Saturday, December 13, 2014

Beijing Folds Up Umbrella Revolution; Papua Army Massacre; a Shia–Sunni Federation for Yemen?; New Kosovo Premier: The Week in Separatist News, December 6-12, 2014

Hong Kong’s streets have been cleared, but no one is conceding defeat (see below under “Asia”)
EUROPE

Kosovo Names New Government; Mustafa of L.D.K. to be Premier.  After a six-month stalement, the parliament of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo has formed a new government.  The new prime minister, after a 73-to-38 vote by legislators, will be 63-year-old Isa Mustafa, of the Democratic League of Kosovo (L.D.K.).  Mustafa is expected to continue three-way negotiations with Kosovo’s former parent country, the Republic of Serbia, and the European Union (E.U.), on formalizing Kosovo’s independence in preparation for admission of both countries to the E.U., and to move more aggressively than his predecessors in seeking prosecution for war crimes committed by Kosovars in their struggle for independence in the 1990s.

Isa Mustafa, Kosovo’s new prime minister, with Kosovar and Albanian flags
2014 Was Slow Year for Kosovo Recognition; “Institutional Gridlock” Blamed.  Though 2014 was touted in advanced by the Republic of Kosovo’s foreign ministry as a watershed year in the breakaway province’s international recognition, in fact only four new states established diplomatic relations with Kosovo this year.  One Kosovar political scientist, Afrim Hoti, blames “institutional gridlock” within the foreign ministry for the slowdown.  The new diplomatic partners Kosovo snagged in 2014 were all small third-world nations: the Solomon Islands (as reported at the time in this blog), Togo, and two miniature monarchies: Tonga and Lesotho.  (Rumors that Burma (Myanmar) and Fiji were granting recognition turned out, embarrassingly, to be just that, as reported at the time in this blog.)  Kosovo had racked up twice as many new diplomatic partners in 2013, by contrast, including major nations like ThailandEgypt, and Libya, as well as, for example (as reported at the time in this blog), El Salvador.  In December 2012, the Commonwealth of Dominica, a former British colony in the Caribbean, became (as reported at the time in this blog) the 97th country to recognize Kosovo, putting Kosovo past the point where 50% of the world’s countries recognize it.  But membership in the United Nations General Assembly has been blocked by the Security Council vetoes wielded by the Russian Federation, an ally of Serbia, which still claims Kosovo, and by the People’s Republic of China, which takes a principled stand against separatism in general.  In addition, major nations such as Spain (fearful of encouraging its own Catalans), India, and Indonesia, as well as most of Latin America, refuse to recognize Kosovo.

The 110 countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence are in green.
Ukraine Fortifies Border with Transnistria as Kremlin Reacts to Moldova Vote.  After last week’s elections in Moldova (reported at the time in this blog) allowed a new Western-leaning, Kremlin-wary government to squeak narrowly into power and the decades-old, and with the Russian-backed separatist regime in Moldova’s de facto independent Transnistria region (a.k.a. Trans-Dniester Republic, a.k.a. Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, etc.) openly asking to be annexed by Russia, tensions were already high.  Add to this a mysterious Russian “humanitarian” convoy headed to Transnistria that eerily recalls similar convoys that heralded the separatist rebellions in Crimea and the Donbas earlier this year.  (This blog has been predicting an eventual Russian grab for Transnistria, as long ago as March and April of this year.)  The Ukrainian government is not taking any chances, and its military is now digging a 33-kilometer-long trench as it fortifies the border between Transnistria—a self-declared republic on a slender crescent of land which separates Moldova from Ukraine along the entirety of their shared border—and Ukraine’s Odessa Oblast, which has been the center of mostly aborted unrest by ethnic Russians.  As Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, told media this week, “Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine are three countries in our eastern neighbourhood that have taken sovereign decisions to sign an association agreement with the E.U.  Russia is creating problems for all three of these countries.”



Russo-Austrian Opera Diva Criticized for Posing with Novorossiya Rebel Flag.  In St. Petersburg, the renowned opera singer Anna Netrebko has placed herself on the side of the pro-Kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine, by posing with a flag of the self-styled Federal State of Novorossiya (or “New Russia,” consisting of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic) during an event at which she donated 1 million rubles to the cause of building an opera house in the war-torn city of Donetsk.  She posed for the flag with Oleg Tsaryov, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament who sides with pro-Russian rebels.  She later claimed that she did not recognize the flag and that the photo was not her idea.  A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Austria, where Netrebko lives and has dual citizenship, said, “Her meeting with a separatist leader and having a photo taken in front of a separatist flag is highly problematic.  Given the really difficult situation we are facing in Ukraine, this is anything but helpful.”  Austrian Airlines also severed its celebrity-endorsement contract with her, adding, “We distance ourselves from extreme political positions and the use of armed violence.”  This is not the only time that Austria and Russia have found themselves on opposite sides of a politically-tinged scandal in the world of vocal performance.  When the bearded drag-queen Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen in May, Russian nationalist leaders in Russia and Ukraine condemned the win as an example of Western decadence.

Tsaryov and Netrebko in the now infamous photo with the flag of Novorossiya
(whose resemblance to the flag of the Confederate States of America is,
as described in detail in an article in this blog, more or less coincidental).
American Conspiracy Theorist Says Jews Planning “Second Israel” in Ukraine.  An American conspiracy theorist, Wayne Madsen, who believes that Cable News Network (C.N.N.) is controlled by Jews, and who was a key figure disseminating the widely-believed folklore that President Barack Obama was concealing his true birthplace in Kenya (the so-called “birther” view), now has a theory about Ukraine, and, once again, Jews are in the middle of it.  According to Madsen, the government of Israel is aware of, and worried by the implications of, the supposed fact that the contemporary communities identifying themselves as Jewish Ashkenazim are in fact descendants not of the Israelites of the Old Testament but of Khazars who converted to Judaism centuries later.  The Khazars were a Turkic-speaking people of medieval Central Asia about whom little is known, including who their actual descendants are.  The “Khazar” theory of Jewish origins is a common anti-Semitic libel in the Muslim world, especially where that overlaps with the Russian sphere of influence.  Madsen claims that when Western nations side with the government of Ukraine against Russia, they do so at the bidding of their puppet-masters in Israel, who are making secret plans to establish a “second Israel” in Ukraine—since the old Khazar empire included part of what is now Ukraine.  The Turkic-speaking Karachay and Balkar nationalities in Russia’s North Caucasus region likewise claim descent from Khazars and some in those communities wish to join together in an autonomous or independent republic called New Khazaria.  Madsen makes no mention of the existing—but eerily Jewless—Jewish homeland that already exists in Russia, the far-eastern Siberian wasteland called the Jewish Autonomous Region (J.A.O.) dating to the Josef Stalin era.

“Next year, in Sebastopol!” (according to an American wingnut)
Russia Threatens BuzzFeed over “Extremist” Coverage of Chechen Bombing.  The bureau in Russia responsible Internet censorship threatened this week to ban the United States website BuzzFeed after its coverage of the December 4th and 5th Islamist terrorist attacks (reported at the time in this blog) in Grozny, capital of the Chechen Republic, was deemed to “contain appeals to mass riots, extremist activities or participation in mass (public) actions held with infringement of the established order.”  The offending article (read it here) contains a link to a YouTube video embedded in an article hosted by Kavkaz Center, a pro-Islamist news website covering the Caucasus which is banned in Russia for its cheerleading coverage of the region’s uncontrollable Islamist separatist insurgency at the hands of the Caucasus Emirate movement.  (For example, the site refers to the Grozny attack as a “successful raid of Mujahideen on the Russian-occupied city of Jokhar [i.e. Grozny], the capital of the Islamic Emirate of Caucasus.”)  YouTube shortly after removed the video for its incitement to violence, after which BuzzFeed removed the now-broken link.  The Russian agency then thanked BuzzFeed for its “cooperation.”  This was the first time the Russian watchdog agency had come to loggerheads with a U.S. news source in its campaign to eradicate dissenting views from the airwaves and Internet.

The jihadist attack this month in Grozny
Russian Security Forces Kill 4 Militants in Kabardino-Balkaria.  Security forces killed four alleged militants on December 11th in a shoot-out in a Nalchik, capital of the Russian Federation’s Kabardino-Balkar Republic, in the southwestern North Caucasus region.  The republic, which is shared by Kabardin (Circassian) and (Turkic-speaking) Balkar ethnic minorities, is in an area claimed by the jihadist separatist Caucasus Emirate movement.



