Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Week in Separatist News 22-28 April 2012: Battle for Timbuktu; Saakashvili Offers Testicles to Kremlin; Lega Nord Offers Sicily to America

Photo of the week: the Republic of Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, in the midst of describing exactly what he would give up in order to restore two separatist republics to Georgian control.  (See story below, “Saakashvili Offers Testicles to Putin in Exchange for Abkhazia, South Ossetia,” under “Bits of Asia Which Like to Pretend They’re Part of Europe.”)


First, the Mali update (for Sudan update, see below) ...


Ecowas Commits Troops to Mali, Guinea-Bissau; Both Juntas Warn Them Away.  The leaders of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) met in Abidjan, capital of Côte d’Ivoire (a.k.a. Ivory Coast), on April 26th and resolved to send troops not only to the Republic of Mali, wracked by a coup d’état and the secession of the north, but to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, where there was also a military coup, on April 12th.  Ecowas seemed less concerned with the secession of the Independent State of Azawad in northern Mali than with the return to civilian rule in both countries, and insisted that elections be held within a year in both member-states.  Unofficially, Ecowas sources are telling media that 3,000 troops will be deployed to Mali under the Ecowas banner and 600 to Guinea-Bissau.  But not only have Guinea-Bissau’s coup leaders said last week that any Ecowas troops would be treated as an invasion force.  But on April 27th the military junta which still apparently runs Mali—despite having formally handed power to a civilian prime minister and president—are saying that they will not accept the Ecowas troops.  Bakary Mariko, a spokesman for the junta, said, “We will not accept any Ecowas soldiers on our territory.  This is non-negotiable.  Any soldier who comes will be seen as the enemy.”

Malian Loyalists Push North into Azawad as Ecowas Readies Troops.  Earlier, however, it seems some fighting had already begun in the Malian central government’s newly declared “all-out war” on the self-proclaimed republic in the Tuareg-dominated north two-thirds of the country.  Approximately 200 fighters identifying themselves as government loyalists have moved into Lebizanga, in Tuareg-held territory just over the border from Niger and by April 21st were pushing northward toward Gao.  They claimed to have set up a command post at Ouatagouna, deep in Azawadi territory.  The soldiers appeared to be not under Mali’s central government’s command and were led by one Col. el-Haj Gamou, a Tuareg who has switched sides several times since the civil war began.

Islamists Squash Urban Uprisings; “Arabs” Battle for Control of Timbuktu.  Meanwhile, on April 20th, an apparent 100-200-strong civilian uprising in Timbuktu dispersed under open fire from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia, Ansar al-Dine, that controlled the city on behalf of Azawad’s Tuareg-led government.  There was also another, smaller uprising in Kidal.  Human Rights Watch is also reporting this week that Tuaregs are raping women in Azawad in the context of the conflict.  By April 26th, whether related to the earlier uprisings or not, witnesses were telling Agence France Presse (A.F.P.) that yet another group had now taken control of parts of Timbuktu.  The group, who are “Arabs” (probably Moors, who inhabit the western stretches of Timbuktu province) and not Tuaregs and are not Islamists, call themselves the National Liberation Front of Azawad (N.L.F.A.)—not to be confused with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.), the militia of decommissioned Tuareg mercenaries formerly loyal to Libya’s Moammar al-Qaddafi which launched an uprising in northern Mali in February and declared an Independent State of Azawad earlier this month.  The N.L.F.A. reportedly arrived in a convoy some time on or before the 26th and commandeered the eastern and southern gates to the city, while the northern and western gates remained in control of the M.N.L.A. and the city itself remained under shari’a law imposed by Ansar al-Dine.  An F.N.L.A. member, Mohamed Ould, told A.F.P., “The Arabs have decided to defend their region.  We told those who want independence of northern Mali to leave our region.  We want peace in Mali, not to create a separate republic.”  But reports coming in on April 28th say that the F.N.L.A. has now fled Timbuktu under orders from the leadership of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.), the larger entity with which Ansar al-Dine is affiliated, “to avoid a bloodbath.”

Ansar al-Dine Releases Swiss Missionary in Azawad.  A missionary from Switzerland captured nine days earlier in northern Mali (as reported in this blogwas released by Ansar al-Dine on April 24th into the hands of special forces from Burkina Faso.  The missionary, Béatrice Stockly, was flown to freedom in a helicopter.  The Ansar al-Dine operative in charge of the handover said that his group had captured her from a “private militia” which had abducted her, and who planned to sell her to the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.), with which Ansar al-Dine is affiliated.  There are still 19 hostages held by Islamist groups in Azawad, including seven diplomats kidnapped from the Algerian consulate in Gao, though Algeria’s foreign minister, Mourad Medelci, said on April 23rd that his ministry was in touch with the kidnappers.

Rebels in Azawad

P.S.: And, in the “strange bedfellow” department, the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz ran an opinion piece on April 27th recommending that Israel, and all countries, recognize the Independent State of Azawad.  Brushing aside “rumors” of ties to al-Qaeda and the state’s founding by Qaddafi loyalists, the article’s main point in the Azawadis’ favor seems to be that they are not Arabs.

