Photo of the week: What is left of the “end of the world” door to the Sidi Yahya mosque in Timbuktu after Ansar al-Dine got through with it. Opposed to all forms of idolatry and to any structure built atop burials, the Islamists wanted to destroy the portal to disprove local superstitions that doing so would bring about the end of the world. But for those who treasure Timbuktu’s ancient architectural heritage, the end of the world is exactly what it is.
ISLAMISTS IN NORTHERN MALI LAY WASTE TO TIMBUKTU’S HERITAGE
Days after Unesco Heritage-Site Alert, Ansar al-Dine Demolishes Timbuktu Shrines. The government of the Republic of Mali appealed to the United Nations July 1st in the wake of reports that some of the legendary 333 Sufi saints’ tombs in Timbuktu, some dating to the 15th century, are being demolished by the Islamist militias that last week (as reported in this blog) seized control of Mali’s northern cities from the secular Tuareg separatists who had declared an Independent State of Azawad there in April. The shrines only days earlier had been placed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) on a list of seriously endangered Unesco World Heritage Sites. Sufism, a mystical strain of Islam, is regarded as a heretical movement and its shrines idolatrous by groups such as Azawad’s ruling Ansar al-Dine militia, which is affiliated with the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.). A local Malian journalist reported early in the week that Ansar al-Dine “have already completely destroyed the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar and two others. They said they would continue all day and destroy all 16. They are armed and have surrounded the sites with pick-up trucks. The population is just looking on helplessly.” By July 2nd, seven saints’ tombs had been destroyed—including those of Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi Moctar, and Alpha Moya—and the sacred portal to one of Timbuktu’s three mosques, the Sidi Yahya mosque, built ca. 1400 A.D., had been destroyed. A resident reported, “Some said that the day this door is opened it will be the end of the world and they wanted to show that it is not the end of the world.” An Ansar al-Dine spokesman said, “Ansar al-Dine will today destroy every mausoleum in the city. All of them, without exception,” adding, “God is unique. All of this is haram [forbidden]. We are all Muslims. Unesco is what?” In St. Petersburg, Russia, Mali’s minister of culture and tourism, Fadima Touré, said to Unesco, “Mali exhorts the U.N. to take concrete steps to stop these crimes against the cultural heritage of my people,” adding, “God help Mali.” Fatou Bensouda, an International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) prosecutor in Dakar, Senegal, said of the demolitions, “This is a war crime which my office has authority to fully investigate,” citing Article 8 of the Rome Statute (to which Mali—though not of course Azawad—is a signatory), which defines deliberate attacks on undefended civilian structures as war crimes. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.), the secular Tuareg separatist movement whose governing coalition in Azawad with Ansar al-Dine has fallen apart over the past few weeks, condemned the demolitions and implicated terrorist groups from elsewhere in the takeover of Azawad’s towns, saying, “We call on the U.S.A., France, and all other countries who want to stand against Ansar Dine, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda who are now holding Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal to help us kill them and help the people in those cities.” (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 and another article featuring a profile of the Casamance rebel Aline Sittoe Diatta.)
The Sidi Yahya mosque in its former glory.
