Saturday, August 4, 2012

Teddy Bears over Belarus, Cossacks in Krasnodar, New Somali Constitution, Gay Marriage in Scotland, South Ossetian War Jitters, Tokelau Goes Solar, Aryan Bikers, Carinthian Foreskins: The Week in Separatist News: 29 July–4 August 2012

Photo of the week:  Teddies over Belarus.  See below under “Europe” for full story.


[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.  SenegalBurkino 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).]

Mayor of Capital of Disputed Somaliland Region Survives Hand-Grenade Attack.  The mayor of Las’anod, the capital of the Sool region recently reclaimed by the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland from the rogue statelet called the Khaatumo State (a.k.a. Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn State), narrowly escaped an assassination attempt August 1st when unknown assailants hurled a hand-grenade at his residence.  The  mayor, Faarah Abdi Yare, who had been in office only two weeks, was not injured, but his home was damaged and a bodyguard was injured.  Yare’s predecessor, Keyse Mohamed Haji Hussein, resigned last month in protest against an arrest on corruption charges that he regarded as trumped up by Sool’s governor.  [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

21 Die in Ongoing Violence in Northern Nigeria.  In a dragnet across Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in far-northeastern Nigeria, to catch suspects in a July 25th attack on a gum-arabic factory, the federal Joint Task Force (J.T.F.) have not only rounded up 26 suspects in the killing (as reported last week in this blog) but killed two on July 26th in the process of the operation.  The dead and the suspects are believed to be members of Boko Haram, a radical Islamist terrorist organization.  (The gum-arabic firm in question, it was confirmed July 28th, has as a result shut down, laying off 100 workers.)  On July 27th a policeman guarding a local politician was shot and killed outside his home in a suburb of Bauchi in a drive-by shooting, while two Boko Haram members killed a Nigerian soldier elsewhere in the region around Bauchi.  Two of the attackers in that incident were killed.  In Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city after Lagos and the largest in the Muslim-dominated north, a Boko Haram attack team on motorcycles attacked air-force staff and others on July 29th, killing five people.  That evening in Kano, suspected Boko Haram members stormed a mosque and ended up in a gun battle with police, where four Boko Haram fighters were killed.  Coordinated suicide bombings in Sokoto, capital of the eponymous state, both striking police stations, killed one civilian and one police officer on July 30th, while later in the day in the same city an unidentified gunman on a motorcycle fired at another police station.  Also on the 30th, in Zaria, in Kaduna State, a shoe-shine man was killed in crossfire when three unidentified assailants fired in the direction of policemen guarding a half-reconstructed home belonging to Namadi Sambo, Nigeria’s vice-president.  The home had been burned down in post-election rioting in 2011.  All of the July 30th attacks were claimed by Boko Haram.  On July 30th, two presumed Boko Haram operatives trying to smuggle heavy weapons into Nigeria were killed by Nigerian troops on the border with Chad, near Maiduguri, Boko Haram’s headquarters, and close by Lake Chad, where Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon meet.  (It is speculated that much of the militia’s weaponry is smuggled in from Chad and Niger, and some may also be left over from Libya’s civil war last year.)  On July 31st, authorities announced that in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, at least two militants who were killed by the J.T.F. in a battle had been found to have an arsenal that included rocket-launchers and enough firepower to destroy a city.  Also on July 31st, explosives were found in a lecture room in a university classroom in Kano State and defused by authorities.  In Gombe, capital of Gombe State, in Nigeria’s northeast, suspected Boko Haram rebels attacked two police stations simultaneously on August 1st, throwing explosives and opening fire, both of them leading to extended gun battles and an unknown number of fatalities.  On August 3rd, a suicide-bomber’s attempt on the life of a local Islamic leader was scotched by quick-thinking bodyguards.  But the bomber himself was killed and three bystanders (other reports say dozens) injured in the attack, in Potiskum, Yobe State, on Mohammed Abali Idrissa, Emir of Fika and president of the Council of Leaders in Yobe State.  [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 2011).]

