Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Week in Separatist News, 10-16 June 2012: Sectarian Strife in Myanmar, Emirate of Waqar Falls, Savoyards Rise Up, Ottoman Empire Expands (on Paper at Least), Falklands Referendum—Plus All-New Sports Section!

Photo of the week:  This screenshot is from a newscast about the controversial poster that makes the painting of South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, with his junk hanging out seem almost respectful.  Amir Khadir, an Iranian-born member of Quebec’s National Assembly and spokesman for the far-left separatist party Québec Solidaire, is facing strong criticism after revelations that featured prominently in his home is this doctored version (shown on the left) of Eugène Delacroix’s 1830 French Revolutionary painting Liberty Leading the People (the original is on the right), with Khadir’s face superimposed on an infantryman and a corpse at his feet altered to look like Jean Charest, Quebec’s premier, who favors staying in Canada.  The poster, which is under glass atop Khadir’s breakfast table, was photographed last week as police raided the home to arrest the legislator’s 19-year-old daughter, Yalda Machouf Kadir, for coordinating some of the violent student demonstrations and reprisals, like ransacking of offices, that have pitted students, First Nations, and separatists against Charest and the police over recent weeks.  In the raid, officers also confiscated “anti-capitalist literature” (who knew that was a crime in Canada, eh?) and documents showing how to make (horrors!) paint bombs.  Me, I’m more worried about Liberty being represented by a guy in a banana suit carrying a black flag.  (See my blog article on Quebec’s language policies.)


One could argue over whether the rapidly reforming and democratizing junta that rules Burma as the United Republic of Myanmar is solving the problem of its separatist ethnic minorities as much as it claims, but it has clearly dropped the ball when it comes to the disenfranchised Muslim refugee community near Burma’s border with Bangladesh, where fighting between Buddhists and Muslims has now killed over 29 people, with a total of 50 killed in Buddhist–Muslim violence over the past two weeks.  Over the June 9-10 weekend, over 1,600 homes were burned and a state of emergency has been declared in Rakhine state, where the fighting is occurring.  The violence began last month as revenge attacks after a Buddhist was raped and murdered.  On June 3rd, 10 Muslim men were pulled off of a bus and executed by a mob, followed by a June 8th attack by Muslims on a Buddhist village, killing seven.  Many of the Muslims are members of the Rohingya (officially, in Myanmar, “Bengali”) ethnic group, who live in refugee camps, are forbidden from leaving Rakhine, and are denied all the benefits of Myanmar citizenship.  Not considered a legitimate indigenous minority, they nonetheless number perhaps as many as 800,000, making them one of the largest stateless peoples in the world.  In addition to 16 Rohingyas, the dead also included 13 members of the indigenous Muslim ethnic group, the Rakhines.  Nine Buddhist monasteries were burned to the ground along with seven mosques.  Over 30,000 are homeless.  (See my blog article on Burma’s ethnic minorities.)


Tuareg Leaders Soft-Pedal Independence with Ecowas, Reject Islamists.  A three-person delegation from the Tuareg-dominated National Movement of the Liberation of Azawad (known by its French acronym M.N.L.A.) met June 9th for the first time with a mediator from the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).  The delegation offered a significantly softened rhetoric regarding the Independent State of Azawad, which declared independence from the Republic of Mali two months ago.  The meeting was hosted by Ecowas’s designated mediator on Azawad, Blaise Compaoré, president of Burkina Faso, in his country’s capital, Ouagadougou.  One of the Azawadi delegates, Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, told Compaoré that independence from Mali might in fact only need to mean economic and cultural independence.  Assaleh also said that the M.N.L.A. opposed the presence of Islamist groups in Azawad, which suggests that the alliance between the M.N.L.A. and Ansar al-Dine—the al-Qaeda-affiliated militia which has been doing most of the governing in Azawad’s cities—may have finally come undone, as the fighting between the groups (reported last week in this blog) had indicated.  The M.N.L.A. also announced on June 10th the formation of a governing council for Azawad headed by a president, Bilal Ag Cherif, and vice president, Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, and responsible for defense, security, education, and foreign policy.  Meanwhile, M.N.L.A. and Ansar al-Dine forces exchanged gunfire briefly June 13th at a checkpoint in Timbuktu, injuring five.  The scuffle apparently resulted because the Islamists were demanding that the M.N.L.A. lay down their arms, since M.N.L.A. are not allowed to carry weapons under Ansar al-Dine rules.  There had earlier been an uprising against the Islamists in Kidal, in Azawad, on June 7th.  (See my blog article on Azawad’s declaration of independence, plus an article about Mali in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)

Darfuri Rebels Claim to Hold Territory in Eastern State.  The Justice and Equality Movement (J.E.M.), one of the two leading factions of anti-government rebels in the Republic of Sudan’s Darfur region, said June 9th that the previous day they had taken control of the region of Um Ajajah in East Darfur state.  Speaking by phone to a reporter, a J.E.M. spokesman, Gibril Adam Bilal, said his group had destroyed “a mobile contingent of government militias,” as well capturing 20 vehicles and rounding up prisoners of war.  He added that government forces were still bombarding the area.  But a Sudanese military spokesman disputed this account, saying, “What happened is that a force from the Justice and Equality Movement attacked the area and looted the possessions of the citizens.”  Meanwhile, one woman was killed in a government bombing attack on a North Darfur village, and United Nations and African Union authorities condemned an incident this week in North Darfur, when 30 militants from an unknown group carjacked an ambulance, leaving a pregnant woman on the roadside in the Drouk valley.
Logo of Sudan’s Justice and Equality Movement (J.E.M.)

