SYRIAN CIVIL WAR THREATENS TO TURN INTO WIDER KURDISH WAR;
TURKS AND KURDS FIGHT GROUND WAR FOR TOWN IN SOUTHEAST TURKEY;
IRAQI-KURDISH, SHIITE, AND SYRIAN-KURDISH ARMIES FACE OFF AT BORDER
[For full report, see today’s separate article “Liberation of Syrian Kurdistan Infuriates Turkey, Iraq, and Free Syrian Army—in Fact, Everyone but Assad.”]
Algeria Strafes Islamist Convoy Crossing from Azawad, Killing 12. Attack helicopters from Algeria bombed an Islamist militia convoy on July 25th near the border with the part of Mali governed by jihadist militants as a separate state called Azawad. Twelve fighters with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) were killed in the four-hour operation, which occurred near Tin Zouatine in Algeria’s vast southern Tamanrasset province. The convoy was on its way into Algerian territory from Anou Slimane, in Azawad. MUJAO is one of two jihadist militias, the other being the Tuareg-dominated group Ansar al-Dine, which run Azawad. Meanwhile, the Malian central government’s minister of culture, Diallo Fadima Touré, announced July 26th that a special Unesco fund had been established to “protect and restore” Sufist antiquities in Timbuktu, a Malian city under Azawadi control and a Unesco World Heritage Site, where Ansar al-Dine has been demolishing what it calls idolatrous structures. [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).]
MUJAO troops, relaxing in Gao, Azawad
Red Cross Visits 79 P.O.W.s Held by Tuareg Separatists in Azawad. The International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) announced July 31st that it had visited and interviewed 79 prisoners of war held by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.), the secular Tuareg militia which, after declaring an Independent State of Azawad in northern Mali in April, mostly lost the vast territory to al-Qaeda-affiliated militias this summer. The Red Cross will be negotiating for the transfer of some of the prisoners to southern Mali for medical treatment. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Spain this week ordered the evacuation of all Spanish aid-workers from refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria, in a “four corners” region where Algeria meets the Kingdom of Morocco, the Republic of Mauritania, and the territory of Western Sahara, which is divided into a zone colonized by Morocco in violation of international law and a zone where rebels from the Algeria-backed Polisario Front maintain a sliver of land they call the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The camps are run by Polisario but are considered vulnerable to attack by Islamist militias based in the nearby parts of Mali. [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).]
Mali’s President, Back Home, Urges Foreign Help in Recapturing Azawad. President Dioncounda Traoré, the civilian caretaker who allowed to be the Republic of Mali’s head of state by the grace of the military junta, addressed the nation on July 29th for the first time since returning from Paris last week (as reported in this blog), where he was being treated for a savage mob beating in May (as reported at the time in this blog). Traoré urged Malians to accept long-contemplated foreign military assistance, if and when it ever materializes in recapturing the northern two-thirds of Mali that has been functioning as an Independent State of Azawad since April and is now ruled by al-Qaeda-affiliated militias. “Mali will not fall apart,” Traoré promised, and he also laid out a step-by-step plan for a return to civilian democratic rule. Meanwhile, on July 29th, France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, in Chad, concluded his two-day visit to francophone Africa, during which, out of the regional bloc Ecowas (European Community of West African States), only the Republic of Niger shared French enthusiasm for Western military intervention in Mali. Senegal, Burkino Faso, and other member states still prefer a diplomatic solution. Meanwhile, when the July 31st deadline for forging a post-transitional unity government in Bamako passed, Ecowas courageously and unflinchingly gave them another 10 days. As if to underline the urgency, Ansar al-Dine announced that on July 29th in Aguelhok, in Azawad’s Kidal region, an unmarried couple deemed to have violated Islamic law (shari’a) governing extramarital sexual relations were taken to the center of the town, placed in holes, and stoned to death by an Islamist execution squad. A spokesman explained, “We don’t have to answer to anyone over the application of shari’a,” adding, “The woman fainted after the first few blows. The man shouted out once and then was silent.” The Malian central government issued a statement July 31st saying that those who perpetrated the stoning would “not go unpunished.” [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).]