Former Scots Separatist Premier Salmond to Run for Parliament—the One in London.  The former First Minister of Scotland and head of the Scottish National Party (S.N.P.), who resigned in September after bringing Scotland to the brink of independence in a referendum, now says he will run for Parliament—the British parliament, that is.  Alex Salmond, who is currently the S.N.P. M.S.P. (member of Scottish Parliament) for East Aberdeenshire, made the announcement at a party meeting December 7th in the town of Ellon.  The riding he plans to seek is that of Gordon, in Aberdeenshire, currently represented at Westminster by Sir Malcolm Bruce, of the Liberal Democratic Party.  Though this puts him out of Scottish politics in a way, Salmon reiterated that he fully expects a repeat referendum on independence in his lifetime.

Alex Salmond
Scottish Terrorism Suspected to Be Extradited from Ireland to U.K. after Final Appeal.  In a United Kingdom court, a pro-independence Scottish terrorism suspect lost his appeal against an extradition order to bring him home from the Republic of Ireland, where he has been living for decades.  The defendant, Adam Busby, who is 65, had to be brought to court in an ambulance because of his severe debilitation from multiple sclerosis.  In 2009, under the rubric of the supposed “Scottish National Liberation Army”—which may have consisted only of himself—Busby phoned a newspaper in Glasgow, Scotland, and threatened to poison the water supply in major U.K. cities.  He also apparently claimed he had mailed poisoned packages to leaders such as the U.K. prime minister at the time, Gordon Brown.  He is also charged with phoning in various bomb threats in 2010.

It’s back to Blighty for Busby the bomber
Basque Terror Group Endorses Far-Left Party in Spain—or Not?  In Spain, according to a report in Newsweek, jailed spokespeople for the recently disarmed Basque terrorist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or Basque Homeland and Freedom) announced December 8th that the organization was supporting Pablo Iglesias and his far-left political party Podemos in Spain’s upcoming national elections.  Podemos holds no seats in national Spanish legislatures but has five of Spain’s 54 seats in the European Parliament.  Newsweek’s information, to my knowledge, is not confirmed by other sources and seems sketchy in light of the fact that there are Basque pro-independence parties.  In fact, Iglesias recently said that he would sue Spain’s ruling People’s Party (P.P.) for slurs that Podemos was on the side of “Castrists, Chavists, and ETA” (referring also to Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s late left-wing populist president Hugo Chávez).  It seems at this point that ETA, rather than changing its political stripes, is merely being used as a pawn in a war of words between larger parties.  (Thanks to a reader—see comments section, below—for calling my attention to the discrepancy.)

ETA—still fighting the Man after all these years.  (Nice berets, by the way.)
German Judge Jails “King Peter” for Driving with Royal “New Germany” License.  A self-styled “King of Germany,” who claims to rule over a 9-hectare area in Germany’s Saxony–Anhalt state called “New Germany” (Neu-Deutschland), was jailed on December 4th for using a driver’s license issued under the name of his imaginary realm.  (Earlier, he seemed to have been calling his state simply Königreich Deutschland.)  The 48-year-old King Peter—a.k.a. Peter Fitzek, a former cook and video-store manager—appeared in court in Neustadt in full royal regalia, but was sentenced to three months behind bars for using a fake driver’s license.  This was his ninth conviction for the same charge and his 24th in total.  When Fitzek tried to invoke his immunity as a head of state, the judge told him, “You have built a fantasy world with a fanciful political worldview.”  King Peter claims over 3,000 “citizens” and a currency called Engel-Geld, or “angel money.”  A Kingdom of Germany does not even exist historically.  Until 1918, Germany was a confederated empire, whose constituent kingdoms included Bavaria, Saxony, and Prussia, with the King of Prussia holding the imperial crown.

King Peter fights city hall
Saxony State Premier Sounds Alarm over Hate-Crimes against Sorbs.  Meanwhile, in the real Germany, and also in Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich, premier of Saxony Free State, in the former East Germany, warned on December 19th that thuggish xenophobic violence in his state is not directed only at Muslims or at immigrants—as with recent hate rallies in the Saxon capital, Dresden—but also at the indigenous people of the region of Lusatia (Lausitz), the Slavic-speaking Sorbs (also sometimes called Wendish people).  Tillich is one of about 60,000 total Sorbs in Germany, and he says the group has been victimized by hate crimes, in a continuation of prejudicial treatment he received growing up in East Germany—and of policies before that, during the Nazi era, when Sorbs were officially denigrated as Untermenschen (“subhumans”).  He accused extremists of using the pretext of general anxiety about refugees and immigration to “misuse this situation and rail against everything different.  That prompts some to become abusive toward Sorbs.  I regard that as alarming.”

Saxony’s premier Stanislaw Tillich with fellow Sorbs
Karelia’s Ingermanland Finns Recall Stalin’s Deportations on Anniversary.  In the frozen far-northwest of Russia early this month, an organization called the Ingermanland Union of Finns of Karelia marked its 25th anniversary.  In addition to cultural preservation, the Union is devoted to preserving the memory of the deportations during Josef Stalin’s rule, in 1942, when 28,000 or so Finno-Ugrian-speaking indigenous people (variously known as Karelians, Russian Finns, Ingermans, Ingrians, Veps, etc.; the boundaries among the groups are not always clear) were deported eastward, along with many ethnic Germans, to keep them away from the vicinity of Leningrad (St. Petersburg).  Thousands of them died in deportations to places such as Yakutia (now called the Sakha Republic) in Siberia.  Karelians and related peoples make up only a minority of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Karelia, outnumbered by ethnic Russians.  Karelia’s Ingermanland Finns number only 441.

The once-vast nation of Ingria (shown in green) now numbers only a few thousands
BITS OF ASIA THAT LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE

Uruguay Veep Hints at Plan to Be First to Recognize Nagorno-Karabakh.  The vice-president of Uruguay, Danilo Astori, surprised many on December 8th when, on a state visit to Armenia, he declared that his country was interested in becoming the first country to grant diplomatic recognition to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.), an Armenian puppet state carved out of Azerbaijan’s western flank by Armenian and Russian forces after the fall of Communism.  (But Uruguayan recognition of the N.K.R. has been rumored as long ago as 2012, as reported at the time in this blog.)  Armenia and the Armenian-American (i.e., Armenian-U.S.) diaspora prop up the N.K.R., but neither Armenia nor Armenia’s ally, Russia, nor any other country has taken the step of recognizing it.  But, as Astori said in a joint press conference with the speaker of Armenia’s parliament, Galust Sahakyan, in response to a question about N.K.R. recognition, “My country is working toward that direction.”  Astori also laid a wreath at the Dzidzernagapert Armenian Genocide Memorial and spoke of plans to build an Armenian Genocide museum in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital.  Uruguay is one of several left-leaning states in Latin America which have allied themselves against United States foreign influence—the others are Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia—and, in a Cold War–style polarization, make a point to take positions contrary to U.S. foreign-policy positions on matters such as Crimea, Cuba, Iraq, Palestine, and Puerto Rico.


Vice-President Astori honors Armenian genocide victims;
will he turn around and lend legitimacy to ethnic cleansing by Armenians next?
Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh Dispute Facts of Armenian Soldier’s Death.  An Armenian soldier was killed in a clash with Azerbaijan’s military on December 8th, at an unspecified location, possibly or possibly not along Azerbaijan’s de facto border with the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.), which is maintained by Armenia’s military on what the world regards as Azerbaijani territory.  Each side has a different version of the soldier’s death: an N.K.R. spokesman said that Azerbaijani forces attacked Armenian positions, while the defense ministry in Baku says Azerbaijani soldiers were defending themselves against an Armenian assault.  Cease-fire violations are an almost routine occurrence in the decades-old “frozen conflict.”


South Ossetia President Won’t Rule Out Annexation to Russia in Coming Treaty.  The president of the Republic of South Ossetia, a Russian puppet state on what most of the world regards as part of the Republic of Georgia, said on December 10th that his country would soon sign a treaty with Russia like the one signed a few weeks ago (discussed last week in this blog) between Russia and South Ossetia’s sister republic in Georgia’s west, Abkhazia.  The details are yet to be worked out, said the president, Leonid Tibilov, but he explained, “The range of [possible levels of] integration can be pretty wide: from becoming a subject of the Russian Federation to an associated partnership.”