War Rages in Blue Nile, Kordofan; American Publicizes Chilling Arson Video.  Amid ongoing fighting between the Republic of South Sudan and the country from which it split nearly a year ago with a lethally undefined border, the Republic of Sudan, horrific cellphone video footage has emerged showing Sudanese troops torching the southern, Nubian village of Umbartumbo last summer, just before South Sudan’s secession—turning the world’s attention again to this unending conflict.  The video was shown to media by Ryan Boyette from the United States, the husband of a Sudanese health worker.  Boyette and his wife live in South Kordofan state—where Umbartumbo is located—a part of Sudan whose residents wish to join the newly independent South Sudan and have come under devastating Sudanese government bombardment.  The clip was found on the cellphone of a dead Sudanese soldier, a member of the chillingly named Match Battalion, apparently an arson unit.  Meanwhile, Sudan’s minister of defense, Abdul-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, said June 8th that there was deadly skirmishing between Sudanese and South Sudanese forces “in Al-Meram and Bahral-Arab areas on the border between South Sudan and Sudan’s Darfur region”—referring to areas in Sudan’s South Kordofan and South Darfur states.  And on June 10th, a spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s northern branch (S.P.L.M.–N)—which Sudan claims is backed by South Sudan, which South Sudan denies—repelled Sudanese military advances in Blue Nile, a state which ended up on the northern side of the border but was never given its promised referendum on which state to join.  More than 100,000 Blue Nile residents have fled to South Sudan since independence.  Sudan’s military said the claims were false and there were no clashes in the region.  (See my blog article listing the ongoing conflict over South Sudan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

23 Killed as Libyan Rebel Militias Clash with Toubou Tribesmen in Cyrenaica.  There have been new clashes in Kufra, in the southern part of Libya’s Cyrenaica region, between former rebel groups loyal to the Transitional National Council (T.N.C.) in Tripoli and members of the Toubou ethnic minority.  Early on the morning of June 9th, the Libya Shield Brigade militia shelled the Toubou neighborhood in Kufra, killing at least five, wounding 10, and setting houses ablaze.  The Brigade said this was in response to a Toubou attack on a government checkpoint which wounded three militiamen.  Death tolls from all the fighting have been placed as high as 23.  By June 11th, a cease-fire had been declared, according to the Libyan army’s chief of staff, but by the next day the warring resumed, with fighters from Chad and female combatants also being reported.  (There was also intertribal warfare reported in Mizdah, in Tripolitania’s Nafusa Mountains, on the 12th, with 33 dead and 89 wounded.)  The Toubou were disenfranchised during Moammar al-Qaddafi’s regime—stripped of their citizenship and called Chadians.  Darker-skinned than the Libya’s Arabic-speaking majority, they claim they still face discrimination.  But some news sources say the new fighting is over control of smuggling routes.  (See my blog article about Cyrenaica’s declaration of autonomy.)

Libya’s ethnic groups, with the Toubou shown in green.

Unknown Gunmen Shoot Judge in Somaliland Corruption Trial.  A judge in a high-profile corruption case in the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland was shot—but only slightly injured—by four unknown assailants in the capital city, Hargeisa, early on the morning of June 11th.  The judge, Abdirashid Duraan, last week handed down prison terms to three government officials, one of them a former advisor to Somaliland’s president, Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo.  Duraan was shot as he left a mosque after morning prayers.  He was flown to a hospital in the nearby Republic of Djibouti but was declared in good condition with only an injury to one cheek.  Police say they have some leads on the identities of the attempted assassins.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Suicide Bomb in Nigeria Kills 3, Levels Church; Bomber’s Body Torn Apart by Mob.  A suicide-bombing at a church in Jos, in northern Nigeria, on June 10th killed three and injured 41.  Boko Haram, the Islamist terror group which would like to spread Islamic law (shari’a) from the Muslim north throughout Nigeria, is suspected.  Police said that no church members were among the dead.  The attackers could not gain entrance and so blew themselves up in the street outside, causing the building to collapse.  News of the attack prompted riots in Jus by young people angry about lack of police protection.  There are also reports that a mob ripped to pieces the corpses of one of the suicide-bombers.  (See my blog article listing northern Nigeria as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Aftermath of the church bombing in Jos, Nigeria


Basque Terror Group ETA Has Reportedly Disbanded for Good.  According to Segi, the banned youth group associated with the Basque separatist army ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, “Basque Homeland and Freedom”), ETA—and Segi along with it—has disbanded.  The announcement was made on June 15th in a pro-independence Basque newspaper.  In October 2011, ETA laid down its arms, but the governments of Spain and France, who rule the border-straddling Basque Country, have refused to negotiate with the organization since then.  (See my blog article listing the Basque warrior Idoia López Riaño, a.k.a. la Tigresa as one of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”)

Scottish Green Party Quits Independence Campaign, Feeling Shut Out.  The leader of the Scottish Green Party, Patrick Harvie, who represents Glasgow in the Scottish Parliament, announced June 10th that the Greens would be withdrawing from Yes Scotland, the inter-party campaigning group for Scotland’s secession from the United Kingdom in a planned 2014 referendum, saying that the coalition had become indistinguishable from the Scottish National Party (S.N.P.) itself.  The S.N.P. rules Scotland with a slim plurality of 47 out of 129 seats; the Greens have only 2.  “We can’t just be there to wave the flag for someone else’s campaign,” Harvie said.  “We don’t want to end up simply cheerleading for the S.N.P.,” adding, “We’re either involved in shaping it or we’re not.  ...  We have been knocking on the door and the door has not been opened.”  Now the only remaining ally of the S.N.P. in Yes Scotland is the Scottish Socialist Party (S.S.P.), which has no seats in Parliament and controls only one of Scotland’s 1,222 local government councils.  (See my blog article on legal aspects of Scottish secession, plus another article on possible economic implications.)

