Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Serb Leader’s U-Turn on Kosovo: The Week in Separatist News, 27 May–2 June 2012 (Plus Riots in Zanzibar, Northern Cyprus’s New Name, a Province for Iraqi Shiites)

Photo of the week: Mourners greet part of a procession of coffins draped with the Kurdish flag as over 700 bodies from a recently disinterred mass grave in southern Iraq, from Saddam Hussein’s 1988 genocide, are repatriated to northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.


The new president of the Republic of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić, who took office May 31st, made western Europeans nervous from the beginning.  Originally an ultranationalist associate of the war criminal and dictator Slobodan Milošević (who died before he could be tried in the Hague for crimes against humanity, including genocide), Nikolić campaigned on the strength of his seeming over the years to have turned over a new leaf.  He distanced himself from his predecessors, whose attitudes to western Europe ranged from hostile to quite wary.  His predecessor, Boris Tadić, ran a fairly hard line on the issue of most of the West’s recognition of the sovereignty of the de facto independent Republic of Kosovo—which Serbians consider a rebellious province—but buckled in April by agreeing to work with—though not diplomatically recognize—Kosovo in some international forums, on condition that Serbia can call it simply “Kosovo,” without the “Republic of” part (as discussed in an article in this blog at the time).  That was enough to make Serbia an official candidate for membership in the European Union (E.U.), jumping the queue ahead of, for example, Turkey, and lining up right behind its old nemesis, Croatia.  All this seemed unthinkable a little over ten years ago, when craters from NATO bombs still smoldered across Belgrade.  Nikolić rode this optimistic wave to office, portraying himself as pro-Europe, willing to do whatever it would take to join the E.U.

Tomislav Nikolić, Serbia’s “formerly” ultranationalist president

Nikolić Makes a U-Turn in His Tone on Kosovo Question.  But mere days after winning, President-elect Nikolić paid his first sort-of state visit—not to Brussels or Berlin, but to Moscow, where the Russian Federation’s president, the authoritarian Vladimir Putin, had just weaseled his way back into power through constitutional prestidigitation, despite waves of street politics mobilized against him.  And if that wasn’t enough of a reminder of the bad old days of Milošević, when the Kremlin was Belgrade’s only real ally, Nikolić certainly raised eyebrows by telling Putin that Serbia’s path to E.U. membership was “long and uncertain” but that as far as he knew diplomatic recognition of Kosovo was not a requirement for accession to the union, adding, “We cannot do that, even if it meant breaking off negotiations at that very moment.”  This was a sharp break in tone from his reassurances to the West during his campaign, and it seemed designed to inflame western European opinion.  Putin, for his part, said that Russians and Serbs were “spiritual brothers”—invoking the medieval pan-Slavic jingoism that had fed the flames of the Yugoslav Wars of Succession in the 1990s.

Serbia Mulls Recognizing South Caucasus Pseudo-States.  Still, all of this was merely, one could say, a rather undiplomatic and uncircumspect way to phrase what was always Serbia’s position: non-recognition of Kosovo, only seeming—perhaps just to please his host—to eliminate all wiggle-room.  But what came next was a foreign-policy bombshell.  A reporter asked Nikolić whether, despite his opposition to Kosovo’s independence, he might consider recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two Russian puppet states carved out of the Republic of Georgia—a question meant, perhaps, to poke fun at Putin’s double standard on the question of secessionist movements.  To everyone’s surprise, Nikolić said, “If you are respecting international legislation, then Abkhazia and South Ossetia must be independent; Kosovo and Metohija—no” (here using the Serbian term for the former Serbian province).  Georgia’s foreign ministry, flabbergasted, said that they were sure that the statement must have been the result of a misunderstanding ... right?  (See my blog article on last year’s contested presidential elections in South Ossetia.)

What a catch this would be for South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Abkhazia had just this past week (see story below under “Central America and Caribbean”) sent a diplomatic entourage to Antigua and Barbuda, a minuscule Caribbean nation, to try to convince them to extend recognition.  The talks were inconclusive.  So far, only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu recognize the two republics—some of them only in exchange for lucrative Russian development deals.  (Even Armenia, Cuba, and Belarus can’t be bothered.)  If Abkhazia and South Ossetia snagged the big fish of Serbia, this would thrust Serbia’s relations with the West back into the deep freeze and bring the Caucasus conflict between Russia and Georgia—which exploded into deadly war in 2008 over the two republics—right into the middle of E.U. and NATO concerns.  It is not clear if Nikolić realizes what he’s getting into.  Maybe the euro crisis has finally convinced him that Western Europe is not the only way forward for a modern Serbia.  If so, that would change everything in the Balkans, in the Caucasus, and in Europe.