MIDDLE EAST


With Caucasus Emirate Divided, Some Suspect ISIS Role in Chechnya Attack.  Some experts on the Caucasus region are speculating strongly that Islamic State (a.k.a. Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS) had a role in the December 4-5 terrorist attack (reported at the time in this blog) in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s Chechen Republic, which left 20 dead.  As reported last week in this blog, the Caucasus Emirate movement was quick to claim responsibility, but the editor of the Caucasian Knot news-website Gregory Shvedov pointed out, “The underground intends to demonstrate that the existing security system is not effective.  We reported a split in the ‘Caucasus Emirate’ with some insurgents joining ISIS. There is still a question who really was behind the current attacks.”  Though they have coeval aims and use the same Ottoman Empire jargon of “emirates” and “caliphates,” the Caucasus Emirate and ISIS are not firmly linked; the Emirate has not aligned itself very strongly with ISIS’s global-caliphate agenda, as some in groups like Nigeria’s Boko Haram (as reported in this blog) and Somalia’s al-Shabaab have.  But one faction may be making common cause.  Such an alliance would cause an odd triangulation in the region: ISIS is fighting both the “Great Satan” the United States and the Syrian government which the U.S. wants to step down, while Russia, a deadly enemy of the Caucasus Emirate, is an ally of Syria.  A wider conflagration on these terms would find a Syria–IranIraq–Russia axis allied against KurdistanTurkeySaudi Arabia, moderate Syrian rebels, and the U.S., while ISIS and the Caucasus Emirate would be at war with all of the above.

Are some factions of the Caucasus Emirate now in bed with ISIS?
Kurds Eager to Fill Void in European Natural-Gas Supply Left by Russian Conflict.  The dramatic Russian entente with western and central Europe over the past year has presented stark geopolitical choices to countries dependent on natural gas piped through Ukraine from Russia.  But the timing may have one advantage.  With Iraq and Syria fragmenting rapidly, resource-rich Kurdistan seems headed for eventual independence, and that could help Europe.  As Dilshad Sha’ban, deputy head of the (Iraqi) Kurdish parliament’s Natural Resources Committee, pointed out this week, Kurdistan is capable of meeting as much as 30% of Europe’s natural-gas needs.  “The Kurdistan Regional Government will produce a surplus of natural gas that will be exported abroad in the next three years, and sold to Europe,” Sha’ban said, adding, “Annually, the K.R.G. spends three billion U.S. dollars generating electricity.  There is a plan to use Kurdish local natural gas to produce electricity in the first stage and then in the next stage, the gas will be exported abroad.  Recently, we met with the French Consul in the Kurdistan Region who emphasized that France and Europe in general are hoping the Kurdistan Region’s natural gas will fulfill a portion of their requirements.  The Ministry of Natural Resources has signed an agreement with ExxonMobil, Butash Oil, Genel Energy, and some other companies in order to produce natural gas and soon production will start.”

Waving Kurdish flags
Kurdish Cabinet Member Backs Autonomous Region for Iraq’s Sunni Arabs.  The deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.), in northern Iraq, said on December 9th that the central government in Baghdad needs to devolve more power to regions and communities, including allowing the creation of an autonomous region for Sunni Arabs.  The official, Qubad Talabani, added that this was perhaps the only way to stop discontented Sunnis from joining Islamic State (a.k.a. Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS).  But Talabani said he opposed outright separatism, adding, “It seems counterintuitive, but the only way you’re going to keep Iraq together is to give up power from Baghdad.”

The idea of a Sunni Arab autonomous region now has Kurdish support.
Houthis and al-Hirak Agree to Work Together toward Federation of Two Yemens.  Media in Yemen are citing anonymous insider sources attesting to a firm alliance that has emerged between the predominantly-Shiite Houthi militias that have taken over the national capital, Sana’a, on the one hand, and, on the other, the al-Hirak movement fighting to reestablish an independent South Yemen.  Their aim is not a full partition of the country but the creation of a loose federation more on the model, say, of the post-Communist Czecho-Slovakia.  The South Yemeni delegate to the alliance is reportedly Ali Salim al-Beidh, former president of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, a.k.a. South Yemen, which was dissolved when the two Yemens reunified in 1990.  Rumors have it that the predominantly-Sunni al-Hirak movement is allied not with radical Sunni Arab groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (A.Q.A.P.) which operate in the area but with Shiite power-brokers in Lebanon and Iran.


Irish, Danish Parliaments Take Up Recognition of Palestine.  The Irish political party associated with the Republican struggle for independence and for unification of the island, Sinn Fein, moved in the parliament in Dublin on December 9th to call on the government of Ireland to grant diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine.  A similar motion passed the upper house of parliament in October, and this follows similar non-binding resolutions (discussed last week in this blog) in the legislatures of Belgium, France, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.  The resolution calls on Ireland to “officially recognize the State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in U.N. resolutions, as a further positive contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.” It also states that “continued Israeli settlement construction and extension activities in the West Bank is illegal and severely threatening the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.”  Pro-Palestinian sentiment is uncontroversial in Ireland.  The government has said it will not oppose the bill.  Meanwhile, Denmark’s parliament took up the question of Palestinian statehood on December 11th.  One of the parties sponsoring the Danish bill was the separatist Inuit Ataqatigiit (I.A.) party in Greenland, a Danish possession.  But the measure was defeated handily.  Nonetheless, the country’s foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, said that eventual Danish recognition of Palestine was likely.

Many Irish nationalists see themselves as natural allies of Palestine.
ISIS Publishes Slave-Owners’ Manual for Jihadists, with Rape Tips.  The Islamic State, also known as Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, published on December 3rd a pamphlet outlining the “rules” that govern the treatment of slaves captured by jihadist fighters, according to their deviant interpretation of Islam.  The Arabic pamphlet, titled Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves (Su’al wa-Jawab fi al-Sabi wa-Riqab), bears the imprint of ISIS’s Research and Fatwa Department and explains, for example, that a female captive, even a young girl, may be raped.  “If she is a virgin,” the pamphlet says, her new owner “can have intercourse with her immediately after taking possession of her.  However, if she isn’t, her uterus must be purified.”  It also explains, “It is permissible to beat the female slave as a form of disciplinary beating, but it is forbidden to beat for the purpose of achieving gratification or for torture.”  That, I suppose, would be an example of decadent Western fetishism.

Worse than al-Qaeda ever was: Islamic State’s “peculiar institution”
AFRICA

Last Remaining French Prisoner of Malian Islamists Freed in Shady Prisoner Swap.  The French government revealed on December 9th that the last French hostage held by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.) in Mali had been released.  But rights groups and other observers expressed outrage that the release was apparently negotiated in a deal that involved the prior release of four Islamist terrorists held in Bamako, the Malian capital.  The four were a Western Saharan (Sahrawi), a Tunisian, and two Tuaregs from northern Mali closely associated with the Tuareg terrorist group Ansar al-Dine and its feared fanatical leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly.  That group, along with A.Q.I.M. and others, ran a separate state in northern Mali called Azawad for much of 2013 before being ousted by French troops.  Ironically, the two Tuaregs had been arrested in 2011 for the kidnapping of Serge Lazarevic, the French citizen released this week.  The other Frenchman kidnapped with Lazarevic on that occasion, Philippe Verdon, was found shot to death in 2013.   Drissa Traore, of the Malian Association for Human Rights (Association Malienne des Droits de l’Homme, or A.M.D.H.), said of the prisoner release, “The liberation is a violation of the rights of the victims but also of the principles that say the government should not interfere with the work of the judiciary.”  The French government has for decades come under harsh criticism from nearly every other modern democracy for its unapologetic practice of negotiating with terrorist kidnappers, including paying ransoms which are then used to finance later kidnappings.