Savoyard Separatists Rally at Swiss Border, Demand Recognition by Geneva.  About 30 activists rallying for independence for the Savoy region blocked traffic and set up an encampment over the June 9-10 weekend at a border crossing between France and Switzerland.  Gathering on the French side of the border opposite Bardonnex, Switzerland, the separatists called for the Canton of Geneva (which they seem no longer to aim to make part of their reestablished state) to recognize Savoy as an independent state.  (Switzerland has one of the loosest federal systems in the world, and cantons have some control over military and foreign policy.)  Since the Middle Ages, the Duchy of Savoy was a major European power in what is now southeastern France and the francophone portion of Switzerland, with a capital at Turin (now in Italy) and even a Riviera coastline.  In 1714, the Wars of Spanish Succession placed the duchy under the Kingdom of Sicily (which later formed the basis of the united Kingdom of Italy).  Savoy only formally became part of France when Napoleon III took it over in 1858 in what Savoyard secessionists still decry bitterly as a secret deal.  The local culture and dialect in some ways share more with Geneva and Turin than with Paris.  In a 2000 poll, about a quarter of residents in the two French départements that make up France’s Savoy region wished to establish an independent state.  About half rejected independence but, along with a local party jauntily named La Région Savoie, j’y crois! (“The region of Savoy—I believe in it!”), seek a separate autonomous region within France.  (See my article on Umberto Bossi’s dreams of a “Greater Padania,” which discusses the Duchy of Savoy.)

Stomping for Savoy

Chechen President-in-Exile Wishes to Return Home from London.  The dapper and elegant Akhmed Zakayev, president of the politically and theologically moderate but unfortunately non-existent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, who has been living in exile in London since 2002, would like to return to his native Chechnya, according to a statement June 14th by the authoritarian Islamist president Ramzan Kadyrov, who runs the territory now as an appointee of the Russian Federation.  Kadyrov, who has at times been accused of trying to have Zakayev assassinated, said Zakayev had told him of his wishes over the phone.  But Kadyrov added that Zakayev has now become a creature of the United Kingdom’s intelligence agencies and perhaps could not be trusted to return.  In other news, a former diplomat for Zakayev’s predecessor as Chechnya’s first “president” of Chechnya, Dzhokhar Musayevich Dudayev, returned to Chechnya from exile this week and offered his apologies to Kadyrov for his role in the long bloody separatist struggle after the fall of Communism, and he publicly asked Zakayev to do the same.  The envoy, Khizri Aldamov, had been the self-declared Chechen Republic of Ichkeria’s ambassador to the Republic of Georgia during the Chechen wars.  (See my recent blog article profiling Zakayev as one of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”)

Adygean Parliament Cites Harassment of Circassian Migrants by Russian Security.  The Khase (parliament) of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Adygea, in the western North Caucasus region of Circassiavoiced outrage on June 7th about a crackdown by Russia’s Federal Security Service (F.S.B., formerly K.G.B.) on recently returned Circassians in southwestern Russia, which Circassians see as part of an official attempt to discourage further returnees.  Security-police harassment of law-abiding Circassians who immigrated from Turkey was cited.  Circassians, also known as Adyghe, are an ancient nationality spread thinly across three different republics in the Russian Federation and a diaspora cast worldwide by late-19th-century Czarist massacres that many call genocide.  Circassians are outnumbered by ethnic Russians in Adygea, but the Khase’s rules tilt the balance of power in their favor, which has been a source of interethnic tension.  The Kabardino-Balkar Republic, to the east, is the only modern political entity with a Circassian majority, but it is rocked by an Islamist insurgency that has spread westward from Chechnya and Dagestan (see next story).  The Adyghe Khase serves, symbolically, for many, as the voice of the Circassian people.

Flag of the Circassian people

Car Bomb in Kabardino-Balkaria Leaves Russian Agent Dead.  An agent for the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (F.S.B.), successor organization to the dreaded Soviet K.G.B., was killed by a bomb planted in his car on June 9th in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, a part of Russia in the traditionally Muslim-dominated Circassia region of the western North Caucasus.  First the agent was taken to a hospital and had his legs amputated as part of drastic efforts to save him, but he succumbed to his injuries.  Later that day in Kabardino-Balkaria, police were conducting a sweep in the wake of the bombing and defiance by suspected militants asked to produce their papers led to a shootout, in which one of the militants was killed and three police were wounded.  Two militants successfully fled that incident.  Circassia is a part of Russia included in a proposed independent Caucasus Emirate for which militant Islamist separatists are fighting throughout the north Caucasus.  Also in the North Caucasus, two policemen in the Russian Federation’s Republic of Dagestan, were shot by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting.  The incident occurred in the early morning hours of June 14th in Makhachkala, the Dagestani capital.  They were taken to the hospital with injuries.