Boko Haram Strife Drags On as New Security Minister Tours Nigeria’s North. President Goodluck Jonathan’s new national security advisor, Col. Sambo Dasuki, visited Yobe and Borno states in Nigeria’s north this week as part of a drive to find leaders of the Islamist militia Boko Haram to negotiate with in order to end the ongoing anti-Christian terrorism and sectarian strife. On July 4th, he said that contacts were being made with the right people, adding, “I have their phone numbers.” Meanwhile, three suspected Boko Haram members were killed June 30th by security forces in Damaturu, in Nigeria’s northern, predominantly-Muslim Yobe State. Meanwhile, more details emerged early this week about the June 29th attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on a police station in Adamawa State (as reported in this blog). Reports now say that five police were killed in the attack, which was in the town of Gulak, and that arms and ammunition were stolen and the station set on fire before the 30 or so assailants escaped. They also robbed two banks on their way out of town. On July 2nd, nine construction workers working on a mosque in Maiduguri, in Borno State in the far northeast, had their throats slashed in a Boko Haram–style killing. On July 3rd, one bomb went off near a shopping mall in Abuja and a second was defused by a bomb squad. There were no injuries. On the morning of July 4th, unidentified gunmen attacked a housing corporation office in Maiduguri, in Borno State, killing two. Also on July 2nd, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, head of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), a separatist group representing the Igbo nationality in southeastern Nigeria, told the press that over 200 Igbos were among Boko Haram’s victims over the last two months in Kano and Kaduna states alone. Uwazuruike said the National Youth Service Corps should stop posting young Igbos to the north, where they are vulnerable to sectarian attack. Meanwhile, an International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) chief prosecutor, Fatou Ben Sounda of the Republic of the Gambia, met with Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, in Abuja on July 3rd and declared that the I.C.C. is exploring ways to take judicial action against Boko Haram for crimes against humanity. (See last week’s special report in this blog on the Boko Haram insurgency, as well as my blog article listing northern Nigeria as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012,” an article on the legacy of Nigeria’s Odumegwu Ojukwu, founder of the failed Republic of Biafra, and an article discussing Nigeria in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)
Christmas Day Bombing Suspect Captured, Hospitalized in Abuja. News media on July 1st reported that Kabiru Sokoto, the prime suspect in last year’s Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church near Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, was brought unconscious to an Abuja hospital by members of Nigeria’s military. After initially escaping police custody in February, he was arrested again in Jalingo, capital of Taraba State, in east-central Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon. Sokoto is considered to be the jihadist terrorist militia Boko Haram’s district commander for the Nigerian state that bears his name, Sokoto State, in Nigeria’s northwest, seat of the pre-colonial Sokoto Caliphate, which was defeated by the British Empire in 1903. Security was high at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (AUTH), though hospital spokesmen denied any knowledge of Sokoto being there. Later in the day, a patient was moved from the hospital, and there was speculation that this was Sokoto, being taken to an undisclosed location. (See last week’s special report in this blog on the Boko Haram insurgency, as well as my blog article listing northern Nigeria as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012” and an article discussing Nigeria in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)
Totally busted: Kabiru Sokoto
Mapping Somalia’s political geography is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall, but here was the situation a few weeks ago. “Azania,” at bottom, is the same as Jubaland, though it’s not clear how much of the south is controlled by pro-T.F.G. forces and how much by al-Shabaab (“Islamic Emirate of Somalia” on this map). (Also, up north, Khaatumo (a.k.a. Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn State probably controls much less territory than is pictured.)
Prosecutor, Deputy Police Chief Assassinated in Puntland. Two prominent public figures were assassinated in as many days in the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia this week. First, a Somali regional court prosecutor, Bashir Abdi Garas, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen June 29th. That killing was in Galkayo, which is nominally the capital of the Republic of Somalia’s Mudug region, north of the capital, Mogadishu, but which is in reality divided between a northern half of the city, controlled by Puntland, and the southern half, which serves as capital of the self-governing Galmudug State. Garas was on his way from the mosque to his home in the northern, Puntland-controlled half of the city when he was gunned down. Both the Puntland and Mudug (Somalia) governments are launching investigations. Then, on July 2nd, Puntland’s deputy chief of police, Abdullahi Salah Nadalo, was gunned down and killed in Garowe, Puntland’s capital, by unknown assailants. Nadalo had been a key figure in the pursuit of sea pirates that who many believe have allies in Puntland’s government. (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)
Puntland Parliament Urges President to Quit over His Scorn for Somaliland Talks. Legislators in the fully self-governing but anti-secessionist Puntland State of Somalia unanimously condemned their president, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, for his criticism of the June 28th “Reconciliation Declaration” made in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, between the presidents of the secessionist and de facto independent Republic of Somaliland the Republic of Somalia’s dysfunctional but internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) (the declaration was reported on last week in this blog). Farole condemned that, and an earlier Somalia–Somaliland summit near London, England, a week before that (also reported on in this blog), imputing purely selfish, political motives to the participants and refusing to honor any agreements made by them without Puntland’s participation. In response, Puntland’s parliament criticized Farole for spending too much time abroad, for allowing conflicts in Puntland territory (with Khaatumo State secessionists, with Somaliland forces, and with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia al-Shabaab), and for haphazardly selling off Puntland’s resources to foreign corporations, and called for his resignation. (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)
Cyrenaican Autonomy Supporters Trash Benghazi Election Office. In Benghazi, capital of the once-independent Emirate of Cyrenaica and the cradle of last year’s uprising against the Libyan dictator Moammar al-Qaddafi, protestors supporting autonomy for Cyrenaica in post-Qaddafi Libya ransacked the local election authority’s headquarters, it was reported July 2nd. The Barqa Council, also called the Council of the People of Cyrenaica, is demanding a greater share of parliamentary seats for the region in the upcoming July 7th elections. (See my blog article on Cyrenaica’s declaration of autonomy.)