Lazarevic and Verdon in capitivity with Ansar al-Dine gunmen.  (The “Al-Andalus” logo
refers to Ansar al-Dine’s long-term aim of “recapturing” Andalusia, in Spain.  That’s a whole other story.)
Emir of Mubi Returns to Palace as Nigeria Regains Adamawa Areas from Boko Haram.  With order beginning to be restored to much of Adamawa State and neighboring areas in northern Nigeria as the central government wrests back control from the self-proclaimed caliphate of the Boko Haram terrorist group (as discussed last week in this blog), a local traditional monarch returned to his palace in the town of Mubi on December 12th in a symbolic moment of a return to normalcy. As he led prayers soon after his return, the Emir of Mubi, Abubakar Ahmadu, said, “We appreciate the gallant efforts of the Nigerian military, the hunters, and the vigilantes that saw the liberation of our towns.  We are optimistic that the remaining towns will soon be liberated.”
The emir is on his throne, and all’s right with the world
Mombasa Separatists Suspected in Lethal Machete Attack on Police Camp.  Unknown persons armed with machetes attacked a police camp at Mwanamwinga, near Mombasa, Kenya, on December 11th, killing a police corporal and injuring two others.  They then stole weapons and left.  The commissioner for Kilifi County, where Mwanamwinga is located, said he suspected the Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.), an often violent group which wants independence for Kenya’s coastal region, which has a Muslim majority in this mostly Christian country.


The Mombasa Republic flag
Three Jubaland Militiamen Turn Up Dead outside Kismayo.  The bodies of three dead soldiers with the military of the autonomous Jubaland State of Somalia were found by a military base, not far from the presidential palace just outside Kismayo, the Jubaland capital, on December 7th.  Mogadishu and Kismayo are mum, but Garowe Online quoted independent sources as saying that the three—two men and a woman—had fought alongside a militia which three months ago had surrendered to the African Union (A.U.) mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, which is battling the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militia alongside troops from Kenya.



ASIA

Police Dismantle Last Hong Kong Protest Camp; Democracy Activists Not Giving Up.  Police in the People’s Republic of China’s semi-autonomous Hong Kong Special Administrative Region arrested over 200 people as they dismantled on December 11th pro-democracy protest camps blocking highways since September, putting a symbolic end to the so-called “Umbrella Revolution” that challenged the Communist Party dictatorship’s chokehold on power more seriously than anything since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.  These protests were in response to a decision from Beijing to allow only candidates hand-picked by the central Communist Party to run in Hong Kong elections.  For democracy advocates, this clearly violates the spirit, and probably also the letter, of the 1984 treaty which transferred sovereignty over the territory from the United Kingdom to Beijing in 1997.  The Chinese government conceded nothing, and on paper the movement achieved nothing.  But the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens taking over the major public spaces and demanding drastic revolutionary political change, without being gunned down, proves for many that the dictatorship knows its days are numbered.  And activists are very far from conceding defeat.  One protester, Cat Tang, said, “We have learned we have power when we are together and have enough people.  Today, we don’t have enough people.  But tomorrow, sometime, we can.”  “This is the start, the very beginning,” said another, Charlotte Chang, aged 19, “and the pressure will accumulate.  The next protests will be more aggressive,” she said, adding, “Those who claim political neutrality cannot go on.  You can’t pretend not to care.”  And, as Lee Cheuk-yang, a Hong Kong legislator, put it, “The young people have awakened.  This is really the gain of the movement.”


Caution—men at work burying democratic hopes
7 Xinjiang Students Jailed for “Separatism”; 8 Other Uyghurs Face Execution.  A court in Urumqi, capital of the People’s Republic of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regionhanded down three-to-eight-year prison terms on December 8th to seven students—all but one from the predominantly-Muslim Uyghur nationality—on charges of “separatism.”  The seven were allegedly allies of Ilham Tohti, the Uyghur scholar and human-rights activist whose life sentence on “separatism” charges, given him in September, prompted an international outcry.  On the same day, another court in Urumqi sentenced eight Uyghurs and gave prison terms to another four for their supposed role in knife and bomb attacks in the ongoing ethnonationalist strife in the area.  The World Uyghur Congress (W.U.C.), based in Germanycalled the sentences “unacceptable.”  In other Uyghur news, a Uyghur linguist named Abduweli Ayup has been freed served after serving part of a sentence for “illegal fund-raising” for selling t-shirts to raise money for Uyghur-language education, and the city of Urumqi has banned the wearing of face-covering veils in public—which, mind you, puts Communist China in the company of many major cities in western Europe’s supposedly pluralistic democracies when it comes to religious freedom.  Meanwhile, in a captive nation at the other end of China, an activist named Hada was released from prison in Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, after serving 15 years for “separatism.”

Ilham Tohti
Rights Group Says Pakistan “Disappears,” Executes Sindhi Nationalists.  The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (H.R.C.P.) is reporting that the grisly repressive techniques that Pakistan’s military has long used in its rebellious province of Balochistan, including abductions, extrajudicial killings, and “disappearances,” are also being used against separatists in its other coastal province, Sindh.  Such “custodial killings,” according to the H.R.C.P., included one instance in which, according to a news source, “a young wounded man was taken away from Karachi’s Civil Hospital by over a dozen men, including some in police uniform; the man’s body was later found dumped near Hyderabad.”  But there have been many other such cases over the past several weeks, even though the movement to create an independent Sindhudesh is far less popular or organized than the pro-independence insurgency in Balochistan.

Enemies of the state, needing liquidation? Sindhi nationalists on parade
9 Killed in Bus Bomb on Mindanao; Moro Rebels Suspected.  On Mindanao island in the southern Philippines, nine people were killed on December 9th in a bus bombing in which separatists are suspected.  The explosion occurred in Maramag, in an area outside the Moro ethnic group’s Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but within the area claimed as the Bangsamoro Republic (variously spelled) by the more radical Moro rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.).  The ARMM is set to become an even more autonomous region called Bangsamoro, under the terms of a deal negotiated by Manila with another group, the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).  An al-Qaeda-affiliated separatist terrorist army, the Abu Sayyaf Group (A.S.G.), also operates in the region.


OCEANIA

800 Papuans Rally against Military Beating of 12-Year-Old; Troops Open Fire, Kill 5.  On December 8th, in Enalotari, on the Indonesian-ruled portion of New Guinea, police and military opened fire on about 800 Papuans demonstrating peacefully.  Five people were killed, mostly teenagers, while 17 others, including five schoolchildren, were injured.  The demonstration was in response to an incident during a Christmas-tree-decorating ceremony in the town, when a group of Indonesian soldiers savagely beat a 12-year-old boy with rifle butts.  The boy’s condition is unknown.  Most residents of the states of Papua and West Papua are Christian or follow tribal religions, while the majority in Indonesia is Muslim.  Indonesia’s minister for security affairs, Edhy Purdijatno, said the soldiers at the demonstration did nothing more than “defend themselves” from “a bunch of people fighting the authorities.”  Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (H.R.W.), said of the incident, “The Indonesian government needs to investigate why security forces found it necessary to fire into a crowd of peaceful protesters.  Ordinary Papuans are too often victims of security force abuse for which no one is ever punished.”

The scene in Papua this week after the army moved in
Queen of Cook Islands Denounces Local Anti-Gay Laws.  The hereditary monarch of the Cook Islands, in the South Pacific, has come out with a strongly worded statement about legislation discriminating against gays and lesbians.  Marie Pa Ariki, known as takitumu, or paramount chieftainess, or queen, of the Cook Islands, told an interviewer that gays and lesbians “are knowledgeable and contribute to society and to home life. They are human like everyone else … we are all wahanau”—using a Polynesian word for family.  She denounced laws that criminalize homosexual intimacy in the islands, “but,” she added, “Pacific Island conservatism is changing now. People are learning.”  The Cook Islands is a constitutional monarchy, but that monarchy has nothing to do with Queen Marie, whose authority is not recognized by the state; the Cook Islands are, via their “free association” arrangement with New Zealand, in the Commonwealth of Nations, and so their head of state is Queen Elizabeth II.