2 Azeri Officers Killed by Landmine amid Shelling near Nagorno-Karabakh.  After a flare-up in border violence last week (as reported in this blog), after a four-year lull, two officers from the Republic of Azerbaijan’s military were injured June 11th by a landmine near the border with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.), a puppet state of the Republic of Armenia which Armenian and Russian forces carved out of Azerbaijan more than twenty years ago after the fall of Communism.  One of the officers lost his leg, and the other one an arm.  Azerbaijan’s ministry of defense claims that the explosion came amidst constant shelling from Armenian positions within the N.K.R.  (See my recent article on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and Asia Minor.)

Red Cross Checks In on Azeri P.O.W. in Armenia.  An Armenian delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) confirmed this week that it had visited an Azerbaijani prisoner of war held in Armenia.  He was given letters and in return gave letters to be given to his relatives.  The soldier, Mamedbahir Akhundzadeh, surrendered to Armenian authorities on January 23, 2012, at the border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Armenian puppet state carved out of Azerbaijan after the fall of Communism, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.  Akhundzadeh apparently says he does not want to return to Azerbaijan.  (See my recent article on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and Asia Minor.)

Turkey Cracks Down Harder on Kurdish Civic Group; 4 Mayors Now Arrested.  Security forces in the Republic of Turkey, as part of a new offensive against the Kurdistan Communities Union (K.C.K.), arrested 16 people on June 11th.  Meanwhile, supporters of Kurdish rights have begun protesting the June 7th arrest (reported last week in this blog) of Beki Kaya, the mayor of Van, a city in southeastern Turkey’s Kurdish region, along with nine others that included İhsan Güler—the mayor of Başkale—as well as two other mayors (district heads) and several other K.C.K. members.  All are being held on terrorism-related charges.  And on June 12th a court a court gave a member of Parliament, Aysel Tuğluk, who represents Diyarbakir, a 14-year prison term for speeches she made merely advocating that the government engage in dialogue with the militant separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.).  The government considers the K.C.K. to be the urban, civilian wing of the P.K.K., which is a banned organization.  Also on June 12th, a village guard was killed and a second injured by a landmine in Şırnak province amid a firefight with P.K.K. militants, and on June 14th four P.K.K. fighters near the border with Syria were killed by the Turkish military for refusing to surrender.  In positive news, the Turkish government this week shifted decades of policy by allowing the teaching of the previously banned Kurdish language as an elective in public schools.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article listing Kurdistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Turkey Charges Kurdish Illiterate Deaf-Mute with Terrorism for Possessing Half a Lemon.  A court in Adana in south-central Turkey has charged an impoverished, disabled Kurdish bazaar porter for supporting terrorism, citing as evidence against him that he had been found in possession of half a lemon.  The man, Mehmet Tahir Ilhan, from Mersan, is deaf, mute, and illiterate.  Lemons are sometimes used by demonstrators to ease the effects of tear gas.  Speaking through a sign-language interpreter, Ilhan denied the charges.  He faces up to 25 years in prison.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)

Foreign Ministry Tries Damage Control after School Map Shows Expansionist Turkey.  Well, maybe this isn’t quite what Turkey meant when it said it wanted to enter the European Union.  The Turkish ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria scrambled to hold an emergency meeting with Bulgaria’s foreign minister June 8th to reassure him that Ankara had no territorial claims on its northwestern neighbor, after images tumbled into Bulgarian media June 7th of a map from a compact disk accompanying a state-produced Istanbul textbook.  The map shows a significantly distended outline of “Türkiye,” including all of Bulgaria, all of the Republic of Armenia, and all of Cyprus—not just the recently-renamed (as reported in this blog) Cyprus Turkish Republic in the northern third of the island but the ethnic-Greek-dominated Republic of Cyprus as well.  Also shown as Turkish territory in the map are Crete, Thessalonika, and other parts of Greece; the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq; and a northern swath of Syria that goes far beyond its Kurdish areas.  Also colored Turkish is Batumi, capital of the Republic of Georgia’s extreme-southwestern Autonomous Republic of Adjara, populated by Georgian-speaking Muslims and once part of the Ottoman Empire.  The Georgian foreign ministry is looking into the matter, and Greek tempers will also have to be soothed, I imagine, but Iraqi Kurds are too busy trying to sign oil-pipeline deals with Turkey to want to make waves, while Syria’s relations with Turkey are at a low enough ebb that this probably won’t make a difference one way or the other.  (See my recent article on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and Asia Minor, plus another article on Turkish expansion into Syria.)

Nostalgia is one thing, but this is ridiculous—the offending map in Turkish educational materials

Georgia Mulls Restrictions on Russian Election Observers in Abkhazia, South Ossetia.  The Republic of Georgia’s parliament is hearing proposals this week that restrictions be imposed on observers from the Russian Federation entering the territory of the two de facto independent puppet states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which most of the world still regards as Georgian territory, during parliamentary elections in the two pseudostates this October.  The proposal would make recognition of Georgian sovereignty a condition for entry.  (See my article on last year’s disputed South Ossetian elections.)

