22 DIE IN ATTACK AT SINAI–GAZA BORDER;
HAMAS, AL-QAEDA, ISRAEL ALL GET BLAMED;
EGYPT CRACKS DOWN WITH AIRSTRIKES, ARRESTS
A group of about 35 attackers coming from the direction of Egypt on August 5th gunned down and killed 16 Egyptian border patrolmen on the Sinai Peninsula at a three-way border checkpoint where Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip converge. Seven other Egyptians were injured. Israeli authorities claim the attack was meant to culminate in the an abduction of an Israeli soldier. Indeed, the attackers hijacked Egyptian army vehicles, including a pick-up, and drove them through a border fence into Israel. One of the vehicles was destroyed by an Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.) airstrike and the other engaged in a firefight with Israeli soldiers. Eight militants, in all, were also killed. Israeli authorities were harshly critical of the new government in Egypt, which may have made the attack possible by easing border controls between Gaza and Egypt (as reported recently in this blog), and since the Egyptian part of Sinai has been only sloppily governed since Arab Spring uprisings began in Egypt early last year. Soon after the attacks, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a spokesman for Hamas, the jihadist terrorist organization which has ruled Gaza as a quasi-state since 2007, said that his group was not responsible for the incident, since, he insisted, Hamas would never harm an Egyptian soldier. Preliminarily, the I.D.F.’s chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, blamed “terrorists who are connected between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai,” while the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, blamed “Iranian-backed terrorists” over Twitter. On August 7th, Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh, the Gaza prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, went further, saying that “the attack’s method confirms some sort of Israeli involvement aiming to achieve political and security goals, cause tension on the border with Egypt and destroy joint efforts to end the Gaza blockade.” These conviction was being echoed by some members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel’s minister of defense, at first blamed al-Qaeda for the attack. Egypt has asked Hamas to hand over three commanders from the militia Army of Islam, which is linked to Hamas, and three from Hamas’s own political wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in connection with the border attacks. In retaliation for the incident and in a show of a desire to control terrorism in the Sinai, the Egyptian military killed what it said were over 20 Islamist terrorists in the Sinai, near the Israeli border, on August 8th, and in a later security crackdown arrested nine terrorist suspects, one of whom, an as-yet-unnamed 62-year-old identified as “the Osama Bin Laden of the Sinai,” was arrested in Sheikh Zowead, in the Sinai, brought to Cairo, and indicted on August 10th as the attack’s suspected mastermind. But on August 10th the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip was opened up to allow pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia to pass through, as part of a special arrangement between the Palestinian and Egyptian governments. [Related article: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”]
[For developments in Turkey, Kurdistan, Syria, and Iraq, see today’s separate article “Turkish Kurdistan Ground War in Progress, Iraq Border Crisis Eases: Kurdistan and Syria Update.”]
Nigerian President Rejects Islamist Demand to Convert; Clinton Pledges U.S. Aid. The northern Nigerian Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram posted a YouTube video August 4th, in which Abubakar Shekau, the apparent leader of the shadowy group, demands that Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria, either convert to Islam or resign his position. Jonathan is a member of the small, predominantly-Christian Ijaw ethnic group, from the southern Niger Delta region. His office replied quickly, saying the president would neither convert nor resign and that he was president of all Nigerians, of whatever faith. The United States secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, traveled to Nigeria this week to meet with Pres. Jonathan. She pledged American assistance to Nigeria on security issues related to Boko Haram, arguing correctly that the insurgency is not merely an internal matter, since northern Nigeria is in a transnational lawless zone of the western Sahel—also including parts of Mali, Libya, Algeria, Niger, Chad, and other countries—which are a haven of sorts for jihadist groups connected to al-Qaeda. [Related articles: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012,” “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Jihadists Imperil Nigerian Unity” (June 2012).]
Bayelsa, Nigeria President’s Home State, to Adopt Flag, Anthem, Prompting Alarm. Meanwhile, the personal ethnic background of Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has become politicized in another way, as his home state, Bayelsa State, announced plans on August 8th to adopt its own flag, coat of arms, and anthem. Bayelsa, which is noted for its oil wealth, is in the Niger Delta region, in south-central Nigeria, where the Ogoni people have had intermittent demands for secession. Jonathan is a member of the Ijaw nationality, who, with about 15 million people, are far more numerous than the Ogoni (about 800,000) but have tended to be less politically strident. Bayelsa’s governor, Seriake Dickson, explained the decision: “In line with the vision of the founding fathers of our dearly beloved state and given this admnistration’s stand on Ijaw mobilization, Ijaw integration, and the need to promote Ijaw fundamental interest, which clearly is not subordinate to any other interests, the government of Bayelsa State has given its approval to have a state-owned emblem mark and strengthen our sense of identity as a state.” Understandably, given that rhetoric, critics are regarding this as heading down the road toward some sort of separatism. Some editorial-writers have demanded that Jonathan distance himself from such expressions of regional ethnic distinctness. In Nigeria, still scarred by its bloody war over the secession of Biafra in 1967-1970, flags other than the Nigerian national flag are considered provocative. Most of Nigeria’s 36 states do not have flags. The nine exceptions are: Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti, and Kwara—all in southeastern Nigeria, which is dominated by the Yoruba nationality—and Cross River and Rivers states, in the southeastern “Biafra” region of the Igbo people, and, most recently and most controversially, Osun State, in the southwest, which led to an ethnopolitical crisis this April (as reported at the time in this blog). Bayelsa’s flag, state, and coat of arms have not been revealed to the public, but once the state legislature fully adopts them they will be presented publicly. You will certainly be able to see them in this blog. I’m all over this story. [Related article: “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011).]