(See my recent long article on the Azawadi declaration of independence, plus an earlier article on the Tuareg rebellion in the context of other conflicts in the Sahel and a more recent article on the Independent State of Azawad’s choice of a name for itself.)

... and now the update on Sudan:


North’s Bombing of Border Town Returns Sudans to War.  After pulling back from the brink of all-out war last week with the withdrawal of South Sudan’s forces from the crucial oilfields of Heglig in (northern) Sudan’s disputed state of South Kordofan (as reported in this blog), the north was escalating violence again this week.  Sudanese officials claimed on April 22nd that the army had killed more than 50 militiamen from the northern command of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (S.P.L.M.–N), which Sudan claims South Sudan still supports, in Blue Nile state, a disputed area which was part of the southern rebellion but which was assigned to the north when the country was partitioned last year.  Sudanese war planes bombed the towns of Bentiu and Rubkona, in South Sudan’s Unity State—not generally a disputed area—on April 23rd, hitting a market and killing at least two people.  Fighting also continued in other border areas, including South Sudan’s uncontested Upper Nile state, where South Sudanese forces repelled an incursion April 28th from an apparently non-governmental pro-Khartoum militia called the South Sudan Democratic Army.  South Sudan’s deputy minister of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Mac Paul, referring to the Bentiu attack, said, “The bombing amounts to a declaration of war,” and the South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, said on April 27th that Heglig—which he calls Panthou—was still South Sudanese territory.  The United Nations, the United States, the African Union, the Arab League, South Africa’s Archibishop Desmond Tutu, and the People’s Republic of China (which has lucrative oil deals with both countries) are continuing to urge the Sudans to pull back from the brink.  The U.S. has even threatened sanctions on both countries.

Mob Attacks Christian Church in Khartoum.  Meanwhile, a mob of hundreds stormed and ransacked a Christian church in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, in violence linked to the war—since South Sudan is predominantly Christian and the north is predominantly Muslim.

Darfur Rebels Attack Foreign Troops in Border Regions.  Worries arose this week that rebels in (north) Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur may be using the diversion of attention and troops in the war with South Sudan to step up their own attacks.  On April 18th, Darfuri rebels killed 11 Central African Republic (C.A.R.) border patrolmen near the South Darfur province’s three-way border with Chad and the C.A.R.  Two days later, unidentified gunmen in West Darfur, on the border with Chad, injured four soldiers from Togo who were part of the joint African Union and United Nations peacekeeping presence force.

(See my article listing the conflict between the Sudans as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)


Moroccan Report Details Polisario-A.Q.I.M. Links in Algeria.  A new report on militant groups in the Maghreb is implicating the Polisario Front, which runs a sliver of Western Sahara as the unrecognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, in drug trafficking, kidnappings, and interventions on behalf of Islamists in Mali and Libya.  In particular, the report, The Case for UNHCR [United Nations High Commission for Refugees] Supporting Durable Solutions for the Polisario-Run Camps, produced by the Moroccan American Center for Policy, cited a Polisario-run refugee camp near Tindouf, Algeria, and linked the Polisario Front to groups such as the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.).

Flag of the Polisario Front and of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

Libya Tries to Mediate Bedouin–Toubou Strife in Cyrenaica.  The National Transitional Council that is ruling Libya has sent a delegation to Kufra, in southern Cyrenaica, where fighting had been raging since April 20th when an Arab Bedouin from the Zuwayya tribe shot dead a man from the Toubou ethnic group.  Within two days, 12 people had been killed and more than 30 injured, including those hurt when Toubou militias opened fire on Libyan soldiers.  The Toubou were stripped of their citizenship under Moammar al-Qaddafi and have recently begun demanding autonomy (as reported in this blog).  (See my recent blog article on Cyrenaica’s declaration of autonomy.)

Military in Puntland Goes after al-Shabaab in Mountains.  The self-governing Puntland State of Somalia launched a military operation on April 23rd against al-Shabaab militants who have set up camp in the Galgala mountains just 40 kilometers from the Puntland capital, Bosasso.  Puntland has become a new haven for al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated militia, after being driven out of southern Somalia by African Union forces from Ethiopia and Kenya.  (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)

Puntland Police Round Up Clerics.  More than 15 clerics were rounded up by security forces in the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia on April 21st, with officials claiming they were contributing to insecurity in the region.  The arrests occurred in the village of Israac, a Puntland-controlled suburb of Galkayo, the divided city which also serves as capital of the self-governing Galmudug (a.k.a. Mudug) State of Somalia but the northern half of which is administered by Puntland. The clerics belonged to something called the “Takfir bloc”; takfir refers in Arabic to the excommunication of infidels.   Some reports say that villagers reported to the police that the clerics were offering “anti-Islamic” teachings at local madrasas.  (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)

Banned Parties Plan Nationwide Protests in Somaliland; Journalist Arrested.  Eight Somaliland political parties which have been barred from running candidates in elections by the government’s Political Parties Registration and Verification Committee began this week announcing and planning a series of nationwide demonstrations against the government for April 27th.  The government denounced the plans, saying such rallies would merely cause “mischief and mayhem.”  On April 24th, Somaliland police arrested a television and newspaper reporter in Erigabo, in the disputed Sanaag region, for spreading “false news.”  He had been reporting on irregularities in food-aid distribution.  (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)

Somaliland Establishes Central Bank.  Somaliland media reported on April 23rd that the de facto independent republic’s parliament had passed a law clearing the way for the establishment of a national central bank.  The country, unrecognized, is currently in a financial limbo, with no recognized currency, no banks, and no A.T.M.s.  (See my blog article about separatism in Somalia.)