Tensions in North Kosovo Flare.  Meanwhile, things just got ugly in Kosovo again, perhaps even as an indirect result of Nikolić’s fighting words.  It was reported June 1st that at least six people, including two German soldiers and at least one civilian, were hurt in a shoot-out between ethnic Serbs and NATO peacekeepers of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Zvečan municipality in North Kosovo.  The gunplay began after KFOR troops tried to dismantle a Serb roadblock.  North Kosovo is the sliver of Kosovo abutting Serbia where Serbs predominate (nearly the whole rest of Kosovo is ethnically Albanian) and where Kosovo holds no de facto jurisdiction, the enclave being in fact administered indirectly through Republic of Serbia institutions.  If Nikolić is just starting to show his true colors, then such violence may only be the beginning.
And now, the rest of the world’s separatist news in summary ...


Mali Junta Rejects Azawadi Sovereignty; Militias Still Sorting Out Role of Shari’a.  The military junta that rules the southern third of the Republic of Mali clarified and reiterated its position on the Independent State of Azawad declared last month in Mali’s north, saying through a government spokesman on May 27th, “The government of Mali categorically rejects the idea of the creation of an Azawad state, even more so of an Islamic state.”  Mali’s information minister added, “Mali is secular and will remain secular.”  But the same day a spokesman for the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (known by its French acronym M.N.L.A.)—the mostly secular Tuareg-nationalist militia that the previous day announced its cooperation with the Ansar al-Dine army in running Azawad (as reported in this blog)—said that the form of Islamic law (shari’a) imposed would not be a strict one.  An M.N.L.A. spokesman, Moussa Ag Achratoumane, said, “The Quran will be a source of the laws of the state.  But we will apply the things we want and leave aside those we don’t.”  Meanwhile, it was reported May 28th that fighters from Ansar al-Dine’s parent organization, the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.), had discovered an underground Malian weapons depot in Gao, the provisional Azawadi capital, which will greatly augment their arsenal.  (See my blog article on Azawad’s declaration of independence, plus an article about the Mali in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)

African Union Head Calls for U.N. Force to Oust Azawadi Rebels.  The chairman of the African Union (A.U.), Thomas Boni Yayi, who is also president of the Republic of Benin, said May 30th that the United Nations Security Council should authorize the creation of an African-manned military force to invade the self-declared Independent State of Azawad and return sovereignty over the territory to the Republic of Mali.  Speaking in Paris, where he met with France’s new president, François Hollande, Boni Yayi cited the example of southern Somalia, where a U.N.-backed A.U. force led by Ethiopia and Kenya is trying to root out Islamist rebels.  Meanwhile, the cabinet of Mali’s ruling junta resolved on May 30th to report to the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) alleged crimes committed by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.), Ansar al-Dine, and the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.), which seem to be sharing power in Azawad.   (See my blog article on Azawad’s declaration of independence, plus an article about the Mali in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)

Carter Negotiates Sudanese Withdrawal from Abyei; Referendum Urged.  The peace and democracy advocate and former United States president Jimmy Carter announced May 27th that Omar Hassan al-Bashir, dictator of the Republic of Sudan, had agreed, without conditions, to pull troops out of the Abyei district, a disputed territory between Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan last year with a dangerously unfinalized border.  As of May 30th, the United Nations stated that Sudan had completed its troop pullout, though Sudanese police remained.  The South Sudanese was skeptical even of that.  South Sudan pulled its own forces out of Abyei this month, as part of an agreement that Sudan had yet to honor its side of.  The organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide is now urging that a referendum, long promised, be held in Abyei to determine whether it would like to be part of Sudan or South Sudan.

Darfur Militants Release British Aid Worker after 86 Days.  A 46-year-old United Kingdom citizen in the employ of the World Food Program, Patrick Noonan, was released in Khartoum, capital of the Republic of Sudan, on May 30th, after 86 days in captivity.  Though details are murky still, he was kidnapped near Nyala, in the Darfur region, on March 6th by unidentified armed men who were possibly associated with a faction of non-Arab, anti-government Darfuri militants called the Justice and Equality Movement (J.E.M.)

Islamist Separatists in Zanzibar Torch 2 Churches, Police Shut Down City.  Fighting erupted in the center of Zanzibar City over the May 26th-27th weekend between machete-wielding supporters of the Islamist separatist group Uamsho (“Awakening”) and police, leaving the city battened down and barricaded after calm was finally reimposed.  The rioting, initially in protest over the arrests of senior Uamsho members, eventually led to Islamists torching two churches, as well as looting and burning bars and shops.  Uamsho leaders are denying orchestrating the violence.  Police have arrested 30 Uamsho members.  Zanzibar, a former colony of the United Kingdom with strong historical ties to the Arab world and South Asia, was independent for a year before joining the former German colony of Tanganyika in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania.  Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim, whereas Tanzania as a whole is almost two-thirds Christian.

