Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Week in Separatist News, May 6-12; Sudan War Spreads to Darfur, Palestinian Hunger Strike, “Foiled Bomb Plot” in Caucasus, Aladeen Endorses Romney


Photo of the week: the Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh presidents and Orthodox clerics celebrate the Armenian conquest of the Shushi region from Azerbaijan 20 years ago.  (See below, “Armenians Mark 20th Anniversary of ‘Liberation’ of Shushi, Nagorno-Karabakh,” under “Bits of Asia That Like to Pretend They’re Part of Europe.”)

TOP STORY:
DARFUR BEING DRAWN INTO SUDAN WAR:
DARFUR REBELS CAPTURE TOWN, MAKE COMMON CAUSE WITH SOUTH;
SOUTH SUDAN EXTENDS COMBAT INTO SOUTH DARFUR

U.N. Deadline Passes; Sudans Still at War, Including Southern Foray into Darfur.  The Republic of South Sudan and the country it seceded from last year with still undefined borders, the Republic of Sudan, continued to trade accusations of cease-fire violations after a United Nations deadline for cessation of hostilities passed on May 4th.  In particular, Sudan said that South Sudan had still not withdrawn from Sudanese areas it was occupying, and South Sudan’s military accused Sudan of shelling Unity State on May 3rd and 4th—which Sudan denies.  South Sudan also accused Sudan of keeping forces within South Sudan’s (heretofore undisputed) Western Bahr al-Ghazal State.  On May 9th, a South Sudanese parliamentary official warned that if Sudan did not cease its attacks on South Sudanese positions within South Sudan, then South Sudan would retaliated by reoccupying Heglig, the vital oil fields in Sudan’s South Kordofan state which South Sudan occupied from April 10th to 20th before withdrawing under international pressure.  On May 10th, Sudan said that South Sudanese forces had been expelled from a border area in South Darfur state (see below), an undisputed part of Sudan which had not previously been involved in fighting.  (See my blog article listing the ongoing war for South Sudan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Darfur Rebels Seize Town, Demand South Kordofan, Blue Nile Be Included in Peace.  Distracted by the growing war on their southern border, the Republic of Sudan failed this week to prevent the Sudan Liberation Army (S.L.A.) to take control of Gireida, a town south of Nyala, capital of Sudan’s South Darfur state—but only for a day.  An alliance between both factions of the S.L.A.—called now the Sudanese Revolutionary Front—cooperated in seizing the town, but the following day, May 9th, the government in Khartoum claimed that Sudanese government forces had reclaimed it—a claim that a spokesman for the front’s “Minnawi” faction denied, though UNAMID, the joint African UnionUnited Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur, backed the Sudanese claim.  Claiming to represent all of Sudan’s oppressed peoples, the Darfuri-dominated S.L.A. stated in their initial May 8th announcement, “We want to bring the downfall of the regime.  And to do that, we have to take over cities before we reached Khartoum.”  At least four rebels were wounded in the attack, and nine Sudanese soldiers were killed.  The following day, the Sudanese air force bombed a sheep pasture in South Darfur, injuring two and killing more than 80 sheep.  During the brief S.L.A. occupation of Gireida, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (S.R.F.)—a coalition of the S.L.A. factions, plus the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (S.P.L.M.–N), which represents rebels in disputed border areas allied with South Sudan—demanded that the Sudanese government make peace with all of Sudan’s disenfranchised peoples, including in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile state, not with each separately.  (See my blog article listing the ongoing war for South Sudan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)


Sudan Extends Southerners’ Repatriation Deadline.  The Republic of Sudan has extended until May 20th the original May 5th deadline for the return of about half a million refugees home to the Republic of South Sudan.  The extension was confirmed by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration.

ELSEWHERE IN AFRICA

Islamists in Timbuktu Torch Sufi Tomb; Locals Fear Ancient Library Is Next.  In the ancient city of Timbuktu, in the Tuareg region of northern Mali that seceded last month as the Independent State of Azawad, local elders on May 5th were guarding one of the world’s most significant libraries the day after the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia Ansar al-Dine, which controls much of the city, burned a Sufi tomb that was listed, as is much of Timbuktu, as a Unesco World Heritage Site.   A member of Mali’s National Assembly, Baba Haidara, who is from Timbuktu, testified, “They attacked the grave, broke the doors and windows, and ripped and burned pieces of white clothing that surrounded the tomb of the saint in front of everyone.  With their attack, the militants touched the heart of Timbuktu.  They picked Friday because they know many people visit the shrines on this day.”  (See my recent blog article on the Azawadi declaration of independence, and an earlier article on the latest Tuareg rebellion in the context of north–south divides elsewhere in the Sahel.)