Aftermath of a suicide bombing in Sokoto.  For Nigerians, there is no end in sight to the violence.

Clinton, in South Sudan, Urges End to War.  The United States secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on August 3rd, visited the country she and her boss, President Barack Obama, helped create last year in what amounted to essentially the first significant redrawing of African borders since the end of colonialism and the first new state in Africa that did not correspond to the borders of a European colony.  In Juba, capital of the Republic of South Sudan, Clinton urged a return to dialogue instead of war in South Sudan’s conflict with its former ruler, the Republic of Sudan.  Their long border was left undefined when South Sudan celebrated its independence just over a year ago.  More precisely, vast border regions were promised separate referenda to allow residents to choose which country to belong to, but brutal (northern) Sudanese ethnic cleansing made those referenda impossible.  The two Sudans have been in a state of undeclared war for months, and the conflict has even drawn in the formerly separate civil war in Darfur, in (north) Sudan’s southwest.  [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), “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (Aug. 2012).]

President Salva Kiir Mayadit, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Juba

N.G.O.s Want U.N. to Go after Joseph Kony in South Darfur.  Non-governmental organizations (N.G.O.s) are reporting that the United Nations (U.N.) now believes that the globally wanted war criminal Joseph Kony, head of the Ugandan militia known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.), is now operating in the Republic of Sudan’s state of South Darfur.  N.G.O.s have urged the U.N.’s Security Council to task the U.N.–African Union Mission in Darfur, a joint peace-keeping mission also known as UNAMID, to use its mandate to hunt Kony down, despite Sudanese government objections.  Sudan denies any involvement with the L.R.A., though it is well documented.  [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), “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (Aug. 2012).]

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

Scotland Moves Forward on Gay Marriage; Wales Supportive; U.K. as a Whole Lags.  On July 25th, cabinet ministers in Scotland—which is governed by the separatist Scottish National Party (S.N.P.)—announced that they would introduce a bill in the Scottish parliament to make same-sex marriage legal, which would put the law in place by the start of 2015, placing the Scottish on this issue a bit ahead of the United Kingdom as a whole, which plans to introduce similar legislation but does not expect it to be in place until later in that year.  A spokeswoman for Plaid Cymru, the separatist party which forms part of the opposition in the National Assembly for Wales, said, “I wish Wales would follow but, unfortunately, unlike Scotland we are not able to introduce a policy which ensures both quality and freedom because the matter is not devolved”—meaning that Scotland, with more autonomy, has powers that have not been granted by the U.K. to Wales.  The announcement in Scotland met with objections from the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland, which shows that it is probably the right thing to do.  At least one S.N.P. figure, Robert Stewart, secretary of the Skye, Lochaber, and Badenoch constituency association, quit the party in a huff, complaining that the speed with which it was pushed through indicated the party was becoming an “elected dictatorship”—not because he thinks the policy change is wrong but because he sees it as a tactical error that will cost the S.N.P. “yes” votes in the upcoming independence referendum.  In Europe, same-sex marriage is legal only in Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.  Outside Europe, only Argentina, Canada, and South Africa allow it at the national level.  It is legal in some jurisdictions in the United States and Mexico.  [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).]

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 ...

Extradition Hearing Postponed for Basque Arrested in Edinburgh.  The extradition hearing for a Basque terrorism suspect arrested in Edinburgh, Scotland, last month (as reported at the time in this blog) will be delayed for one month.  The suspect, Beñat Atorrasagasti Ordóñez, age 36, had been on the run since 2001—and had been tried in absentia by a French court and given a five-year prison term—until his arrest July 13th in Edinburgh, accused of transporting materials across the border between Spain and France in the service of the now-mostly-disbanded organization Euskadi Ta Askatusana (ETA), or “Basque Homeland and Freedom.”  Ordóñez’s next hearing will be August 23rd.  [Related article: “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists,” featuring a profile of the Basque warrior Idoia López Riaño, a.k.a. la Tigresa.]