A Zanzibar church torched by Muslim separatists

Galmudug, Puntland Shun Istanbul’s Somalia Summit over Turks’ Anti-Federalism.  The two most successful self-governing states formed under the Republic of Somalia’s 2004 constitution are boycotting the conference that began May 31st in Istanbul, Turkey, on Somalia’s future.  Puntland and Galmudug, which operate as fully independent states but are nominally part of Somalia, object to the Republic of Turkey’s practice of interacting only with the non-functioning but internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) in Mogadishu and not with constituent states.  In a joint statement, the two republics said that the “Turkish role in Somalia objects to consulting the Somali people.”  The statement said that the structure of the Istanbul conference is a reversion to centralism after federalist agreements agreed to in the past between the T.F.G., Puntland, Galmudug, and other local entities such as the anti-Islamist Sufu militia called Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a.  The states also accuse the Turkish government of reneging on development deals and of favoring compromise with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia al-Shabaab, which controls much of southern Somalia.  The Republic of Somaliland, which claims independence from Somalia, is sending a delegation to Istanbul.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Map showing approximate territories controlled by Puntland and Galmudug.

Puntland Sending Prisoners to Mauritius; 11 Pirates Captured, Including Most-Wanted.  The fully self-governing Puntland State of Somalia and the Republic of Mauritius signed an agreement, it was reported May 26th, under which Mauritius, an island mini-nation in the Indian Ocean, will hold some prisoners suspected of sea piracy while Puntland’s prisons struggle to meet United Nations standards.  The agreement was also negotiated with the presence of representatives from the U.N. and the Kingdom of Denmark.  Meanwhile, on May 27th, the Puntland Maritime Police Force captured 11 pirates in Hafun district, including one Mohamed Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, also known as Dhafoor, wanted for several high-profile hijackings including a March 2011 incident in which five Puntland troops were killed rescuing a kidnapped Danish family.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Roadside Bomb in Puntland Kills 6.  Six people died May 30th when security forces in the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia tried and failed to defuse a roadside bomb in Galkayo, on the border between Puntland and the similarly self-governing Galmudug State of Somalia.  The dead included three civilians.  No group has taken responsibility for the bomb, but the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia al-Shabaab has recently expanded its operations from southern Somalia to Puntland with the intention of disrupting its economy.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Somaliland Coast Guard Seizes Iranian Fishing Boat.  It was reported this week that the coast guard of the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland had seized a fishing vessel from Iran on suspicion of fishing in Somaliland’s national waters illegally.  The vessel was taken to Maydh, a port in Somaliland’s Sanaag region.  Once it was confirmed that it had the proper license, the statelet’s finance minister said he would release the vessel only if proper catch fees were paid.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Cameron to Meet with Mauritius over Fate of Chagos Islands.  The prime minister of the United KingdomDavid Cameron, is to meet next week with Navinchandra Ramgoolam, the prime minister of the tiny Republic of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, to discuss the possible “return” to Mauritius of the Chagos Islands, a far-flung sprinkling of atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean which is home to a United States military base, on Diego Garcia.  The Republic of Mauritius never really had the archipelago, but it was part of the U.K. colony of Mauritius until 1965, shortly before Mauritius’s independence in 1968, when the U.K. separated it off and made it a separate colony called the British Indian Ocean Territory—forcibly relocating thousands of native Chagossian people in the process.  The persistence of the Chagossians’ grievance against the U.K.—as well as revelations that the U.S.’s Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) was using Diego Garcia for illegal secret “renditions” of prisoners of war in the “War on Terror,” outside the rules of the Geneva Convention—have led to louder and louder urgings for the U.K. to repatriate the Chagossians and give up control of the islands.  Diego Garcia has also been a major refueling stop for the U.S.–U.K. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  (See my recent blog article about the United Nations’ “decolonization” agenda.)

Spanish Actor Bardem Presses E.U. on Plight of Western Sahara.  The Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem—known as the unemotive, air-compressor-gun-wielding assassin in No Country for Old Men and as the Brazilian hunk romanced and tossed aside by Julia Roberts in her consumerist traipse through the Third World in Eat Pray Love—testified before the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on May 29th to raise awareness of the plight of the Sahrawi people in the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara and presented his documentary film on the subject, titled Sons of the Clouds: The Last Colony.  Since decolonization by Bardem’s home country, the Kingdom of Spain, in 1979, Western Sahara has been under occupation by the Kingdom of Morocco in contravention of international law.  Meanwhile, diplomats from African Union (A.U.) member states pushed this week for Morocco to rejoin the A.U., which it quit in 1984 in protest over the accession of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the self-proclaimed independent state hanging on in a sliver of eastern Western Sahara.

