|Image of the week: Not-so-neutral Swiss journalism. Die Weltwoche, a Zurich tabloid, was censured by Switzerland’s press board this week for this April 2012 scare cover story (“The Roma Are Coming: Robbery in Switzerland: Crime as a Family Business”) which turned out to feature a picture not of an underage Roma (a.k.a. Gypsy) violent criminal in Switzerland, as the text implied, but of a boy playing with a toy gun on a garbage dump in Kosovo in 2008. Switzerland, which has a higher proportion of immigrants, guest workers, and asylum-seekers in its population than almost any other country in the world, has seen a sharp uptick in xenophobia in recent years. (To be fair, your average Swiss bigot hates people from the former Yugoslavia as much as Gypsies, so this cover story was, as far as many are concerned, only as accurate as it needed to be.)|
KURDISH MILITIAS BATTLE FREE SYRIAN ARMY IN ALEPPO—
IS THIS THE TIPPING POINT?
30 Dead as Kurds Battle Free Syrian Army in Aleppo; 180 Kurds Captured. In a relatively new development in Syria’s civil war, more than 30 were killed and about 200 captured in a battle in Aleppo between the Arab-dominated rebel group the Free Syrian Army (F.S.A.) and a militia belonging to the Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.), a Kurdish opposition group in Syria linked to Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.). The information came from an announcement on October 27th from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which also said that the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of Aleppo remained under P.Y.D. control. According to the reports, “Some 20 rebels were kidnapped by the P.Y.D. The rest of those kidnapped are Kurds”—at least one of whom, a 37-year-old man, was apparently subsequently tortured to death. By October 29th, there was talk of a possible F.S.A.–P.Y.D. cease-fire. Aleppo has been ravaged by civil war since July.
... and also on the topic of Syria ...
China Accuses Uyghur Separatists of Aiding Rebels in Syrian Civil War. The Communist Party of China, through a party-run newspaper, has announced, with characteristic panic, that “terrorists” from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the northwest are being dispatched to fight alongside the opposition in the civil war in Syria. The party in particular mentions the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the East Turkestan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA), which it considers criminal separatist militias and which seek independence from China, of being in league with al-Qaeda in the Syrian civil war. It accuses the Republic of Turkey, where ETESA is based, of harboring the militants and of fomenting civil war in northwestern China as well. The World Uyghur Congress, based in Stockholm, Sweden, denies the allegations. Poor, poor China—surrounded by enemies! If only everyone could be on China’s side—you know, like Bashar al-Assad is.
[For the latest news on separatism in Nigeria, including Boko Haram, Biafra, and the Kalabari Kingdom, see this week’s “Nigeria Separatism Update.”]
Yet Another Islamist Army Aims to Rule Jubaland, but with Kenyan, Somali Support. The chairman of the Ras Kamboni Brigades, an Islamist clan-based militia in the parts of far-southern Somalia where an African Union (A.U.) force led by Kenya recently deposed the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militia, said this week that he supported the Kenyan effort to establish an autonomous Jubaland state in the area, along the lines of the northern Puntland. The chairman, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam (a.k.a. Ahmed Madobe), also said he was in touch with the dysfunctional, ineffective (not his words) Somalian government in Mogadishu. Kenya defeated al-Shabaab mainly with Ras Kamboni support, but some Jubalanders worry that their brand of Islamism will be little better than al-Shabaab’s or, at best, the lesser of two evils.
Islamists in Azawad Bulldoze Timbuktu Independence Monument. In the northern two-thirds of the Republic of Mali that functions as the Independent State of Azawad, radical Islamist militias that run the country destroyed Timbuktu’s independence monument. They used bulldozers and tractors, according to witnesses.Kenyan Police Kill 2 Suspected Mombasa Separatists in House Raid. Authorities in Kenya announced October 28th that police had shot and killed two suspected members of the Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.) who they feared were plotting an attack in Coast Province, which the M.R.C. would like to be a separate nation. The shootings occurred during a house raid in Mombasa the day before. The search was on for others who fled the scene. Meanwhile, pressure from a group called Muslims for Human Rights, the Policing Oversight Authority in Kenya will investigate possible abuses during the recent crackdown on the M.R.C., and the government is encouraging an M.R.C. rapprochement with what it calls an accommodating Coast Province government, while also touting the supposed surrender of 22 M.R.C. rebels. Also, resisting arrest was added to the charges against the M.R.C.’s chairman, Omar Hamisi Mwamnuadzi, and his family, who were arrested October 15th (as reported at the time in this blog).