|Osun State’s coat-of-arms. Coming soon: Bayelsa!|
Neighbors Plan Intervention in Congo, as Oxfam Reports Hundreds Killed. In Kampala, capital of the Republic of Uganda, 11 neighboring states to the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) agreed August 7th to an international military deployment to halt the civil war there. The decision came at the meeting of foreign ministers to an 11-nation consortium based on the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (E.C.G.L.C.), whose core member-states are the D.R.C., Burundi, and Rwanda. Meanwhile, the international organization Oxfam’s representatives in the eastern part of the D.R.C. said this week that hundreds are being killed and raped and homes are being destroyed. About a quarter-million people have been displaced, mostly in North Kivu state after a Tutsi-dominated militia, probably backed by Rwanda and calling itself M23, mutinied from within the Congolese military earlier this year and began trying to take control of the region.
With World’s Eyes on Kivu, Katanga Separatists Attack Lubumbashi Airport. In the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.), the airport of Lubumbashi, capital of the sometimes-separatist Katanga Province, was attacked August 8th by militiamen who killed three troops—two shot, one burned to death—and injured another before being repelled by government forces. At first it was unclear who the perpetrators were. They fled into the forest, providing no chance to pursue them, though a witness later described, in one press report’s words, “men in ragged clothes and wearing charms around their necks throwing grenades into the tents of troops guarding the runway.” D.R.C. authorities said later that day that the attackers were from the same Katangan separatist militia behind a February 2011 attack on the same airport, in which four attackers were captured and later sentenced to death.
|Map showing the Democratic Republic of Congo’s provinces of North Kivu and Katanga.|
Ecowas Plans to Offer Mali Junta Troops to Fight Islamists, in Exchange for Reforms. The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) is accelerating its long-delayed action on solving the crisis in the Republic of Mali. Ecowas has notified the only mildly reformed military junta that took power in Mali’s capital, Bamako, in March that it needs to share more power with ethnic groups other than the Bambara who dominate southern Mali and especially with ethnic groups in the far north, such as the Tuareg, whose declaration of an Independent State of Azawad in the northern two-thirds of the country in April has been hijacked by Islamists bent on extending shari’a (Islamic law) throughout Mali. If those conditions and others are met, Ecowas says, then it will supply as many as 5,000 troops to fight alongside the Malian military to retake Azawad. The sponsors of the original secession, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.), which has been pushed out of power in Azawad, has also pledged to fight alongside Malian troops to take Azawad back from the Islamists. Ecowas plans to present this plan to the African Union and to the United Nations Security Council this month. But some A.U. member-states oppose military intervention. Meanwhile, Djibrill Bassolé, foreign minister for the Republic of Burkina Faso, visited Gao and Kidal, in Azawad, on August 7th to hold preliminary direct dialogue with representatives of Ansar al-Dine, one of the Islamist militias currently governing Azawad. He met directly with Iyad Ag Ghaly, Ansar al-Dine’s leader, and with Sharif Ould al-Taher of the allied militia MUJAO (the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa). [Related articles: “Mali Becomes the Latest African Country to Split along North–South Lines” (Feb. 2012), “A New Country in Africa: Islamic Republic of Azawad” (April 2012), “Why It Matters What You Call Your Country: Cyprus vs. Northern Cyprus, Azawad vs. the Azawad” (April 2012), “Dream of a Tuareg State Fizzles: Is This the End of Azawad?” (July 2012).]
Citizens in North Mali Halt Shari’a Amputation by Jihadists; Other Punishments Continue. In the northern two-thirds of the Republic of Mali which seceded in April as the Independent State of Azawad, but which is now run by ruthless Islamist militias, hundreds of citizens of the city of Gao in August 5th stormed a public square and prevented jihadist patrols from cutting off the hand of a thief. The public implementation of shari’a (Islamic law) had been announced the night before over radio by the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), an al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group which co-governs Azawad with another militia, Ansar al-Dine. The thief was a young MUJAO recruit who had stolen weapons. But later, on August 9th, a MUJAO spokesman announced that the hand of a motorcycle thief was successfully amputated by ad hoc judicial authorites in Ansongo, a village near Gao. Meanwhile, in Bamako, capital of Mali proper, the Malian Coalition of Children’s Rights (COMAD) announced the same day that it knew of “several hundred children aged between nine and 17 years old within the ranks of the armed groups, including the Islamists who control northern Mali,” and that some of them are being used as spies, combat soldiers, mine-sweepers, or sexual slaves. Most of the children in question are from Mali, Senegal, and Niger. [Related articles: “Mali Becomes the Latest African Country to Split along North–South Lines” (Feb. 2012), “A New Country in Africa: Islamic Republic of Azawad” (April 2012), “Why It Matters What You Call Your Country: Cyprus vs. Northern Cyprus, Azawad vs. the Azawad” (April 2012).]