Javier Bardem joining protests in Spain against Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara


French Cops Reel In 2 Big Basque Fish.  Police in France arrested on May 27th a man identified as the military head of the banned separatist army ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatusana, “Basque Homeland and Freedom”).  In a joint French and Spanish operation, the leader, Oroitz Gurruchaga Gogorza, aged 30, was arrested along with his apparent deputy, Xabier Aramburu, aged 32, in the village of Cauna, in the département of Landes in the French Basque region.  They were apparently traveling in a stolen vehicle with counterfeit license plates and were armed.  ETA agreed in October 2011 to lay down its arms but has not disbanded or disarmed, mainly because the governments of France and Spain now refuse to negotiate with them.  In fact, France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, on May 29th called for the “complete dissolution” of ETA.  (See my blog article featuring a profile of the Basque warrior Idoia López Riaño, a.k.a. la Tigresa.)

Germany Charges P.K.K. “Terrorist” with Running Hamburg Cell.  It was announced May 31st that a 46-year-old man from the Republic of Turkey was charged in a German court on May 14th with being an officer in a foreign terrorist organization, in this case Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), which the European Union classifies as a terrorist organization.  The man—identified only partially as “Ali Ihsan K.”—is accused of being in charge of recruiting and finance for the P.K.K.’s Hamburg, Germany, branch.  He was arrested in October 2011.  Meanwhile, in England, three female supporters of the P.K.K. have been jailed for a politically motivated Molotov-cocktail attack on the Turkish-frequented Coffee House of the People of Gumushane in London’s Stoke Newington neighborhood last year.  The women, all in their twenties, carried out the attack in response to a December 2011 airstrike by Turkey’s air force on civilians accused of being in the P.K.K.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)

In Violent Week in Dagestan, Militants Blow Up Train, Deputy Minister Assassinated.  The deputy minister of sports for the Russian Federation’s separatist Republic of Dagestan was shot to death on May 29th in Makhachkala, the Dagestani capital, according to Russia’s ministry of the interior.  The minister, Nasir Gadzhikhanov, also a silver-medalist wrestler, was assassinated while in his car by automatic weapons wielded by unknown assailants.  Two days later, unknown militants blew up a freight train in Dagestan.  There were no injuries.  Also on May 31st, the former head of the Untsukulsk, Dagestan, police department was murdered outside his home in Buinaksk, possibly for his political activities.  The next day, unidentified gunmen opened fire in the village of Tsebari, killing one, before torching the local school, leading to a shootout with local police.  Another school nearby was attacked shortly afterward, in the village of Tsyntuk.

Police Kill Islamist Suspect in Chechnya.  A shootout between police and Islamists in the Russian Federation’s Republic of Chechnya killed a 22-year-old suspected militant who was resisting capture, according to an Islamist website.  The event occurred in the village of Kerla-Yurt on the night of May 25th-26th.  This came a day after a convoy of Mujahideen separatists attacked security officers in the Chechen village of Ekha-Borz (a.k.a. Assinovskaya), resulting in a shootout that injured two police.  These events were not reported in other media.  (See my blog article featuring a profile of the Chechen independence leader Akhmed Zakayev.)

Russian Court Gives North Ossetia Bomber 14 Years in Prison.  In Russia, Alikhan Ortskhanov was given a 14-year prison term for a September 2010 car-bombing of a market in Vladikavkaz, capital of the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania, in which 19 died and 230 injured.  Other charges included attempted murders of police officers and arms trafficking.  Three other conspirators in the attack (as reported in this blog) were given similarly long terms earlier this month.

Relics of Kievan Self-Rule Displayed in Ukraine for First Time in Centuries.  Twenty-one historical items dating to an early period in the history of Kiev, capital of modern Ukraine, were displayed for the first time in centuries this week in the National Museum of the History of Ukraine.  Some of the items had been held in collections in Sweden and elsewhere.  The exhibit, titled “Old Kyiv Self-Government Relics”—covering a period in the late Middle Ages when Kiev ran most of its own affairs amidst a tug-of-war between warring Polish, Lithuanian, and Crimean Tatar forces, before its absorption by the Russian Empire—includes a Kyiv self-government flag, held for centuries in the Kingdom of Sweden’s State Trophy Collection.

