Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Week in Separatist News, March 25-31: Tibet & Kurdistan Burning; Barotse & Toubou Rise Up; Tuaregs Taking Over Northern Mali; Kazakhs Fume Anew over Borat

Photo of the week: a dramatic Tibetan self-immolation in New Delhi (see story below, under “Asia”)


Kurdistan is rising.  Late last year in this blog, I flagged Kurdistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012” (ranking it no. 3, behind Palestine and South Sudan).  And now the Kurdistan Workers’ Party is in a state of near all-out war with Turkey (and with Kurdish elements of the opposition in Syria).  As a P.K.K. spokesman said this week, “Do not let them even take a breath.   This is our year of war.”  Meanwhile, Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region is edging closer and closer to outright secession.  Western media are mostly ignoring the Kurdish dimension to the Arab Spring and to the ongoing crises in Iraq and Iran, but you can read all about it in several stories below—under “Bits of Asia That Like to Pretend They’re Part of Europe” (I’m talking about you, Turkey)—and “Asia,” and in a more extensive article in this blog on the Kurdish Spring.


World Condemns Mali Junta; Northern Towns Fall to Tuareg Rebels.  The military junta that took over Mali on March 22nd has been roundly condemned by the United Nations and the African Union, as well as most foreign powers.  The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has taken the lead in putting pressure on the new government.  On March 27th, Ecowas suspended Mali’s membership and urged an immediate return to civilian rule.  On March 29th, a flight carrying six Ecowas heads of state turned around and headed home because of reports of a pro-junta mob awaiting them on the tarmac in Bamako, Mali’s capital.  Meeting instead in emergency session in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecowas gave the coup’s leader, Capt. Amadou Sanogo 72 hours to hand power back to civilians or face a “diplomatic and financial embargo” that includes a travel ban on the junta, freezing of assets, sealed borders, and loss of access to Ecowas member states’ harbors.  For a while there were false rumors that Sanogo, who heads the so-called National Committee for the Return of Democracy and the Restoration of the State, was killed in a counter-coup by loyalists of the deposed president, Amadou Tomani Touré, confirmed now to be in hiding somewhere in Mali.  Meanwhile, in the north, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (N.M.L.A.), a Tuareg separatist army composed mainly of pro-Qaddafi veterans of Libya’s civil war, has made large territorial gains during the leadership vacuum in the capital.  By March 31st, rebels were entering the besieged city of Gao, had surrounded Timbuktu, and had taken the city of Kidal the day before.  Kidal was captured by a coalition of the N.M.L.A. and a non-separatist Islamist army, Ansar Eddine.  Ansar Eddine, reputedly linked to the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, aims to impose shari’a law throughout Mali and is led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, who led a Tuareg rebellion in the early 1990s.  In the town of Saina, at least 10 fighters were killed in a battle on March 25th between the N.M.L.A. and a pro-government (i.e., pro-Touré) militia called Ganda Iso.  The Ganda Iso leader was among the dead.  Sanogo was openly calling for the international community to help keep Mali out of Tuareg hands—ironically, even in the midst of his own 72-hour ultimatum.  It was discontent over mismanagement of the Tuareg rebellion that led to the coup in the first place.  It was difficult for most Malians to celebrate the national holiday on March 26th; it marks the 20th anniversary of Mali’s transition to civilian democratic government in 1992.  (See my recent blog article on Mali’s civil war.)