|MUJAO on patrol in Gao, Azawad|
Cops Beat Somaliland T.V. Journalist with Plastic Tubing in Awdal Police Station. In Borame, a town in the Awdal region of the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland, a journalist was beaten savagely by police on August 4th, according to the Mogadishu-based National Union of Somali Journalists. The reporter, Hodan Abokor Afi, of Somaliland Televsion (SLNTV), was at a police station pursuing a story about a custody battle and taking notes while two squabbling parents were being interviewed by police. In circumstances that are still unclear, the Borame central police station’s deputy commander and others were, in the words of one press report, “insulting, slapping, and beating her with plastic tubing, damaging her face.” Afi requested that a complaint be filed and passed along to the Ministry of the Interior, but she was denied the opportunity on the grounds that the accused in her complaint were also part of the Ministry of the Interior. At least they were honest about the way things work in Somaliland. The Somaliland government administers the Awdal region, but parts of it are also claimed by the Saylac and Lughaye State of Somalia, a quasi-statelet operated by Ismaïl Omar Guelle, president of the Republic of Djibouti, on behalf of his clan from the Issa nationality (as reported on in this blog), and another quasi-state, called Awdal State or Awdalland, loyal to the Somali Republic’s Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) in Mogadishu but governed, or quasi-governed, by a government-in-exile in a suburb of Toronto, Ontario. [Related articles: “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Somalia the ‘Failed State’—So What Are Somaliland and Puntland? Chopped Liver?” (Feb. 2012), “Introducing the Republic of Wadiya” (May 2012).]
Puntland Legislator Assassinated. A member of the parliament of the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia was assassinated by unidentified gunmen on August 6th. The lawmaker, Abdukadir Sheikh Mohamud was at the time leaving a mosque in Garowe, Puntland’s capital. He was the brother of Khalif Sheikh Mohamud, a renowned Somali poet. [Related articles: “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Somalia the ‘Failed State’—So What Are Somaliland and Puntland? Chopped Liver?” (Feb. 2012), “Introducing the Republic of Wadiya” (May 2012).]
Conflicts between Kings Raise Tension ahead of Ugandan Vote. An upcoming by-election in Uganda is under threat as tensions among traditional kings are rising. One of the constituent (and purely ceremonial and constitutionally powerless) kingdoms of Uganda, the Kingdom of Rwenzururu, is facing a rebellion in one of the two districts in its territory. In Bundibogyo district, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.), one Ivan Bwebale Rwigi IV is calling himself King of Busongora, but the current Rwenzururu omusinga (king), Charles Wesley Mumbere Iremangoma, regards Bundibogyo, even though it is inhabited by members of the Bamba (a.k.a. Amba) ethnic group, as the heart of his own kingdom, which is ruled by Konjo (a.k.a. Konzo or Bakonzo) people. The Busongora, or Songora, kingdom was phased out during the period of British rule. Tensions were heightened June 30th when the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, intervened and warned King Mumbere not to hoist the “Rwenzururu freedom flag” in Bundibogyo on the anniversary of Rwenzururu’s secession in 1962 from the Kingdom of Toro, and locals in the district warned the king not to come. An agreement was forged for a more low-key ceremony, but in the midst of King Mumbere’s speech, the public-address system cut out, which few thought was an accident. Then, on July 6th, violence broke out as partisans of the two kings scuffled over the erection of a shrine in Bundibogyo. One person was killed and several were beaten and much property destroyed in a series of reprisals. The Rwenzururu kingdom is accused of turning away from its embrace of its own multi-ethnic make-up and becoming simply a Konjo kingdom. Now an upcoming election for the parliamentary riding of Kasese district on August 8th may upset the uneasy calm in the region. Most of Kasese’s land is taken up by two national parks and some wetlands, making arable land scarce and hotly contested. Many people were displaced when the parks were established. Kasese and Bundibogyo districts comprise the Kingdom of Rwenzururu, so there are fears that the entire kingdom may become the site of interethnic conflict.
|Flag of the Kingdom Rwenzururu. Now that is what I call a flag.|
Get these folks their own sovereign state immediately.
Boeremag Leader Convicted of Treason in Mandela Assassination and Coup Plot. A tenth member of the Boeremag, a white-supremacist militia which planned to assassinate Nelson Mandela and take over South Africa in 2002 in what the group anticipated as “D-Day” or “Operation Popeye,” has been convicted of treason by a court in Pretoria, it was reported August 6th. The defendant, Tom Vorster, succeeded Mike du Toit—already convicted (as reported in this blog)—as leader of the group in 2002, when du Toit went on the run from the police. 15 Boeremag members await verdicts.