Flag of the formerly independent Emirate of Cyrenaica
47 Dead in 3 Days of Toubou Warfare in Southern Libya. In Kufra, in the southern part of Libya’s Cyrenaica region, 47 people were killed in three days of fighting and over 100 wounded (about half of the wounded being women and children), according to reports that emerged July 1st. The warfare is between members of the non-Arab Toubou ethnic group, who had been disenfranchised during the late Moammar al-Qaddafi’s dictatorship, and Arab Bedouins of the Zuwayya tribe. The new fighting has been raging since June 27th, but the latest round of conflict dates to February, when the two groups launched a cycle of violence focusing on blood feuds and the control of smuggling routes. The Toubou have also been recently fighting with the Libya Shield brigade—a former anti-Qaddafi militia that has been rather uneasily folded into the post-revolutionary national military—but the Shield is endeavoring not to take sides in the Toubou–Zuwayya strife.
Senegalese Troops Skirmish with Casamance Separatists. Government forces in the Republic of Senegal’s southern Casamance region came under attack July 5th from fighters from the Democratic Forces of Casamance, who would like to form a separate state. The rebels used rocket-propelled grenades in their attack on an army encampment near the village of Emaye. Several rebels were killed and two Senegalese soldiers injured. (See my blog article discussing Casamance in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)
Bill on Status of Russian Reignites Turmoil in Ukraine’s Streets, Parliament. Violence broke out again in Ukraine over the status of the Russian language, as the passage on July 3rd of a bill which enhanced the role of Russian led to the resignations of the parliament’s speaker and deputy speaker, the launching of a hunger strike by seven opposition legislators, and, over the next two days, demonstrations in Kiev, the capital, which brought out riot police and tear-gas. The law, which now needs only the signature of President Viktor Yanukovich, will make Russian an official “regional language” in areas where Russian is the mother tongue of at least 10% of the population. This means not only the Crimean peninsula (formerly part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) and the eastern lowlands near the Russian steppes, but also Kiev, where many ethnic Russians—and Russian-speaking members of other nationalities—live. This means about half the country: 13 out of Ukraine’s 27 constituent units (24 oblasts and two oblast-level municipalities, plus the Autonomous Republic of Crimea). Many Russian ultranationalists would like to see Crimea and other areas annexed, and, during the period of the 2008 South Ossetia War, Ukrainians accused the Russian Federation of covertly stoking separatist uprisings in Crimea and in the former Czechoslovakian province of Transcarpathia, now part of Ukraine. Yanukovich convened talks with the resigned speaker and deputy and aired the possibility of early elections to heal political divisions in the Rada (parliament). In May, a debate on the language bill led to fistfights and a full-blown riot among lawmakers on the floor of parliament (reported on in this blog at the time and captured in a remarkable video). (See my blog article on a similar language-policy proposal in Latvia.)
Riots in Kiev over the Russian language
Map of Kosovo showing the Serb-dominated districts that form “North Kosovo.”