Mali Says Foreign Fighters Joining A.Q.I.M. in Azawad.  The Republic of Mali’s ministry of defense told media May 6th that about 100 foreign fighters have joined the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.) in northern Mali’s self-declared Independent State of Azawad.  The ministry identified them as mostly from Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, adding that A.Q.I.M. has been having trouble recruiting from Egypt and Morocco.  (See my recent blog article on the Azawadi declaration of independence, and an earlier article on the latest Tuareg rebellion in the context of north–south divides elsewhere in the Sahel.)

Malian Coup Leader Wants to Take Power Back from Civilian Leaders.  Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who took power in a military coup d’état in Mali this March and later, under international pressure, handed power last month to a nominal civilian government, now says he wants to resume his leading role when the term of the caretaker president, Dioncounda Traoré, runs out at the end of this month.  Most observers believe that Sanogo never relinquished any real power to Traoré, except in name.

What a shock: turns out Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo
was just kidding about that whole “return to civilian rule” thingie.

6 Nigerians Imprisoned for Possessing Biafran Regalia.  In Nigeria’s south-central Delta State, a court handed six-month prison sentences to six men for membership in the banned Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and for possessing banned regalia such as the Biafran flag.  The actual charges were conspiracy, unlawful possession, and proclamation of membership in a banned organization.  The arrests began when one of the six, Sunday Okoro, was arrested in Asaba for possessing a Biafran flag and chaplet.  The other five were arrested the next day when they visited Okoro in prison and donned Biafran regalia to protest his arrest.  The six men’s lawyers disputed that MASSOB was an illegal organization and planned to appeal to a higher court.  Southeastern Nigeria split off as an independent Republic of Biafra in 1967 but was reabsorbed after a costly and devastating war.  (See my blog article about the legacy of the Biafra war.)

Khaatumo Delegation Barred from Constitutional Conference, Spelling Doom for Statelet.  Four officials from the Khaatumo State of Somalia, a self-governing entity formed earlier this year, were denied permits this week by the Republic of Somalia’s internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) in Mogadishu to visit the constitutional conference being held in the capital.  Ali Khalif Galaydh, who was prime minister of Somalia in 2000-01, is believed to have been trying to use Khaatumo, which he helped found, as a springboard to return to national office—beginning by having 40 traditional leaders swear allegiance to him at the conference.  But the latest snub puts that agenda into doubt.  Khaatumo—also called the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn State—was established in January of this year, in accordance with the T.F.G.’s 2004 constitution, which permits the founding of self-governing states.  Its territory is in a disputed border area between the non-separatist but self-governing Puntland State of Somalia and the secessionist Republic of Somaliland, including the region around Las’anod, Galayd’s native town, where his clan, Dulbahante, is based.  The T.F.G. initially recognized Khaatumo, in time for February’s London conference on the future of Somalia, but the Khaatumo delegation did not receive an invitation to London, and shortly afterward Mogadishu withdrew its recognition.  It has struggled to hold onto territory, fighting Somaliland’s military, sometimes with the assistance of Dervish militias from Puntland.  (See my blog article on conflicts and divisions in Somalia.)

Ali Khalif Galaydh, father of Khaatumo

Somaliland President Ousts Awdal Governor, Courts Djibouti.  The president of the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland, Ahmed Mahmoud Silanyo, has removed the governor of the far-western Salal province, Mohamed Muse Bu’ul, it was announced on May 6th.  No reason was given.  The next day, Somaliland’s foreign minister, Dr. Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, met with the Republic of Djibouti’s president, Ismaïl Omar Guelle, in Djibouti, a city-state which borders Salal, in an attempt to “enhance” the two countries’ ties, which do not include Djiboutian diplomatic recognition of Somaliland.  They also attempted to smooth over a recent diplomatic incident when Somaliland border guards refused entry to visiting Djiboutian cabinet ministers.  Salal is a disputed area, since it and parts of its neighboring province, Awdal, form a self-declared State of Awdalland (founded in 2010) which, unlike Somaliland, is loyal to the non-functioning and barely existent Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, which the international community regards as the legitimate government of all of Somalia and Somaliland.  Further disputes arose in March of this year (as reported in this blog), when Guelle escalated a water dispute with Somaliland by establishing, or attempting to establish, the Saylac and Lughaye State of Somalia—another self-governing entity nominally part of the Republic of Somalia—in part of Awdal.  Guelle is a member of the Issa people, a subgroup of Somalis also found in Awdal.  Somalia’s 2004 constitution gives wide leeway for the creation of self-governing states, in the absence of a functioning central government.  (See my blog article on conflicts and divisions in Somalia.)

