Back Soviet Memories

Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks to reporters during a meeting in Brasilia
Russia's President Vladimir Putin talks to reporters during a meeting in Brasilia, July 16, 2014. Alexei Nikolskyi—Ria Novosti/Reuters

Moscow's response to the attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is a return to the ham-handed ways of the Soviet days — and that portends bad things

A Russian disaster is almost never followed by Russian candor. This is true of most countries, but most countries are at least adept at explaining themselves — even if disingenuously — as the George W. Bush Administration showed with its flood-the-airwaves spin campaign after the weapons of mass destruction that were the casus belli of the Iraq War turned out not to exist. Not so Russia, and — as TIME’s Simon Shuster reports — its response to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the murder of the 298 people on board is one more illustration of that fact. Even after what are purported to be recordings between a pro-Russian rebel and a Russian military officer discussing the destruction of the airliner surfaced, Moscow remained in defiant denial — even flipping the script to blame Ukraine. “This tragedy would not have happened if there had been peace on that land, or in any case if military operations in southeastern Ukraine had not been renewed,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took a lower road, going for the ad hominem: “With regard to the claims raised by Kiev, that it was almost us who did it,” he said to a Russian state-run news channel, “in fact I haven’t heard any truthful statements from Kiev over the past few months.” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described this response with elegant understatement, labeling it “deeply, deeply unsatisfactory.” Soviet Russia was even more ham-handed in its defense of itself. A few days after the April 26, 1986, explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Soviet Ambassador Eugene Pozdnyakov appeared with Ted Koppel on ABC’s Nightline. When Koppel asked him why Russia initially covered up the accident, coming clean only when radiation readings in Europe revealed the truth, Pozdnyakov blamed the calendar. “It happened on Saturday,” he said, “and the governments of proper countries are usually on holidays on weekends.” Koppel responded with frank incredulity, scolding the diplomat with a simple, “Oh, come on!” In the current crisis, Moscow could at least call on experience, since — depressingly, remarkably — it’s not even the first time Russia has been implicated in shooting down a civilian passenger plane. That first time occurred on Sept. 1, 1983, when a military interceptor jet blew Korean Airlines Flight 007 out of the sky, killing 269 people, after the plane accidentally strayed into Soviet airspace. Moscow hedged and fudged and blamed the Korean pilot for being where he wasn’t supposed to be, and finally decided to fake transparency, releasing what were said to be air to ground transcripts between the interceptor plane and the base, intending to show, if nothing else, that the pilot seemed confused about what was happening. At one point during the attack, he was said to have exclaimed “yolki palki,” which TIME described then as “an exceedingly mild oath,” and indeed it is. Its literal translation is “sticks of the fir tree.” And it’s English equivalent? “Fiddlesticks.” The fighter pilot has not been born who speaks that way when engaging the enemy. Wordplay amounts to little for the 298 people killed in the new attack — or for the 298 grieving families. But it amounts to a lot as the rest of the world tries to reckon with Russia’s new aggression and its return to its old, opaque ways. The attack on the plane was over quickly; the aftermath promises to play out slowly and uncertainly.

TIME foreign affairs

Death Count Rises As Parties Scramble for Israel-Gaza Ceasefire

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Hamas leader to promote a deal proposed by Egypt

JERUSALEM — The death toll continues to rise as a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel becomes more and more elusive.

At least 100 Palestinians have been killed since the start of Israel ground offensive, according to Palestinian officials in Gaza.

Among the dead is a family of eight, killed by Israeli tank fire in the northern Gaza Strip last night, adding yet another tragedy to the now 11-day-old Israeli Operation Defensive Edge, which has killed more than 340 Palestinians. Most of the dead are civilians, including at least 73 children. According to the UN, more than 50,000 people in Gaza have been displaced from their homes, but there are no refugees as Gazans are unable to leave the tiny coastal territory.

“My children ask me questions about why this is happening and I don’t have any answers,” says Mahfouz Kabariti, who lives near the Gaza seafront with his wife and six children. The buzz of Israeli drones, which are now a constant backdrop to the frequent sound of explosions, can be heard through the phone. “I can see the Israeli navy ships from my window.”

As Israel’s navy fired from the sea and the air force struck Gaza from above, Israeli troops engaged with Hamas fighters on the border Saturday after eight militants tried to enter Israel from the territory through an underground tunnel.

“This illustrates that our concerns are real,” said Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Lerner says the IDF has already destroyed 5,000 of the 10,000 rockets it believes Hamas has in its arsenal. Israel now has thousands of troops inside Gaza and says it will widen its offensive, which aims to crush Hamas’ infrastructure.

“We have our hands full to complete these missions,” Lerner said.

At least two Israelis were killed Saturday after militants breached the territory’s northern border, bringing the Israeli death toll to five. The Israeli army says they have identified at least 20 tunnels on the Gaza-Israel border, and that militants planned to sneak into Israel with the aim of committing attacks.

While the Israeli army battled Hamas fighters, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas flew to Qatar and will meet with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to promote a ceasefire proposed by Egypt. After years of division, a unity deal was struck in April between Abbas’ Fatah party–which rules in the West Bank–and Hamas, but this military escalation has put a new wedge between the factions.

So far all these diplomatic efforts have been in vain. Israel claims it launched its ground offensive only after Hamas rejected several ceasefire offers. Israel’s cabinet voted to approve a ceasefire deal earlier this week, but it was turned down by Hamas.

“We rejected the Egyptian initiative because it wasn’t fair, giving the Israelis whatever they want,” said Ehab Hussein, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. “Nobody can accept that when you are getting hit and killed, that at the same time you should stop defending yourself without getting anything.”