Opponents of Mali’s deposed president, Amadou Tomani Touré (the “A.T.T.” on the sign)

North Sudan Bombs South Sudan Oil Fields.  The military of the Republic of Sudan bombed one of the Republic of South Sudan’s oil fields on March 26th, a day after a battle between the two countries in Jau—a town on the South Sudanese side of the border across from the disputed state of South Kordofan—caused Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, to cancel a planned meeting with the South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir Mayardit.  The bombed oil field—operated by China’s Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company—is at Bentiu, near Jau.  According to reports, Sudanese forces attacked South Sudanese positions within Unity State, which were repelled by the South’s army, which then pursued Sudanese troops into Sudan itself.  As of March 28th, South Sudanese officials reported that ground fighting has ceased, but that the Sudanese air force was continuing to bomb Southern oil fields in night raids.  South Sudan has since withdrawn its troops, but the head of Sudan’s parliament claims South Sudan is merely regrouping before an all-out attack on Blue Nile state, one of three disputed areas under northern control.  Although there had been plenty of fighting between southern-allied militias in the disputed areas since South Sudan seceded from the north in July 2011, this week has seen the most serious confrontations between the two national armies themselves, and the international community is warning against, and bracing for, all-out war.  (See my article listing the ongoing struggle for South Sudan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Cyrenaica Threatens Oil Cut-Off; Toubou in Fezzan Revive Autonomy Bid.  The Congress of the People of Cyrenaica (C.P.C.), the group demanding political autonomy for the eastern portion of Libya, warned Libya’s transitional head of state, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, on March 28th that Cyrenaica (known as Barqah in Arabic) “may be forced to stop oil flow” if its demands are not met.  Cyrenaica has about 80% of Libya’s oil wealth but only about 20% of its population.  Jalil was meeting with Bubaker Buera, a founder of the C.P.C., in Cyrenaica’s capital, Benghazi, to try to defuse the autonomy crisis.  One of the C.P.C.’s demands is for Libya’s parliamentary seats to be apportioned equally to Libya’s three regions—Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan—in a federative system.  Right now, Cyrenaica has nearly that—30 out of 200 seats.  The crisis was underlined by intertribal fighting raging for days in Fezzan which killed over 70 people, mostly in and around the town of Sabha.  Some Cyrenaican leaders went to Fezzan to mediate in the confrontations, some of which are occurring in areas where Jalil’s ruling National Transitional Council has no presence and no authority. Issa Abdel Majid Mansour, a leader of the non-Arab, nomadic, oasis-farming Toubou ethnic group, which dominates in eastern Fezzan and far southern Cyrenaica, announced “the reactivation of the Toubou Front for the Salvation of Libya (T.F.S.L.) to protect the Toubou people from ethnic cleansing.”  Mansour claims the Libyan military has used tanks and warplanes against his people in the latest fighting and killed at least 40 of them in Sabha.  The T.F.S.L. fought against Moammar al-Qaddafi in last year’s civil war.  In 2007, Qaddafi had stripped the Toubou of Libyan citizenship, claiming that they were in fact Chadians.  Toubou are found in southern Libya, northern Chad, and eastern Niger.  (See my recent blog article on Cyrenaica’s autonomy movement.)

Areas dominated by the Toubou ethnic group

Barotseland Independence Vote Prompts Violence, Arrest of Leader.  The movement for the Republic of Zambia’s Western Province to secede as an independent Kingdom of Barotseland became a violent conflict on March 23rd in Limulunga, a Barotse village, when police shot two young activists dead at a separatist summit.  Zambia’s defense ministerGeoffrey Mwambahad threatened undefined action against secessionists among the Barotse (also known as the Loze), whose territory once formed a separate colony, North-Western Rhodesia, from the rest of Northern Rhodesia that became Zambia.  He called treasonous the statements by village and district delegates to the Barotse National Council (B.N.C.), the great majority of whom came forward that week to support secession.  Zambia’s minister for home affairs, Mkhondo Lungu, told the press after the violence that the dead were a child stoned to death by Barotse rioters and a youth that had been about to set a gas station on fire when the police shot him.  Witnesses dispute that account.  On March 29th, the chairman of the B.N.C. and Barotseland’s unofficial prime minister, Ngambela Winyae Clement Sinyinda, was arrested on treason charges, but it is not clear what his immediate fate will be, and little information is available on that arrest.  The only Western Province district opposing secession is Kaoma district, dominated by the Nkoya ethnic group.  The Nkoya Royal Council and the Kazanga Cultural Association, representing the Nkoya, rejected the Barotse resolution, calling it “stage-managed.”