Somaliland’s foreign minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omar
greets Djibouti’s president Ismaïl Omar Guelle

June Somalia Conference in Istanbul Won’t Include Somaliland, Hargeisa Says.  The Republic of Somaliland, which declared independence from the Republic of Somalia in 1991 and has functioned as a sovereign state since then, but without diplomatic recognition, said May 6th that, despite receiving an invitation, it will not be sending a delegation to a conference in Istanbul, Turkey, in June on the future of Somalia.  Somaliland’s foreign minister, Dr. Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, explained that the conference’s focus, the “Roadmap” to “stabilization” of “Somalia,” “does not concern us.”  Somaliland did, however, send a presidential delegation, for the first time, to the regular London conference on Somalia in February (as reported in this blog), mainly to press its case for diplomatic recognition, but without success.  (See my blog article on conflicts and divisions in Somalia.)

Puntland Crackdown on al-Shabaab Sympathizers Turns Violent.  In the half of the divided city of Galkayo administered by the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia, “armed gangs” on May 8th attacked police in the process of trying to arrest a businessman suspected of “sympathizing” with the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militia that has recently expanded into Puntland.  Three people, two of them police officers, were injured in the ensuing gun battle.  The businessman escaped during the fracas.  (See my blog article on conflicts and divisions in Somalia.)

Cabinet Minister, Architect of Puntland Constitution, Dies in London.  Dr. Abdi Hassan Jimale, the State Minister of the Presidency for Democratization for the Puntland State of Somalia, died May 7th in London, England, where he was receiving medical treatment.  Born in Mogadishu in 1948, Jimale was a key figure in the drafting of the self-governing republic’s constitution in 2009.  An accomplished scholar who spoke six languages—including English, Romanian, Arabic, and Danish—he held a Ph.D. in Law.  His most recent book, in the Somali language, is The History of Islam.  (See my blog article on conflicts and divisions in Somalia.)

Abdi Hassan Jimale (1948-2012) with Puntland’s president, Ibidrahman Muhamud Farole

Tanzanian Legislator Arrested, Interrogated for Talk of Autonomy for North.  A member of the United Republic of Tanzania’s parliament was arrested and interrogated by police on May 8th and pressured to recant comments he had made seeming to suggest that districts around his northern Arumeru-East constituency, in the Arusha Region near the border with Kenya, should form their own autonomous region.  The lawmaker, Joshua Nassari, said later that “many people in Tanzania, especially the police, do not understand metaphors or figurative language. ... when I warned that the North and Lake Zones could easily form their own state, I meant that the areas were very awakened and had realized their potentials both politically and economically.”  He added, “Is it really possible for a small person like me to single-handedly cause secession of the North and Lake Zone regions?”  The answer perhaps lies in other comments he made in the speech in question, including accusing President Jakaya Kikwete’s son Ridhwani of being “a serial womanizer,” according to a press summary of his comments, “who always introduced his concubines to his dad for appointment to public office positions.”

Comedian Scores Publicity Prank on Zimbabwe’s Mugabe.  The Republic of Zimbabwe became embroiled in an embarrassing publicity stunt this week as shakers and movers in Washington, D.C., received formal invitations on Zimbabwean “Ministry of Education, Sport, Art, and Culture” letterhead inviting them on behalf of President Robert Mugabe to a May 12th premiere of the film The Dictator.  The Ministry, when contacted at their headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe, disavowed any knowledge of the film or the event.  It was, in fact, a prank purveyed by the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, writer and star of the The Dictator, in which he portrays an African despot named Admiral General Aladeen, of the (non-existent) Republic of Wadiya.  Mugabe—who is arrogant, brutal, and out of touch—is a likely candidate for one of the inspirations for the Aladeen character.  (See my recent blog article about The Dictator, including an attempt to situate Aladeen and Wadiya in actual and fictional African politics.)