Maroni, Defiant, Elected to Succeed Bossi at Helm of Lega Nord. In Italy, the Northern League for the Independence of Padania, or Lega Nord for short, declared Roberto Maroni successor to the disgraced founder Umberto Bossi as chairman of the party. Maroni was Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s minister of the interior when the League was junior partner in the coalition government which collapsed late last year under the weight of the European financial crisis. Speaking to a rally of 8,000 in Milan, Maroni said, “We have gone through some difficult moments and it will not be easy to win back the support of those who are no more voting for us because they say we are like every other party.” Milan is capital of the region of Lombardy, which the League would like to be part of an independent country called Padania to be created out of the northern half of Italy. Referring to southern Italians, Maroni said that northern Italy “has its own Greece that has strangled us, that we have always helped out. It’s time to say enough is enough.” He also suggested Italy drop the euro and promised to clean up corruption in the League, which is the largest opposition party in the Italian parliament. (See my blog article on Umberto Bossi’s dreams for a “Greater Padania” and another article listing Bossi’s son Renzo Bossi as one of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”)
Roberto Maroni, Italy’s new opposition leader, looking a bit like Elton John in my opinion
Liechtenstein Retains Royal Veto in Referendum, Avoids Prince Regent’s Self-Exile. In a popular election, 76% of voters in the Principality of Liechtenstein, one of the world’s smallest sovereign states, voted to retain the veto powers of the microstate’s ruling prince, thus keeping Liechtenstein, among European monarchies, the one with the most political power reserved to the crown. The constitutional debate arose last year, when Prince Alois, eldest son and heir to the current prince sovereign, Hans-Adam II, vetoed a bill which would have decriminalized abortion. (As prince regent, Alois executes the political functions of the principality, while his father is mere titular head of state.) Alois, a devout Catholic, threatened to move himself and his family out of Liechtenstein if the vote had gone the other way. Sigvard Wohlwend, spokesman for the anti-veto campaign, said after this week’s referendum, “With these threats to leave, he [Alois] can influence many people. It is surprising how deep these fears run. It’s like Daddy threatening to abandon a misbehaving child. If the prince came out tomorrow and said the sky is pink, I believe 15 to 20 percent of the population would agree with him.” A 61-square-mile wedge of land on the Rhine between Switzerland and Austria, with a population just over 30,000, Liechtenstein is the sixth-smallest country in the world and the second-smallest sovereign monarchy, with only Monaco, another principality, being smaller. (Tuvalu, in the South Pacific, which is also smaller than Liechtenstein, is a monarchy too but not a sovereign one, since as a Commonwealth realm it has Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.)
Prince Alois greets his supporters
BITS OF ASIA THAT LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE
Russian Border Agent Wounded in Gun Battle with Abkhazians. Word leaked out this week of a brief violent incident along the border between the Russian Federation and the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia (which most of the world regards as part of the Republic of Georgia). One Russian border officer was wounded when a gunfight erupted with Abkhazian hunters. The hunters escaped without arrest. No further information was available, but much of the border has never been clearly demarcated.
Erdoğan Meets with Convicted Kurdish Parliamentarian. The prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, met June 30th with Leyla Zana, a Kurdish member of Turkey’s parliament who was sentenced in May (as reported in this blog) to 10 years in prison for making supposedly pro-separatist speeches. Zana had last month (as reported in this blog) said that she believed that Erdoğan was the first Turkish leader with the resolve and ability to end the decades-old civil war in Turkey’s Kurdistan region. No information was made available about the content of their discussion, but Mehmet Öcalan, the brother of the imprisoned Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Öcalan, said, “The Prime Minister can solve the problem if he wishes. ... If one can stop the deaths, his or her name will be remembered eternally.” (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.”)