Ngambela Winyae Clement Sinyinda, chairman of the Barotse National Council

African Union Launches Mission to Capture Joseph Kony.  The United Nations and the African Union (A.U.) announced that the A.U. mission to capture the Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony was officially launched on March 24th in the Republic of South Sudan.  The mission is being led by 5,000 soldiers under the A.U. banner, more than 1,000 of them from Uganda.  The effort to capture Kony accelerated this month after a YouTube video, Kony 2012, by the California-based religious charity Invisible Children became a global viral blockbuster.  Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which employs child soldiers and specializes in rapes and mutilations and possibly even cannibalism, began as a rebellion by Uganda’s northern Acholi ethnic group but has killed thousands in its attempt to turn Uganda into a Christian theocracy.  The A.U. force joins over 100 United States soldiers sent by President Barack Obama to train anti-insurgent armies in the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Namibia’s Communists Condemn Internal Colonialism, Support Ethnic Separatism.  The president of the Republic of Namibia’s Communist Party, Attie Beukes, condemned this week the immigration of dominant, more mainstream ethnic groups into indigenous-dominated areas such as the Omaheke Region as “politically reckless and socio-economically irresponsible,” attributing it to a central-government plan to homogenize the nation ethnically.  Referring to the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), the former liberation army that is now Namibia’s ruling party, Beukes added that since Namibia gained independence from the Republic of South Africa in 1990, “marginalised ethnic minorities” are victims of a “SWAPO-designed and ethnic institutionalised unitary State ... where absolute Ovambo dominance prevails unabated after 22 years of independence.  ...  This political, democratic right demands the political secession from the oppressing Ovambo dominance and the freedom of such oppressed and exploited marginalised ethnic minorities to agitate by means of a referendum to obtain such desired freedom to secede, in a peaceful manner.”  Members of the Bantu-speaking ethnic groups classified as Ovambo dominate Namibian politics, sometimes at the expense of marginalized hunter–gatherer peoples.

Somaliland Uses Paramilitary Units against Demonstrators.  In front of the presidential offices in Hargeisa, the capital of the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland, hundreds of demonstrators protesting the ongoing imprisonment of three administration officials accused of corruption were set upon by specially trained anti-terrorism units.  One demonstrators said, “Our peaceful quest to meet the president and register our consternation with the delay of justice ended up in blood and arrests.”  (See my recent blog article on Somaliland and Puntland.)

First 17 Pirates Arrive in Somaliland from Seychelles.  Nine convicted Gulf of Aden pirates were handed over to the Republic of Somaliland’s ministry of justice in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital, by the United Nations’ Office on Drugs on Crime, it was reported on March 28th, and the following day the number had risen to 17.  This was the first batch of prisoners brought from a temporary prison in the Republic of Seychelles as part of a new U.N.–brokered arrangement.  The U.N. and the rest of the international community still do not recognize Somaliland’s independence.  (See my recent blog article on Somaliland and Puntland.)

Puntland Politician Arrested after Criticizing Presidential Power Grab.  Mohamud Yusuf, a former member of the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia’s parliament was arrested at his home by security forces on March 22nd after publicly criticizing the unconstitutional extension of the term of Puntland’s president.  Last week, President Abdurahman Farole announced that his term, which according to the constitution should end in January 2013, would be unilaterally extended a year.  Yusuf had said, in reply to that move, “If the incumbent regime attempts to increase its term, they should take the responsibility of any political and security crisis that emerges.”  (See my recent blog article on Somaliland and Puntland.)

Abdurahman Farole, president of the Puntland State of Somalia

Former Puntland President Laid to Rest in Home Town.  Col. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the founding president of the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia (1998-2004) and later the president of the Republic of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (2004-2008), who died March 23rd (as reported in this space last week), was buried March 25th in his home town of Galkayo, a town partitioned between a northern zone governed by Puntland and a southern one run by the de facto independent Galmudug State.  Yusuf died at the age of 77, in DubaiUnited Arab Emirates, of complications from pneumonia (earlier reports indicated liver disease).  The T.F.G.’s current president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, said, “Anyone who is holding any contempt in his heart for the former president, I ask you to forgive him because he is God’s guest today.”  (See my recent blog article on Somaliland and Puntland.)