Admiral General Aladeen

EUROPE

NATO Reports Calm in Kosovo during Serbian Vote; Vojvodina Hungarians Gain.  The Republic of Serbia’s elections on May 6th passed without incident in the Serb-dominated and more or less Serb-administered tiny swath of municipalities called North Kosovo, just within the de facto independent Republic of Kosovo.  The area was monitored (as reported in this blog) by thousands of mostly German soldiers from the Kosovo Force (KFOR)—peacekeepers operating under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which ushered Kosovo toward independence in 1999 with a bombing campaign against Serbia.  Also, 90 polling stations throughout Kosovo proper, set up for dual citizens and expatriates eligible to vote in Serbian elections, were open and ran smoothly without incident, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.).  Elsewhere in Serbia (the presidential race is headed for a run-off), the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, a pro-autonomy party representing ethnic Hungarians in the formerly autonomous province of Vojvodina, in the north, won five seats in parliament.  Several people were arrested in Novi Sad, the Vojvodina capital, for election-related irregularities.  (See my blog article on the Kosovo conflict.)

Catalan Town Declares Juan-Carlos-Free Zone.  A small town in Catalonia on May 5th declared Juan Carlos II, King of Spain, from which Catalonia would like to secede, persona non grata.  The ban, in Berga, population 17,160, was proposed by a pro-independence member of the town council.  The motion specifically cited the king’s “personal behavior” and “all kinds of scandals,” including a recent controversy over his elephant-hunting trip in Botswana.  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Catalan separatist María Lapiedra.)

Thousands March in Bilbao against Basque Political Trials.  Thousands marched in Bilbao, in Spain’s Basque Country, on May 5th to protest the trials of 13 politicians arrested for tangential relationships to the Basque separatist army E.T.A. (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or “Basque Homeland and Freedom”).  The march was organized by Eleak, a Basque pro-independence group.  Marchers carried a banner reading, “No to Political Trials.”  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Basque separatist Idoio López Riaño.)

Basques marching in Bilbao

New Car Bomb in Dagestan; Last Week’s Bombers Identified as Brother and Sister.  Days after twin suicide bombings on May 3rd killed as many as 14 people (as reported in this blog), there was a third explosion in the Russian Federation’s Republic of Dagestan on May 6th, when a bomb planted in a car in the capital, Makhachkala, went off and injured its driver.  Meanwhile, the republic’s president released on May 5th the names of the suspected bombers, who also died in the incident.  They are Rizvan and Muslimat Aliyev and are brother and sister, ages 23 and 19, respectively.  They apparently had been trained by radical Islamists.  Meanwhile, on May 10th, five policemen in Dagestan’s Babayurtovsky district who were responding to the scene of a car accident were injured when shots were fired at them from a passing car, while on the same day two Russian soldiers were shot and killed by militants near the Dagestani village of Tsetkovka, in an incident in which one militant also was killed.

Sealand and Chagos Islands Face Off in Surrey Football Match.  An exhibition football (soccer) match was held on May 5th between the Principality of Sealand and the national team from the Chagos Islands, two of the smallest sort-of-countries in the world.  Sealand is a micronation founded in 1967 on a disused military platform and pirate radio station off the coast of Suffolk, England, currently ruled by Prince Regent Michael (a.k.a. Michael Bates, who lives on the English mainland).  The Chagos Islands are a cluster of remote Indian Ocean atolls, including the joint United States and United Kingdom military base on Diego Garcia—technically part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.  The match was held in Godalming, in the English county of Surrey.  Despite the Sealand team’s acquisition of a semi-professional footballer in the person of television comedian Ralf Little (star of The Royle Family and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps), the Chagossians, being an actual team that had played together before, won handily.  (Watch this B.B.C. report on the match, including a tour of Sealand.)  (See my blog article about Sealand.)

BITS OF ASIA WHICH LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE

Russia Claims It Foiled Georgian-Fueled Abkhaz Bomb Plot against Olympics.  Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee has announced that its agents have foiled a bomb plot against the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, in Russia’s North Caucasus region, by raiding 10 different arms caches on May 4th and 5th in the Republic of Abkhazia, the Russian puppet state carved out of the Republic of Georgia.  Weapons confiscated included anti-aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, flamethrowers, and land mines, and three Caucasus Emirate “chieftains” were arrested.  The plot was supposedly masterminded by Doku Khamatovich Umarov, a.k.a. Dokka Abu Usman, a Chechen and self-proclaimed emir of the movement to create an independent Caucasus Emirate in what is now the North Caucasus.  But Russian officials also say Georgia’s security services played a role.  Why Georgia, a Christian nation interested in courting Western allies, would want to create a radical Islamic state on its northern border was not explained.  The chief of staff of Georgia’s interior ministry, Shota Khizanishvili, described the accusation as “a sign of severe paranoia.”  An Abkhazian government official said the conclusion that the weapons were intended for an attack on Sochi was “premature,” and noted that they were discovered during an investigation into the February assassination attempt on Abkhazia’s president, Alexandr Ankvab (as reported in this blog).  The choice of Sochi, the site of a nineteenth-century genocidal massacre of Muslim Circassians, for the upcoming Olympics is seen by many Muslims in the Russian Federation as a deliberate insult.  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Chechen rebel Akhmed Zakayev.)