1 Killed by Kenya Police as Mombasa Separatists Riot.  A riot erupted on April 24th when more than 100 members of Kenya’s banned Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.) tried to enter a Mombasa courthouse—where the ban against the M.R.C. was to be discussed—and were blocked by police.  One demonstrator was killed.  The day before, 38 members of the M.R.C. were arrested in Kwale for holding an illegal meeting; those arrested claimed that they were praying for rain, not plotting for secession, but authorities say the meeting still violated a national law against meeting without a permit.  The M.R.C. aims to set up the predominantly-Muslim southern Coast province, including Mombasa, as a sovereign state separate from predominantly-Christian Kenya.  Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, ruled out talks with the M.R.C. because, he says, “they claim not to be Kenyans.”

Police arresting a separatist rioter in Mombasa, Kenya


Lega Nord M.E.P. Offers Sicily and Sardinia to Russian Billionaires.  Mario Borghezio, a right-wing extremist member of the Northern League for the Independence of Padania (Lega Nord), which would like northern Italy to secede, suggested in an interview with Voice of Russia recently that Italy sell Sicily, Sardinia, and the region around Naples to foreigners, since only Russian or American billionaires could control the Mafia and other organized-crime syndicates that currently rule those areas.  He envisions Sicily becoming “a European Florida.”  The idea of Sicily joining the United States goes back to the 1940s, when G.I.s liberated the island on their way to defeating Benito Mussolini.  Borghezio, a member of the European Parliament, has in the past caused controversy by praising Serbian war criminals and by facing a prison term after joining a vigilante raid in Turin that involved setting fire to homeless migrants sleeping under a bridge.  (See my blog article on the Northern League.)

A mid-20th-century proposal to make Sicily a U.S. state—an idea reembraced by Lega Nord

Spain Makes Overtures to Basque Prisoners and Families.  The Kingdom of Spain on April 26th made a conciliatory gesture toward the recently disarmed Basque separatist movement, offering to move some of the 700-or-so current prisoners from the E.T.A. (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or “Basque Homeland and Freedom”) closer to their families in exchange for explicit disavowals of E.T.A. membership.  However, a spokesman for the Basque party coalition called Bildu, which operates in Navarre and the Basque Country, Martin Baritano, said, “This doesn’t mean any progress.  I believe that Basque society demands the immediate repatriation of all Basque political prisoners.”

Moldova Fires Ambassador for Supporting Russian Occupation of Transnistria.  The Republic of Moldova recalled its ambassador in Moscow on April 25th over his remarks supporting the maintenance of Russian troops in the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, better known as Transnistria, the sliver of eastern Moldova which governs itself outside of Moldovan control as a de facto independent Russian puppet state.  The ambassador, Andrei Neguta, had said on April 9th that the withdrawal of Russia’s 1,500 soldiers from the republic would be a danger to Moldova and to the region.  Vlad Filat, the prime minister of Moldova, said Neguta would be replaced with someone who could “represents Moldova’s interests with dignity.”  Meanwhile, on April 26th, media reported that Filat and Transnistria’s president, Yevgeny Shevchuk, had held a joint ceremony for the restoration of a railroad link between their new nations for the first time in six years.  (See my blog article on the status of Transnistria.)

Germany, NATO Adding Kosovo Troops as Serbian Election Approaches.  Germany’s Bundeswehr announced on April 21st that it would be sending additional troops to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) peacekeeping force, KFOR, in the Republic of Kosovo because of anticipated unrest as the Republic of Serbia’s nationwide elections, which were initially to include the Serb-administered North Kosovo region, approach on May 6th.  The announcement explained, “NATO and the European Union assess that the KFOR forces now in the field may not be enough to be able to react adequately to possible Kosovo-wide security incidents during the elections.” By April 25th, 250 German peacekeepers arrived in the Kosovar capital, Pristina, with 450 more expected by April 30th.  Although the Serbian government has backed down on plans to administer elections in North Kosovo (as reported in this blog), Serbs in the area are threatening to hold elections themselves.  (See my recent blog article on the Kosovo situation.)