Salmond Faces Party Rebellion after Switching Stance on Scotland and NATO. The First Minister of Scotland and the leader in the country’s drive to secede from the United Kingdom, Alex Salmond, is facing a rebellion in his own Scottish National Party (S.N.P.) on the question of whether an independent Scotland would be a member, like the U.K., of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The party leadership has recently shifted to a position of staying in NATO while still keeping Scotland a nuclear-free zone. (Nuclear-armed Trident submarines are currently based in Scottish waters.) But as many as a fifth of S.N.P. members of the Scottish Parliament think that Scotland would best stay out of NATO entirely. The party leadership cites the need of an independent Scotland to defend itself, but one dissident M.P. put it this way: “To join NATO while claiming you want rid of Trident just does not make any sense. NATO is a nuclear-weapon alliance. If your state does not have nuclear weapons, as a member, it means you accept that other members of the alliance are ready to use them to commit mass murder on your behalf.” The differences will be aired and voted on at a party conference in October. If it left NATO, Scotland would likely end up with a status similar to the Republic of Ireland, which stayed neutral during the Second World War and never joined NATO, though it, like other neutral states in Europe—Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, and Finland—is in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, which was developed in 1993 to tie newly freed parts of the Communist East Bloc to western Europe. [Related articles: “Succession or Accession—Could Scotland Leave Britain but Stay in Europe?” (Jan. 2012), “Orkney—the Next Dubai? Further Reflections on Scottish Independence” (Feb. 2012), “Celts, Cypriots, Aborigines Raise Stink at Olympics: Ethnonationalist Protest Update” (July 2012).]
Separatist Snubs Separatist: Alex Salmond Turned Up Nose at Dalai Lama. The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, whose party opposes Scotland’s campaign for independence from the United Kingdom, revealed August 9th that he had minutes of a meeting between Scotland’s separatist First Minister, Alex Salmond, and Chinese officials in which Salmond promised not to meet the 14th Dalai Lama during his visit to the U.K. in June of this year (reported on at the time in this blog, including an Olympic controversy related to the visit). The Dalai Lama visited Inverness, Edinburgh, and Dundee during the Scottish leg of his tour, but did not meet with Salmond, leading some to speculate that this was to risk causing offense that would jeopardize Scottish trade with the People’s Republic of China. [Related articles: “Succession or Accession—Could Scotland Leave Britain but Stay in Europe?” (Jan. 2012), “Orkney—the Next Dubai? Further Reflections on Scottish Independence” (Feb. 2012), “China, Tibet, and the Politics of Reincarnation” (March 2012), “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012), “Celts, Cypriots, Aborigines Raise Stink at Olympics: Ethnonationalist Protest Update” (July 2012).]
|The Dalai Lama got lei’d when he visited Scotland earlier this year.|
Bulgarian Border Cops Nab 2 Wanted Terrorists from Ingushetia, Turkey. Border police in the Republic of Bulgaria, it was reported August 4th, intercepted two men from crossing into the country from Romania who were flagged by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) as wanted terrorists. The first, Mohammad Gadamouri, age 47, is from the Russian Federation’s Republic of Chechnya but a resident of Germany and was traveling with his family, though he was wanted for a 2003 terrorist attack in the neighboring Republic of Ingushetia as well as on weapons and drug smuggling charges. The second, Erkan Polater, age 29, is from Turkey and is charged with membership in a terrorist group. The two cases seem to be unrelated. This follows an earlier arrest of two Chechens in Spain the week before (see article just above).
Krasnodar Governor under Fire for Mobilizing Cossacks to “Protect” Sochi Games. The governor of Krasnodar Krai, the province of the Russian Federation which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics, has come under criticism for his fiery August 2nd address to local police chiefs (reported on last week in this blog) in which he promised the assistance of 1,000 Kuban Cossacks in keeping order during the Games, adding, “What you can’t do, the Cossacks can.” The Russian Public Chamber called for an official probe into the administration of the governor, Aleksandr Tkachev, while the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, a human-rights organization, Ludmilla Alekseeva, said, “How can anyone hound the Cossacks on people from Caucasus, or vice versa? Are the people from the Caucasus not Russian citizens?” Tkachev, in reply, back-pedalled his rhetoric, saying he had been addressing the problem of illegal immigrants, not Caucasian Russians. Over Twitter, he reacted to accusations of nationalism, saying, “My first deputy is Adyghe [Circassian], my aide is a Crimean Tatar. I have Armenians and Greeks among my friends. In case you missed it, I’ve been governing a region with 120 nationalities living in it for 12 years. I know better than many how fragile this world is.” The 2014 Olympics, in Sochi, will be on the site of an 1864 genocide of Muslim, Turkic-speaking Circassians, and the games lie on the edge of the North Caucasus, a Russian region parts of which are virtually ruled by Muslim terror groups. [Related articles: “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012), “Celts, Cypriots, Aborigines Raise Stink at Olympics: Ethnonationalist Protest Update” (July 2012), “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (Aug. 2012).]
|Cossacks in Stavropol|
|The Caucasus Emirate movement’s new YouTube video.|
Cats playing the piano it ain’t.