A late-medieval “Kyiv self-government flag” on display


Azeris Report Foiled Assassination, Terror Plots during Eurovision Contest.  Officials in the Republic of Azerbaijan claimed May 30th special forces had foiled assassination and terror plots by Islamists rebels during the country’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest last week.  The ministry of national security said that two members of the group were killed, including its leader, and 40 arrested, and that the plans had been to assassinate Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev.  The announcement linked the plots to the neighboring Russian Federation republic of Dagestan, where many Islamist militants would like to found an independent Caucasus Emirate that includes Dagestan, Azerbaijan, and most of the Caucasus region.  (See my recent article on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and Asia Minor.)

2 Police among 3 Machine-Gunned in Abkhazia Café.  In Gali, in the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, three people were killed by two men who stormed a café and opened fire with Kalashnikov machine-guns before fleeing, still unidentified, in a car.  Among the dead were a police major and a detective.

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Renamed “Cyprus Turkish Republic.”  The puppet state installed by Turkey’s military over the northern third of the island of Cyprus in a 1974 invasion will no longer be known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but instead the Cyprus Turkish Republic (C.T.R.), according to an announcement this week by the Council of Ministers of the pseudo-state, which is recognized as sovereign by the Republic of Turkey, while the rest of the world regards the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union (E.U.) member state, as sovereign over the entire island.  The republic already uses the new designation in the capacity of its membership in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (O.I.C.), a body that also includes non-U.N.-member-states such as the Palestinian National Authority and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.  A name change had been planned for some time (as reported in this blog), with other possibilities having been Northern Cyprus Turkish State and Northern Turkish State (which last would have the disadvantage of sounding like something on the Black Sea).  Meanwhile, Martin Schulz, the president of the E.U.’s European Parliament, on a visit to Turkey May 28th, condemned Turkey’s threat to freeze diplomatic relations with the E.U. and its members states when the Republic of Cyprus assumes the rotating E.U. presidency on July 1st. (See my recent blog article about the politics of country-naming in Northern Cyprus and elsewhere.)

The flags of the Cyprus Turkish Republic and the Republic of Turkey

European Parliament Head Meets Kurds in Turkey, Slams Minorities Policy.  The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, on a visit to Ankara, Turkey, this week, met not only with the president and prime minister but with a delegation from the Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.), an advocate for the Republic of Turkey’s marginalized and oppressed Kurdish minority.  A member of Schulz’s delegation called the meeting “very complete, very warm, very constructive.”  The B.D.P. delegation in the meeting included Leyla Zana, a Kurdish member of Turkey’s parliament who was given a 10-year prison term last week for what the state called voicing support for the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) (though she will not need to begin her sentence until she leaves office).  In comments afterward, on May 28th, Schulz insisted that if Turkey ever hopes to join the European Union it must “guarantee minorities all rights and duties of Turkish citizenship” and grant them “a safe and peaceful political space for them to express their views and legitimate demands as citizens without fear for their livelihoods, liberty, or life,” adding, “It is not enough to simply recognize their status as a minority.”  The next day, as Schulz received an honorary doctorate at Bilgi University in Istanbul, he went farther, advocating an autonomous Kurdish region.  He said his “humble advice” to Turkey was the creation of something “between a sovereign state and [a region] with a high degree of autonomy,” while retaining Turkey’s “territorial integrity.”  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus an article featuring a profile of Dashni Murad.)

P.K.K. Takes Credit for Suicide Bombing at Police Station; Other Battles Flare.  The banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) claimed responsibility on May 26th for the previous day’s suicide attack on a police station in Kayseri province, Turkey (reported in this blog last week), which killed one Turkish police officer and three militants, and injured 19 people.  Turkey’s minister of the interior, Idris Naim Şahin, said that information from suspects rounded up since the attack proves that the bombing was organized by people entering Turkey from Syria.  Meanwhile, the next day it was reported that one Turkish soldier had died in a battle with P.K.K. fighters in Sirnak province, and on May 28th Turkish authorities swept up 28 suspects in a three-province operation against the Kurdistan Communities Union (K.C.K.).  On June 1st, authorities reported that P.K.K. fighters were probably responsible for torching vehicles being used on a road project near a police outpost in Tunceli province.  Several workers from the road crew were missing; whether they fled or were kidnapped was as yet unknown.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus an article featuring a profile of Dashni Murad.)