German peacekeepers newly arrived in Kosovo

Syrian Opposition Visits Kosovo, Seeking Advice.  An exiled opposition leader from Syria, Ammar Abdulhamid, told the Associated Press in Pristina on April 26th that he was part of a three-person delegation visiting the partially recognized separatist Republic of Kosovo for advice on how to defeat Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad.  Abdulhamid has been living in the United States since 2005.  He said Kosovo had lessons for Syrian rebels in forming militias and nation-building.  (See my blog article on the civil war in Syria.)

Russian Security Forces Kill 9 Rebels in Dagestan.  The Russian Federation’s National Antiterrorism Committee reported on April 24th that at least nine rebels were killed over a 24-hour period in the separatist Republic of Dagestan.  One militant was killed by security forces on April 22nd in Kamakhi village, Dagestan, and two were killed in a shoot-out with security forces in the forests of Dagestan’s Karabudakhkent district.  On the 24th, Yusup Magomedov, head of the Khasavyurt gang, was killed by police in a traffic stop in Khasavyurt, along with two other Islamist militants, including an imam.  Details on the other deaths were not immediately forthcoming.

2 Police, 2 Islamists Dead in Chechen Battle.  Fighting between police officers and Islamist rebels in the Republic of Chechnya on April 22nd resulted in the deaths of two on each side, according to Russian Federation authorities.  The incident occurred in near Gudermes.

Militant Given 19 Years in Prison for 2010 Vladikavkaz Market Bombing.  In Russia, it was announced on April 27th that Magomed Laytrov, a member of the militia that killed 19 people in a 2010 car-bomb attack on a public market in Vladikavkaz, in the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania, was sentenced to 19 years in prison.  Other members of the group are at large.

Aftermath of the 2010 Vladikavkaz market bombing

Caucasus Emir Denies Internal Splits, Rumors of Moscow Funding in New Video.  Doku Khamatovich Umarov, a.k.a. Dokka Abu Usman, the self-proclaimed emir of the so-called Caucasus Emirate movement, released a video on YouTube this week in which he fielded questions about the Emirate movement’s internal splits and other issues.  From late 2010 to mid 2011, there were defections of some of the lower-ranking regional emirs from the movement, and one, Tarkhan Gaziyev, head or former head of the Caucasus Emirate’s security apparatus, had not been present at the videotaped summer 2011 reconciliation ceremony.  But in the new video Umarov said, without listing them, that all of his emirs pledge fealty to him.  He also rejected accusations by Akhmed Zakayev, president of the more moderate Chechen Republic of Ichkeria government-in-exile in London, that the Russian Federation’s security service had given $500 million to support the Caucasus Emirate movement.

Russia to Ship Cossacks to Stavropol to Dilute Muslim Population.  The Russian Federation’s diaspora voluntary resettlement program has announced the planned resettlement of Cossack families from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in Stavropol Krai, a large ethnic-Russian-dominated district on the edge of the North Caucasus region.  The program’s organizers openly state that their intention is to beef up the demographic presence of ethnic Russians in an area where predominantly Muslim ethnic groups associated with the neighboring Republic of Dagestan have been increasing their numbers.  In addition, 24 Orthodox churches are to be built there by 2015.


Presidential Assassination Plotters in Abkhazia Confess.  Officials in the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia said this week that three of the suspects arrested earlier this month for their suspected involvement in the attempted assassination of Abkhazia’s president (reported in this blog), Alexandr Ankvab, in February have confessed—including confessions for an earlier assassination attempt.  (The February motorcade ambush was the sixth attempt on Ankvab’s life.)  The previous week (as reported in this blog), two suspects in the plot, including a former interior minister, committed suicide as they were about to be arrested.  Other suspects are still being sought.

Saakashvili Offers Testicles to Putin in Exchange for Abkhazia, South Ossetia.  The president of the Republic of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, said on April 26th that he would resign from his post if the Russian Federation returned to his country the two republics whose separation from Georgia as independent states it assured in the 2008 South Ossetia War: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  He added that he was “ready to cut off and send them those parts of my body which they have shown interest in more than once”—a reference to President Vladimir Putin’s threat in 2008 to “hang Saakashvili by his balls.”  “I am really ready to do it,” he went on, “and I say this without a hint of irony, as long as they pull out their forces from here and give Georgia’s people—its multiethnic population—an opportunity to develop within the internationally recognized borders.”  Saakashvili was responding, more immediately, to remarks by Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, who had told Russian media earlier that day that Saakashvili was “an empty place, a zero,” a doomed leader, and that Russia was prepared to “build relations” with any succeeding Georgian leader, but not with him.  (See my blog article on the contested elections in South Ossetia.)

Armenian Students in Georgia Barred from Marking Genocide on Anniversary.  In the predominantly ethnically Armenian Javakhk region of the Republic of Georgia, heads of schools with Armenian children prevented students from attending Armenian Remembrance Day events marking Turkey’s genocide of Armenians in the 1910s and ’20s, in some cases locking them inside the buildings when children tried to escape to attend the events.  While Remembrance Day is marked in all Georgian schools, they were not marked in any way in Javakhk’s predominantly Armenian schools.  (See my recent blog article on the Armenian genocide.)

An Armenian genocide remembrance in Javakhk, Georgia.
Some Armenian children were locked inside schools to prevent their participation.