|Tatar tots freed|
Controversial Ukraine Law Goes into Force, Boosting Status of Russian Language. The controversial law on minority languages that roiled the streets and parliamentary aisles of Ukraine with outbreaks of violence in the spring became law this week. The law provides that if 10% of residents in a particular jurisdiction speak a particular language, then the work of local government must be translated into that language. By far the most widely spoken minority language in Ukraine is Russian, especially in Crimea (which was part of Russia until Josef Stalin reallocated it to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954) and in vast areas of Ukraine’s east, in the Russian borderlands. Ukrainian nationalists and others fearful of Russia’s imperialist policy toward its “near abroad” see it as a way to increase the influence in Ukrainian public life not just of ethnic Russians but of Moscow. Other linguistic communities benefitting from the legislation, according to official lists, are speakers of 17 additional languages: Belarussian, Bulgarian, Armenian, Gagauz, Yiddish, Crimean Tatar, Moldavian, German, Greek, Polish, Romany (Gypsy), Romanian, Slovak, Hungarian, Ruthenian, Karaim (a Crimean diaspora language with six living speakers, so it’s hard to see how that reaches the 10% threshold anywhere), and Judeo-Crimean Tatar (this last one sounds delicious, actually). Many of these narrowly defined ethnic and regional languages are, in fact, mutually intelligible—as are, to a great extent, ironically enough for all the hubbub, Russian and Ukrainian—meaning that they do not fit most linguists’ definition of separate languages. Just for fun—again—watch this video of a riot in Ukraine’s parliament in May over the language law. Also watch a video of the previous year’s Ukrainian parliament riot. I wonder if next year’s will be as good? [Related article: “Language Referendum Pits Latvians against Russians” (Feb. 2012).]
2 Wanted Basque Terror Suspects Arrested in Aquitania, London. Two suspected Basque terrorists were arrested this week, one in southwestern France and one in London. In France, police this week arrested a Basque who was wanted in Spain on terrorism charges. The suspect, Inaki Imaz Munduate, a 33-year-old native of Spain, has been on the run with fake papers since 2007 and had recently lived in Ireland. Munduate, who was arrested in Hendaye, in Aquitania, is suspected of being a member of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatusana, “Basque Homeland and Freedom”), a recently disarmed and nearly-disbanded group which sought a separate Basque homeland in north-central Spain and southwestern France. In London, Kemen Uranga, aged 43, was arrested after having been on the run for 12 years. An alleged ETA commander for Vizcaya, in Spain’s Basque Region, Uranga is accused of the 2001 murder of a Spanish judge in his home. [Related article: “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists,” featuring a profile of the Basque warrior Idoia López Riaño, a.k.a. la Tigresa.]
French Authorities Raid Roma Camps, Evict Hundreds. Hundreds of Roma (Gypsy) people were evicted August 9th from encampments near Lille, in northern France, including 200 from one camp and 15 caravans of Roma from another. Meanwhile, 240 Roma in Lyon, in southern France, were deported to Romania (a fellow member-state of the European Union). France’s new president, François Hollande, acted quickly and without warning in ordering these expulsions and has gone farther than his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, who was himself regarded as being virulently anti-immigrant and anti-Roma. A spokesman for l’Atelier Solidaire, a pro-Roma organization in France, told the press, “We’re dismayed. There are many children who will be sleeping on the street tonight. Sarkozy never expelled us. In the end, it was the Socialists who did.”
Belarus Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Sweden over Teddy-Bear Airdrop. As if anyone had any doubt about the spectacular humorlessness of Belarus’s tin-pot authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, sometimes called “Europe’s last dictator,” those doubts were put to rest on August 8th when Belarus withdrew all of its embassy staff from Sweden and told Sweden’s diplomats in Minsk, Belarus’s capital, to go home as well. At issue is last month’s successful violation of Belarus’s airspace by Swedish pranksters who then airdropped large numbers of teddy bears festooned with anti-authoritarian and pro-free-speech slogans (as reported last week in this blog). The flight took off from Lithuania, and there is no evidence to support Lukashenko’s assertion that Stockholm was directly involved in the stunt. The European Union (E.U.) looked into the matter and expressed “full solidarity with the Swedes on this.” Belarus has also demanded that Swedish and Lithuanian authorities assist their investigation. Worst of all, on August 9th the Belarussian Association of Journalists announced that a reporter and a photojournalist had been arrested and fined in Minsk the day before for posing for pictures holding some of the bears. The two, Irina Kozlik and Yulia Doroshkevich, were charged with “carrying out an unsanctioned protest.”
|Two Belarussian journalists, being arrested on plush-toy-related charges.|
[For developments in Turkey, including Kurdistan, see today’s separate article “Turkish Kurdistan Ground War in Progress, Iraq Border Crisis Eases: Kurdistan and Syria Update.”]
Armenians Blame Azerbaijan for Cease-Fire Breaches on Nagorno-Karabakh Line. Military spokesmen for the unrecognized Armenian puppet state called the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.) (a.k.a. Artsakh Republic) accused the Republic of Azerbaijan of more than 250 cease-fire violations on August 4th, in the form of 1,200 rounds of ammunition fired from the Azerbaijani side of the border with the N.K.R. at Armenian “peacekeepers.” That is the term given to the Republic of Armenia’s military presence in the N.K.R., which Armenian and Russian forces conquered from Azerbaijan, and then ethnically cleansed, in a war in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). Both sides for years have been trading frequent accusations of cease-fire violations, few of which can be satisfactorily verified. Later, on August 6th, an Armenian soldier was reported injured by a landmine in the N.K.R. [Related articles: “The Armenian Genocide Debate: Turkey, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Politics of Memory” (April 2012), “Massachusetts Recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh Republic!” (Aug. 2012).]