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 “LebensmenschStefan 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

Vandals Desecrate French Mosque with Pigs’ Heads near Site of Mass Killing.  Two severed pigs’ heads and a pool of blood were left by vandals August 2nd at the entrance to a mosque in France, during the holy days of Ramadan and near the site of a mass murder by a deranged Muslim earlier this year.  The incident occurred at the Salam Mosque in Montauban, near where a young Muslim man of Algerian ancestry killed seven people, including four Jews, in a March 19th shooting spree that took place in both Montauban and Toulouse.  Pigs are considered unclean animals in both the Jewish and Muslim faiths.  Montauban’s center-right mayor, Brigitte Barèges, called the incident “an odious and blasphemous act against the Muslim community.”  However, Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s right-wing president at the time of the killings (and head of Barèges’s party), had validated Muslim-baiting in his political life; he had campaigned for the presidency on a promise to “power-hose the scum out of the ghettoes” and had launched a disingenuous campaign against halal butchers (those slaughtering according to Islamic ritual requirements) on animal-rights grounds (as reported in this blog at the time and also mentioned in a full article from this blog on the politicization of the Toulouse shootings).

Pigs’ blood desecrates a French mosque

Moscow Supports Absorption of Transnistria into Moldova.  A Russian Federation deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin, met with the president of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, better known as Transnistria, at a peacekeeping conference on July 30th, and announced afterward that in his opinion Transnistria, a de facto independent sliver of land along the eastern edge of the Republic of Moldova, should reunify with Moldova.  But Yevgeny Shevchuk, Transnistria’s president, believes the talk of federation with Moldova is premature.  Transnistria’s ethnically Ukrainian and Russian residents, who form a majority, declared independence from Moldova in 1990, shortly after Moldova’s own independence from the collapsing Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.).  Russia, although it props up Transnistria militarily and economically, has never formally recognized it.  Only other puppet states—Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia—have granted the statelet diplomatic recognition.  For most of the past 22 years, Romania (which shares a language and culture with Moldova’s majority), Russia, and Moldova have avoided a showdown over Transnistria, mainly, now, because Romania, which would not be able to keep from being drawn into a military confrontation to its east, is now in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), so no one can afford a war between ethnic Romanians and ethnic Slavs.  [Related article: “Transnistria’s Limbo to Continue Indefinitely” (Nov. 2012).]

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

Chechen, Ingush Leaders Tell Rival Stories of Caucasus Emirate Rebels’ Deaths.  The explosion that killed three veteran fighters in the Caucasus Emirate movement in the Russian Federation’s Republic of Ingushetia is the subject of seriously conflicting versions of events by the Ingush president and by the president of neighboring Republic of Chechnya, who had a grudge against the three—if it was even them.  The authoritarian, Moscow-appointed Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, announced this week that three militants who had participated in a 2010 battle in Kadyrov’s home town, Khosi-Yurt, had died in an explosion in Galashki, Ingushetia.  One of the three, Zaurbek Avdorkhanov, was the Islamist separatist Caucasus Emirate movement’s “emir” for Kurchaloi district near Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, and a right-hand man of Doku Umarov (nom de guerre: Dokka Abu Usman), the Caucasus Emirate’s grand emir and the so-called “Chechen Osama bin Laden.”  The three, according to Kadyrov, were on their way to Galashki to “fetch a bride” for one of the three, Ibragim Avdorkhanov, but walked into a booby trap of explosives laid by security forces.  (Bride-capture rituals are a common feature of wedding traditions in the Caucasus, central Asia, northern India, southeast Asia, and elsewhere.)  But Ingushetia’s president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, claimed instead that the explosion had taken place on July 29th and was the result of militants’ mishandling of explosives, and that there had been two fatalities, not three, and one injury.  The two men’s names in the Ingush version of events did not match any of the three names in the Chechen version.  Later, the Ingush government changed its story and said that examination of identity documents on the men had established that they were the same individuals cited by Kadyrov.  In other violence in Russia’s northern Caucasus this week, a policeman was killed by unknown assailants in the Republic of Dagestan July 27th when the vehicle he was in was sprayed with machine-gun fire.  Meanwhile, authorities in Ingushetia reported July 29th that special forced had killed three militants after cornering them in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya (presumably unrelated to the Ingush incident mentioned above, but things are so murky that one never knows).  Those three had been suspected in bombing shops and plotting to kill police.  Two policemen were injured August 1st by a bomb planted in a garbage container in Derbent, on Dagestan’s coast.  The following morning, a police captain was killed by a bomb planted in his car in Buynaksk, in central Dagestan.  On August 2nd, a shootout between security forces and militants near the village of Arcas, in Dagestan, killed Ahmed “Doctor” Labazanov, a wanted terrorist with the Buinaksk and Kadar underground militias.