Somalia Interim Special Assembly Ratifies New Constitution. In Mogadishu, seat of the fractured, barely existent Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) of the Somali Republic, an interim assembly on August 1st approved, by 96%, a draft constitution designed to end the fragmentation of the country and its 20-year-old civil war. The assembly seats were appointed by traditional clan elders from throughout Somalia, except for the northern third of the country which has been operating as a de facto independent Republic of Somaliland since 1991. Now the constitution needs to be ratified in a referendum. The United Nations mandate for the T.F.G. ends August 20th. [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 Announces Arrest of 53 Pirate Suspects; Galkayo Airport Shelled. On July 31st, media were reporting that the fully self-governing Puntland State of Somalia’s ministry of security had announced the arrests of 53 suspects in the recent crackdown on sea piracy. Some of those arrested were members of al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated militia which has expanded into Puntland from its original area of operation in southern Somalia proper. The new crackdown, which focused on the city of Galkayo (as reported last week in this blog) was prompted by the July 11th kidnapping of three aid-workers from Kenya near the divided city of Galkayo—the northern half of which is administered by Puntland, while the similarly de facto independent Galmudug State uses the southern half as its capital. Meanwhile, unidentified assailants rained mortar shells July 29th on Galkayo’s main airport. The cause of the shelling would seem to be a bureaucratic land dispute over the use of the airport. Then, on July 30th in Galkayo, two brothers, one a revered local elder, were shot and killed by unidentified assailants as they were leaving a mosque. A third man was killed in the incident as well. [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).]
Virginia Court Tries Somaliland Ex–Cabinet Minister for Piracy, Hostage-Taking. In Virginia in the United States, a former official with the Republic of Somaliland is under house arrest and undergoing trial for sea piracy, including to Associated Press. The official, Ali Mohamed Ali, who is a former minister of education, is being charged with four counts involving piracy and hostage-taking involving the hijacking of a Danish ship off the Somali coast in 2008. [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).]
Tutsi Rebels’ Fight with Congo Army Nears Gorilla Preserve; Goma within Grasp. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.), a Tutsi militia called M23, backed by the Republic of Rwanda, attacked the Rumangabo army garrison in North Kivu province on July 26th that they had lost to D.R.C. troops just the day before. The base is only one mile from Virunga National Park, a mountain-gorilla preserve. M23 is still in control of the nearby towns of Rutshuru and Kiwanja, though on July 25th the government had retaken Bukima, a village used as a rebel training center. More than a quarter-million residents have become refugees in the recent fighting, which also includes United Nations (U.N.) attack helicopters in combat alongside the D.R.C.—plus, the U.N. Security Council, at the D.R.C.’s request, met July 30th to expand the mandate for MONUSCO (the old acronym for what is now the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the D.R.C.) to include pursuing M23). A military spokesman said that Congolese forces had withdrawn from Rutshuru strategically, “to avoid a bloodbath” among civilians, adding, “Actually, the operations at the front are running well.” On July 27th, at least 66 wounded were reported received at Rutshuru’s hospital, 62 of them women and children, mostly from around Kiwanja. At least two died of their wounds. By August 4th, M23 was demanding negotiations with the D.R.C., otherwise they would attack Goma, already only 16 miles from their front lines. Meanwhile, Rwanda’s foreign minister raged at recent cuts in financial aid to the Rwandan government by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands (as reported last week in this blog), and, now, Germany, over their support for M23. The minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, said, “This child-to-parent relationship has to end ... there has to be a minimum respect. As long as countries wave cheque books over our heads, we can never be equal.” Rwanda continues to deny its involvement in the war in Kivu, but the D.R.C.’s president, Joseph Kabila, on July 28th called it an “open secret.” The U.N. High Commission for Refugees reported on July 27th that it is receiving “regular and extensive reports of widespread human rights violations and abuses” in the eastern D.R.C., according to a spokesman—inclouding “indiscriminate and summary killings of civilians, rape and other sexual abuse, torture, arbitrary arrests, assaults, looting, extortion of food and money, destruction of property, forced labour, forced military recruitment, including children, and ethnically-motivated violence.”
Women in Goma demonstrating for peace. Good luck with that: the men are in charge.
Ethiopia Pacifies Oromo Region after Ethnic Strife Kills 18 at Kenya Border. The government in Ethiopia said July 29th that it had put an end to interethnic violence in the southern part of the country that began July 25th and (according to the Kenya Red Cross Society) killed at least 18 people, including two police. Homes were also burned, and at least 33,000 people fled to Kenya to avoid the fighting. According to some witnesses, the conflict began when an unknown heavily armed militia arrived at the villages of Camuq and Malab and then began opening fire on civilians when villagers threatened to alert the proper military. At issue were long-standing disputes over land, stemming from the central government settling members of the Garri ethnic group in land in the Oromiya Region claimed by Boranas, who are a subgroup of the Oromo people. But witnesses said the militia that sparked the violence spoke Somali and were not Garri. Residents said some of the militiamen were from Ethiopia’s Somali Region, one of its constituent provinces, where Somali-speaking Ogaden people form the majority, and some of the fighters were drop-outs from al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia which controls large parts of the Somali Republic. On July 26th the strife had spread from the villages to Moyale—an adjacent border town situated near where Oromia Region, Somali Region, and the Republic of Kenya meet—where where a warehouse, two banks, and a police station were destroyed by arson. (Meanwhile, it was reported that the Oromo ethnic political parties the Oromo People’s Congress (O.P.C.) and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (O.F.D.M.) have merged into a single party, to be known as the Oromo Federalist Congress (O.F.C.).) [Related article: “Détente in Ethiopian Civil War—or U.S. Power Play in the Horn of Africa?” (Jan. 2012).]