2 Heavily Armed Basque Separatists, Including a Top Commander, Nabbed in France. A special tactical police unit on October 28th arrested two members of the disarmed and mostly disbanded Basque separatist militia ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatusana, “Basque Homeland and Freedom”) in Mâcon, in east-central France. The two—Izaskun Lesaka, aged 37, and Joseba Iturbide Ochoteco, aged 35—were arrested in the early morning in a hotel room. Both were armed were arrested with a large number of weapons, explosives, and other incriminating material. Police from Spain also cooperated in the operation. Lesaka is considered to be one of ETA’s top three commanders. Meanwhile, another wanted female Basque militant, Aurore Martin, was arrested during a traffic stop in Mauléon, in southwestern France’s Basque region, on November 1st and was transferred to Spanish authorities hours later.
|Izaskun Lesaka being arrested in Mâcon|
|Flags flying in Corby, Northamptonshire, a.k.a. Little Scotland|
|Hillary Rodham Clinton with Bosnia and Herzegovina’s prime minister, Vjekoslav Bevanda (a Croat)|
5 Bosniaks Arrested in Serbia for Mocking Organ-Harvesting Scandal at Football Match. Five Muslims—members of the Bosniak ethnic group in the former Yugoslavia—were arrested at a football match in the Republic of Serbia this week after displaying a banner that seemed to make light of the ongoing inquiry into alleged organ-trafficking rings operated by the Kosovo Liberation Army (K.L.A.) and others in northern Albania during the 1998-99 Kosovo War (reported on earlier in this blog). Serbs were the alleged victims of the organ-harvesting. The banner read, “Riddles solved, heart, kidney, lungs, long live Yellow House”—Yellow House being the media nickname for the organ-trafficking case. The fans, who were from Novi Pazar Football Club—representing a Bosniak-dominated town in southern Serbia near the Kosovo border—said that the banner was an “answer” to fans of the opposing team, Fudbalski Klub Rad of Belgrade, who had during a game in March mocked the 1995 massacre of Bosniak civilians in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
|Bosniak football fans mocking a Serbian organ-harvesting scandal|
|Madeline Albright’s Michael Richards moment|
BITS OF ASIA THAT LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE
[For the latest news on the South Caucasus, including Georgia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, see this week’s “Caucasus Update.”]
Hatay Barracks Bombing Blamed on P.K.K., but Lebanese M.P. Suspects Syria. In Turkey’s Hatay province, a former part of Syria which Turkey conquered in the 1930s after it flourished briefly as an independent state (discussed in detail in an article in this blog), a car bomb on November 1st outside a military barracks in the port city of İskinderun, injured three civilians. Some suspicions settled on the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), which carries out similar attacks in nearby provinces. But Walid Jumblatt, a Kurdish member of Lebanon’s parliament who follows the Druze religion and heads Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party (P.S.P.), stated, “The blast is part of the Syrian regime threats to blow up neighboring areas.”
|Turkey’s Hatay province|
Iraqi President Considers Creating 2 Turkmen Provinces in Areas Kurds Covet. The president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, said this week that he would consider a proposal that would create two Iraqi provinces for the Turkmen minority, who form 9% of the population but are not the majority in any of the 18 provinces. This was revealed October 20th by the vice-president of the Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmen, Jassim Mohammed Jaafar, who is also Iraq’s minister of youth and sport. The proposal would turn the Tel Afar district, in Nineveh Province, and the Tuz Khormato district, in Saladin Province, both of them Turkmen-majority areas, into their own provinces. Both Nineveh and Saladin include areas that are outside of Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan Region but which the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) wants to include in its territory. Talabani, who is a Kurd but in disputes tends to side with the Shiite-Arab-dominated central government against the K.R.G., has been attracting controversy for proposing a wholesale redrawing of provincial boundaries to follow ethnic lines more closely, though the Kurdistan Alliance (K.A.) has high hopes for the plans in principle. The Arab-dominated, non-sectarian Iraqi National Alliance opposes the changes.
|(Turkmens in are purple)|
In Interview, Abbas Denounces Rocket Attacks, Claims ’67 Borders Only. In a television interview, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, denounced the rocket attacks into Israel by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that governs the Palestinian Territories’ Gaza Strip exclave, saying, “Rocket attacks are in vain because they do not bring peace any closer.” Abbas also clarified his position on the borders of a State of Palestine, saying, “Palestine now for me is ’67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever. This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts, Israel.” In this, Abbas is renouncing a claim on, or right of return to, Safed, where he was born in 1935 during the United Kingdom’s rule in Palestine and which is now a town in northeastern Israel, near Syria’s Golan Heights. Safed today is 99.2% Jewish. Hamas condemned Abbas’s comments as a capitulation.