Hamas is looking for more than just an end to hostilities. The leadership wants to gain new conditions from any deal to end the fighting.

“It’s not strange things we are asking for. We are saying, give us our freedom. Lift the siege. Open the borders. Implement the past agreement of 2012 and the agreement of the prisoner exchange,” said Ehab al-Hussein, in reference to prisoners who were re-arrested this month after being released in the swap for Gilad Shalit in 2011.

Egypt has been trying to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas in Cairo, but some speculate that Egypt is not a neutral mediator. Egypt’s new president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has an ongoing campaign in his country to crush the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ parent organization, and many argue his sympathies lie with Israel. However, Hussein says they have not shut down that channel.

UN secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is expected in Israel today in attempt to push for a ceasefire.

“Hopefully we will reach something,” said Hussein, “because we didn’t want this war. The Israelis started it.”

TIME Gaza

Protests Against Israel Ramp Up as Gaza Operation Continues

BRITAIN-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA-DEMONSTRATION
Protesters in demonstration against Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in central London on July 19, 2014. Carl Court—AFP/Getty Images

Demonstrations were held in cities from the U.K. to India, while more than 300 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza strip

,Protests against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza intensified in global capitals from London to Istanbul Friday and Saturday, as Israel ramped up its military operations on the the Palestinian-controlled territory.

Thousands of protestors gathered in central London on Saturday to call for an end to Israeli military action in Gaza, with about 15,000 expected to take part in a march to the Israeli embassy in Kensington, the Guardian reports. The march comes a day after police removed 25 protestors who held banners reading “Stop arming Israel” while linking arms in London’s Whitehall building.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, government forces on Saturday fired on protestors rallying against Israel’s invasion of Gaza, killing a teenage boy, Haaretz reports. Protestors have gathered in Kashmir every day since Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza, and have burned Israeli flags throughout the region.

Protestors in Istanbul pelted the Israeli consulate with stones this week, and in Ankara, draped Palestinian flags on the ambassador’s residence, Reuters reports. Israel responded Friday by reducing its diplomatic presence in the country.

In Berlin on Thursday, some protestors chanted anti-Semitic remarks after a pro-Palestinian demonstration, saying “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight,” according to Haaretz.

The recent spate of violence between Israel and Hamas has claimed the lives of more than 300 Palestinians in the Gaza strip, as many as three-quarters of which have been civilians. Palestinian rocket fire into Israel has killed one Israeli. Israel has sent troops into Gaza in order to stop the rocket bombardment into its borders.

TIME Malaysia

Malaysian Authorities Sharpen Tone on MH17 Attack, Call for Justice

Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in eastern Ukraine
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, center, and civil-aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, right, speak during a media conference on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July 19, 2014 Azhar Rahim—EPA

While Ukrainian government alleges rebels are interfering at the crash site, hiding evidence

Malaysia has stopped mincing their words. Ismail Nasaruddin, president at Malaysia Airlines staff union NUFAM, said the MH17 attack amounts to “murder,” and Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the world has a “moral obligation” to ensure the safe recovery of remains as well as punishing those culpable. This was the message that came out of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, after news that pro-Russian rebels have been restricting access to the crash site.

“Malaysia is deeply concerned that the crash site has not been properly secured,” said Liow, just ahead of leaving with the second Malaysian team bound for Ukraine to oversee the investigation. “There are indications that vital evidence has not been preserved … Citizens of 11 nations … cannot be laid to rest. Their lives were taken by violence; now violence stops them from being accorded their final respect. This cannot continue.”

The Ukrainian government has accused the rebels of moving at least 38 bodies from the crash site to a morgue in the rebel stronghold area of Donetsk, according to the New York Times. They also say that rebels have been hiding weaponry, missile fragments and other pieces of evidence. Rebel leaders have denied any interference.

Official Malaysian statements so far have been notably guarded, avoiding calling out an aggressive act as the cause of the crash. But the tone has sharpened considerably since armed separatists hindered a team of international observers from spending more than an hour at the wreckage site on Friday, and further indications pointed at a missile taking the airliner down.

At Saturday’s press conference, the country’s Transport Minister also junked claims of any wrongdoings of Malaysia Airlines in connection to the disaster. “MH17’s flight path was a busy major airway, like a highway in the sky,” Liow said. “It never strayed into restricted airspace. All sources say that a missile shot it down … this is an outrage that cannot go unpunished.” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Department of Civil Aviation, answered to a barrage of questions over the decision to fly at 33,000 ft. — a mere 1,000 ft. above the no-fly zone over the restive Ukrainian region — saying that this was the order the aircraft received from flight control.

Still, worries mount over the conflicted national carrier. Malaysia Airlines’ shares plummeted 11% on Friday, on top of an 83% plunge over the past five years. Some believe that the airline may even struggle to survive two such major disasters so close to each other. This is a notion that concerns many Malaysians, who view the company with great patriotism.

“Malaysia Airlines is such a good face for Malaysia to the world,” says 23-year-old student Fatin Badjuri, waiting for her flight at Kuala Lumpur International, ranked as one of the region’s best airports. “I’m worried about the problems these incidents will cause to the company, as well as to the country. I feel people may start thinking negatively about Malaysia now.”

Among the staff at Malaysia Airlines, though, all public concern remains focused on the recent tragedy. The airline released the full list of passengers aboard MH17 on Saturday.

“The entire cabin crew population is mourning … we’re not really concerned with the financial qualms right now,” said Ismail, the air carrier’s union leader, at a separate press conference on Saturday. “The spirit is demoralized. Some have not been able to come to work. The question we ask is if this mass murder was done with the intention to kill everyone on the flight.”

Malaysia is craving answers, and fast. Their patience has been sufficiently tried over the past few months.

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