Scuffle Erupts in Georgia Parliament Debate on Armenian, Circassian Genocides.  Violence nearly broke out in the Republic of Georgia’s parliament on April 24th over the question of historical grievances of Circassians and Armenians.  On the internationally designated Armenian Remembrance Day to mark Turkey’s murder of 1.5 million Armenians in the 1910s and ’20s—an event Georgia, like much of the West, does not officially call a genocide—an opposition member, Jondi Bagaturia, was discussing recognizing Russia’s massacre of Circassians in the late 19th century and compared it to the Armenian situation when a fellow M.P., Azer Suleymanov, approached him in an attempt to throw a glass at him.  He was restrained, but Bagaturia did end up throwing a pen at Bagaturia.  (See my recent blog article on the Armenian genocide.)

4 Troops Killed in Cease-Fire Violations near Nagorno-Karabakh Border.  Three Armenian soldiers traveling in a private car were killed by gunfire near the boundary between Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.), a puppet state recognized only by Armenia.  The incident occurred near the site of an alleged Azerbaijani cease-fire violation that damaged a kindergarten on April 25th.  On April 26th, Armenia counted over 2,000 rounds fired from Azerbaijan into the N.K.R., causing injuries.  Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said an Azerbaijani army officer was shot and killed in an Armenian cease-fire violation just east of the boundary in Azerbaijan on April 26th.

Rights Group Urges Probe of Anti-Azeri Riot at Armenian Film Fest.  The human-rights groups Freedom House this week have demanded an official investigation into a 200-strong demonstration over the showing Azerbaijani films in Armenia which turned violent on April 16th.  The incident, in Vanadzor, Armenia’s third-largest city, was outside the local headquarters of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (H.C.A.), an international organization, and involved the breaking of windows.  Further violence was threatened until the H.C.A. announced that the films were cancelled, after which the crowd dispersed.  The screenings were to be part of a film festival by the Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives, organized to encourage reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  As we can see, the group has its work cut out for it.

Turkey Begins Drilling in Northern Cyprus, Angering Greeks.  Turkey’s state-run Turkish Petroleum Corporation began drilling for oil and natural gas in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on April 26th, a move which brings Turkey’s support for the internationally unrecognized puppet state and its aspirations to control the eastern Mediterranean’s resources into conflict with its desire to join the European Union—of which the Republic of Cyprus, claiming the entire island, is already a member.  Greece’s foreign ministry condemned the development, calling it illegal.  (See my recent article discussing the Northern Cyprus dispute.)

Battles with Kurds Kill 10 in Turkey; Turks Arrest 7 Kurdish Youth in Raid.  A battle between the military and rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) on April 24th left three Kurdish rebels, one Turkish soldier, and a village guard dead in Bingol province.  On April 25th or 26th, six more militants were killed in battles with the military in eastern Turkey.  On April 23rd, police in Yüksekova, in Hakkari province, had arrested seven young people suspected of belonging to the P.K.K.’s youth brigade.  The seven were arrested in a series of coordinated raids.  Also on the 24th, two soldiers were killed in a suspected P.K.K. ambush of a military convoy in Mardin province.   (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)


Barzani Warns U.S. to Keep F-16s from Baghdad, Fearing Use against Kurds.  The president of northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.), Massoud Barzani, told media on April 22nd that during last week’s state visit to the United States, he had raised with Barack Obama’s administration his concern that if the Iraqi central government in Baghdad obtained, as planned, F-16 warplanes from the U.S., then Iraq’s increasingly authoritarian Shiite Arab prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, might use them against the Kurdish population.  As evidence, Barzani claimed that in a discussion with military leaders, the generals, in Barzani’s words, “told him, ‘Sir, just give us the authority, and we will kick them [the K.R.G.] out of Arbil [the K.R.G. capital],’ and he [Maliki] answered, ‘Just wait until the arrival of the F-16s.’”  Then, on April 26th, Barzani seemed to hint at secession when he warned that if Maliki’s government was not sharing power with its opponents by September, Kurds may decide they cannot live under his rule.  “If Iraq heads toward a democratic state,” he said, “then there will be no trouble.  But if Iraq heads toward a dictatorial state, then we will not be able to live with dictatorship.”  The influential Shiite Arab Iraqi religious leader Moqtada al-Sadr, a former anti-U.S. militia leader now allied with Maliki’s regime, arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan the same day, in an attempt to act as mediator and smooth relations between Barzani and Baghdad.  (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, as well as an article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government

Syrian Rebel Leader Rejects Federalism, Denies Existence of “Syrian Kurdistan.”  The leader of the main opposition group in Syria, the Syrian National Council (S.N.C.), Burhan Ghalioun, infuriated the Kurds that make up 9% of Syria’s population recently by rejecting the idea of federalism and autonomy for Syria’s Kurds, adding, “There is no such thing as a Syrian Kurdistan.”  His comments were condemned by the secretary-general of Syria’s Kurdish Union Party.  However, the phrase Syrian Kurdistan is controversial even among Syria’s Kurds, and not all Kurdish groups use the term.  (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, as well as an article on prospects for the partition of Syria.)