The Oromiya region of Ethiopia
Aftermath of a suicide bombing in Sokoto. For Nigerians, there is no end in sight to the violence.
President Salva Kiir Mayadit, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Juba
Kenya Rejects Offer of Dialogue from Recently-Unbanned Mombasa Separatists. The leaders of the Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.), which on July 25th saw the ban against it lifted by Kenya’s supreme court, said the next day that the organization—which would like Coast Province, which is predominantly Muslim, to form a separate country—is ready to negotiate with the Kenyan government. Just hours earlier posters and flyers had appeared in different parts of Coast Province warning citizens of “dire consequences” for participating in upcoming elections. But in his statement, the M.R.C.’s spokesman, Rashid Mraja, said, more accommodatingly, “The government should consider suspending the elections. We want to dialogue and agree now how the process should go on.” The national government’s attorney general has said he will appeal the ruling, but, Mraja said, “We are ready for a face-off with him in court.” Kenya’s acting minister for internal security, Yussuf Haji, replied that his government was not willing to talk to the M.R.C., in addition warning “all criminal groups not to consider this ruling as a license to engage in criminal activities.” Meanwhile, Kenya’s judicial system is still trying to decide how to handle those awaiting trial for violating the now-overturned ban on the group, including more than 100 people. And on August 4th police in Mombasa were shutting down an M.R.C. rally-cum-prayer-meeting, suggesting that the lifting of the ban on the organization may be legally tested sooner rather than later.
8 More White Supremacists Convicted in 2002 South Africa Coup Plot. The total members of the Boeremag militia accused of plotting a coup d’état in South Africa reached nine this week, most of them former military men, while the evidence heard against a 10th, Tom Vorster, who succeeded as the Boeremag’s leader in 2002, included details of the plot, including chillingly 9/11-esque plans for simultaneous bombings of Parliament, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (S.A.B.C.) and South African Reserve Bank headquarters, and the Johannesburg stock exchange. Vorster is actually using an—ahem!—self-defense argument, which must be the new epitome of chutzpah. Other aspects of the plan were to assassinate Nelson Mandela, drive South Africa’s blacks into the sea, to send the Indian (South Asian) minority back to Africa, and to exterminate whites who opposed apartheid. Gosh, that would leave plenty of Lebensraum for a few thousand Dutch rednecks, wouldn’t it? The day after a court in Pretoria handed down a guilty verdict to Boeremag member Mike du Toit (as reported last week in this blog), the same high court handed down two more guilty verdicts: on July 27th for du Toit’s brother Andre du Toit, a former police officer, and one on July 30th for a third conspirator, Jacobus Christoffel du Plessis, nicknamed “Rooikoos.” Du Plessis, who is an engineer, contributed know-how that included how to destroy powerlines. He eventually quit the militia, called the Boeremag (literally, “Boer Army”, but faced the same charges as the others because he did not report the plot to the police. Then, on July 31st, Adriaan van Wyk, a former accountant who headed the Boeremag’s “Wonderboom Commando” and was to have personally taken charge of Pretoria in the group’s grand plan, was also convicted, along with Dion van den Heever, an electrician who had done contract work for the military. His defense had tried to downplay his role, but the court was convinced that there was no way he could not have known about the plot. The sixth conviction came on August 1st for Col. Magiel Burger. On August 2nd, Maj. Jacques Olivier, Pieter van Deventer, and Fritz Naude received their treason convictions as well. Naude, a farm-implement salesman (something tells me he probably specialized in pitchforks), was convicted in absentia since he was still recuperating from a well-deserved vascular stroke. All are eligible for life sentences. Fifteen other Boeremag members also face charges.
Demonstrators outside the courthouse, with Boeremag flags. Talk about lost causes.