Massachusetts Legislature Recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The House of Representatives of Massachusetts on August 6th joined Rhode Island in adopting a resolution urging President Barack Obama and the United States legislature to “support the self-determination and democratic independence” of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.). See my blog article with fuller commentary on this development.
Javakhk Armenians Beg Charles Aznavour Not to Sing at Ottoman Fortress. Representatives of the ethnic Armenian community in the Republic of Georgia’s Javakhk region, who would like to form an autonomous region within the country, this week wrote to the French crooner Charles Aznavour, himself the son of Armenian immigrants, pleading with him not to perform in front of a freshly restored Turkish mosque and fortress in a planned performance in Akhaltsikhe, Georgia. Akhaltsikhe, in the ethnic-Georgian-dominated half of Georgia’s Samtskhe–Javakheti province, is a Georgian-dominated town with a large Armenian minority, but it was subject to the Ottoman Empire—history’s cruelest oppressors of Armenians—before being absorbed by the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century. [Related articles: “The Armenian Genocide Debate: Turkey, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Politics of Memory” (April 2012), “Massachusetts Recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh Republic!” (Aug. 2012).]
|Charles Aznavour doesn’t care whether or not Georgia is a Turkish puppet state.|
Lithuanian Explorers Missing in Abkhazia in Bowels of World’s Deepest Cave. The fate of a team of cave explorers from Lithuania is unknown as they remain incomunicado within the Krubera-Voronja cavern in the unrecognized but de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, which is the deepest known cave in the world, at 7,188 feet (2,191 meters) deep. The cave, which was discovered only in 1960, was mentioned in this blog in February of this year, when scientists from Russia discovered there a springtail insect, Plutomurus ortobalaganensis, which became the deepest-dwelling land animal known to science. The Lithuanian cavers were more than 1,200 down when communication with them was lost, it was reported August 4th.
[For developments in Kurdistan, Syria, and Iraq, see today’s separate article “Turkish Kurdistan Ground War in Progress, Iraq Border Crisis Eases: Kurdistan and Syria Update.”]
Palestine-Hosted Non-Aligned Movement Summit Scrapped after Israel Bars Diplomats. The August 5th meeting of the international Non-Aligned Movement (N.A.M.), to be held in Ramallah, capital of the Palestinian Territories, was cancelled after the State of Israel, which does not recognize Palestinian independence and controls movement in and out of the partially-occupied West Bank where Ramallah sits, barred several diplomats from attending. In particular, Israel did not let in foreign ministers from states that do not diplomatically recognize Israel: the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, the Republic of Cuba, the Republic of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria. Delegations from Egypt, India, Colombia, South Africa, Senegal, Zambia, and Zimbabwe were allowed in since they have relations with Israel. The P.A. called Israel’s actions “a blatant and crude exercise of power and a form of political siege.” It was widely understood that the Palestinian National Authority was planning to use the summit to explore the question of when it should make its next application for membership in the United Nations’ General Assembly—a move Israel and the United States oppose—the main question being whether it should be before or after the U.S. elections in November. (The incumbent, Barack Obama, is friendlier to Palestine than his challenger, Mitt Romney, and a perceived need to appear tougher on Muslims during an election campaign might prompt Obama to be less receptive to the application, even though the opportunity to burnish pro-Israel credentials might help him at the polls.) The N.A.M. was founded by Yugoslavia, India, Egypt, Ghana, and Indonesia in 1961 as a counterbalance and “third way” alternative to the Cold War division between Western and Eastern (Communist) blocs. Less relevant now, the movement now includes authoritarian Communist states like Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, and North Korea, as well as almost all of Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America. [Related article: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”]
|Non-Aligned Movement member states are in dark blue. Observer states are in light blue.|
Palestinians Protest Planned Israeli Eviction of Shepherds near Hebron. Mahmoud Abbas, the (West Bank) prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, on August 8th condemned a new plan by the State of Israel to evict twelve shepherd communities from around Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to make way for army training grounds. Palestinians claim that the real reason for the forced removal will be to make way for new (illegal) Jewish settlements. Israel says the whole area south of Hebron has already been designated a closed military zone. A high court will rule on the evictions soon. [Related article: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”]
Pakistan Interior Minister Bans More Baloch Militias, Offers Bugti Return from Exile. The minister of the interior for Pakistan, Rehman Malik, on August 4th announced the addition of eight militant groups in Balochistan state to the list of outlawed groups, making a total of 16. He also issued a public offer for Brahamdagh Khan Bugti, spiritual leader of those who want Balochistan to become a separate country, to return from exile. “We know he is living in Switzerland under a pseudonym,” Malik said. “I invite him to return to Pakistan under his own terms. He will be given international guarantees of protection with full protocol.” But he warned Bugti that he would need to dissociate his Balochistan Republican Army (B.R.A.), a political party despite its name, from the militant Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A.), believed to be run out of Afghanistan. Malik also swept aside rumors of a planned federal military operation in Balochistan to root out separatists. The newly banned groups are the Tahafuz Hadudullah, the Balochistan Waja Liberation Army, the Baloch Republic Party Azad, the Balochistan United Army, the Islam Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Islam, and the Balochistan National Liberation Army—joining the already-banned B.R.A., B.L.A., Balochistan Liberation Front (B.L.F.), and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Meanwhile, two federal Frontier Corps (F.C.) checkpoints in rural Balochistan were attacked by armed men on August 7th, but there were no reported casualties. The B.L.A. claimed responsibility and claimed that two F.C. members were killed and three injured in one of the attacks, while four were killed and five wounded in the other. The same day, in Turbat, four officers with the Balochistan Constabulary were killed and at least six injured by a remote-controlled roadside bomb which targeted their truck. [Related article: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”]
|From one of their pamphlets, the Balochistan Liberation Army’s vision for the future.|
You can see how the Pakistani government is not totally on board with this.