Kazakhstan Cracks Down on Anthem-Mockers after Borat Snafu.  Anyone showing disrespect to the national flag or anthem in the Republic of Kazakhstan can now face penalties of a year in prison and a fine of the equivalent of $21,000 USD under new laws drafted in response to recent embarrassing incidents.  Most notably, in March (as reported in this blog at the time), as a Kazakh sharpshooter received her medal at a tournament in Kuwait, the event organizers broadcast over the loudspeakers not the Kazakh national anthem but the spoof Kazakh national anthem from Sacha Baron Cohen’s scurrilous 2006 mockumentary Borat: Cultural Learnings for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which features lines like, “Kazakhstan, greatest country in the world, / All other countries run by little girls,” and, “Kazakhstan, prostitutes cleanest in the region, / Except for Turkmenistan’s.”  (Watch the video of the medals ceremony here.)  Only a few days before that, at a skiing festival in northern Kazakhstan, Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca” had been played over the public-address system instead of the proper national anthem.  (Read my recent blog article for more information on Sacha Baron Cohen and the Kazakh sense of humor.)

Sacha Baron Cohen courts a prison term by seeming to mock the flag of Kazakhstan.


Kurdish Factions Battle for Control of Northern Syrian Towns and Villages.  Exile groups are reporting a new wave of clashes between different factions of the Kurdish opposition to Syria’s embattled Shiite Baathist regime in the ongoing civil war there.  Efrin, a Kurdish town in northeastern Syria, has been the site of fighting between supporters of the Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.) and backers of the Kurdish National Council (K.N.C.).  The P.Y.D. has reportedly put armed cordons around many villages and communities in Syria’s mountainous Kurdish north, by the border with Turkey, and the P.Y.D.’s Popular Protection Committees (P.P.C.) apparently surrounded the village of Basute last week and, amid much violence, arrested K.N.C. activists, some of whom have not been released.  The K.N.C. has been working to bring disparate Kurdish militias under one, anti-regime umbrella.  The P.Y.D., which is viewed as allied with the violent separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) in Turkey, claims it is merely protecting Kurdish civilians.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another on prospects for the partition of Syria.)

Uprising Divides Syria’s Shiite Minority—Raising Spectre of “Alawite State”?  The New York Times reported extensively this week on the conflicts within Syria’s community of Alawites, an antinomian, mystical sect of Shi’a Islam which makes up only 13% of the population but includes the embattled Baathist dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, who has murdered tens of thousands in his crackdown on an Arab Spring uprising over the past year.  The Times reports that many Alawites fear reprisals from the 74% Sunni majority in the country should the opposition succeed in overthrowing Assad, and the Assad regime has cracked down especially hard on the vanishingly few Alawite supporters of the opposition Syrian National Council and Free Syrian Army.  “There is much talk,” the Times states, “that if the government collapses, the Alawites might withdraw back into the mountains.  Others speculate that mass killings by [pro-Assad] Alawite militias are aimed at consolidating control in parts of the country that they could defend in a prolonged conflict with the Sunnis.”  Alawites were treated as a heretical minority by the Sunni-dominated Ottoman Empire.  After the empire was dismembered at the close of the First World War, France took over what is today Syria and Lebanon and in 1920 set aside an autonomous État des Alaouites (Alawite State) under a French mandate, but it was absorbed into the new Syrian state in 1936.  (See my blog article on prospects for the partition of Syria, which discusses an Alawite–Sunni split.)

Flag of the formerly quasi-independent Alawite State (now part of Syria)

Talabani Dooms No-Confidence Vote against Maliki as Fellow Kurds Dig In.  The president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, announced June 10th that the unpopular Shiite Arab prime minister of the country, Nouri al-Maliki (the prime-ministership is more powerful than the presidency in the Iraqi system), had survived an attempted no-confidence vote against him, despite rising momentum against the prime minister from both Arab and Kurdish Sunnis.  Talabani is Kurdish and a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (P.U.K.), and he had a month earlier participated in a summit in Arbil, the Kurdish regional capital (as reported in this blog), with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government’s president, Massoud Barzani—a conclave harshly critical of Maliki’s increasing authoritarianism.  But Talabani refused to sign on with this latest no-confidence vote.  His triangulation on the Kurdish question shows other apparent contradictions as well: the P.U.K. reported June 11th that Talabani has been negotiating with Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), to try to secure a cease-fire between it and the Turkish military, seeing it a security matter for northern Iraq as well.  The K.R.G. has been tilting toward Ankara in its foreign policy and away from Baghdad in recent months, which has meant further distancing itself from the P.K.K., which Turkey regards as a mortal threat to the Turkish nation.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)

Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, can’t quite decide whose side he’s on.

Yemen Military Retakes al-Qaeda’s “Emirate of Waqar” Enclave in Jaar.  The military of the Republic of Yemen reported that, in a surprise attack at dawn on June 12th, federal forces retook the southern city of Jaar, in Abyan province, from an al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (A.Q.A.P.) affiliate group called Ansar al-Shari’a, which had been running the enclave as a self-governing “Emirate of Waqar” since last year.  First, the city was hit by shelling from nearby hills.  Then Yemeni troops and tribal loyalists entered the city from three directions with trucks and tanks.  The defense ministry said 20 “terrorists” and four Yemeni troops were killed.  The road linking Jaar and Aden, the former capital of the formerly independent South Yemen, was also reopened.  Witnesses said the 500 or so A.Q.A.P. occupiers retreated from Jaar to another Qaeda stronghold, in Shaqra, leaving walls spraypainted with the message, “Al-Qaeda has withdrawn.  Al-Qaeda was not defeated.”  By the next day, Zinjibar, another al-Qaeda-held city, was also liberated.  Farther east, in Shabwah province, United States drone aircraft, backing the Yemeni government, killed 10 in attacks June 13th on al-Qaeda positions.  (See my article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

One last wave of the flag for old times’ sake: the Emirate of Waqar closes up shop.