Rift over Ballot Format May Delay Scots Independence Vote ’til 2015. Wrangling over the format of a planned referendum on independence for Scotland may delay the vote until 2015, it was revealed July 29th. The government of the United Kingdom wants a two-option question—independence or the status quo—while Scotland’s separatist First Minister, Alex Salmond, would rather have three choices: independence, the status quo, or a situation short of full independence with enhanced autonomy. It is more common in independence referenda, such as those in Western Sahara or Puerto Rico, for central governments to supported three-choice ballots, so that voters favoring more autonomy will be split, but in Scotland the status quo is so unpopular that Salmond is hoping that it is the not-quite-independence constituency that will be divided by the addition of a third choice. If the U.K.’s Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, and Salmond cannot agree by October, the referendum may have to be pushed back to 2015. The Scottish National Party (S.N.P.) had hoped to hold the vote during 2014, so as to coincide with the septcentenary of the Battle of Bannockburn (June 24, 1314), a decisive battle in the First War for Scottish Independence. Meanwhile, a new poll indicates that only 30% of Scots support secession (down from 33% earlier this year), with 54% opposed. [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).]
Good old Robert Bruce gets some blows in at the good old Battle of Bannockburn
Belarus Carpet-Bombed with Teddy Bears Bearing Free-Speech Messages. The Soviet-style authoritarian regime in the Republic of Belarus, Europe’s most oppressive state, had the opportunity to display its humorlessness and its paranoia simultaneously this week as President Alexander Lukashenko, sometimes called “Europe’s last dictator,” sacked the heads of his air force and his border patrol on July 31st, over a July 4th incident in which planeloads of teddy bears bearing written pro-democracy and pro-free-speech messages were dropped onto the country, fitted out in little parachutes, by guerilla-activist pranksters from a Swedish advertising and marketing firm. Authorities tried for nearly a month to deny that the incident had taken place, until videos surfacing online and a full admission by the firm, Studio Total, based in Stockholm and Malmö, Sweden. The government finally admitted on July 26th that the incident had occurred. The original intention was to drop the bears on Minsk, the capital, near or on the presidential palace, but the plane, which took off from near Kaunas, in Lithuania, turned back after receiving over radio what may have been warning messages in Russian, dropping some bears along the way. A second, more successful sortie dropped more than a 1,000 bears on a Minsk suburb. In retaliation, Sweden’s ambassador to Belarus has been expelled. Other stunts by Studio Total included women’s public money-burning demonstrations to raise awareness of wage inequalities, and an Internet hoax about a so-called Austrian International School of Sex (which presumably has a “study a broad” program). You can watch a video of the airdrop made by the pranksters themselves here, and a Russian television-news report on the prank here.
Here come the teddies ...
Austria Restores Right to Circumcision amid Far-Right Calls for National Ban. A week after the governor of the Republic of Austria’s smallest state, Vorarlberg, ordered hospitals to cease circumcising infants (as reported last week in this blog), the country’s minister of Justice, Beatrix Karl, has made it known that the practice will be legal and protected. This prompted the governor, Markus Wallner, to retract his edict, since, he claimed, he had “only wanted to get legal certainty for doctors so they can be clear whether they face legal consequences if they perform circumcisions for religious reasons.” The controversy came in the wake of a legal controversy last month (as reported in this blog) when a court in Cologne, Germany, banned infant circumcision, prompting an outcry from Jewish and Muslim groups and a federal intervention to protect religious rights. In Austria, all major religious groups—not just Jews and Muslims, for whom infant circumcision is a religious duty, but Catholic and Protestant Christians as well—united in condemning Wallner’s ban. However, two hospitals in Switzerland, one in Zurich and one in St. Gall, halted circumcisions amid the controversy, citing legal worries, and the governor of Austria’s southernmost state, Carinthia (Kärnten), Gerhard Dörfler, followed Wallner’s suit initially and even proposed an all-out national ban on the practice. Dörfler is from the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (F.P.Ö.), which promotes pan-Teutonic blood-and-soil nationalism, Islamophobia, and immigrant-baiting. (The F.P.Ö. rose to prominence under the leadership of Jörg Haider, a confidante of Saddam Hussein and Moammar al-Qaddafi who called the Waffen-S.S. “decent men of good character” and referred to Nazi death camps as “punishment camps.” Dörfler took over the Carinthian governorship after Haider, the previous governor, died in a 2008 car crash. Haider, who was married but secretly gay, had just had a spat with his “Lebensmensch” Stefan Petzner, when his Volkswagen went offroad and overturned, while he was en route, at 142 kilometres per hour, from a gay bar in Klagenfurt to his mother’s 90th-birthday party. Just thought I’d throw in that little bit of digressive background.) [Related article: “Is Ikaria Flying Too Close to the Sun? A Greek Islet Keen to Join Austria Should Be Careful What It Wishes for” (July 2012).]