Supposedly part of a supposed Chechen–Georgian arms cache supposedly found in Abkhazia
and supposedly destined for Russia for a supposed Olympic terrorism plot.
(Can you tell I’m not convinced?)

Abkhaz Bomber in Zugdidi Blast Claims to Be in Russian’s Pay.  A suspect in the case of a homemade bomb defused at a prosecutor’s office in Zugdidi, in the Republic of Georgia, May 4th (as reported in this blog) has testified, according to the Interior Ministry, that a former Russian soldier paid him 80,000 rubles to plant it.  The suspect is Rolan Khurtsilava, age 51, from the Republic of Abkhazia, a territory whose de facto independence from Georgia was won by Russia in a brief war in 2008.  The bomb was placed in a sour-cream container.

Armenians Mark 20th Anniversary of “Liberation” of Shushi, Nagorno-Karabakh.  Celebrations in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.) (a.k.a. Artsakh Republic) on May 9th marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of the N.K.R. armed forces and the “liberation” of Shushi, a predominantly ethnically Azeri portion of the Republic of Azerbaijan which was conquered and ethnically cleansed by the Armenian military in 1992 in order to create a land corridor connecting the N.K.R., an Armenian puppet state carved out of Azerbaijani territory in a Russian-backed military campaign, to Armenia itself.  Ceremonies were attended by Serzh Sargsyan, the president of Armenia; Bako Sahakyan, the N.K.R.’s president; His Holiness Karein II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; the former Armenian president Robert Kacharyan; and others.  A military parade featured Armenian-made drone aircraft.  The foreign ministry of Azerbaijan called the celebration a “provocation” indicating “that the Armenian side is not prepared to hold negotiations in a constructive manner.”  The night before the celebration, two villages in Armenia’s Tavush province came under extensive fire from Azerbaijani positions across the border, according to Armenian sources.  (See my recent blog article about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in geopolitical and historical context.)

Armenian drone aircraft on display in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s military parade.
This just makes Armenian nationalists all weepy and misty-eyed.

Turkish Police Halt Kurdish Bomb Plot against Cabinet Members.  Turkish police on May 5th discovered and disposed of 20 kilograms of explosives placed on a highway where four government ministers were due to travel, thus foiling what the authorities are calling an assassination plot by the banned militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.).  The bomb was planted near Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s vast Kurdistan region.  The ministers had, apparently on a tip from intelligence services, changed their plans at the last minute to travel by plane.  They were the ministers for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Development, Finance, and Forestry and Waterworks.  Elsewhere in Turkey, soldiers killed five Kurdish rebels over the night of May 7-8 in Bitlis province, while coordinated raids across six provinces swept up 28 (some reports say 46) P.K.K. members.  (See my blog article on the latest Kurdish uprising and a more recent article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)

Former Hezbollah Lawyer Plans to Found Kurdish Islamist Party in Turkey.  An imam and former attorney for the Kurdish Hezbollah (K.H.), an anti-independence Islamist movement in Turkey, is planning on founding a new Turkish political party in October to be called the Islamic Party of Kurdistan.  K.H.—which is Sunni and has no relation to the Shiite Islamist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon (Hezbollah means “party of God”)—has renounced violence and is opposed to Turkey’s banned separatist militia, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), but it takes a strongly orthodox approach to social and theological issues.  The imam, Sıdkı Zilan, plans this new party to be a third way between the P.K.K. and the pro-Kurdish mainstream Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.).  (See my blog article on the latest Kurdish uprising and a more recent article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)

ASIA—MIDDLE EAST

Hundreds of Kurds Riot over Blasphemy in Iraq.  Hundreds of Kurds took to the streets of Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan region, on May 8th to protest a supposedly blasphemous magazine article.  The gathering turned violent when some demonstrators tried to storm government buildings and torched shops selling alcohol.  (See my blog article on the latest Kurdish uprisinga more recent article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, and another piece on prospects for the partitition of Iraq.)