Southern Secessionists Kill 2 Yemeni Soldiers in Drive-By Shooting.  Two soldiers from the Republic of Yemen’s military were killed June 10th by separatist militants in the Ad-Dali’ governorate (province).  Four militants, believed to belong to the Southern Movement, fired upon a military patrol in a drive-by shooting, killing two and abducting one of the injured.  They escaped without being identified.  Though in the south, Ad-Dali’ was not part of the independent South Yemen republic (known then as the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen) which existed until 1990 and which the Southern Movement would like to restore.  Later, on June 15th, in Aden, the former South Yemeni capital, five pro-independence protesters were injured when security forces broke up a hundreds-strong demonstration with tear gas and truncheons.  (See my article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Israel Condemned for Gaza Blockade, from Within and Without.  The Israeli government defied criticism from two directions this week over its illegal, years-long blockade of the minuscule Palestinian Authority enclave of the Gaza Strip, a policy which has sown suffering and death in its civilian population as punishment for being ruled by the terror group Hamas.  An internal, independent watchdog panel in Israel condemned on June 13th Israel’s extremist right-wing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, for brushing aside reason and restraint in ordering the deadly 2010 raid on a Turkish humanitarian vessel defying the blockade.  The next day, 50 humanitarian and international-aid organizations, some of them United Nations agencies, issued a joint statement that Israel lift the Gaza blockade, which violates international law and has been in place since Hamas won an election there in 2001.  The signatories include Amnesty International, the U.N.’s World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and High Commission for Human Rights, Oxfam, and Save the Children.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)


Police Round Up Kashmiri Protesters as State Shuts Down to Remember Martyrs.  In India, at least five Kashmiri activists were rounded up by police for leading protests the day after a mass shutdown on a sensitive anniversary.  Shops, schools, and business were shuttered June 11th in Srinagar, capital of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, as part of a statewide shutdown called by the separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani to mark the deaths of 210 “martyrs” killed during unrest in 2010.  Other towns were also shut down for what the separatist Hurriyat Conference calls Martyrs’ Remembrance Week.  Meanwhile, on June 13th, the Pakistani military shot and killed an Indian soldier across the “Line of Control” separating Pakistani- and Indian-ruled parts of Kashmir.  Each side blamed the other for provoking the incident.

New Talks Inconclusive on Himalayan Glacier Claimed by India and Pakistan.  Officials from India and Pakistan met in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on June 11th to discuss a possible end to a decades-old territorial dispute over the Siachen Glacier, but talks were inconclusive.  The glacier, near where territories controlled by India, Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of China meet, is sometimes called the world’s highest-altitude battlefield and is a rather absurd sideshow to the deadly war over Jammu and Kashmir which has simmered since British India was partitioned in 1947.  An avalanche on April 18th of this year that killed 140 Pakistani soldiers—there to defend an uninhabited scrap of land with essentially no economic value—prompted Pakistan’s highest-ranking military officer, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to call for the glacier’s demilitarization (as reported at the time in this blog).  In a joint statement the next day, the two countries’ defense ministers—Shashikant Sharama of India and Nargis Saithi of Pakistan) agreed to continue discussing the issue at a future date.  Meanwhile, the newspaper The Hindu revealed on June 9th that India and Pakistan came very close to coming to an agreement on the glacier during secret talks in New Delhi in 1992, but at the last moment the Indian defense minister, N. N. Vohra (now governor of Jammu and Kashmir), was instructed by his government not to sign.

Mizorami Police Round Up 2 Hmar Rebel Leaders after Cease-Fire Violations.  Police from Mizoram, a state in India’s ethnically diverse, separatism-torn far east, announced on June 13th the arrests three days earlier of two leaders from the militant Hmar People’s Convention–Democrats (H.P.C.–D).  They coordinated the arrests with police in the neighboring state of Assam.  Mizoram’s home minister, R. Lalzirliana, said that the H.P.C.–D had violated a high-profile cease-fire agreement signed with the federal government over the past few months, with activities such as arms build-up, extortion, and intimidation of village-election candidates.  Last month (as reported in this blog), local authorities in the region were on high alert because of intelligence about Hmar terror plots.


Beijing Orders Arrest of Disabled Tibetan Protest Singer.  In the latest in a string of crackdowns on nonviolent artists and peformers, authorities in the People’s Republic of China have ordered the arrest of a disabled Tibetan singer accused of spreading separatist propaganda, according to exile groups this week.  The singer, known simply as Phulchung, is from Anchok in Sichuan, a Chinese province near the “Tibet Autonomous Region” (misnamed because it is under direct Communist Party rule from Beijing) which has its own large Tibetan population and has been the site of recent anti-government unrest, including high-profile self-immolations.  Phulchung’s songs are not only about his physical disabilities but about the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan nation.  He is currently in hiding.


Accusations, Killing of Independence Leader Bring Rioting to Papua.  Local police and human-rights groups reported rioting, including the burning of cars and shops, in Indonesia’s far eastern Papua region June 14th after an independence activist was killed by police.  The activist, Mako Tabuni, was shot and killed while resisting arrest, according to Markus Haluk, a human-rights activist who spoke to media.  Tabuni had been campaigning for an investigation into a recent wave of violence that the government has been blaming on pro-independence rebels.  The the head of the country’s State Intelligence Agency (B.I.N.), Lt.-Gen. Marciano Norman, had said June 11th that the separatist Free Papua Movement (O.P.M.) was to blame for the recent wave of violent incidents, saying, “Surely they are members of O.P.M.  It is a new development that the political front in the city and the armed front that fights in the jungle are now combined.  So the group that fights in the jungle has moved to the city.”  The recent violence includes (as reported in this blog last week) a wave of drive-by shootings in Jayapura, the Papuan state capital; the earlier drive-by shooting of a German tourist last month; a series of brutal reprisals between government and rebels on Yapen Island; and, most recently, on June 10th, a dead body found just outside Jayapura’s Cenderawasih University.  (See my article listing Papua as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Mako Tabuni, the Papuan independence leader,
who was shot and killed by Indonesian police this week.