730 of Hussein’s Iraqi Kurdish Victims Given Proper Burial at Last.  The bodies of 730 Iraqi Kurds murdered during President Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaign against the ethnic group in 1988 were returned to Sulaimaniyah, in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on May 28th, where they were to be properly buried.  The bodies were discovered in a mass grave in the desert of southern Iraq last year.  It is not clear whether some were executed before burial or buried alive.  An estimated 180,000 Kurds were killed in the genocide.  The Iraqi central government did not send a delegate to the repatriation ceremonies.  (See my blog article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)

Iraqi Shiite Councilman from Basra Calls for Federal “Southern Province.”  The head of the provincial council in Basra (a.k.a. Al-Basrah)—the southeasternmost of the Republic of Iraq’s 18 constituent governorates, its only coastal governorate, and the center of the country’s Shiite Arab community—called this week for other southern governorates to unite and form one large “Southern Province” in case Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s increasingly authoritarian prime minister, who comes from the Shiite Arab majority in Iraq, receives a no-confidence vote in Parliament.  The council head, Sabah Albazzouni, told the Al-Hayat newspaper that if he could not convince other governorates to go along with them, he would attempt to unilaterally upgrade Basra from a governorate to a federal province.  This is the most concrete call yet for something approaching a partition of the Arab portions of Iraq into Sunni and Shiite areas.  The predominantly Sunni (and non-Arab) Kurdish people in the far north already have their own autonomous regional government, which rejects most attempts by Maliki’s government to impose rule there.  (See my blog article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)

Iraqi Arab Shiites’ envisioned Southern Province

11 Killed as Yemeni Military Tries to Retake al-Qaeda’s “Emirate of Waqar” Enclave.  Eight al-Qaeda warriors and two Yemeni army fighters were killed over May 28th and 29th in and around Jaar, a port city in southern Yemen where al-Qaeda has set up an enclave it operates as a self-governing so-called Emirate of Waqar.  A resident told reporters by telephone that recent air strikes by the government had destroyed nine houses, killed one resident, and injured three.  “Jaar is a ghost town,” the refugee said, “without electricity, water, and telephones, and not even one shop is open.”  An escaped resident reported that Saudi Arabians, Somalis, and “Asians” were fighting alongside Yemenis from al-Qaeda to defend the self-proclaimed emirate.  Jaar is in Abyan province, which before 1990 was part of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, a.k.a. South Yemen, a separate state which some would like to see restored.  Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claims that about 10% of Yemeni territory is in the control of Islamists.  (See my article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Israel Repatriates Bodies of 91 Dead Palestinian Terrorists.  As a good-will gesture negotiated earlier this month, the government of Israel transferred the bodies of 91 Palestinian terrorists to the Palestinian National Authority for burial on May 31st—80 to the West Bank and 11 to the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip.  The move came under criticism from terror-victims associations and other groups in Israel.

2 Killed in Gaza Border Clash.  After weeks of calm, the Israeli army reported that on June 1st a member of the Israeli Defense Forces and a Palestinian civilian were killed in a small border clash where the Gaza Strip meets Israel.  The army said that a Palestinian cut through a border fence and began shooting at Israeli soldiers.  The two were killed in the exchange of gunfire that ensued.  Also, sources within Gaza say that an Israeli air strike injured several seriously when it hit militants on a motorcycle.  Tank shells were also fired into Gaza from Israel.

U.N. Condemns Ongoing Israeli Blockade of Gaza Strip.  The commissioner general of the United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees told media May 29th that Israel’s government has been dragging its feet on lifting its blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by the terrorist Hamas movement since 2007.  Exports from Gaza are still banned, which the commissioner, Filippo Grandi, says has “completely obliterated” the Gazan economy.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)


Nepal Plunges into Constitutional Crisis over Question of Regional Devolution.  The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal may not end up being so federal, and that is the gist of its latest political crisis, which reached a crescendo at midnight May 27th as the deadline passed for agreeing on a new constitution, meaning that the Constituent Assembly was dissolved with no new legislature and the Maoist president, Baburam Bhattarai, calling new elections for November 22nd.  Nepal—which ceased being a kingdom in 2006 when the monarchy was overthrown by a Maoist junta that put an elected legislature in place only under United Nations pressure—is currently divided between those who would like more power devolved to ethnically defined regions and those nostalgic for a nationalist, class-based society united under a monarch.  In particular (as reported earlier in this blog), the Maithili-speakers of the Terai wetlands along the border with India, who are more culturally Indian, have waged a sometimes violent struggle to establish an autonomous region to be called Madhesh Terai.

Nepal’s president, Baburam Bhattarai

Hindu Nationalists Ready to Talk to Kashmiri Rebels.  The Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.), India’s extremist Hindu nationalist party and the main opposition party, said May 29th that it was ready to sit down and talk with the Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of organizations pushing for Kashmir to secede from India.  A B.J.P. senior spokesman, Rajnath Singh, told the media, “The doors of B.J.P.’s study group are open for people of all spheres of the state, including the separatist leaders.  We have no objection to talk with separatist leaders.”  Meanwhile, on May 30th, seven Indian police were injured in a drive-by shooting in Srinagar, for which no group has yet taken responsbility.