Ramzan Kadyrov

At Site of 2014 Olympics, Cossacks Plan to Expel Muslims, Keep Order.  In Russia’s Krasnodar Krai, the western North Caucasus jurisdiction which will be the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the governor is organizing Cossacks—yes, actual Cossacks—as a paramilitary force to, in his words, do what the police can’t.  The Krasnodar governor, Aleksandr Tkachev, addressing a gathering of police on August 2nd, openly referred to the danger of non-Russians disrupting the 2014 games.  Krasnodar, and Sochi in particular, is the heartland of Circassia, the Black Sea region of Turkic-speaking Muslims which the Russian Empire brutally conquered in the 1860s and ’70s, in what the large and increasingly vocal Circassian diaspora calls a genocide.  Circassian anger at the choice of Sochi, where the Ubykh Circassians were pretty much exterminated, and 2014, the 150th anniversary of the Sochi pogrom, for the Olympics is already intersecting with the ascendant terrorist campaigns by the Caucasus Emirate movement just to the east in republics like Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan.  The Emirate militants want to carve a separate Islamic state out of predominantly-Muslim areas of Russia’s southwestern rim.  The use of Cossacks, the Czars’ imperial shock troops, who have never disarmed, will doubtless be seen as a further provocation.  Cossacks hold a special place in the hearts of Islamophobic ethnic Russians who dominate Krasnodar’s population only because of ethnic cleansing begun under the Czars and continued under Josef Stalin and, now, Vladimir Putin.  Tchakev—a close friend of Putin and a key player in Olympic organizing—is known for his rehabilitation of Krasnodar’s Cossacks, who were instrumental as a kind of national guard in last month’s flooding in the province, as well as, in 2005, ethnically cleansing the area of Meskhetian Turks.  As Tchakev told police this week, “What you can’t do, the Cossacks can.  We have no other way—we shall stamp it out, instill order.  We shall demand paperwork and enforce migration policies. ... Who will answer when the first blood is spilled, when interethnic conflicts start?  And sooner or later it will happen.”  He cited Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians “began to destroy churches, forced the dominance of their culture, their religion, began conflicts, imposed pressure, blood, small war, big war.  And that was it—there was no country, there were no people, thousands of refugees all over the world.”  That sounds more like what the Cossacks did to the Circassians than what the Kosovar Albanians did to the Serbs.  But who cares about truth or history?  This is the Russian bigots’ version of the Olympic spirit.  2014 should be interesting.  [Related articles: “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.”]

Come to Krasnodar Krai’s Kuban Cossack festival.
Activities include folk dancing, crafts, and driving dirty, dark-skinned Muslims in to the sea.

Ukrainian Activist Who Flashed Patriarch Kirill Gets 15 Days.  The member of the Ukrainian feminist collective Femen who bared her breasts at Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and head of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Kyiv airport in Ukraine on July 26th (as reported in this blog) has now been given a 15-day jail sentence.  The activist, Yana Zhdanova, had the words “KILL KIRILL” (in English; the pun doesn’t work in Ukrainian) written on her bare back.  The stunt was intended to draw attention to the Russian punk-rock band Pussy Riot, who face stiff prison terms this weeks, after staging demonstrations against Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.  (Zhdanova’s help was not necessary: the Pussy Riot case is a global embarrassment for Putin.)  Zhdanova blamed the Ukrainian Security Service for taking an improper hand in her treatment and sentencing.  [Related article: “Olympic Update: Femen Protest, Bigoted Judokas, Sudanese Defectors” (Aug. 2012).]