Kurdish Rebels Kill 4 Revolutionary Guardsmen in Iran.  In an expansion of the recent Kurdish unrest to Iran, four members of the country’s élite Revolutionary Guard were killed and eight injured in a skirmish with the armed Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK) near Paveh, at the Iraq border, it was reported April 25th.  PEJAK is considered the Iranian branch of Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.).   (See my recent article on the Kurdish campaign for independence and a more recent one on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)

Netanyahu “Legalizes” 3 West Bank Settlement Outposts.  The office of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced this week that it was preparing to “legalize” three controversial Israeli settlement outposts in the Palestinian West Bank: Sansana (near Hebron), Bruchin, and Rechelim.  They have a total population of about 830.  After the “formalization” of their status, they would no longer be “outposts” but instead “settlements.”  But the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, responded to the news saying, “Every single settlement built on Palestinian land is illegal.”  The United States state department objected, saying the move was “not helpful” to the peace process, and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, pleaded to the U.N. Security Council on April 25th for help.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Former Palestinian Premier Suggests One-State Solution for Israelis and Arabs.  A former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Ali Mohammed Qurei, said in an interview in the West Bank this week that the “two-state solution” for coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians is not working.  He suggests instead a multi-ethnic state covering all of what is today called Israel and Palestine.  He referred to the inevitability of the two-state solution as “a big lie,” citing changes afoot in the region with the Arab Spring uprisings.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Ahmed Ali Mohammed Qurei, former Palestinian prime minister

Yemen Blames Southern Separatists, al-Qaeda for Frenchman’s Kidnapping.  Yemen’s security forces told media on April 24th that the separatist movement in the southern and eastern part of the country is to blame for kidnapping a Red Cross employee from France who is now believed to be held prisoner by al-Qaeda in Abyan province.  Links between al-Qaeda and South Yemen separatists are not established but are frequently mentioned by the Yemeni government.  (See my article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Senior Kashmiri Separatist Geelani Booked on Attempted-Murder Charge.  Police in Jammu and Kashmir have brought charges of stone-pelting and attempted murder against Syed Ali Geelani, the 83-year-old chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of organizations wishing for Kashmir to split from the Republic of India.  Also, the ranking police officer in Baramulla, Kashmir, said that an April 6th speech by Geelani (reported in this blog) “provoked general public against the state.”  The attempted-murder charge was for an attempt to murder a policeman, the police said.  A scuffle emerged after Geelani’s April 6th speech when a policeman was seen videotaping the event.  Presumably, that is the incident referred to in the charge.

Syed Ali Geelani

Militant Wanted in Car Bombing Arrested in Srinagar.  Authorities in India reported the capture of a local commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, a Kashmiri separatist group, on April 21st in Srinagar.  The militant was identified as Latif Ahmed Dar, who uses the nom de guerre Massod Saini and was wanted in connection with, among other terrorist acts, a March 22nd car-bombing in Bijbehara in southern Kashmir.

Amnesty International Visits Jailed Kashmiri Rebel.  Representatives from Amnesty International visited an imprisoned Kashmiri separatist, Masrat Alam, in Srinagar, Kashmir, on April 21st.  According to a news source, “The team was informed that during last two decades, Masrat was booked 23 times under [India’s] Public Safety Act and despite Court quashing the orders, Masrat was not released on several occasions.”

3 Militants Arrested in Manipur Grenade Attack.  Police in India’s separatist state of Manipur arrested three militants on April 26th for throwing a grenade into a local physician’s residence, injuring two.  The men are from the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak.  The incident was apparently part of an extortion plot.

Unexploded Mine Kills 2 Boys in Sri Lanka.  Two boys were killed when messing about with an unexploded land mine on northern Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula on April 25th.  The boys were brothers, aged four and two.  An unknown number of mines are left over from a decades-long civil war between the government and northern separatist Tamil rebels, which ended in 2009.

Beijing’s Phony “Panchen Lama” Makes First Trip outside Mainland.  Gyaltsen Norbu, the 22-year-old selected by the government of the People’s Republic of China as a rival claimant to the second-highest title in Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama, made his first visit outside mainland China on April 26th at a Buddhist forum in Hong Kong, the self-governing special administrative territory off the Chinese coast.  Most devout Tibetans recognize Gedhun Chökyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama, identified as such by the 14th Dalai Lama in 1995, but he was abducted by Chinese authorities at the age of six and has not been seen since.  (Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama himself visited Ottawa, Canada, on April 27th, to address the 6th World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet, and he met privately with the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper.  Speaking to an interviewer, the Dalai Lama referred to Beijing’s plan to name his reincarnation and successor after his death: “It is quite strange—as non-believers, totally non-believers, atheists—showing interest about reincarnation.  I jokingly tell them: in order to be involved in my reincarnation, firstly, they should accept Buddhism. ... Then they should recognize Chairman Mao Zedong’s reincarnation.  Deng Xiaopeng’s reincarnation. ... Otherwise, nonsense!”)  (See my recent blog article “China, Tibet, and the Politics of Reincarnation.”)

Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese occupiers’ ersatz Panchen Lama.
P.R. tip for Beijing: if you want Western sympathy, lose the swastika.

19 Hurt, 33 Jailed after Tibetan Rioting in Sichuan.  Tibetan exile news sources reported on April 23rd on two days of rioting in the People’s Republic of China’s Sichuan province, after Beijing authorities shut down, on April 14th, a pro-Tibet civic association called the Dayul United Association.  19 were injured in the riots, and 33 Tibetans, as of the 24th, remained in custody.  In Qinghai province, the Tibetan singer Lolo, was arrested for performing “political songs.”  Lolo’s latest album is rather unsubtly titled Children of the Snowy Region, Raise Your Tibetan Flags.  (See my recent blog article “China, Tibet, and the Politics of Reincarnation.”)

R.K.K. Militant Killed in Southern Thailand Shoot-Out.  In southern Thailand’s Narathiwat province, a firefight on April 22nd resulted in one wounded police officer and one dead member of the southern Muslim ethnic-Malay separatist group Runda Kumpulan Kecil (R.K.K.).  The dead man was identified as Tuwaedunan Nima, who was wanted on various terrorism-related charges.


Philippines Agrees to Create Autonomous Moro State.  The Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on April 24th to create an autonomous state called Bangsamoro in the southern Philippines as a homeland for the predominantly-Muslim Moro ethnic group, who have been fighting the Philippine government for decades.  It will replace the five provinces that currently make up the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.  Bangsamoro will run all its own affairs other than defense, foreign policy, external trade, currency, citizenship, and the postal service.  It will also implement a shari’a-based legal system.  But the negotiators acknowledged that this was “not yet the final peace agreement.”  Meanwhile, in the northern province of Ifugao, at least 10 Philippine soldiers were killed in an ambush by rebels from the left-wing New People’s Army.

Indonesia Denies Reports of Massive Papuan Independence Rally.  Journalists and other witnesses are describing a mass rally held April 20th in the Serui district of Indonesia’s West Papua province, waving thousands of banned “morning star flags” symbolizing the struggle for independence for Papua and West Papua provinces as a Federal Republic of West Papua.  Asked about the demonstration, a local police chief replied, “No such thing happened.  It’s a lie.”  In particular, he said there was a demonstration in support of the founding of a United States branch of the organization International Lawyers for West Papua, but he was adamant that no flags were flown.  Another police source said only a few flags were flown, and police successfully ordered them put away.  Witnesses say that the sheer number of participants—over 5,000, waving hundreds of flags—caught the military and the police by surprise and an only half-hearted attempt was made to block the demonstration.  No flags were confiscated, and some participants attempted to get around the wording of the laws banning the flag by painting their bodies in the flag’s colors.  One of the police chiefs, Yohannes Nugroho Wicakasono, said the rally had been organized by the West Papuan National Authority.  (See my article listing West Papua as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

The Papuan independence rally which, according to police, didn’t happen
and at which no morning-star flags were flown

National Front Gains in French Polynesia and New Caledonia.  France’s neo-fascist National Front party made unexpected gains in French overseas territories in the South Pacific in the April 22nd presidential election, and the losing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy’s government blamed the unfortunate results on his victorious Socialist competitor François Hollande’s cosiness with the pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira Party in French Polynesia.  The Front, headed by Marie Le Pen, did twice as well in Polynesia and New Caledonia as her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s founder, had done in 2007.  But Hollande prevailed in Wallis and Futuna.  Meanwhile, there is a chance that French Polynesia’s votes in the election will be nullified because of a letter from the territory’s pro-independence president, Oscar Temaru, distributed the day before the vote.  Under law, campaigning is banned on the day before an election, and Temaru’s letter was explicitly political, asking for public supporting in restoring French Polynesia to the United Nations’ List of Non-Self-Governing Territories—16 countries that, implicitly, need to be decolonized.

George Mye, Torres Straits Secessionist Leader, Dies at 85.  The aboriginal leader, George Mye, who led the movement for Australia’s northern Torres Straits Islands to split from the state of Queensland to become its own autonomous entity, died on April 26th, of pneumonia, at the age of 85.  The Torres Straits, halfway between Australia and New Guinea, are culturally more Melanesian than Australian.

George Mye


Canada’s Ex Liberal Leader Backs Off Comments on Quebec Independence.  The former leader of Canada’s Liberal Party and an historian of nationalist movements, Michael Ignatieff, had to distance himself on April 25th from comments he had made to a Scottish interviewer in which he called Quebec’s independence inevitable. Saying he “passionately” wanted Quebec to stay in Canada, he said he was pained to think his comments could be used against the cause of federalism.  In the British Broadcasting Corporation interview, he had said that the higher degree of autonomy offered to Quebec as a result of the independence movement was “a kind of way station—you stop there for a while,” but “the logic, eventually, is independence.  Full independence.”  He said that that was where things always led, whether it was Quebec in Canada or Scotland in the United Kingdom.  Ignatieff, an historian of Russian parentage, has a Ph.D. in history and has written extensively about nationalism.  (See my blog article about language policy in Quebec.)