Marie Pa Ariki, traditional Queen of the Cook Islands
NORTH AMERICA

Uruguay Uses Gitmo Prisoner Deal to Seek Release of Puerto Rican Independence Activist.  The Republic of Uruguay, is agreeing to accept six prisoners (or “detainees,” as the misleading euphemism would have it) from the United States’ illegal prison camp in occupied Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and hopes that it can use leverage from this favor to secure the release of U.S. political prisoners, including an independence fighter from Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony in the Caribbean.  In an open letter to President Barack Obama, Uruguay’s president, José “Pepe” Mujica, affirmed his commitment to accepting the Guantánamo prisoners, writing, in pointed language about U.S. policy, “We have offered hospitality to human beings suffering an atrocious abduction in Guantánamo.  Since the time of our independence, and even before, individuals and sometimes large groups of people have come to this country seeking refuge from international wars, civil wars, tyranny, religious and racial persecution, poverty and also destitution.”  In exchange, Mujica hoped that the U.S. would consider releasing three Cuban spies who have been held since 1998 and the 70-year-old Puerto Rican separatist, Oscar López Rivera, who is more than thirty years into a life sentence that has included twelve years of solitary confinement.  There is almost no chance that the U.S. will agree.  For Mujica, though, the these matters are personal.  A former leftist guerilla with the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros, or M.N.L.–T), Mujica spent thirteen years in prison, including spending two years in brutal solitary confinement boxed up at the bottom of a dilapidated horse trough.

Still behind bars, but Pepe gave it the old college try
Gitxsan Activists Block British Columbia Highway to Protest Natural Gas Plans.  Members of the indigenous Gitxsan nation in northern British Columbia, Canadablocked a highway in their territory on December 6th.  According to the protestors’ press release, “Gitxsan hereditary chiefs Spookw and Luutkudziiwus closed Hwy. 16 at New Hazelton on Dec. 6, 2014, in protest over the recent B.C.E.A.O. [British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office] approvals of two natural gas pipelines proposed for Gitxsan territory, and one L.N.G. [liquid natural gas] terminal proposed for the Skeena Estuary.  The chiefs say these projects threaten to collapse the Skeena salmon run that all upstream nations rely on.  About 65 people collected at Hwy. 16 on Saturday to support the closure.  Attendees cited a number of issues that render the proposed L.N.G. projects unacceptable including: low provincial L.N.G. tax revenue, job loss to temporary foreign workers, potential of toxic air emissions on the north coast, potential of conversion of the pipelines to carry oil, and high risk to juvenile salmon at the Petronas L.N.G. site on Lelu island.”  The site of the protest, called Madii Lii in the Gitxsanimix language, is owned by Chief Luutkudziiwus (a.k.a. Charlie Wright) on behalf of his matrilineal extended family (“house”), and the area has for several weeks been sealed off by Gitxsan activists to prevent unauthorized economic activity on the territory.

Gitxsan activists at a roadblock
Utah Flushes Hundreds of Polygamists out of Fundamentalist Mormon Compound.  In the Utahan half of the state-line-straddling twin community of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, state authorities moved in this week to enforce some of the most extensive evictions yet of polygamous families from the elaborate compound of the imprisoned child-rapist Mormon “prophet” Warren Jeffs and his Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (F.L.D.S.) community.  The small, marginal F.L.D.S. conservative Mormon community follows the spirit and laws and social structure of the sect’s founder, Joseph Smith, far more closely than the assimilationist offshoot Church of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City with its tens of millions of members around the world.  The evictions, focusing on fourteen households—which, mind you, means a lot more folks than fourteen average American households—occurred mostly without incident.  The compound has been taken into the possession of the State of Utah, but most occupants are refusing to pay the state’s $100 monthly “rent”—presumably under the orders of Jeffs, who many believe still controls the community from prison.

Hilldale, Arizona—an average American community, except for
the heavily-armed citadels, the razorwire, the harem chambers,
and the rows and rows of magical Masonic underwear on the clotheslines.
SPORTS

Olympic Committee Green-Lights Kosovo for 2016 Games; Serbs Furious.  The International Oluympic Committee (I.O.C.) on December 9th granted full recognition to the disputed Republic of Kosovo, removing the last hurdle for the mini-state to send athletes to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  This week’s decision is a ratification of a decision made in October.  The government of Serbia, which still claims Kosovo, reacted angrily, with its foreign minister stating, “We see this decision as unacceptable and unprincipled, therefore maintaining that it contravenes the Olympic Charter.  The act represents a biased politicisation of sport, while the International Olympic Committee, a universal organisation dedicated to the development of sport and the promotion of understanding and friendship, has assumed the role of a political arbiter.”  The minister, Ivica Dačić, did not explain how it was that not granting Kosovo recognition would not have been a political arbitration as well.  Some questions the I.O.C. cannot simply dodge.

Besim Hasani, president of Kosovo’s Olympic Committee
European Football Body Bans Matches in Disputed Crimea.  The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has courted controversy before by promoting separate national teams for the partially-recognized Republic of Kosovo and for Gibraltar, a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom which Spain would like to reclaim.  This time, UEFA is dodging the question of whether Crimea is part of Russia, which invaded and annexed it in March, or—as nearly the entire rest of the world regards it—part of Ukraine.  Crimea is, for football purposes, now a “special zone” where no matches will be held until the peninsula’s status can be resolved.  “The UEFA executive committee has prohibited clubs from Crimea playing in the Russian Football Union, and the Russian Football Union may not organise any competition in the Crimea,” explained UEFA’s secretary general, Gianni Infantino, at a press conference, adding, “We trust the associations will respect these decisions.  If one of the associations does not respect this decision then a disciplinary case would have to be opened.  It is not up to UEFA to determine any political situation.  Having discussed this with the Ukraine and Russia and Ukrainian and Russian football authorities, the executive committee came to the conclusion that for the time being the decision has to be to consider Crimea as a special zone.”



[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  (That is shorter than the previous working title.)  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), will be on shelves and available on Amazon on March 1, 2015.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]



Saturday, December 6, 2014

Game-Changing Votes in Moldova, Taiwan, Greenland; Ethnic Violence in Xinjiang and Corsica; Boko Haram in Retreat; Bitcoin Micronations: The Week in Separatist News, November 29–December 5, 2014


EUROPE


Pro-West Party Wins in Moldova; Kremlin Sends “Humanitarian” Convoy to Transnistria.  In the formerly-Soviet Republic of Moldova, parliamentary elections on November 30th handed a victory to parties favoring closer integration with the European Union (E.U.), rather than with the Russian Federation.  But the pro-E.U. coalition still snagged only 41.4% of the vote, with the pro-Kremlin Socialist Party winning 21.6% and other pro-eastern parties racking up nearly as much as that.  The pro-Brussels Liberal Democratic Party came in second, behind the Socialists, but will be able to build form a government with smaller coalition partners.  Another pro-Moscow party, Patria, was, just before the election, embroiled in a scandal over illegal campaign funds from abroad, and its chairman, Renato Usatii, has fled to Russia; this caused many Patria voters to defect to the Socialists at the last minute.  The election and its aftermath are being watched closely because Moldova’s situation is so similar to that of its eastern neighbor, war-torn Ukraine.  Moldova’s pro-Moscow eastern border region of Transnistria declared itself independent in 1990 after the fall of Communism.  Though that conflict has remained frozen, and Transnistria is diplomatically unrecognized, the situation is reminiscent of the situation with this year’s Russian invasions of ethnic-Russian-majority areas in Ukraine such as Crimea and the Donbas.  Transnistrians have openly asked to be annexed to Russia, while Russia has tried to bully Moldova into scaling down its engagement with the E.U. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Now, on the morning of December 6th, the latest reports indicate that Russia’s warnings to the Moldovan government over its reaffirmed path, may be more than bluster: the first of a new 60-truck convoy of “humanitarian aid” has arrived in Transnistria.  If it is like similar convoys crossing from Russia into the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, then “humanitarian aid” is likely to include surface-to-air missiles, land mines, and grenade-launchers.


Transnistria or bust: the “humanitarian” convoy
Donbas Rebel Leaders Scoff at New E.U. Sanctions List; Fighting Continues.  In Ukraine’s rebel-ruled ethnic-Russian-majority southeastern Donbas region, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed, Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (D.P.R.), Aleksandr Kofmanscoffed at new lists of sanctions targets released by the European Union (E.U.) which focused on leaders of the D.P.R. and its sister rebel quasi-state, the Luhansk People’s Republic (L.P.R.). “The very fact they impose sanctions on the person whose job is the normalisation of relations with the entire world, including Europe,” said Kofman, painting the D.P.R. and L.P.R. rebel governments as voices of reason and moderation, “indicates the E.U. is not interested in that normalisation.”  Meanwhile, shelling continued around Donetsk, and the Pyatigorsk host of Cossacks was one of several groups bringing convoys of “humanitarian aid” from Russia into the rebel republics.