Inquest of Aboriginal Man Who Died in Police Custody Indicates Beating, Dragging.  In Alice Springs, in Australia’s vast Northern Territory, an inquest performed on an aboriginal man who died in police custody revealed June 13th that, after being arrested for drunkenness, he had been dragged to a police cell after receiving the head injuries that he sustained after his arrest.  The inquest into the death of the man, 27-year-old Kwementyaye Briscoe, on January 5th, is ongoing and includes witness interviews and security-camera footage.


British Columbia Halts Condo Project on Musqueam Burial Ground.  After initial resistance (as reported earlier in this blog), the provincial government in British Columbia, Canada, has ordered a halt to construction of a downtown Vancouver housing development project built atop a Musqueam burial ground which has been the focus of months of demonstrations and sit-ins by Musqueams, other indigenous groups, and their supporters.  The developers are now ordered to return a small portion of the disputed land, the part with the desecrated graves, to its “original condition.”  Musqueam spokespeople, who heard about the new order only through the media, say it is not enough, adding, “We need to protect the entire site.”

Supporters of the Musqueam protesting a housing complex in Vancouver

6-Month-Long Sit-In at Gitxsan Treaty Office in Northern B.C. Ends.  After six months, a sit-in at the Gitxsan Treaty Office, in Hazelton, in northern British Columbia, was resolved peacefully this week.  Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) were on hand to allow auditors from the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to take control of computer data, in an agreement brokered with Beverley Clifton Percival, the aboriginal nation’s chief treaty negotiator.  The occupation began when in December when Elmer Derrick, a Gitxsan, claiming to represent the nation’s hereditary chiefs, closed a deal allowing the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Project to plow through sovereign, unceded Gitxsan territory owned by hereditary chiefs. 

Chicago Cabbie Given 7 Years in Prison for Aiding Kashmiri Separatist.  A taxi driver in Chicago, Illinois, was given a 7-and-a-half-year federal prison term on June 8th for donating money to a Kashmiri separatist linked to the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.  The cabbie, Raja Lahrasib Khan, who is 58, came to the United States from the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir in the 1970s and became a U.S. citizen in 1988.  He met the separatist, Ilyas Kashmiri, in Pakistan in 2008 on a visit, gave him about $200, and donated another $300 the next year.  Kashmiri, who was killed last year, was not involved in any attacks on the U.S., and Khan said his only motivation was independence for Kashmir.  Khan said, “Chicago is my home.  I have made a good life here.  I have spent more time here than in my home country.  A couple of years back, I made a bad decision.”


Royal Dutch Shell Abandoning Biofuel Extraction from Indian Land in Brazil.  An indigenous tribe in Brazil, backed by the minority-rights group Survival International, succeeded this week in pressuring a Royal Dutch Shell biofuels subsidiary to abandon plans to harvest sugar cane from disputed lands.  The Guaraní tribe, the group in question, has faced increasing violence (as reported recently in the New York Times) over its land struggle.  The Shell subsidiary, Raizen, set up in cooperation with the Brazilian conglomerate Cosan, will now consult with tribal groups on future projects of this type.

Flag of the Guaraní people

Colombia Accuses Basques of Helping in FARC Car-Bomb Attack on Minister.  The Prosecutor General’s Office in the Republic of Colombia said on June 13th that Basque terrorists helped or trained the perpetrators of a May 15th car bombing that killed two people in an attack on a former cabinet minister, Fernando Londoño y Londoño.  The Prosecutor’s Office said that “different fronts of inquiry,” including analysis of the equipment used, point to the possible role of Euskadi Ta Askatusana (ETA, or “Basque Homeland and Freedom”), which fought for decades for independence from Spain and France until a cease-fire last year, of helping the Communist terror group known as FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in planning and coordinating the bombing.


Falklands Plan Referendum in 2013 on Political Future.  On June 12th, Gavin Short, chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands, a windswept South Atlantic archipelago which has been a part of the United Kingdom since it was first permanently settled but which came under an invasion, soon repelled, by an expansionist authoritarian Argentina in 1982, announced that the islands’ government plans to hold a referendum next year on its political future—mainly to prove to the international community that its 3,140 residents overwhelmingly wishes to remain British.  The U.K. has long promised that it would abide by whatever Falklanders wish, whether it be the status quo, cession to Argentina, condominium rule, or independence.  (See my blog article on the dispute over the Falklands, plus another article on the Falklands in the context of the United Nations’ decolonization program.)