Turkish Foreign Minister on Fact-Finding Mission to Burma over Rohingya Issue. The foreign minister of the Republic of Turkey—which has long claimed for itself the position of the Muslim world’s beacon of secularism, moderation, and Western values—set off on August 8th for Arakan (a.k.a. Rakhine), in western Burma, where the disenfranchised Muslim Rohingya minority suffered horrific violence in a cycle of reprisals with local members of the Buddhist majority in June (as well as another outbreak of strife there on August 5th, which left three dead). Ankara’s aim is to bring aid but also to reconcile conflicting reports of what is really going on there. The Burmese junta, says the foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, “says the deaths are around a hundred ... but the Muslim leaders in Rakhine, with whom we have been in contact, say the deaths reach thousands.” Last week (as reported in this blog), the United Nations sent a special envoy to investigate the situation, and Human Rights Watch (H.R.W.) issued a blistering report on how Burma’s ruling military junta allowed, and in some cases participated in, the anti-Rohingya atrocities. [Related article: “The Moment Burma’s Ethnic Minorities Have Been Waiting for” (Jan. 2012).]
Beijing Chides India for Backing “One China” While Helping Tibetan Separatists. Through its official media, the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) issued a warning August 6th to the Republic of India that Indian support for Tibetan separatists, including hosting the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan government-in-exile, in Dharamsala, is harming Indian–Chinese relations. In particular, an opinion piece by Xiao Jie, of the China Tibetology Research Center, wrote in an opinion piece that since restoring full diplomatic relations with China in 1976, India has followed a dual policy—an official “one China” policy and a recognition of the Tibet Autonomous Region as part of the P.R.C. one the one hand but on the other a covert policy advocating separatism. [Related articles: “China, Tibet, and the Politics of Reincarnation” (March 2012), “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).]
Philippine Government Asks MILF (Stop Snickering) to Rein in Radical Muslim Militias. The government of the Philippines is asking the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with which it has a peace deal, to rein in the more-radical Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (B.I.F.M.), which attacked a string of military targets on August 5th and 6th. The series of coordinated attacks on military posts in Maguinanao province, in the predominantly-Muslim south of the country, were intended as retaliation for June 21st and July 26th clashes between the B.I.F.M. and the military which left a total of ten rebels dead. Two rebels were killed in this week’s incidents. The B.I.F.M. is led by Ameril Ombra Kato, a cleric trained in Saudi Arabia, who split his organization from MILF years ago. For more information on the struggle of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for a sovereign state, see http://www.milf-nation.com. Oh, no, wait, never mind! Don’t click on that, that’s the wrong website!
Activists to Issue “Aboriginal Land Passports” to Asylum-Seekers in Australia. A group of radical sovereigntist Aboriginal activists in Australia will hold a special ceremony September 15th at a community center in Sydney, New South Wales, to issue over 200 “Original Nation” passports, bearing the Australian Aboriginal flag, to a group that will include newly arrived asylum-seekers. To be called a “Welcome to Aboriginal Land Passport Ceremony,” the event is hosted by two organizations, Treaty Republic and the Indigenous Social Justice Association. Among the speakers at the event will be Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen, born in Egypt, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 on trumped-up terrorism charges and then survived torture in three different countries in succession—Pakistan, Egypt, and the United States’ illegal prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba—before being stripped of his passport upon return to Australia. The gist is that Australian Aboriginal people have a right to welcome whom they want to their territories, rather than rely upon the often poor judgment of the occupying government of Australia. [Related article: “Celts, Cypriots, Aborigines Raise Stink at Olympics: Ethnonationalist Protest Update” (July 2012).]
Protestant Church in Polynesia Wants French Colony Back on U.N. List. In French Polynesia, the main Protestant church serving the indigenous population put itself on record this week supporting the Tavini Huiraatira Party’s push to get the colony restored to the United Nations’ list of Non-Self-Governing Territories whose continuing colonization is a concern for the U.N. The church made it clear it was not necessarily promoting independence. [Related article: “What Is a Colony? The United Nations’ Definition Needs an Overhaul” (June 2012).]