20 Dead as Terrorists Battle Russian Federal Police in Chechen Capital.  A street battle between Russian police and Islamist militants left twenty people dead over the night of December 4th and 5th in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s Chechen Republic in the North Caucasus region.  The violence occurred shortly before Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, delivered his state-of-the-nation speech from Moscow.  The dead included nine militants and ten police.  Chechnya’s Putin-appointed, mildly-Islamist president, Ramzan Kadyrov, played down the incident, saying, “When this all started, I flew home, organized a special operation, killed the devils, held a meeting, gathered the staff needed to restore the damaged building and made it back in time to listen to the address of our national leader.”  Putin implied that Western powers were behind the attack, in an attempt to dismember Russia.  (Chechnya fought two bloody wars for independence after the fall of Communism, inviting a level of civilian massacre by Putin not seen in Europe since the Second World War.)  But before long a video posted on the pro-Islamist Kavkaz Center website claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of Aslan Byutukayev, a.k.a. “Emir Khamzat” of the Caucasus Emirate movement, a salafist terrorist group whose aims are broadly shared by Islamic State, which is battling Russia’s ally, Syria, not far away to the southeast.


The scene in Grozny
Belarus President Questions Kaliningrad Exclave’s Russianness during Visit.  The republic of Belarus, in the past a lock-step ally of President Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation, became wary of its giant eastern neighbor and former ruler this year after Putin’s military invasions of eastern Ukraine.  But was Belarus’s skittish dictator, Aleksandr Lukashenka, fearful of Russia annexing Belarus too, or was he merely jealous, wishing he could flex his irredentist muscles as well?  That question is being raised after comments Lukashenka made during a visit to Kaliningrad Oblast, a former part of Germany’s Pomerania region, wedged between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, which is part of Russia today because of the reallocation of some German territories in the treaties that ended the Second World War.  While meeting this week with the oblast’s governor, Nikolai Tsukanov, and discussing trade, Lukashenka said, “Some of our enemies, including those in Russia and Belarus, say that Lukashenka wants the Kaliningrad Oblast to be a part of Belarus.  Believe me, I do not have such plans.  But we have a good tradition from the Soviet Union that Belarus has always supported Kaliningrad Oblast.  We have never considered you to be an alien region.  Perhaps, it doesn’t matter what country the Kaliningrad Oblast will belong to.”  Perhaps, indeed, that extends to countries that no longer exist: in August, residents of Kaliningrad, formerly Königsberg, staged autonomy rallies in the city and waved flags of Prussia (as reported at the time in this blog).


Prussian flags on display in Kaliningrad
Catalonia’s Radical Left Says Mas’s 18-Month “Roadmap to Secession” Too Slow.  The leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, or E.R.C.), the radical separatist party that holds the balance of power in the ruling coalition in Spain’s secessionist autonomous region of Catalonia, spoke out about the Catalan president Artur Mas’s 18-month “roadmap to secession,” saying it was a step forward but too slow.  The E.R.C. leader, Oriol Junqueras, told an interviewer, “We have to shorten the period of uncertainty as much as possible.  In Scotland’s case, the process was slower because the government in London was willing to negotiate, but here it is already clear that Madrid doesn’t want to negotiate anything.”


The E.R.C.’s Junqueras doesn’t want to wait for Catalan independence.
UKIP Slammed for Linking Scots to Nazis; HIV Activists Fight Farage’s Bullshit with Bullshit.  In the United Kingdom, the head of the anti-Brussels, pro-unionist United Kingdom Independence Party’s Scottish delegation, Arthur Misty Thackeray (no, that’s not his stripper name), drew hostile responses recently for a volatile rant in which he repeatedly compared the ruling separatist Scottish National Party (S.N.P.) to Nazi Germany.  His harshest invective was reserved for Scotland’s new First Minister (i.e., premier), Nicola Sturgeon, and the S.N.P.’s party newspaper.  “The Scottish Nationalist movement is in danger of returning to its 1930s fascist roots,” Thackeray said, adding, “First we had cybernats and street thugs trying to intimidate their way to independence, then Sturgeon at Nuremburg-style rallies and now this McPravda propaganda sheet.  Scotland doesn’t need Neverendum politics, just everyone to accept that the majority of Scots voted to remain forever in the Union, and said No means No.”  Meanwhile, comments by UKIP’s bombastic chairman, Nigel Farage, about people with H.I.V. has prompted a more pungent criticism.  After Farage told Newsweek that restricting entry to the U.K. by “quality” immigrants should mean, for example, “people who do not have H.I.V.—that’s a good start,” activists from the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) responded to Farage’s “bullshit” by leaving a giant mound of actual bullshit outside UKIP’s headquarters on December 1st, which is World AIDS Day.  Farage describes himself as a libertarian, but in his crusade against the European Union (E.U.), he reserves his fiercest invective for one of the E.U. principles that is in full accord with libertarian principles: the free movement of people (a blind spot he shares with most libertarians in the United States).  But, just to assure people that Farage’s anti-AIDS anger is not personal, he clarified that in general, “I do not think people with life-threatening diseases should be treated by our National Health Service.”


Merry Christmas, UKIP
Police Injured, Military Vehicles Burned in Corsican Separatist Protest.  Two police were injured in clashes on December 3rd with hundreds of young separatist demonstrators in Corsica, a large Mediterranean island controlled by France.  The rally had been organized by the pro-independence organization Separatist Youth (Ghjuventù Indipendentista).  Chanted slogans included “A nostra terra ùn hè à vende” (“Our land is not for sale”) and “Statu francese assassinu” (“Murderous French State”).  Store windows were smashed and two military trucks were set on fire with Molotov cocktails.  Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd but were less successful in making arrests.  According to one student organizer, Petru Vesperini, “We sent out a global call to Corsican youth, calling for protest against the current situation in Corsica, which is characterized by a disproportionate wave of repression, anti-Corsican racism, and the denial of democracy by the French government.”


Street battles in Corsica
Northern League Leader Plans January Summit with Putin.  The leader of northern Italy’s far-right separatist Northern League (Lega Nord), Matteo Salvini, will meet in January with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.  Ostensibly, they will discuss economic issues, but the summit is telling in light of the fact that, since Putin’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea earlier this year and his crackdown on the beleaguered indigenous Muslim minority there, right-wing separatist parties in western Europe have rallied behind the Russian autocrat.  Like Belgium’s Flemish Interest (Vlaams Belang) party and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Lega Nord is increasingly shifting away from straight-out constitutional and geopolitical aims (which are decidedly not in accord with Putin’s style of governing) and toward a vote-grubbing form of virulent anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim bigotry (which are hallmarks of Putin’s rule).  (See a recent article from this blog for more on the Italian xenophobic separatist right’s infatuation with Putin.)


Northern Italian separatists and their hero
Principality of Seborga Names Envoy to India.  The Principality of Seborga, a diplomatically unrecognized elective monarchy coextensive with a small muncipality in northwestern Italy, has appointed a Sikh resident of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, as its consul (in its words, “representative”) India.  At the swearing-in ceremony in Patiala, in India’s Punjab state, the new envoy, S. P. Singh Oberoi, was inducted into his office by Prince Marcello I, Seborga’s head of state.  It is not clear if anyone in the Indian government noticed or cared.


Indian and Seborgan flags adorn Prince Marcello I’s induction of S. P. Singh Oberoi.
BITS OF ASIA THAT LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE

NATO, Georgia, Others Condemn New Russian–Abkhazian Treaty.
 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is joining the international chorus condemning Russia’s November 24th treaty with the self-styled Republic of Abkhazia, which only a handful of nations recognize as sovereign.  James Appathurai, NATO’s point man on South Caucasus affairs, points out that the deal, which sets in motion a merger of sorts of the two nations’ militaries, raises tensions in the region, especially amid expectations that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, will annex the puppet state, along with the Republic of South Ossetia, another rebel region of the Republic of Georgia it recognized diplomatically after the 2008 Russian–Georgian War, in the same way it did Ukraine’s Crimea republic earlier this year.  Speaking on December 4th, Appathurai said, “NATO Secretary General expressed extreme concern over the signing of the so-called treaty between Russia and Abkhazia.  There are grounds for concern in relation to South Ossetia.  This so-called agreement is yet another violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia.”