U.K. Foreign Minister Turns Down Argentine Invitation; Churchill Turns in Grave.  The United Kingdom’s foreign minister, Jeremy Brown, has turned down an offer from his Argentine counterpart, Hector Timerman, to visit Argentina as part of his June 14th visit to the Falkland Islands, which Argentina failed to conquer from the U.K. in a 1982 war and which it still claims.  Timerman’s invitation on June 8th had quoted Winston Churchill’s statement, “You need courage to sit down and listen”—though, in reality, Timerman was essentially asking the U.K. to emulate Neville Chamberlain.  Brown replied that he had a full schedule and could not go to Buenos Aires, adding that sovereignty over the islands was not up for discussion.  (See my blog article on the dispute over the Falklands, plus another article on the Falklands in the context of the United Nations’ decolonization program.)

Waters Urges DNA Identification of Argentine Remains in Falklands; Penn Still Moron.  It was revealed this week that Roger Waters, the 68-year-old bassist from the British rock band Pink Floyd, who has long advocated the United Kingdom surrendering the Falkland Islands to the Argentine Republic, delivered a petition to Argentina’s president during a visit there this March urging that the remains of 123 Argentine soldiers in a Falklands cemetery be identified using DNA analysis.  He delivered the petition on behalf of a group representing Argentine soldiers’ families.  The president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, agreed readily to support the effort, calling it a question of “universal human rights.”  She has referred the matter to the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.).  In other Falklands celebrity-activism news, the American actor Sean Penn is still a moron and has not yet been fed to crocodiles, but watch this blog in case of any further developments on that front.  (See my blog article on the dispute over the Falklands, plus another article on the Falklands in the context of the United Nations’ decolonization program.)


Beijing Threatens Boycott of Yorkshire Eyesore City over Dalai Lama Visit.  For anyone who opposes the right of the Tibetan people to self-determination, one more entry has been added to the long list of reasons never to visit Leeds, the decaying industrial eyesore in YorkshireEngland.  The People’s Republic of China threatened this week to withdraw its Olympic athletes from a training camp in Leeds, as part of a general boycott of the city, in anger over a visit there last month by the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, who have been living under brutal Chinese rule since 1950.  Leeds’s Labour Party member of parliament, Fabian Hamilton, responded, “I find it distasteful, to say the least, that two representatives of a country whose human rights record is appalling, where freedom of speech is not allowed, and where there is no real democracy come to the city of Leeds and tell our elected officials that they can’t do what they think is best for the city under pain of economic sanction.”

Actually, air-quality-wise, you’d think Chinese athletes would feel right at home in Leeds.

Kurds Massacre Turkish Cypriots in World Cup for Unrecognized States.  The Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) defeated the Cyprus Turkish Republic (known colloquially as Northern Cyprus) 2-to-1 on June 9th to win the final game of the 5th Viva World Cup, a tournament for unrecognized states.  The tournament, held in the K.R.G.’s capital city of Arbil, Iraq, also included teams from ZanzibarDarfurOccitania, and Provence.  Northern Cyprus competed under the name Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as it was known until a name change this year (analyzed in a recent article in this blog), and the K.R.G. team played as simply Kurdistan, since the Kurdish regions in SyriaIran, and Turkey did not field teams.  Previous Viva tournaments have featured teams from Sápmi (Scandinavia’s Lapland region), Padania (northern Italy), Southern CameroonsGozo (the island in the Republic of Malta known for being the home of Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey), Arameans Suryoye (the team of the Syriac—a.k.a. Assyrian, a.k.a. Chaldean—diaspora from Turkey and Iran), Tibet, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic RepublicRaetia (the Rhaeto-Romanic-speaking region of the Alps, encompassing parts of Switzerland, Italy, and Austria), and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (i.e. Sicily plus the Neapolitan mainland).  The first Viva Cup was held in 2006 in Hyères les Palmiers, in France’s Occitania region, with Sápmi victorious.  Previous to that (as referred to in this blog), an exhibition FIFI (Federation of International Football Independents) “Wild Cup” tournament in 2006 in Hamburg, Germany, saw Northern Cyprus prevailing over second-place Zanzibar, third-place Gibraltar, and, in fourth place, the Republic of St. Pauli, a fictive micronation named for Hamburg’s red-light district.  (See my blog article listing Kurdistan and Padania as two of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012,” as well as a more recent article on Kosovo’s status.)

Seal of the 2012 VIVA World Cup tournament.

Football Body Calms Georgia’s Panic: No Abkhazia Team in Offing.  The Georgian Football Federation (G.F.F.) received reassurances from the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) on June 13th that, despite apparent plans, the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, a Russian Federation puppet state, which most of the world regards as part of the Republic of Georgia, has not yet applied for eligibility for an international football team.  In any case, FIFA pointed out in the letter to the G.F.F., Abkhazia’s situation is very different from that of Kosovo, which received FIFA clearance for its own international team earlier this month (as reported in this blog).

Padania and Kosovo Lead Rankings of Non-FIFA Teams.  Meanwhile, it was announced that the world rankings for football teams not in the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) were led by Padania, followed by Kosovo and Guadeloupe.  United Kingdom dependencies and regions punch far above their weight in those shadow rankings: Guernsey and Jersey are 10th and 11th, respectively, while the Isle of Man is 24th, and Anglesey (25th), Shetland (27th), and the Western Isles (32nd) also place highly.  (See my blog article on Umberto Bossi’s dreams of a Greater Padania, and another article on the future of the Shetland Islands in an independent Scotland.)

[You can read more about these and other separatist movements, from the well known to the bizarre and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]

1 comment:

  1. "Nostalgia is one thing, but this is ridiculous—the offending map in Turkish educational materials"

    I am 21 years old Turkish who educated in state schools but I have never seen something like this before. Please don't lie to your readers. this is what I've seen all my life.



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