Assamese Defy Rebel-Declared Lockdown to Welcome Sonia Gandhi.  More than 10,000 residents of India’s far-eastern state of Assam ignored calls (reported last week in this blog) by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for a general strike and general shutdown of the entire state on May 26th to protest the visit by Sonia Gandhi, head of the Indian National Congress Party.  Gandhi—the Italian-born widow of the prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by Tamil separatists in 1991—was visiting Assam’s capital, Guwahati, Assam’s largest city, to celebrate the completion of the first year in office of Assam’s Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi of the Congress Party.

Bangladeshis Force Tripura Separatists to Free 3 Kidnapped Indian Farmers.  Police in Agartala, the capital of India’s state of Tripura, said May 30th that Bangladesh’s security forces, just over the border, had forced the banned separatist National Liberation Front of Tripura (N.L.F.T.) to release three slash-and-burn farmers kidnapped 23 days earlier (as reported in this blog) and whisked across the border into Bangladesh.  Some early reports said four farmers were kidnapped; in fact, one escaped before the party reached Bangladesh.

Exiled Separatist Warns NATO Not to Route Afghanistan Supplies through Balochistan.  The leader of the separatist Baloch Republican Party (B.R.P.), said from his exile in Switzerland this week that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s routing of supplies for the Afghanistan War through Pakistan’s Balochistan province was not acceptable, though he lamented that Baloch independence is a cause without international support.  The leader, Brahamdagh Bugti, is the grandson of Nawab Akbar Shahbaz Khan Bugti, the former governor of Balochistan who became a rebel and was killed in 2006 when his cave hideout was bombed and demolished by the Pakistani military.  (See my article listing Balochistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Brahamdagh Bugti

Moderate Mohajir Leader in Pakistan Rejects Separatism.  The chairman of Pakistan’s dissident Mohajir Qaumi Movement, Afaq Ahmed, took a moderate line in a media interview May 26th, saying that Pakistan should reject the movement by the more radical Mohajir Sooba Tehreek militia in Sindh state to form a separate state within Pakistan and should work to control violence, especially in Karachi, Sindh’s capital.  He said that such an approach would also calm down the separatist movement in the neighboring state of Balochistan.  His comments came in the wake of a recent ambush of a bus by Sindhi separatists (as reported last week in this blog) and a Sindhi nationalist rally which invited live fire from riot police.  Mohajirs are Muslim migrants from what is now India and their descendants, who together make up a fifth of Sindh’s population but tend to speak Urdu rather than Sindhi.


Beijing Seals Off Tibet, Arrests Hundreds after 2 Self-Immolations in Lhasa.  Reports filtering out from the People’s Republic of China’s so-called Tibet Autonomous Region are of protests and mass arrests, with the region sealed off, after two men set themselves on fire in front of a Buddhist temple in Lhasa, the capital, on May 27th, to protest Chinese rule.  One of the men died of his wounds; both were taken to the hospital.  The choice of setting is new: the autonomous region itself had already been extremely heavily policed since a 2008 uprising, so most of the recent self-immolations have been in Tibetan-dominated areas in neighboring Chinese provinces, and these self-immolations are the first in Lhasa itself.  There have at least 37 Tibetan self-immolations in China since March 2011.  Reportedly, about 600 activists in Tibet have been arrested in recent days.  Meanwhile, exile groups say that they have learned that Tsering Gyaltsen, age 40, a Tibetan monk from Sichuan province was arrested in January in an anti-government protest, has died from injuries sustained in his beating by police.  (See my recent blog article about Tibet.)

China Asks Pakistan to Root Out Uyghur Terror Camps in Mountains.  The foreign minister for the People’s Republic of China, Yang Jiechi, visited Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, this week and asked President Asif Ali Zardari to help China suppress separatism among the primarily Muslim and Turkic-speaking Uyghur people of China’s vast, western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (which is actually not at all autonomous).  China believes that militants from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement—designated by the United Nations and the United States as a terrorist organization—use training camps across the border in the mountains of Pakistan.

The flag of East Turkestan

Kurd Denied Refugee Status in Japan Faces Arrest, Torture in Turkey.  A 42-year-old Kurdish man living in Japan—who stayed even as his wife and four children fled home to Turkey last year to avoid radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown—is seeking asylum in Japan on humanitarian grounds, it was reported May 26th, after having exhausted all of his options through the normal immigration and refugee procedures.  The man, whose name is being withheld from media, told a newspaper that he cannot return to Turkey himself because of persecution for alleged ties to the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.).  “I can’t go back to Turkey, where they tortured me,” he said.  “they kicked us out of our home and village, burning down houses and buildings.”  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus an article listing Kurdistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)


Indonesian Police, Soldiers Raid Papuan Separatist H.Q. in Forest.  In a remote forest area of the Angkaisera district of Indonesia’s far-eastern state of Papua, military and police arrested two separatists May 29th in a raid on the headquarters of the Free Papua Organization (O.P.M.).  Among materials confiscated, according to police, were weapons such as firearms and spears and a separatist “Morning Star flag,” which is banned in Indonesia. See my blog article listing West Papua as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

South Australia to Recognize Aborigines in Constitution.  As part of National Reconciliation Week, South Australia is set to join three other Australian states to affirm Australia’s Aborigines as the first Australians in its constitution.  The change was announced by South Australia’s premier, Jay Weatherill.  The other states which have such clauses in their constitutions are New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.  There are also proposals to put similar language in the national constitution.