MIDDLE EAST


Kurds Come Out Ahead in Major Agreement with Baghdad over Oil and Budget.
 The Republic of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) reached a key agreement on oil and finances on December 1st, after three days of negotiations.  In the agreement, the Kurdistan Region will receive 17% of the national budget and will receive 550,000 barrels of Kurdish oil per year.  The autonomous region, which openly hankers for independence while it holds its own against Islamic State militants better than the central government can, contains nearly a quarter of Iraq’s population but unofficially controls more territory than that, including the strategic city of Kirkuk, the vicinity of which will produce 300,000 of the 550,000 barrels to be paid in tribute to the state.




Increasingly Militant Turkmens, Christians Boycott Kurdish Parliament.  But in a further political fragmenting of Iraq’s far north, Turkmen and Christian members of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s parliament declared this week they would be boycotting the body’s session out of a feeling of exclusion from its institutions, in particular the Referendum Commission which will decide if and when to hold a plebiscite on secession from Iraq.  In Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkmens and Christians have formed their own independent militias, and Christians in particular have been the victims of ethnic cleansing by Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS).  Meanwhile, the embattled self-declared quasi-state in Syrian Kurdistan is far more inclusive, with power-sharing between Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, Assyrian (Christian), and even Chechen communities in the region.  Also this week, Iraq’s Assyrian Democratic Movement announced the formation of special militias designed specifically to protect and retake Assyrian territories from ISIS.  The militias, called Nineveh Plains Protection Units, are currently holding territories in non-ISIS-held parts of Nineveh province, the Assyrian heartland.  David W. Lazar, an Iraqi native, who runs the American Mesopotamian Organization, said that his group is involved in directing funding from the Assyrian diaspora in the United States to the Protection Units, but he refused to answer questions about whether U.S. military or intelligence personnel are playing a role.


Nineveh Plains Protection Units
ISIS Anbar Emir Killed in U.S. Airstrike in Iraq.  The al-Arabiya news service reported the death, from a United States airstrike, of a senior commander in the Islamic State organization (a.k.a. ISIS).  The commander, Senan Meted, was known as “emir” of western Anbar province, in Iraq.  He was killed on November 26th in the town of Hit, in Anbar.


ISIS—taking losses but still on the march
French Parliament 5th in Europe to Recognize Palestine; Belgium Next in Line.  The lower house of France’s parliament approved on December 2nd a resolution urging the government to recognize the State of Palestine, in a vote of 339-151.  This non-binding vote—only the executive can grant diplomatic recognition—follows similar ones in the parliaments of SwedenSpainIreland, and the United Kingdom over the past several weeks, and Belgium and the European Parliament are planning to take up the issue soon as well.  But the French government, like the United States and U.K. governments, remains a committed ally of Israel—despite considerable popular opposition in those countries, especially France and, to a lesser extent, the U.K.  Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, reacted with alarm to the French vote, calling it pandering to pander to the Muslim vote.  He also attempted to whip up fear over repercussions, saying, “Such votes can have negative consequences for the Middle East peace process because it can radicalize people, while pushing Palestinians to abandon the negotiating table in favor of seeking recognitions.  ...  I can’t exclude the possibility that there can be repercussions of the vote on the Jewish community,” he added, “as criticism of Israel can be construed by some extremists as an excuse for incitement against Jews.”  In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted 138 to 9 to admit Palestine as an “observer state” (as reported at the time in this blog), but full membership is barred by the Security Council veto wielded by Israel’s only ally, the U.S.



South Yemenis Hold Mass Rallies on Independence Day, Defying Authorities.  Southern Yemeni secessionists held demonstrations in the former capital, Aden, on November 29th to mark the 47th anniversary of Yemen’s independence from the United Kingdom, at which point it was partitioned into two states.  (The two reunified in 1991, and many southerners would like to reestablish a separate South Yemen.)  But central-government authorities prevented many leaders from attending the rallies, including Hassan Ba’oum, “spiritual leader” of al-Hirak, as the main southern—and predominantly Sunni Arab—secessionist movement is known.  Police attacks on demonstrators killed at least one and injured four others.  With the country in turmoil after this fall’s virtual coup d’état in the capital, Sana, by Shiite Arabs from the northern mountains called Houthis, even Islamist parties and the usually unionist socialist party which ruled South Yemen during the Cold War are directing most of their criticism at the central government and saying that al-Hirak has a point.  Meanwhile, the Houthis signed a cease-fire and a prisoner-release agreement with one salafist Islamist party in Yemen, the Islah party.


Yemen’s map is complicated.
AFRICA

Nigerian Military Claims All of Adamawa Wrested from Boko Haram “Caliphate.”  The military in Nigeria announced on December 5th that its forces had recaptured the town of Mubi, in Adamawa State, from the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, which had held it since October.  The military claims that this now frees all of Adamawa from Boko Haram control.  The terrorists had renamed Mubi “Madinatul Islam” (as reported at the time in this blog) and were running it as the capital of their newly declared “caliphate” in northern Nigeria, on the model of the “Islamic State” entity in Syria and Iraq (as reported at the time in this blog).  It is unclear how much territory the group still holds in neighboring Borno State



Soon refugees from Adamawa such as these may be able to return home.
Former Somali Parliament Speaker Sworn In as South-Western State President.  In Baidoa, in southern Somalia, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan was inaugurated on December 3rd as president of the Interim South-Western Administration (I.S.W.A.), designed to ease into existence an autonomous South-Western State of Somalia, on the model of autonomous regions like Puntland, Galdmudug, and Jubaland.  These regions so far function mostly as independent states, with little governing from Mogadishu.  Adan, a former national finance minister, was elected on November 17th.  He was best known for being involved in a power struggle with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in 2010 when he was speaker of Somalia’s parliament.  But the Federal Republic of Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was on hand for the inauguration.


Adan, new president of Somalia’s Interim South-Western Administration
Barotse Separatist Leader Nabbed by Zambian Police, to Be Tried for Treason.  Authorities in Zambia on December 5th arrested Mombotwa Afumba, chairman of the monarchist movement Linyungandambo, which aims for the independence of Barotseland, a kingdom which agreed to be part of the Republic of Zambia when British rule ended in 1964 on condition of autonomous status, which has never been granted.  Afumba, whom the movement regards as Administrator-General of Barotseland, was arrested in Sesheke, near Mwandi Palace, residence of the senior chief Inyambo Yeta, of the separatist Barotse Royal Establishment (B.R.E.).  Afumba had made the mistake of recently crossing over the border from Namibia, where he has been spending most of his time since a crackdown three years ago.  Part of the traditional Barotse (a.k.a. Lozi) kingdom lies in Angola and Namibia.  Afumba has been moved to Mongu, the administrative center of Western (formerly Barotseland) Province, where he is expected to be tried for treason.

Mombotwa Afumba, now to be tried for treason
ASIA

Taiwan Pro-Independence Party Wollops KMT Establishment in Local Races.  In local elections in the Republic of China (Taiwan) on November 29th, the ruling Nationalist party, the Kuomintang (KMT), suffered severe setbacks.  From fourteen of the country’s 22 counties and county-level municipalities, the KMT now controls only six.  It yielded seven to the Democratic People’s Party (D.P.P.), which favors defying Beijing by formalizing the island’s decades-long de facto independence from mainland China.  As a result, Taiwan’s premier, Jiang Yi-huah, resigned, and its president, Ma Ying-jeou, quit his chairmanship of the party.  The mayoralty of Taipei, the capital, was won by Ko Wen-je, a trauma surgeon and political novice who ran as an independent but supports the D.P.P. favors formal independence.  Already, the KMT’s hold on power has been tenuous: it controls only a slight majority, 65, of the national parliament’s 113 seats, and at this rate they won’t survive the 2016 elections.  The repercussions of these changes have yet to be felt, but so far the Communist government in Beijing, which still claims Taiwan is its own, is downplaying its significance.


Cute puppy dogs, Jake & Elwood, independence from Beijing—
Taipei’s mayor-elect Ko Wen-je knows what voters like.
15 Killed in Uyghur Violence in Xinjiang.  In China, authorities reported that on November 28th fifteen people were killed and fourteen injured in an attack by members of the Uyghur minority in a public market in the Uyghur-majority Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  The incident occurred in Shache County, where nearly 100 people had been killed in reportedly similar violence in July.  The assailants in the latest attack were reported to be armed with explosives, knives, and a vehicle.  But Uyghur diaspora activists dispute the government account of such atrocities, claiming they are exaggerated and nonexistent and are being concocted as a pretext for repression of Uyghur culture and the ethnic group’s Muslim faith.