Ankara Denies Öcalan Moved from İmralı Prison. The Republic of Turkey’s Minister of Justice is denying reports in the press that Abdullah Öcalan, the founder and hero the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) has been transferred from the notorious İmralı island prison (made famous in the book and film Midnight Express). The national intelligence service also denied the rumors. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)
Abdullah Öcalan’s perp walk
Turkish Cypriot President Says Israel Training Kurds in Southern Cyprus. The Cyprus Turkish Republic (C.T.R.), until this year known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, accused the Republic of Cyprus this week of training members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), the Marxist militia which has for decades been fighting for separation of the Kurdistan region from the Republic of Turkey. The C.T.R.’s president, Derviş Eroğlu, said in a television interview that Israel’s government is using southern Cyprus as a training ground for 3,000 P.K.K. soldiers, and that 15,000 such fighters have received trainining there in the past and then been dispatched to northern Iraq, where Kurds have an autonomous region, and to Turkey. He said the European Union (E.U.) was turning a blind eye to the training camps. The Republic of Cyprus, an E.U. member state, is regarded by the international community, except for Turkey, as the legitimate government of the entire island of Cyprus, but the northern third of the island has been governed by the C.T.R., a Turkish puppet state, since a 1974 Turkish invasion. (See my recent blog article on the semantics of the Cyprus conflict.)
Turkish Air Force Bombs Suspected P.K.K. Rebels in Northern Iraq. The Turkish air force, it was announced July 2nd, bombarded, in the last week of June, three positions in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region which it claims were harboring members of Turkey’s banned separatist militia, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.). The targets were at Kandil and Zap. The Turkish military said that 25 P.K.K. members were killed in the June 24th attacks and 23 wounded. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)
First Miss Kurdistan Crowned in Capital of Autonomous Region in Iraq. In Arbil, seat of Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.), Shene Zaiz Ako, aged 18, was crowned the first ever “Miss Kurdistan” in a televised ceremony on June 29th. All 12 contestants were Iraqi Kurds, including some from the diaspora. An organizer of the event told reporters, “We organized the festival in a way that suits Kurdish traditions and habits. You will not see the bathing suits but you will see sports clothes and decent evening dress.” However, another contestant, Delene Hafza Missouri (sic!), an English teacher from Arbil, was disappointed in the superficiality of the event, saying, “I’m shocked that the first elimination was simply based on the appearance. They just [told the judges] your name and how old are you and that doesn’t say much about you. This doesn’t give you the opportunity to answer many questions—I’ve had a whole plan of how to answer the questions.” Don’t be a sore loser, Delene—oh, and, by the way, welcome to Western culture! It gets worse! (See my blog article on prospects for the partition of Iraq, plus another article listing Iraqi Kurdistan’s Dashni Murad as one of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”)
Here she is ... Miss Kurdistan ...
Israel Mourns Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Dead at 96. Israelis this week are mourning the former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, who died in a nursing home in Tel Aviv on June 30th at the age of 96. Born Icchak Jezernicky in Poland (in a village that is today part of the Republic of Belarus), Shamir saw his entire family wiped out in the Nazi Holocaust. He moved to Palestine and became a terrorist fighter in Israel’s struggle for independence in the late 1940s, carrying out assassinations of colonial officers in the days of the British Mandate of Palestine, often disguised as an Hasidic rabbi—an experience he called “the best years of my life.” He served as foreign minister under Menachem Begin, then as prime minister himself from 1986 to 1992. He presided over a 30% expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, a mass influx of Soviet Jews to Israel in the late 1980s, missile attacks on Israeli territory by Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf War (Shamir kept a controversial promise to the United States not to respond in kind), and most notoriously, a brutal crackdown on Palestinian Arab civilians during the First Intifada, which began during his second year in office. (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Yitzhak Shamir (1915-2012)
Palestinian Authority Cracks Down on Illegal Weapons in West Bank. The Palestinian National Authority (P.A.) announced July 2nd that about 200 people, including some security officers, had been arrested recently in a crackdown on illegal weapons in the West Bank. The crackdown, the biggest in five years, is notable because it is targeting forces from the moderate Fatah movement which governs the West Bank and not just the hardline terror groups the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Islamic Jihad which are in control of the Gaza Strip. The crackdown was initially prompted by an armed assault in May on Kadoura Mousa, governor of the Jenin district, who later died of a heart attack. Jenin, where most of the arrests are occurring, is the largest contiguous territory under P.A. administration. (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Sits Down with Both Factions of Kashmiri Separatists. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who heads the more moderate faction of the Kashmiri separatist umbrella group Hurriyat Conference, and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the more hardline separatist leader, both met July 3rd for lengthy discussions with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Jalil Abbas Gilani, during Gilani’s state visit to New Delhi, India. Geelani said that Pakistan should stop negotiating with India on the Kashmir question, while Farooq said his faction “support the dialogue process.” The meetings aroused the ire of the Indian government. Jammu and Kashmir is the one predominantly Muslim state in India; it is currently partitioned into Pakistani and Indian-controlled sectors.