Kurds in Iraq demonstrating against blasphemy.
(Not to put them down or anything, but I can’t remember the last time
I got this excited over a magazine article.)

Netanyahu Forms Coalition with Backer of Immediate Palestinian Recognition.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chairman of the more left-leaning Kadima party, Shaul Mofaz, surprised Israel on May 8th by agreeing to form a national-unity coalition government.  The deal will include the naming of Mofaz as deputy prime minister.  Mofaz, who was military chief of staff during the Second Intafada and the Jenin refugee-camp massacre, initially said he would not work with Netanyahu.  He currently takes a much more conciliatory approach to peace with Palestinians than Netanyahu (not difficult) and favors the immediate recognition of an independent Palestine in Gaza and 60% of the West Bank, with the 1967 borders as a basis for eventual negotiations—much farther than Netanyahu is willing to go.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

10 Palestinian Hunger-Strikers Hospitalized; Negotiations Underway; West Bank Tense.  At least ten of the more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners hunger-striking in Israel in protest over prison conditions have been hospitalized.  There are now 1,550 confirmed hunger-strikers, but some activists put the figure at 2,500, out of a total of 4,600 Palestinians in the Israeli prison system.  On May 7th, Israel’s Supreme Court turned down the request by two prisoners who have been refusing food for 70 days for a revocation of their detention without trial.  Media reported on May 9th that a special committee of the Israel Prison Service will meet some of the prisoners’ demands and release some from solitary confinement, including Mahmoud Issa, who has been in solitary for ten years for abducting and killing a border policeman in 1993.  The governments of Egypt and the Gaza Strip are currently negotiating with the Israeli government for a more comprehensive solution to the crisis.  The European Union and the United NationsWorld Health Organization are chiding Israel’s inaction in the face of the imminent death of some of the strikers.  Some observers worry that the hunger strike may contribute to growing unrest in the Palestinian Territories, with some warning of a sudden, violent uprising when Nakba Day—Catastrophe Day, marking the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Israeli settlers in 1948—is marked on May 14th.  On May 11th, a Palestinian marching in solidarity with the hunger strikers near Ramallah, in the West Bank, was shot in the eye by an Israeli soldier.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Hunger-striking prisoners are widely supported in the occupied territories

Qatar Will Allow Spain to Extradite Basque Terror Suspect.  A court in the State of Qatar cleared the way May 4th for the extradition to Spain of a 44-year-old member of the Basque separatist militia E.T.A. (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or “Basque Homeland and Freedom”) on charges of terrorism.  The man, Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui, a computer programmer, was arrested last year in Cambridge, England.  He is accused of, among other charges, an assassination attempt on King Juan Carlos II.  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Basque separatist Idoio López Riaño.)

ASIA—SOUTH ASIA

Double Murder in Karachi Blamed on Baloch Separatists; 8 Others Killed.  Nine people were killed in a wave of violence in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and capital of Sindh province, over May 5th and 6th, including the murder of two workers for the Pakistan People’s Party (P.P.P.).  The P.P.P. blames those shootings on separatists hoping to separate the neighboring province, Balochistan, from Pakistan.  A passer-by was also killed in that incident.  Then, on May 8th, a senior police officer specializing in investigating terrorist incidents was killed in a drive-by shooting while taking his morning walk in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital.  (See my article listing Balochistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

4 Militants Killed Trying to Cross Line of Control.  Four unidentified militants were shot and killed on May 10th while trying to cross the “Line of Control” that separates Indian- from Pakistani-administered parts of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir state.  The information comes from a spokesman for India’s military.

No Foreigners behind Janakpur Bombing, Nepal’s Communists Say.  The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) issued a statement this week assuring the public that the recent terrorist bombing in Janakpur, near the border with India, was not the result of any foreign support or intervention.  The party was responding to accusations from the minister of health that the attack was foreign-sponsored.  Responsibility for the April 30th attack, which killed five, was claimed by a group pushing to establish a separate state within Nepal, to be called Madhesh Terai, for the Maithili-speaking people of the Terai wetlands near the Indian border, who are more culturally Indian.  Nepal’s Maoists have been pushing for a reorganization of Nepal’s subdivisions along ethnic lines.  Among the dead in the blast was Ranju Jha, a prominent Maithili-speaking actress.

Map showing Nepal’s Madhesh Terai region

Assamese Separatists Back Maoists after Killing.  The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), an umbrella group seeking independence for ethnic groups in India’s far-eastern state of Assam, issued a statement of “full moral support” on May 10th “to the Maoists in their struggle to establish a just and fair social structure in Assam.”  The statement was in response to the killing of four Maoist militants the day before at the hands of Assamese police in the Himalayan town of Sadiya, Assam, a Maoist stronghold.