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.”]

Russian Maneuvers Spark Rumors of War in South Ossetia—False Ones (for Now).  The de facto independent Republic of South Ossetia, nestled in the South Caucasus mountains between its giant patron, the Russian Federation, and the country most of the world regards it as still part of, the Republic of Georgia, was thrown into a panic this week by rumors of a new invasion by Georgian forces.  It gave Ossetes flashbacks to the August 2008 attempted retaking by Georgia which sparked the brief South Ossetia War, in which Russia gave Georgia a bloody nose and the secession from Georgia of South Ossetia and another republic, Abkhazia, after the collapse of Communism became even more formalized (though still recognized by only a handful of governments).  The latest scare was prompted by sudden mass movements of the Russian troops that occupy South Ossetia and military bases being lit up all night with activity.  Rumors that Tskhinvali, the capital, was being evacuated of its women and children turned out to be unfounded.  Information coming out of South Ossetia is sketchy, but it seems just as likely that Russia is putting forces along this part of its vast rim on heightened alert now that Syria’s civil war, which may soon include chemical weapons, is beginning to spill over into Turkey—which borders Georgia—and Iraq, and since the war’s new focus may be the Kurdish people, who form a sizable minority in the Southern Caucasus.  [Related articles: “South Ossetia Update: ‘Independent’ Elections in an ‘Independent’ State—Russian Style” (Dec. 2011)“10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).] 

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

Baloch Separatists Chase Pakistani B.B.C. Reporter out of Town.  A reporter for the British Broadcast Corporation’s Urdu service was chased out of Quetta, Pakistan, by the separatist Baloch Liberation Front (B.L.F.) on July 21st, prompting alarm in an August 2nd statement by the Paris-based international organization Reporters without Borders.  Basham Baloch, head of the B.L.F., had been vilifying the B.B.C.’s Urdu service for what he called the “partisan reporting” of the reporter, Ayub Tareen.  [Related article: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”]


U.N. Envoy Probes Burmese Rohingya Strife; Rights Group Cites Military Atrocities.  A human-rights investigator with the United NationsTomás 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).]

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.

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).]

Hong Kong Protesters Call Schoolbook on Chinese Political System “Brainwashing.”  Less than a month after nearly half a million Hong Kongers took the streets to protest Beijing’s rule—or at least aspects of it—more demonstrations were held in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region July 29th, with an estimated 19,000 protesters objecting to a new school curriculum imposed on the former United Kingdom colony by the Communist Party of China (C.P.C.) which they decry as brainwashing.  At issue is a 34-page book called The China Model, which praises the People’s Republic of China’s single-party dictatorship as uniquely successful—even though part of the deal for the transfer of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997 was that its political system, including multi-party (definitely) democracy (sort of) would be preserved for 50 years.  In the book, the United States’ political system, which is closer to Hong Kong’s than the P.R.C.’s is, is credited with having “created social turbulence and is harmful to people’s livelihood.”  [Related articles: “China, Tibet, and the Politics of Reincarnation” (March 2012), “What Is a Colony? The United Nations’ Definition Needs an Overhaul” (June 2012), “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).]


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

New Caledonian Anti-Independence Party Bristles at French Reference to “Kanaky.”  In the French overseas territory of New Caledonia, the conservative anti-independence party known as Le Rassemblement–U.M.P., expressed outrage after France’s minister for overseas territories, Victorin Lurel, referred to the territory as “Nouvelle–Calédonie/Kanaky” during a meeting in Paris with Paul Neaoutyine, president of New Caledonia’s Province Nord.  Gael Yanno, the Rassemblement mayor of Nouméa, New Caledonia’s capital, called the use of the term Kanaky, which is favored by those who seek independence for the island.  The term kanaka, meaning “native person” in New Caledonian French creole, derives from a Hawaiian word for non-Hawaiian Pacific-islanders, though there is a folk etymology that it derives from a pidgin English word for “cane-hacker,” referring to natives employed on sugar plantations.  Indigenous Kanakas make up just over 40% of the territory’s population.