Islamists in Kashmir Issue Fatwa on Modest Dress Code for Tourists. The separatist group Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir, a conservative Islamic organization in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state, issued this week a fatwa in the form of a unilateral “dress code advisory” for tourists, barring skimpy or tight-fitting clothes. It warned of “consequences” if the dress code was violated.
No longer okay garb for tourists in Kashmir.
To Preserve Way of Life, Andaman Islanders Granted Ban on Visitors. The Republic of India granted this week special status to an isolated tribal group in its remote Indian Ocean territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Jarawa people, on the already specially set-aside Jarawa Reserve, whose subsistence technology, along with other aspects of their way of life, are millennia old, will now be protected by a large buffer zone where touristic and other development is banned. This will mean the closing of some roads. The Indian government took the measures partly in response to international outcry over tour operators promoting “human safaris” to ogle at Jarawas amid lurid tales of their “savagery.” Jarawas only began regular contact with the Indian government in 1996.
An end, it is hoped, to “human safaris” like this in the Andaman Islands
Police Crack Down in Uyghur Region as New Details Emerge on “Hijacking.” On July 5th, the third anniversary of deadly Uyghur riots, police fanned out across the People’s Republic of China’s far-western, predominantly-Muslim Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, with the local Communist Party chief publicly ordering riot police to “remain on high alert for every kind of hostile force and strike with an iron fist at the forces of separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism.” Meanwhile, new information—including alleged cell phone photos—is filling out the picture of what may have happened on June 29th, when authorities reported the hijacking of a passenger jet by Uyghur separatists on a flight from Hotan, in Xinjiang, to Urumqi, the capital (reported last week in this blog). A Uyghur exile group said it was merely a squabble over seating assignments between Han Chinese and Uyghur passengers. According to description by passengers on Chinese microblogs (or what might be passenger descriptions; we cannot discount that the central government might have written the microblogs to create an acceptable narrative), six Uyghurs in their twenties, dressed in black, three in the front of the plane and three in back, rose shortly after takeoff, declared a hijacking, and started trying to set off bombs and break into the cockpit before passengers turned on them. All six hijackers were, the accounts say, bound up in pants belts, and two were beaten to death.
“Let’s roll (him)!” An alleged cellphone image of Han passengers subduing (later killing) a Uyghur hijacker.
July 1st protestors in Hong Kong don’t trust Leung Chun-ying
South Korean Crackpots Dowse for Secret North Korean Invasion Tunnels. The New York Times reported July 2nd on a previously little known (in the West) body of paranoid nationalist folklore in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) purporting that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has dug a vast system of tunnels branching far into the crust of South Korea’s land area as part of an invasion plan. Proponents of the tunnel lore include the Rev. Lee Jong-chang, a nearly blind, 78-year-old Catholic priest, who claims knowledge of the tunnels’ locations through dowsing. Father Lee’s “hand-drawn maps,” the Times reports, “show tunnels branching out underneath Seoul and stopping beneath primary school playgrounds or approaching the walls of subways, with the last few yards of earth to be broken through, he said, once Pyongyang decides to invade.” No such tunnels have ever been verified, except for a few rather short, unambitious ones near the border. (See my blog article “The Pyongyang Giant: North Korea’s Photoshop Mystery.”)