Arafat to Be Exhumed in November, Autopsied for Radiation Poisoning. Officials in France confirmed October 30th the body of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s founder and leader, Yasser Arafat, would be exhumed in November in an attempt to determine whether he had been poisoned before his mysterious death in 2004. The autopsy will be conducted by Switzerland’s Institute of Radiation Physics, since it is asserted he died from a radioactive isotope. He is buried in Ramallah, in the West Bank.
|Yasser Arafat and his wife|
Police Informer Killed During Army Siege of ULFA Militants in Assamese Village. One person was killed on October 28th in a gun battle between government forces in India’s far-northeastern Assam state and members of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). Acting on a tip, army and police forces surrounded the village of Nazirapuriya, which drew fire from ULFA rebels, killing one police informer, apparently the one responsible for the tip-off—though other sources identify him only as one of the ULFA militants. A policeman was injured, and all ULFA suspects fled unharmed.
Telugu Students Battle Cops over Own State on Day to Mark Andhra Pradesh Founding. Violence broke out in Hyderabad, India, again on November 1st over the question of whether the Telugu minority in the state of Andhra Pradesh should have its own separate state within India, to be called Telangana. The marches and rallies occurred on the campus of Osmania University, with students battling police. The Congress of India party, which rules Andhra Pradesh, opposes the Telangana statehood proposal. The occasion for the rallies was the 56th anniversary of the establishment of Andhra Pradesh. On that date, in 1956, the Telugu homeland was reassigned to Andhra Pradesh as the formerly separatist Hyderabad State, to which it had belonged, was dismembered.
|For Telugu student activists, the founding of Andhra Pradesh is nothing to celebrate.|
Burma Junta, Suu Kyi at Last Admit Scale of Rohingya Strife, Mull Citizenship. The half-heartedly reforming military junta that rules Burma under the name Republic of the Union of Myanmar admitted this week that a recent second deadly wave of ethnic violence against the stateless Rohingya minority was underway (as reported last week in this blog)—a shift from their usual dissembling and denials. Burma’s president, Thein Sein, made the comments after the United Nations (U.N.) warned the junta that the anti-Muslim violence was harming Burma’s chances at rejoining the international community. There are even hints from the Burmese ministry of information that the Rohingya may be eventually granted citizenship. Meanwhile, grisly news keeps emerging from Arakan (Rakhine) state, in western Burma, where the violence rages—over 32,000 displaced, at least 88 dead and 129 injured, 3,000 Rohingya refugees blocked by Burmese military and forced onto an island, satellite images showing entire neighborhoods of hundreds of homes burnt to the ground by mobs, and violence shifting now to include another Muslim minority, the Kaman. “It’s not just anti-Rohingya violence anymore,” said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, a human-rights group; “it’s anti-Muslim.” Even the recently freed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose despicable silence during the wave of anti-Rohingya violence this summer angered the Muslim world and the human-rights community, is heading a special parliamentary committee which on October 26th called for authorities to protect Rohingyas and punish their persecutors. Meanwhile, there were reports on October 30th of petrol-bomb attacks on a Rohingya village, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.) this week urged the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to open its borders to Rohingya refugees. A refugee boat which sank off the Bangladeshi coast on October 28th had 135 people on board and almost no survivors, but how many of them were Rohingyas is the subject of conflicting reports.
|Satellite imagery shows the scale of ethnic cleansing against Rohingyas in Burma|
U.N. Human-Rights Commissioner Blames Beijing for Tibetan Self-Immolations. The United Nations’ commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay, this week urged the People’s Republic of China to address the conditions that are leading scores of Tibetans to burn themselves to death to protest Chinese rule in Tibet. She also expressed concern over curbs on religious and expressive freedom, saying, “I call on the government to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, and to release all individuals detained for merely exercising these universal rights.”
Suicidal Indian Tribe in Brazil Allowed to Stay on Land for Now, Judge Rules. A federal judge in Brazil this week suspended an eviction order against a small Indian tribe which had threatened mass suicide (as reported last week in this blog) if forced to abandon sacred burial grounds in Mato Grosso do Sul state by being evicted from land “owned” by a non-indigenous rancher. The 170-person band, the Guarani-Kaiowá, will, under the new ruling, be allowed to stay while ownership claims are reevaluated.
|Guarani-Kaiowá activists demonstrating in Brasilia|