Tripura Militants Kidnap 4 Indian Farmers to Bangladesh.  Police in India’s far east reported May 7th that four slash-and-burn farmers in the state of Tripura had been kidnapped and whisked away to Bangladesh by members of the National Liberation Front of Tipura (N.L.F.T.), a banned separatist militia.  One of the farmers escaped to safety.  The N.L.F.T. and the All Tripura Tiger Force, another separatist army, operate mainly from camps over the border in Bangladesh.

New York Judge Goes Easy on Sri Lankan for Funding “Terrorist” Tamil Tigers.  In Brooklyn, New York, a federal judge sentenced a Sri Lankan immigrant to “time served” for his 2009 guilty plea on charges of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization—in this case the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who, until their defeat in that same year, were fighting for a separate state in northern Sri Lanka.  The Tigers are listed as a terrorist organization by the United States government.  A prosecutor had asked for a 20-year sentence for the 55-year-old defendant, Karunakaran Kandasamy.  The judge cited health problems, including diabetes, in ordering his release, as well as the nonviolent form of “support” he gave.  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Tamil activist Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam.)

Karunakaran Kandasamy and family after his release

ASIA—EAST ASIA

China Moves Inner Mongolian Dissident to “Luxury Resort.”  With all eyes on the People’s Republic of China after the defection last week of the dissident Chen Guangcheng, the Beijing government on May 10th was reported to have moved an imprisoned Mongolian “separatist” to a so-called “luxury resort” in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia.  The man, known only as Hada (his full name), was convicted in 1996 of espionage and of ties to the Southern Mongolian Democratic Alliance, an organization committed to ending Han Chinese oppression of Mongolians in the nominally autonomous Inner Mongolia region bordering Mongolia proper.  The information comes from Hada’s uncle, via the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, based in New York City.  The uncle also said Hada and his family had refused an offer from the authorities that he admit wrongdoing in exchange for high-paying jobs and a luxury house and cars for his wife and son, now living in a rented warehouse because of official persecution.  The offer even included the promise of “a beautiful girlfriend” for his son.

Supporters-in-exile of Inner Mongolian self-determination

Tibetan Man Kills Self to Avoid Arrest.  The London-based human-rights organization Free Tibet reports this week that a 25-year-old Tibetan man in the Ganzi Autonomous Prefecture in the People’s Republic of China’s Sichuan province killed himself March 29th upon hearing that he was being sought by the Paramilitary Security Bureau.  He was wanted for questioning after participating in a January 23rd protest at which police opened fire on unarmed activists.  Surveillance footage apparently showed the man, Gonpo Rigzin, damaging a police vehicle during the demonstration.  (See my blog article on Buddhism and Tibetan self-determination, as well as a more recent article featuring profiles of three celebrity pro-Tibet activists.)

Family of Tibetan Marchers Stopped in Nepal after 2-Month Trek.  A Tibetan exile family of three on a two-month-old march to Tibet from Dharamsala, the Indian town which hosts the Tibetan government-in-exile, were stopped and detained by border police at the edge of Nepal, it was reported on May 10th.  Some Tibetan activists have criticized the trekkers for carrying a People’s Republic of China flag on their journey, along with flags of India and Nepal and much larger Tibetan flags.  They began the trek on March 10th, the 53rd Tibetan National Uprising Day.  (See my blog article on Buddhism and Tibetan self-determination, as well as a more recent article featuring profiles of three celebrity pro-Tibet activists.)

Courageous Tibetan marchers

Japan Issues Travel Visa to Uyghur Leader in U.S. Exile, Angering Beijing.  Brushing off objections from the People’s Republic of China, the government of Japan agreed this week to issue a travel visa to an exiled leader from China’s rebellious far-western Uyghur ethnic minority.  The leader, Rebiya Kadeer, whom Beijing calls a “separatist” for her support for Uyghur self-determination, will be attending the general assembly of the World Uyghur Congress.  Beijing imprisoned her in 2000 for “endangering state secrets,” after she sent newspaper clippings to her husband, who lived in the United States.  After being released from prison, in 2005, she defected to the U.S.  Later, the Chinese government accused her of organizing riots from her exile.