Gerhard Dörfler, governor of Carinthia, describing why he himself doesn’t want to be circumcised
Pigs’ blood desecrates a French mosque
Tatar Muslims Rally against Mass Arrests in Wake of Mufti Attacks. In Kazan, capital of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Tatarstan, about 100 young Muslim men marched in a legal rally organized by the Azatlyk (Freedom) Union of Tatar Youth and by a local mosque to protest mass arrests by authorities in the wake of the July 19th assassination (reported in this blog at the time) of a leading moderate mufti and the attempted assassination of another. Protesters carried Tatar flags and signs which read, “We Shall Not Allow a Second Caucasus,” and other slogans. In an open letter to Tatarstan’s president, Rustam Minnikhanov, participants in the protest wrote that between 400 and 600 people had been arrested, 200 homes had been searched, and “religious books and computers” have been seized. Displays of nationalist or anti-government sentiment are rare in Tatarstan, which in 1992 was one of two republics (Chechnya was the other) which refused to join the new Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union and held out for two years, where Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has eroded the republic’s once-enhanced autonomy.
Russian Authorities Bust 5 Islamists in Urals Plotting to Found Sovereign Caliphate. Russian authorities said this week that security forces in Chelyabinsk, in central Russia, had arrested five members of the Islamist extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, accused of plotting to establish an independent Muslim caliphate in central Russia—what is sometimes called the Khilafat (“caliphate”) movement. Kazan, the capital of nearby Tatarstan (see article above) was the center of an independent Khanate of Kazan, a vast, multi-ethnic Muslim state which flourished briefly during the Russian Civil War in the 1910s and included Chelyabinsk, before being crushed by the Bolsheviks. Muslims in the region sometimes wax nostalgic for those days and sometimes find common cause with the Caucasus Emirate movement, which would like to create a separate state out of Muslim regions in southwestern Russia and neighboring countries. Hizb ut-Tahrir has been banned since 2003.
Map showing the locations of Chelyabinsk and Tatarstan within Russia
Come to Krasnodar Krai’s Kuban Cossack festival.
Activities include folk dancing, crafts, and driving dirty, dark-skinned Muslims in to the sea.
Yana Zhdanova, now sentenced to 15 days in jail,
at an earlier Femen protest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
[For the latest news on Turkey and Kurdistan, see today’s separate article “Liberation of Syrian Kurdistan Infuriates Turkey, Iraq, and Free Syrian Army—in Fact, Everyone but Assad.”]
Rebellious Tajik Province Sealed Off as Reports of Atrocities Filter Out. The Republic of Tajikistan’s rebellious eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province continues to be cut off from the outside world this week, as it has been since a government offensive began there July 24th to investigate the July 21st beating death of a secret-intelligence chief by a warlord who had supposedly turned over a new leaf since Tajikistan’s 1992-97 civil war. On July 27th, Tajikistani authorities closed all of Gorno-Badakhshan’s border crossings with Afghanistan. Rebels are believed to have widespread support in the province. Other reports mention civilians being fired upon by government snipers while “fetching water or tending to their gardens.” The Tajik government claims it has captured eight Afghan Taliban fighters inside the rebellious province. Meanwhile, members of the Pamiri ethnic group that form Gorno-Badakhshan’s majority (and also a majority in adjacent parts of Afghanistan (see map), are rallying in Moscow, in Washington, and in neighboring Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek.
[For the latest news on Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Kurdistan, see today’s separate article “Liberation of Syrian Kurdistan Infuriates Turkey, Iraq, and Free Syrian Army—in Fact, Everyone but Assad.”]
Israeli Border Cops Kill 1 Arab, Injure Another at West Bank Checkpoint. One Palestinian Arab man was killed and another injured when a van carrying them and 11 other workers rushed an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank, near Jerusalem, on July 30th, prompting border police to open fire after repeated warnings, according to the official version of events. The driver fled the scene. One Israeli police officer was injured by shrapnel. A spokesman for Israel’s border police said the van’s occupants “had intent to harm the officers.” [Related article: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”]
India Ends House Arrest for All Kashmir Separatist Leaders, Except Geelani. By July 29th, authorities had released nearly all of the separatist leaders in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir who were put under house arrest last week (as reported in this blog) to prevent mob violence over a young man’s killing at military hands on July 24th. The one exception is Syed Ali Shah Geelani, leader of the separatist umbrella group Hurriyat Conference’s hard-line faction. It was Geelani who called the general strike that shut the state down on July 27th. [Related article: “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (Aug. 2012).]