A.C.L.U. Decries F.B.I. Panic over “Black Separatists.”  In the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) is reacting concern to internal documentation from the Atlanta, Georgia, branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), newly made public through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), alerting agents to the threat of “Black separatist” groups (read the document here).  The A.C.L.U., in a blog post, points out that Black separatism, which flourished in the early 1970s with groups such as the Black Panthers, is today virtually non-existent.  The F.B.I. guidelines also concentrate to a disturbing extent on First Amendment–protected activities such as political speech, very broadly construed as somehow “Black separatist” in nature.

Starry-Eyed “Seasteaders” Convene in San Francisco, Plan Sovereign Floating Cities.  The Seasteading Institute is holding its annual conference in San Francisco, California (May 31st to June 2nd), to discuss evolving plans to build floating cities that lie outside government jurisdictions.  Front and center was a plan for a ship-based seastead called Blueseed off the coast of northern California, from which residents from all over the world, without needing visas, could commute by air or boat to day jobs in Silicon Valley.  The Blueseed project’s president, Dario Mutabdzija, said over 200 firms have shown interest in the project, which may be launched as early as 2013.  Another project in the works involves refurbishing a recently donated floating casino as an extrajudicial medical-tourism destination.  The Seasteading Institute was co-founded by Peter Thiel, the German-American co-founder and former C.E.O. of PayPal, and its Chairman of the Board is Patri Friedman, grandson of the Nobel-Prize-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman.

Artist’s rendering of the planned sovereign floating city of Blueseed

Brookline, Massachusetts, Votes to Secede from Norfolk County.  In Massachusetts, a town meeting of the Boston suburb of Brookline voted 115 to 81 on May 29th to break away from Norfolk County.  In the nineteenth century, the Norfolk County municipalities of Dorchester, Hyde Park, Roxbury, and West Roxbury seceded and joined the City of Boston, of which they are now constituent neighborhoods.  The authorized petition to the state, if successful, would make the secession effective on July 1, 2013, but would leave Brookline within the Norfolk County court system.

Gitanyow Chief Threatens Roadblock in Northern B.C.  The house-chief of a landed family in the Gitanyow First Nation, a group related to the Gitksan in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, is threatening to block a forestry road to protest the B.C. provincial government’s issuing logging contracts to Gitanyow territories without proper consultation.  The chief, Don Russell, who is Luuxhon of the House of Luuxhon, threatens to make the road—also a back-up road for the crucial Yellowhead Highway—impassable.  The Nisga’a Nation also asserts claims to the land in question.

Country Singer Charley Pride Adopted into Canadian Cree.  Coming on the heels of Johnny Depp’s adoption into the Comanche (as reported last week in this blog), the Mississippi-born African-American country-music singer Charley Pride became an honorary member of the Lac La Ronge First Nation, a Cree Indian community in Saskatchewan, Canada, on May 28th, when he performed a concert on the remote northern reserve.  The Chief Councillor of the community, Tammy Cook-Searson, says Pride, who is 74, was also given a Cree name, which means “Big Eagle,” because he arrived in Saskatchewan by airplane.

Charley Pride, now an honorary Cree


Abkhazian Delegation in Antigua, Lobbying for Diplomatic Recognition.  A delegation from the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia visited the mini-state of Antigua and Barbuda, in the Caribbean Sea’s Lesser Antilles island-chain, this week in search of diplomatic recognition.  Abkhazia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Dr. Irakli Khintba, met with Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister, Baldwin Spencer, in the capital, St. John’s.  The talks were apparently inconclusive.  Currently, Abkhazia—like its sister republic, South Ossetia—is recognized only by the Russian Federation, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.  The rest of the world regards the two territories as part of the Republic of Georgia.  Moscow claims it is coincidental that obscure mini-states that recognize the two republics tend to receive lucrative Russian development deals.  (See the top story above for a report on Serbia’s new openness to Abkhaz and South Ossetian recognition.)

Not-so-super-power summit: Antigua and Barbuda hosts a delegation from Abkhazia

[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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