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.

Aryan Brotherhood Member in Texas Sentenced to Life for 2011 Shooting.  In Kaufman County, in the suburbs of Texas’s Dallas–Ft. Worth conurbation, a jury found a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas guilty on six counts in connection with a shooting incident exactly a year earlier, on August 1, 2011.  The charges included kidnapping, assault, controlled substances, and racketeering.  The defendant, James Patrick Crawford, is to receive a life sentence.  Evidence was presented regarding his membership and rank in the Aryan Brotherhood, a vast network of white-supremacist drug-dealing street gangs which flourishes in prison culture and is responsible for more than a fifth of all homicides in United States prisons.

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.

Feds in Michigan Seek Prison for Hutaree Plotter amid Row over Destroyed Property.  A recently exonerated member of the separatist fundamentalist Hutaree Militia in Michigan, David Stone, Sr., was summoned to return to federal court in Detroit this coming week as prosecutors press for a 41-month prison term for possession of automatic weapons.  There had been insufficient evidence (as reported at the time in this blog) to convict him and his accomplices for attempting to overthrow the United States government, but he pleaded guilty to the weapons charge.  Prosecutors are also seeking a 33-month term for Stone’s son, Joshua Stone.  Meanwhile, however, David Stone and his wife Tina Stone are raising a ruckus after learning on August 1st that some of the possessions they had hoped to have returned to them after their acquittal were destroyed, including Hutaree Militia flags and other regalia, a gun, and other gear, even a wedding video (which has not been released to the public but which I guarantee you was not as easy to watch as Paris Hilton’s) (see photo below).  “This is the problem with the government,” Tina Stone said.  “Basically, they can go into your house, charge you with a crime, you prove your innocence, and then the say, ‘I’m sorry, your stuff has been destroyed,’ and then they’re able to get away with it.”  The Stones’ attorney claims, however, that his clients had never received forfeiture notices the federal government said it had sent, which would have given the opportunity to reclaim the items.  The word Hutaree (pronounced to rhyme with Atari) means “Christian warrior” in the group’s private jargon.  Their motto is, “Preparing for the end times battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive,” and among their aims was the creation, from six rural counties in Michigan, of an independent but anarchistic territory to be called the Colonial Christian Republic, ruled only by God’s law.  [Related article: “Vast Arsenal Returned to Exonerated Hutaree Militiaman in Indiana” (July 2012).]

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.

Conservatives Fault U.C.L.A. for Funding Radical Chicano Group.  A right-wing higher-education watchdog group called Campus Reform reported July 25th that the University of California–Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.) provided more than $100,000 in student funds last year—almost 15% of its budget for reducing its attrition rate—to the Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ [sicde Aztlán (MEChA), or, in English, the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán (or Chicana student movement, the @ representing a gender-neutral ending, thus either Chicano or Chicana).  MEChA is a Chicano empowerment movement with its origins in 1960s California and in the Los Angeles “Zoot Suit Riots” of the 1940s.  “Aztlán” refers to a shared homeland for Chicano or Hispanic people encompassing, in most versions, parts of the southwestern United States which the U.S. conquered from Mexico in the 19th century, plus, sometimes, adjoining areas of northern Mexico.  Mechistas, as members of the group are known, have courted controversy by causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage in a 1993 riot after U.C.L.A.’s rejection of a plan for a Chicano-studies department, running an article celebrating the death of an Hispanic American border patrolman in 1995, and brawling with activists at a July 4, 1996, anti-immigrant hate rally.  Right-wing activists brand MEChA a left-wing hate group, exaggerating its occasional association with, for example, the movement to create a separate, Chicano-dominated republic in Aztlán.

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.]

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