Explosion in Tour Bus Kills 3 Women in Kashmir. Three female tourists from Mumbai were killed in India’s northern, Muslim-dominated Jammu and Kashmir state on July 28th when the tour bus they were traveling in experienced an explosion. Police claim that the explosion, which occurred in the village of Zuripora, was caused by a “cylinder blast,” the tour operator maintains that someone had thrown a grenade into the bus when it stopped at a tollbooth. In addition to the three dead, five people were injured. [Related article: “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (Aug. 2012).]
By-Election, Secret Report Prompt Return of Calls to Divide Andhra Pradesh. The movement in the Republic of India’s east-coast state of Andhra Pradesh to hive off a separate Indian state called Telangana is gaining momentum this week after leaks indicated that a secret briefing for India’s president, Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, by the federal Ministry of Home Affairs (M.H.A.) ruled out the possibility of creating a new member of the Indian union. B. Vinod Kumar, leader of the separatist political party Telangana Rashtra Samithi (T.R.S.), called the media reports anti-Telangana propaganda and questioned the authority of the M.H.A. to report to the president directly without going through the prime minister. Meanwhile, recent by-elections have also split the anti-secessionist United Andhra movement, with former supporters of a separate Rayalaseema state no longer advocating that Andhra Pradesh—which brought the states of Telangana, Rayalaseema, and Andhra together in the 1950s—stay in one piece. T. G. Venkatesh, a government minister and Rayalaseema leader, said, “Rayalaseema is the most backward and neglected region in the State. All our attempts so far were in vain. This time, we will fight for our rights.” And Baireddy Rajasekhara Reddy, of the Telugu Desam Party (T.D.P.), said that he and other Rayalaseema people “cannot live with the Andhra people as we have huge cultural differences.”
The three traditionally separate parts of Andhra Pradesh
U.N. Envoy Probes Burmese Rohingya Strife; Rights Group Cites Military Atrocities. A human-rights investigator with the United Nations, Tomás Ojea Quintana, arrived in Burma July 30th for a week-long visit to investigate deadly violence last month between predominantly-Muslim, disenfranchised Bengalis called Rohingyas and members of Burma’s Buddhist majority in Arakan State (which the ruling junta has renamed Rakhine) in the country’s west. Quintana will reserve comment until after his trip, but on August 1st, Human Rights Watch (H.R.W.), an international human-rights group based in New York, released a blistering report claiming that Burmese troops not only allowed the violence to escalate but even themselves on occasion opened fire on unarmed Muslims in what they called a campaign of anti-Muslim atrocities by the military, including systematic rape and murder. H.R.W.’s Asia director, Brad Adams, urged world leaders not to be “blinded by a romantic narrative of sweeping change” in Burma. Quintana met his first day with Lt.-Gen. Thein Htay, the minister of border affairs for Burma, which is governed by a military junta under the name Republic of the Union of Myanmar. In a separate statement, Htay reiterated that the approximately 800,000 Rohingya, some of whom have lived in Burma for generations, and who constitute the largest population of stateless people in the world (Bangladesh won’t have anything to do with them either, and this week banned aid organizations from giving any aid or food to Rohingya refugees crossing from Burma to Bangladesh), have no claim on Myanmar citizenship, explaining, “They are not included among our more than 130 ethnic races.” Yes, he actually said that—his meaning being: Sorry, guys, you’re not on our list of ethnic groups that exist, so fuck you. In related news, the jailed terrorist and self-proclaimed Islamic spiritual leader Abu Baku Bashir, who is in prison in Indonesia, announced that he would “wage war” on Burma if it continued to harm Rohingyas—following the pattern of last week’s similar anti-Burmese bluster (reported in this blog) from Pakistan’s Taliban. [Related article: “The Moment Burma’s Separatist Minorities Have Been Waiting for” (Jan. 2012).]
Rohingyas protesting at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, Thailand
Disappearances, Other Rights Abuses on Increase in Kachin State. Rights groups and advocacy groups on the ground in Kachin State—where a battle rages between Burma’s government (which calls the country the Republic of the Union of Myanmar) and the Kachin Independence Army (K.I.A.), despite a peace accord that was touted internationally as evidence of the military junta’s “reforms”—conditions are worsening. San Aung, a peace negotiator, told media July 30th that disappearances are so common that the matter was brought before the National Human Rights Commission—though “national” here means the junta, so good luck with that. Aung said, “They only asked me about the peace process and I tried to present about the human rights wissue, but they are not interested in it.” An example is Gulau Bawm Yaw, who was arrested by the military July 1st on suspicion of K.I.A. ties, under a law which gives authorities almost unlimited latitude in rounding up suspects and keeping them indefinitely. The government said Bawm Yaw was released, but his wife never saw him until his corpse was found in a ditch, mutilated through torture, on July 22nd. [Related article: “The Moment Burma’s Separatist Minorities Have Been Waiting for” (Jan. 2012).]