Parti Québécois Cites Demand for Quick Referendum but Won’t Promise. Ahead in the polls and basking in last week’s announcement by Quebec’s premier, Jean Charest, that an election would be held September 4th, the leader of the Parti Québécois, Pauline Marois, declined to say how soon after taking office a referendum on independence from Canada would be held. But, he said, “All separatists want there to be a referendum in our first term.” Meanwhile, some dust has been kicked up by an Internet video spot from the small separatist party Québec Solidaire, which tries to stake out a strongly pro-independence position for itself despite earlier strategic alliances with the New Democratic Party by showing a Solidaire party member, portrayed as a stick figure, kicking a Mountie-hat-wearing beaver that tries to snuggle up against its leg. Beavers (stop snickering) are considered the national symbol of Anglophone Canadians. [Related article: “Quebec Cracks Down on Crimes against the State—Like Playing Hopscotch in English” (Nov. 2012).]
|Québec Solidaire kicks some beaver|
|Wade Michael Page|
Aryan Brother in Texas Pleads Guilty to Killing Store Clerk. In Texas, a 34-year-old white-supremacist from the town of Hull, near Houston, pleaded guilty August 6th to shooting and killing a 50-year-old convenience-store clerk during a robbery in 2009. The victim was 50-year-old Naushad Virani, and the killer was named Stevie—I can’t believe I’m typing this—“Bubba” Walder, Jr. Police have not said whether Walder’s relationship with the Aryan Brotherhood, a neo-Nazi group, played a role in the murder.
Oregon Writer Advocates Southern Secession with New Book Better Off without ’Em. This week, on August 14th, Simon & Schuster will be releasing a new book titled Better Off without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession. Its author, Chuck Thompson, an “openly disgruntled liberal Northwesterner” who was raised in Juneau, Alaska, but lives in Portland, Oregon, is a travel writer whose previous books include To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism. This blog will be publishing a review of the book as soon as possible. (Read an early review, from the Wall Street Journal, here.) One thing is for sure: if Mitt Romney beats Barack Obama in November, this will become a bestseller in every part of the country, though in the South people will be buying copies to burn them. Brilliant marketing strategy, really.
PRACTICALLY BLOODY ANTARCTICA
Argentina Complains to U.S. over Texan Oil Firm’s Falklands Deal. The Argentine Republic’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on August 6th directed her ambassador to the United States, Jorge Martín Arturo Argüello, to hand-deliver a letter to the Department of State in Washington complaining of a deal between Noble Energy, Inc., based in Houston, Texas, and the United Kingdom firm Falkland Oil and Gas, Ltd. Argentina still maintains its territorial claims on the archipelago, which is a self-governing overseas territory of the U.K. [Related articles: “Prince William Lands in the Middle of a New Cold War over the Falklands” (Feb. 2012), “What Is a Colony? The United Nations’ Definition Needs an Overhaul” (June 2012), “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).]
SPORTS (MOSTLY OLYMPICS)
Scots Tennis Champ Drawn into Edinburgh–London Tussle over Olympic Glory. The impressive showing by Scotland in the London Olympics has been the occasion for subtle wars of words and symbols between opponents and proponents of the country’s independence from the United Kingdom. Scots have won about a quarter of the U.K.’s medals this year, which for a country that forms one-twelfth of the U.K.’s population, and the U.K. being the fourth-ranked medals-winning country, is pretty good. Scotland’s separatist First Minister, Alex Salmond, pointedly avoided the word Britain in comments praising Scottish athletes, whom he called “Scolympians.” Earlier in this blog, I discussed the scandal over Scottish (and Welsh) footballers on Team Great Britain refusing to sing “God Save the Queen” before Olympic matches. But unionists made political hay out of the fact that on August 5th Andy Murray, a Glasgow-born tennis gold-medalist, draped himself in the Union Jack, literally, during his medals ceremony. “Andy Murray, great Scot and Olympic Champion, holding a gold medal and proudly draped in the Union Jack,” tweeted Struan Stevenson, a unionist member for Scotland of the European Parliament, adding, “Eat your heart out, Alex Salmond!” However, as readers of this blog know, and as the Aboriginal Australian boxer Damien Cooper found out this year the hard way (as reported at the time in this blog), it is against Olympic regulations to display flags other than national or Olympic flags in an arena. So we shouldn’t conclude that Murray is anti-independence. In fact, he got into hot water in 2006 when he said that he backed “anyone but England” in the football (soccer) World Cup—a tournament in which England and Scotland, unlike in the Olympics, put forth separate teams. And, you know, despite the Union Jack, that looks suspiciously like a St.-Andrew’s-cross blazer he’s wearing ... [Related articles: “Succession or Accession—Could Scotland Leave Britain but Stay in Europe?” (Jan. 2012), “Orkney—the Next Dubai? Further Reflections on Scottish Independence” (Feb. 2012), “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics,” “Celts, Cypriots, Aborigines Raise Stink at Olympics: Ethnonationalist Protest Update,” “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (Aug. 2012).]
|Tirunesh Dibaba and Tiki Gelana, after Photoshopping|
[You can read more about these and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous 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 interview for more information on the book.]