Quebec Separatists Join First Nations, Greens in Montreal Riot.  Police in Montreal, Canada, confronted demonstrators at the Palais des Congrés who were holding a banned protest of a job-fair connected with Plan Nord, a provincial initiative for economic development in Quebec’s remote north.  Environmental groups and First Nations organizations dominated the protest, which was also attended by a fringe Quebec separatist group called Réseau de Résistance du Québécois.  A clash with police on April 19th resulted in 18 arrests and some injuries.  90 were arrested the following day.  (See my blog article about language policy in Quebec.)

Quebec separatists riot in Montreal.
One thing you have to say about Canadian rioters: they have really, really nice sweaters.

Saskatchewan Tribe to Start Levying Its Own Taxes.  The Nekaneet First Nation, a Cree Indian community near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, Canada, has gotten Ottawa’s approval to start levying their version of Canada’s Good and Services (G.S.T.) sales tax.  All the proceeds will be used for government services provided by the band.  The Nekaneet will be the second First Nation to charge its own G.S.T.; the other was the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, also in Saskatchewan.  Aboriginal people typically don’t pay federal or provincial G.S.T. on reserve.

B.C. Court Rejects Aboriginal-Rights Defense for Trafficker in Eagle Parts.  The British Columbia provincial court in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb, rejected arguments by an illegal trafficker in poached and dismembered eagles that he was exercising an aboriginal right.  The defendant, James Carl Joseph, is a respected carver from the Tlowitsis First Nation, a Kwakwaka’wakw (a.k.a. Kwakiutl) community.

Court Mulls Bail for Puerto Rican Separatist Bank Robber.  A federal judge in Connecticut is taking more time to decide on bail for Norberto González-Claudio, a 65-year-old Puerto Rican separatist and bank robber who was caught last year living under an assumed name in Cayey, Puerto Rico, after nearly 30 years in hiding.  He was a member of the pro-independence gang called los Macheteros, who pulled off a $7.1-million armored-car heist at a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut.  At the time it was the largest bank robbery in United States history.

Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012), in 1977

Ernest Callenbach, Creator of Pacific Northwestern Ecotopia, Dies at 83.  Ernest Callenbach, an environmentalist and film critic who gained fame with a polemical novel called Ecotopiaabout an ideal society formed when Oregon, Washington, and northern California secede from the United Statesdied on April 16th in Berkeley, California, at the age of 83.  The book, set in 1999, is told from the point of view of a reporter who enters the closed society 19 years after its formation.  A cult classic, Ecotopia was prophetic in its portrayal of widespread recycling, bicycle commuting, electric cars, magnetic-levitation trains, and other ideas which were marginal then but are now mainstream (despite what is now a rather dated section on Oakland, California, as an all-black town called Soul City).  Callenbach’s Ecotopia was also peaceful, egalitarian, and featuring a high degree of free love.  The book has sold over 1 million copies and has inspired a real grass-roots movements calling for a separate Northwest nation called Cascadia.  Callenbach was also a film scholar and founded the scholarly journal Film Quarterly.  His other popular books included Living Poor with Style and Living Cheaply with Style.

Map showing the envisioned nation of Ecotopia.

Key West’s Conch Republic Marks 30 Years of Independence.  The Conch Republic, consisting of the Florida Keys, including Key West, Florida, celebrated 30 years of independence on April 21st with events that included an annual drag race (that’s drag as in transvestite, of course), a secession reenactment, a mock sea battle, and a face involving beds on wheels (said to be “the most fun you can have in bed with your clothes on”).


Abkhaz Embassy Opens in Nicaragua.  The de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia has opened an embassy in the Republic of Nicaragua, sources reported this week.  Only six United Nations member-states recognize Abkhazia as sovereign: the Russian Federation, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the Pacific ministates of Nauru, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu.  The rest of the world regards Abkhazia as part of the Republic of Georgia.  Abkhazia’s embassy in Venezuela opened last year.


1 Killed in Indian Land Dispute in Brazil.  At least one person was shot and killed in the aftermath of April 20th armed conflict between indigenous people and settlers in part of Brazil’s Bahia state where Indians and ranchers have been fighting over land, with members of the Pataxó tribe taking control of settlers’ ranches and farms.  The 31-year-old man’s body was discovered on a farm in Paul Brasil, Bahia, and police said he seemed to have been killed execution-style.


U.K. Clamps Down on Exports to Argentina in Falklands Dispute.  The United Kingdom implemented trade restrictions this week, banning export licenses for any goods that might be used by Argentina’s military.  This is in retaliation for Argentina’s increasingly belligerent claims on the U.K.’s Falkland Islands, in the South Atlantic, over which the two countries fought a war in 1982.  (See my blog article on the latest conflict over the Falklands.)

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it in spring 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

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