Beijing Bars Civil Servants from Marking Ramadan; 20 Uyghur “Rebels” Sentenced. Edicts issued thius week by the Communist Party of China in various parts of the vast and predominantly-Muslim Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in China’s far northwest, order all party officials, civil servants (even retired ones), teachers, and even students to refrain from fasting during Ramadan, the Islamic high holy days which began July 20th. One such memo, from Zonglang township, cited the need to “maintain social stability”; others cited spurious health concerns Party members were urged to bring gifts of food around to make sure that people were eating. It is also forbidden to enter mosques during the holidays. The region has been beset in the past few years by violence connected to demands for independence by the Uyghur nationality. Meanwhile, it was reported August 2nd that courts in three different parts of Xinjiang had sentenced a total of 20 people to long prison terms for separatist and terrorist offenses that included use of the Internet to organize terrorist groups and the making of explosives. The World Uyghur Congress, the main international group defending human rights in northwestern China, called the charges politically motivated. [Related articles: “China, Tibet, and the Politics of Reincarnation” (March 2012), “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).]
Gulau Bawm Yaw, three weeks after the military brought him in for questioning.
And yet the United States thinks things have improved enough that it’s time to lift sanctions on Burma.
Waitangi Tribunal Rules in Favor of Māori on Water Rights. The Waitangi Tribunal, a judicial committee which interprets New Zealand’s founding document, the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, as a kind of advisory constitutional court, this week asked for a halt to planned sales of state-owned energy firms by the government, out of consideration for Māori water rights. But the tribunal’s “interim direction” does not prescribe any action for the moment. The Tribunal was to release a full report on the matter in September, in time to put an effective halt to the sales, but the government on August 2nd directed the Tribunal to decide by August 24th instead, causing an outcry from the Māori Council.
Tokelau, Minuscule Atoll in South Pacific, Becoming First All-Solar-Power Country. A five-square-mile cluster of atolls in the South Pacific called Tokelau, home to only 1,400 people, mostly indigenous Polynesians, would be third from the bottom of the list of countries by size (above only Vatican City and Monaco) if it were independent instead of an economically bankrupt colony of New Zealand, but it is on its way to being no. 1 in countries that have switched entirely to renewable sources of energy, in this case solar power—something which eventually all nations will probably need to do. The territory is in the midst of phasing out diesel fuel and installing 4,000 solar panels to meet all of its electricity needs. New Zealand’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade is funding the project, which is costing $7.5 million.
Flag of Tokelau
Quebec Premier Calls Vote for September but Trails Separatists in Polls. The premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, on August 1st called provincial elections for September 4th. It is widely viewed that he made the decision so that the election could be held before an inquiry into the construction contracts that might damage him politically. But it is a gamble, since the latest polls show his Quebec Liberal Party (P.L.Q.) trailing the Parti Québécois (P.Q.), which would like the province to secede from Canada, by 33% to 31%. Currently, the P.Q. has only 47 out of 125 seats in the province’s unicameral legislature, the National Assembly of Quebec, while the P.L.Q. has 64, a wafer-thin majority. [Related article: “Quebec Cracks Down on Crimes against the State—Like Playing Hopscotch in English” (Nov. 2012).]
In 5-Year Sting, F.B.I. Founded Fake Florida Biker Gang to Infiltrate Neo-Nazi Cell. In a stunningly successful five-year-long sting operation by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), federal police in Florida, it was revealed this week in the Orlando Sentinel, established a phony white-supremacist motorcycle gang to entrap suspected domestic terrorists. The operation began in 2007, when an undercover sheriff’s agent in Orange County, Florida, responded to an emailed request from August Kreis III, “Führer” of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, which was seeking to establish a Nazi biker gang as a nationwide recruitment tool. The agent became in effect the recruitment leader for the 1st S.S. Kavallerie Brigade Motorcycle Division—the name invoking the feared Nazi German Schutzstaffel, or Defense Squadrons. Two F.B.I. agents also signed on as undercover “members.” Under the eye of the undercover infiltrators, gang members obtained explosives, smuggled drugs, plotted bombings, offered bounties on African-American men, and engaged in paramilitary training for the race war that they expected to spark. The Aryan Nations has mostly dissolved since 2007, but the biker sting, and a related federal sting in Osceola County, Florida, in May which disrupted a cell of the white-supremacist terrorist militia American Front, has so far netted 20 arrests. Meanwhile, an American Front member in the Orange–Osceola court district, Christopher Brooks, previously convicted for defacing a synagogue in Virginia, was given a three-year prison term for firearms offenses.