Vietnam Arrests Montagnard Rebels Linked to U.S.-Backed Separatists.  The Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s Communist Party–run newspaper reported May 9th that three Christian Montagnards from the Ede and Gia Rai ethnic groups in the central highlands of Vietnam have been arrested for “anti-state activity.”  Home-made bows, arrows, and swords were confiscated in the raid.  The men are said to belong to the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races (FULRO), which sided with the United States in the Vietnam War and advocates an independent state for non-Vietnamese minorities in the central highlands.  In particular, the newspaper linked the men to Kok Ksor, a founder of FULRO who now lives in exile in the U.S.

OCEANIA

New Caledonia, French Polynesia Back Sarkozy in Run-Off (So Does Corsica).  While voters in the French Republic replaced President Nicolas Sarkozy with his Socialist challenger François Hollande in the May 6th run-off elections, some French overseas territories, especially in the Pacific, which voted a day early, tended to support Sarkozy.  In French Polynesia, Sarkozy defeated Hollande with 53% of the vote and in New Caledonia with 63%.  These are the two overseas territories with the most active separatist movements.  Wallis and Futuna preferred Hollande with 56%.  French Guyana, on the South American mainland, plunked for Hollande with 62%, while, in the Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe and Martinique went for Hollande, but St.-Martin and St.-Barthélemy remained Sarkozy country.  Hollande swept St.-Pierre-et-Miquelon, off the Canadian east coast, 65%-35%.  Off Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, Sarkozy beat Hollande 51% to 49% in Mayotte, while Hollande came out on top in Réunion with 71% of ballots cast.  Sarkozy won Corsica, with 58% in the northern department and 54% in the southern.  (See all the numbers here.)  (See my recent blog article on some dynamics of this year’s French elections.)  (Meanwhile, Admiral General Aladeen, dictator of the Republic of Wadiya, congratulated “François Hollandaise for his electoral victory over “a midget,” though he admits he would have preferred to see Dominique Strauss-Kahn elected because “he has some of the best rape excuses I have ever heard.”  See my recent blog article for more information on Aladeen and Wadiya.)

NORTH AMERICA

Saskatchewan Chief Pleads Guilty in Treaty Fraud Case.  In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a former chief councillor of the Mosquito First Nation—a Nakota (Sioux) and Cree community—pleaded guilty to defrauding his band of more than $5,000 designated for treaty-land settlements.  The former chief, Clarence Stone, age 59, is the third figure to be convicted in the scandal.

Admiral General Aladeen Backs Mitt Romney for President.  In a press conference May 7th in New York City, Admiral General Aladeen, dictator of the Republic of Wadiya, endorsed Mitt Romney, the Republican former governor of Massachusetts, for the presidency of the United States.  There is, however, no Republic of Wadiya: Aladeen was in fact the English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, never breaking character as he promoted his new film The Dictator, in which Aladeen moves to New York.  Aladeen, addressing a press gathering he addressed cheerfully as “devils of the Zionist media,” said he would have backed Rick Santorum, “despite his liberal views,” but grudgingly backed Romney, adding, “He has the makings of a great dictator.  He is incredibly wealthy, but pays no taxes.  It’s not much of a leap from firing people to firing squads, from putting pets on top of cars to putting political dissidents on top of cars.”  The film premiers May 16th.  (See my recent blog article for more information on Aladeen and Wadiya.)

This endorsement will definitely help Romney in some of those Midwestern swing states

PRACTICALLY BLOODY ANTARCTICA

Argentina Still Airing Controversial Falklands Olympic Ad.  Over complaints from the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.), state-run television in the Argentine Republic has continued airing a controversial T.V. spot, ahead of this summer’s London Olympics, that shows an Argentine field-hockey captain training “on Argentine soil,” though the ad (as reported last week in this blog) is clearly shot in Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, a United Kingdom territory of long standing which Argentina also claims—and lost a war over in 1982.  The ad says, “To compete on English soil, we train on Argentine soil,” and claims at the end to be released by the office of the president of Argentina.  (Watch the ad here.)  The I.O.C. condemned the ad on May 4th, saying the Olympics should not be invoked “to raise political issues.”  After that and other objections—the U.K.’s foreign secretary, William Hague, called it “a sad stunt”—the spot’s makers, the United States advertising firm Young & Rubicam, apologized and asked the government in Buenos Aires to take it off the air, though they clearly haven’t.  Meanwhile, Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has defended the ad, and an Argentine legislator has suggested Olympic uniforms featuring the Falklands’ distinctive outline with the words, “Las Malvinas son Argentinas” (“The Falklands are Argentine”).  (See my blog article on the Falklands dispute.)

[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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