Baloch Separatists Claim Responsibility for Killing 2 Pakistani Soldiers.  Two separate attacks on November 30th which killed two members of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps and wounded several others were the work of the Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A.), according to a B.L.A. statement.  A B.L.A. spokesman, Jeand Baloch, said, “Our Sarmachars [freedom fighters] attacked the security forces’ convoy with R.P.G. and other automatic weapons killing at least two soldiers including a Subedar and injuring several others.”  The two attacks occurred in the Tump and Panjgur regions of Balochistan, a vast province covering nearly half of Pakistan’s territory, which has been fighting for independence for decades.


Don’t fuck with the Baloch Liberation Army, okay?
OCEANIA

Papuans Wave Banned Flag, Stage Demonstration in Jakarta on “Independence Day.”  Hundreds of members of tribal ethnic minorities from eastern Indonesia’s West Papua region staged protests in the national capital, Jakarta, on December 1st, demanding a referendum on independence for Irian Jaya and West Papua provinces, on the island of New Guinea, as a separate Republic of West Papua.  The protests were marking the 53rd anniversary of the region’s declaration of independence from the Netherlands in 1961, when Indonesia was not yet fully established.  Papuans were promised, then denied, a referendum at that time, and Indonesia annexed the territory with the tacit approval of the United States and United Nations.  At this week’s rallies, some raised the Morning Star flag, the display of which is illegal in Indonesia.


Papuans rally for freedom in Jakarta.
NORTH AMERICA

Greenland’s Narrowly Reelected Ruling Party Shuns Separatists in New Coalition.  Against expectations, elections on November 28th in Greenland handed the governing socialist party, Siumut, a narrow victory, with a 34.3% share of votes, despite the party’s near collapse from a financial scandal and despite its moderate stance on the question of independence from Denmark.  This was just over 300 votes more than the main opposition party, the far more stridently separatist Inuit Ataqatigiit (I.A.), received, with 33.2% of votes.  Each now gets 11 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic parliament.  At first it seemed that Siumut, as the narrow winner, was courting I.A. with hopes of forming a government, but negotiations seemed to snag on mining issues, which are related to question of Greenland’s viability as an independent state.  Now, within the past few days, Siumut has formed a coalition with two smaller anti-independence parties, the Democrat Party and the Atassut Party, with only seven parliamentary seats between them—enough for Siumut to shut I.A. and make sure their coalition partners are unambiguously junior.  This puts the independence cause significantly farther from the center of Greenland politics—the opposite of what had been predicted mere weeks ago (including by this blog).  72.9% of the vast but sparsely populated territory’s 40,424 eligible voters cast ballots.

Against expectations, Aleqa Hammond and her Siumut party prevailed.
Quebec Gunman Seeks Bail, Claims No Memory of Lethal Attack on Premier’s Rally.  The rabidly anti-Francophone and court-certified mentally ill Canadian who may have been attempting to assassinate Quebec’s new premier-elect, Pauline Marois, when he was arrested in 2012, told a judge at a bail hearing on November 28th that he cannot prepare for his own defense while jailed.  A bathrobe-wearing Richard Henry Bain had shot and killed one person at the separatist Parti Québécois’s post-election victory rally in September 2012 when police tackled him.  Bain, a disgruntled guide–outfitter, was suspected of attempting to assassinate Marois, but he claims now he has no memory of the event, due to what he now calls an overdose of medication.  Bain claimed oppression of Anglophones by Canada’s government and was an advocate for secession from the province of the city of Montreal, which has a higher proportion of Anglophones than other Québécois cities.


“And another thing ...!”: Bain being arrested in 2012
Californian Seeks “Sub-National Sovereignty” for State; Jeffersonians Court Lake County.  A plan to split California into six separate states of the United States (discussed in this blog) died with not enough signatures earlier this year, but disgruntled Californians are not out of the game.  Libertarian and conservative Californians are arguably the most disenfranchised ideological bloc in the U.S., since under the winner-take-all system in elections for the presidency and the U.S. Senate, the perennial political minority in the most populous state may as well not bother voting.  So, while Tim “Six Californias” Draper has gone back to the drawing board, Louis Marinelli, a 28-year-old English teacher in San Diego has founded an organization called Sovereign California.  The group’s aim is not to secede from the U.S.—at least not yet—but to carve out a more sovereign constitutional status for California within the union.  “We’re not pursuing actual separation from the rest of America,” Marinelli says.  “It’s more like sub-national sovereignty, something like Scotland has within the United Kingdom, with a lot of autonomy, but still within the national system.”  (A politically and geographically closer example might be Quebec’s new status as a “nation within a nation” in Canada.)  This “sub-national sovereignty” would include the right to form foreign diplomatic relations unilaterally—an idea also once favored by the former centrist Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  A commonwealth status akin to Puerto Rico’s is another possibility, Marinelli says.  He is also very focused on petitioning to allow the Bear Republic Flag—the state flag, which still bears the phrase “California Republic” dating to its brief independence in 1846—to fly at the same height as the Stars and Stripes at government facilities.  Meanwhile, the board of supervisors of Lake County, in northern California, debated for two hours on December 2nd the idea of joining a proposed 51st state called the State of Jefferson.  GlennModocSiskiyouSutterTehama, and Yuba counties have passed resolutions in favor of the secession, and Colusa has considered it.  In June of this year, Tehama County voted to secede in a non-binding ballot measure, while Del Norte and Siskiyou counties defeated similar proposals only narrowly and Siskiyou and Modoc counties delivered a “declaration of withdrawal” to Sacramento in August (as reported at the time in this blog).


One day ... side by side (or so hopes Sovereign California)
Feds Slap Aging Surfer Dude’s Wrists for Minting Unofficial “Liberty Dollars.”  A United States federal judge in Statesville, North Carolina, on December 2nd sentenced Bernard von NotHaus, a 70-year-old “ex–surfer guy” and founder of the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu (it’s the church that’s free, not the marijuana, unfortunately), to six months of house arrest for issuing his own minted Liberty Dollars in defiance of the U.S. government.  This follows a 2011 conviction for “counterfeiting”—a dubious charge, since creating coins and notes from scratch is forgery, not counterfeiting, and since Von NotHaus was not trying to pass the dollars off as U.S. currency.  He had since become a hero to libertarians for his championing of the cause of resisting the supposedly “phony” (i.e., not gold-backed) U.S. dollar.  As Von NotHaus put it in 2011 when feds tried to link his enterprise to domestic terrorism, “This is the United States government.  It’s got all the guns, all the surveillance, all the tanks, it has nuclear weapons, and it’s worried about some ex-surfer guy making his own money?  Give me a break.”  The judge had indeed given him a break: at his age, a maximum sentence could have meant life in prison.


Von NotHaus with one of the offending pieces of paper
SOUTH AMERICA

“Galt’s Gulch” Libertarian Commune in Chile Switching to Bitcoin.  An 11,000-acre utopian community called Galt’s Gulch Chile (G.G.C.), modeled on the secret mountain redoubt portrayed in Ayn Rand’s 1957 libertarian novel Atlas Shrugged, has announced that it is adopting the alternative currency Bitcoin as the coin of its realm.  Jeff Berwin, a United States citizen who is G.G.C.’s spokesman and a player in the early history of Bitcoin, stated recently, “I can think of no better way to invest bitcoins than on real estate, especially legally protected land with clean water and organic farmland in quickly developing markets, like Chile.  ...  Just like bitcoins, I think land in emerging markets will only increase in value over the coming years.  The U.S. dollar and other fiat currencies will continue to collapse and we recommend those holding dollars to divest themselves of those dollars as soon as possible.  We also want to show our commitment to bitcoin and accept it very happily as payment for land at Galt’s Gulch.”  This comes despite strong indications from those claiming to have been hoodwinked by G.G.C. financiers that the whole enterprise is a money-making scam which grossly overstates the functionality and sustainability of the community and dissembles about what happens to the money prospective communards pay in.  (Bitcoin is also a proposed currency for the Principality of the Portinha, a 2,000-square-foot rock off the coast of Madeira, an Atlantic possession of Portugal’s off the coast of Morocco, which is recognized by no one.)

Second-handers use rear entrance
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  (That is shorter than the previous working title.)  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), will be on shelves and available on Amazon on March 1, 2015.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]



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