The week at a glance...International
Lagos, Nigeria ‘Jail the Gays’: Nigeria has criminalized gay marriages and effectively banned organizations that help gay people or fight HIV/AIDS. President Goodluck Jonathan this week signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which critics call the Jail the Gays bill, this month. Under the new law, anyone who visits gay clubs or “directly or indirectly” makes a public show of a same-sex relationship risks 10 years in prison. “This is a law that is in line with the people’s cultural and religious inclination,” said presidential spokesman Reuben Abati. An overwhelming 98 percent of Nigerians polled say homosexuality should not be tolerated. Human rights activists say gays have already been arrested and tortured into giving up the names of other gays.
Malakal, South Sudan Hundreds drown fleeing war: Up to 300 people, many of them children, drowned this week fleeing fighting in South Sudan. Racing to escape Malakal, the capital of an oil-rich region that has been a main site of the fighting, refugees had packed onto a ferry, which sank in the White Nile. It was the worst single disaster in the conflict, which began a month ago when President Salva Kiir accused his former vice president, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup. Some 10,000 people have been killed in fighting between militias loyal to the two, and nearly half a million people have fled their homes, with some 5,000 refugees pouring into Uganda every day.
Cairo Military triumphs: Egyptians were expected this week to approve a new, army-backed constitution that insulates the police and military almost entirely from civilian oversight. The military regime framed the vote as a patriotic duty that would complete the twin revolutions that swept from power dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and then Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi—who alienated voters by forcing his own, Islamist-leaning constitution on them—in 2013. “This is just to give a message that we don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood,” voter Inas Mazen told Time. But while turnout was high, the vote was hardly free or fair. Around a dozen civil-society activists were arrested simply for hanging “Vote No” posters.
Jerusalem No love lost: After a harsh rebuke from the State Department, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has apologized for his sneering remarks about Secretary of State John Kerry. Yaalon said in an interview that he was deeply skeptical of Kerry’s push for Mideast peace, saying, “The American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it’s written on. It contains no peace and no security.” Then he got personal, saying Kerry had an “incomprehensible obsession and sense of messianism.” After the State Department called the remarks “offensive and inappropriate,” Yaalon gave a tepid written apology, saying he had “no intention to cause any offense.” Since Yaloon is a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his remarks indicate that Kerry faces steep resistance to his full-court press for a peace treaty that would create a state of Palestine.
Baghdad Sunnis hired to fight: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked Sunni militias to fight for the state against the al Qaida insurgency raging in Anbar province. He reinstated a system to pay the Awakening militias that joined forces with U.S. troops to battle al Qaida in 2006. “They will get regular salaries and will be recognized by the government as security personnel,” al-Maliki said. “All the tribes of Anbar are fighting against al Qaida,” said Sunni militia leader Ahmed Abu Risha. “We are happy this fight is taking place.” Meanwhile, violence surged in Baghdad this week when at least seven car bombs went off in mostly Shiite neighborhoods, killing dozens of people.
Bangkok Opposition digs in: Tens of thousands of protesters have set up tents across Bangkok, effectively shutting down the Thai capital in an effort to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign. Yingluck is seen as a puppet of her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire telecom mogul ousted as prime minister in 2006, and Bangkok’s business class despises them both as corrupt. But many of the rural poor revere the siblings for initiating free health care and subsidizing fuel. Yingluck said she won’t quit. “It is my duty to protect democracy, and democracy belongs to the people,” she said.
Dukezong, China Ancient town burned: The Tibetan village of Dukezong was entirely destroyed after a massive fire raged through it last week. The village was part of a province that changed its name to Shangri-La—after the fictional paradise described in a 1933 James Hilton novel—specifically to attract tourists, and critics say that pursuit of development is to blame for its demise. The 1,300-year-old town was made up of wooden buildings set close together, and Li Gang, head of cultural heritage in the county, said planners had abandoned safety precautions and squeezed in extra buildings to accommodate tourists. That let the fire spread easily and left no room for fire engines to enter.