August Kreis III
North Dakota Aryan Nations Member Gets Life Term for Initiation Beheading. A white-supremacist in North Dakota who had been convicted of the random murder of a local man was given a life term on August 1st. Daniel “Machine-Gun Head” Wacht’s victim, Kurt Johnson, a 54-year-old North Dakota State University researcher, was last seen on New Year’s Eve 2010, and his severed head was later found in a crawl-space in Wacht’s basement. His body has never been found. The murder was apparently committed in order to prove to higher-ups in the white-supremacist Aryan Nations militia that he was competent to run a local chapter. Meanwhile, in Dyersburg, Tennessee, the family of a missing man, Curtis Tyler, who was last seen June 30th, believes that his disappearance has to do with his membership in Aryan Nations, which he joined while in jail. They say he had been receiving death threats from Aryan Nations members.
The Aryan Brotherhood flag. Okay, I have lots of issues with this flag, but just from a good-luck-vs.-bad-luck perspective? The swastika and the 666 definitely cancel out the shamrock.
A scene from the Hutaree wedding whose video was confiscated and destroyed, along with flags that were also destroyed. The Hutaree Militia flag is on the left, the Colonial Christian Republic flag is in the middle, and the more widespread “Tea Party moron lives here” flag is on the right.
You wanna see Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s head spin around? Show him this map.
Brazil Court Sides with “World’s Most Endangered Tribe” in Railway Dispute. In Brazil, a federal judge ruled August 2nd that the mining corporation Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, S.A., usually called simply Vale, cannot expand a rail line into areas in northern Brazil that are vital to the way of life of the Awá–Guajá, an indigenous people of the Amazon whose catastrophic encounter with European colonialism and Brazilian corporate rapacity has dwindled their numbers to 350 and which the human-rights group Survival International calls “the world’s most endangered tribe.” The existing railway runs 900 kilometers from iron mines in Pará state to the Ponta da Madeira maritime terminal in Maranhão state. Vale plans to appeal the decision. As an anthropological aside, the Awá–Guajá are notable in the ethnographic literature for their unusual variety of relationships with local monkey species, some of which are kept as pets, some of which live in the home as quasi-family members and even breastfed by Awá–Guajá mothers, and some of which are eaten as food in what the anthropologist Loretta Cormier calls a kind of “symbolic cannibalism.”
Now, now, there’s enough for everyone.
Argentina Opens Waters near Falklands to Oil, Gas Exploration. The Argentine Republic plans to open waters near the Falkland Islands to bidding by firms for oil and natural-gas exploration licenses, it was announced July 31st, under what is called Buenos Aires’s “Falklands–Malvinas noose-tightening”—Malvinas being the Spanish name for the United Kingdom territory which Argentina’s military junta tried to conquer in a failed invasion in 1982 and still claims. So far it appears that the waters in question are not within the Falklands’ marine boundary. The news came the day after a field hockey match between Argentina and the U.K., at the Olympics in London, which Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is boycotting. The British won, 4-1. Meanwhile, the senate of Buenos Aires province passed legislation August 2nd banning U.K.-flagged vessels from its harbors. [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), “Celts, Cypriots, Aborigines Raise Stink at Olympics: Ethnonationalist Protest Update” (July 2012), “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (Aug. 2012).]
Argentine War Cemetery in Falklands Vandalized, Saint’s Image Smashed. A revered Argentine cemetery on the Falkland Islands, the resting place of 237 soldiers who died in the Argentine Republic’s failed bid to conquer the United Kingdom territory in 1982, was vandalized this week. The glass case containing an image of Our Lady of Luján, Argentina’s patron saint, was smashed, apparently by bullets. A statement from an Argentine war-dead lobbying group, the Malvinas Families Commission, read, “We believe that reflects escalating hostility by certain British sectors who are influential locally. We will not let up until this repugnant act of sacrilege is clarified.” The Argentine government made a formal complaint to the United Nations on August 1st, in a statement which presumes British guilt. Police in the Falklands are investigating. The cemetery is located at the village of Darwin, site of a battle in the Falklands War and named for Charles Darwin, who camped for the night at the site during the second voyage of the Beagle in 1833. [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).]
Argentine shrine desecrated
[For London Olympics updates, see story about Krasnodar Cossacks above (under “Europe”) but, especially, yesterday’s article “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors,” as well as the following related recent articles: “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics,” “Celts, Cypriots, Aborigines Raise Stink at Olympics: Ethnonationalist Protest Update.”]
[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas. Look for it in spring 2013. I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]