Father Lee Jong-chang, with some of his maps of North Korean tunnel systems
Missing Jordanian Journalist Guarded by Islamist Militia, Philippines Says. Officials in the Republic of the Philippines reported this week that a journalist from Jordan and his Filipino film crew who were last seen in the Muslim-controlled southern island of Sulu (a.k.a. Jolo) on June 12th are being guarded by two rebel militias—reversing once again claims made by officials last week (as reported in this blog) that the three appeared not, after all, to be hostages. It now appears that they are allowed some freedom of movement but cannot leave a restricted area. The militias guarding them are connected to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia Abu Sayyaf and to the separatist Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.). It is also now emerging that the journalist, Baker Abdulla Atanyi, who is the Southeast Asia bureau chief for the al-Arabiya network, may be in the area with the intention of documenting, with the rebels’ permission, the release of one of six foreign hostages being held in the area, who include a retired serviceman from Australia and birdwatchers from Switzerland and the Netherlands. Another report says that Atanyi was told June 29th that he was free to leave, and would be set free in Sabah, Malaysia, to the south, but that he refused because his two colleagues were not allowed to leave with him—a report denied by the Philippine secretary of the interior.
Village Chief Assassinated during Free Papua Movement Celebration. A squad of 30 gunmen in Indonesia’s far-eastern Papua province opened fire on a village chief during a separatist celebration on July 1st, killing him instantly. The chief, Johanes Yanafrom, head of the village of Sawio Tami, was participating in events near Jayapura, the provincial capital, marking the 47th anniversary of the founding of the Free Papua Movement (O.P.M.). Police are blaming the O.P.M. itself for the violence. A military patrol was also shot at, with one soldier injured. Some of the celebrations involved the display of the banned separatist “Morning Star flag.” (See my article listing Papua as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Papuan activists flying the legally banned “Morning Star flag” of the independence movement
New York Won’t Comply with Court Ruling on Indian Tobacco Confiscation. State police in New York defied this week a June 18th a court order (reported on in this blog) from the state’s Supreme Court directing them to return 26,000 cartons of cigarettes confiscated by Border Patrol agents in January from a Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska trading firm. The court had decided that the state had no authority to seize the merchandise, which originated with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York. Eric Schneiderman, the state’s attorney general, said he had filed an appeal of the ruling.
Vermont Separatist Urges Unilateral Military “No-Fly Zone” over State. A professor of economics who founded the Second Vermont Republic, which seeks the State of Vermont’s secession from the United States, wrote in an opinion piece published June 30th that the ongoing debate on replacing the Vermont Air National Guard’s fighter jets avoids the question of why Vermont needs such a fleet in the first place and suggested that the state unilaterally declare itself a military “no-fly zone.” The economist, Thomas H. Naylor, of Duke University in North Carolina, wrote, “Obviously the U.S. government will challenge the Vermont military aircraft ban, but the Vermont Attorney General should doggedly pursue the case until the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the ban,” adding, “A Vermont no fly zone, or perhaps just a call for one, would send a clear signal ... that, ‘... We are sick and tired of the condescending arrogance of the American Empire and its foreign policy based on full spectrum dominance, might makes might, and imperial overstretch. We are utterly disgusted with President Obama’s drones, Navy Seals, death squads, and kill lists.”
The flag of the Second Vermont Republic
UEFA Declares Dagestan Too Unsafe to Host Its Own Football Games. The 53-member Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) (whose members include six Asian countries, but never mind about that) said July 2nd that the Russian Federation’s Republic of Dagestan—where banditry, jihadists, and separatist insurgencies create an atmosphere of daily violence—is too unsafe to host games for the republic’s football team, Anzhi Makhachkala. The team, which is coached by Guus Hiddink, from the Netherlands, finished fifth in its league, but must find a new home stadium. The decision was reached in a UEFA meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, on June 30th.
Iraqi Protests Get Kurdish Flag Yanked from Terrorism Video Game. Ubisoft, a British videogame firm, has promised to remove the image of a Kurdish flag from one of its games after protests from Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.). The game, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, about anti-American terrorists, is not due for release until 2013, but a trailer shows a scene in which terrorists speak Persian while a Kurdish flag hangs on the wall behind them. A Facebook page for the cause declares that Kurdistan is the “biggest nation without a state, not terrorists.”
The anti-Kurdish video game was bad, but not nearly as bad
as this genocide-celebrating fireworks package marketed for Independence Day in the U.S.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.