Mombasa Elders Condemn Separatist Disruption of Kenyan Vote.  More than 200 elders from southern Kenya’s Coast province on March 28th warned the Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.) not to disrupt the upcoming Kenyan elections with violence, as they did in Malindi last week.  A spokesman for the elders’ council, Joseph Karisa Mwarandu, a lawyer, said, “We support their [the M.R.C.’s] grievances fully, but we are opposed to the methods they are using to achieve their demands.  We abhor violence, murder or disruption of peace before and during the election. ... The elders unanimously agreed that there will be voting in the Coast region.”

Map of Kenya’s province, including Coast Province, which would like to secede

Nigeria’s Ruling Party Decries Yoruba Demolition of T.V. Station as Secessionism.  A regional vice-chairman of Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party has warned the governor of Osun State, in the southwestern Yoruba region, not to go ahead with plans to demolish a federal Nigerian Television Authority building in Oshogbo, Osun’s capital.  The governor, Rauf Aregbesola, intends to turn the building into a tourist attraction, but the P.D.P. chairman, Chief Segun Oni, former governor of Ekiti State, calls it an act of hostility toward the federal government.  Oni says Aregbesola, whom he called a secessionist, “is up to something sinister against the corporate existence of Nigeria.”


E.U. Expert Says an Independent Scotland’s Membership Poses No Problem.  The idea that an independent Scotland would face barriers to remaining in the European Union is baseless, according to James Ker-Lindsay, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics who is an expert on E.U. accession.  Ker-Lindsay rejects parallels with the Republic of Kosovo, whose E.U. candidacy is precluded by the refusal of five E.U. member-states (Republic of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain) to recognize it, because, he points out, those states’ objection to Kosovo’s independence are only to the unilateral nature of its secession from the Republic of Serbia.  By contrast, none of those five states objected to E.U. recognition of the Republic of South Sudan last year, which—as would be the case with Scotland and the United Kingdom—seceded with the blessing of its parent state, the Republic of Sudan.  In fact, Ker-Lindsay, who has written several books on the 1994 accession of Cyprus to the E.U., notes that Greek Cypriots may even look more positively upon the question of recognition of the unrecognized Turkish puppet state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus out of “glee at the thought of seeing Britain, the former colonial power on the island, break apart.”  (See my recent articles on the legal and economic dimensions of the Scottish independence movement.)

Czechs Charge Russians–Bulgarian Gang with Aiding Dagestani Terrorists.  In the Czech Republic, charges of terrorism have been brought against members of an organized crime ring—three members from Russia, two from Bulgaria, and one from Moldova—for links to Shariat Jamaat, an Islamist militia in Dagestan.  They were running false documents to the group and were arrested in April 2011.  Weapons and drugs were also seized in the initial raids.  Their trial will be the first terrorism trial in the Czech Republic.

Russians Take Out Caucasus Emirate Leader in Kabardino-Balkaria.  The Russian Federation announced on March 27th that security forces had killed a regional leader of the Caucasus Emirate movement.  The leader, Alim Zankishiyev, who used the nom de guerre Ubaydullah, was head of the movement for the Karachay–Cherkess Republic and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, in the western part of the North Caucasus region.  His formal title within the movement was Emir of the Mujahideen of the United Province of Kabarda, Balkaria, and Karacha.  Zankishiyev was killed in a shoot-out in Nalchik, the Kabardino-Balkar capital, after he refused police orders to put down his weapon, according to Moscow. Russia blames him for over 30 terrorist attacks over the past year.  His group aims to create an independent Islamist state called the Caucasus Emirate, out of Russian territories in the North Caucasus that are predominantly Muslim, including CircassiaChechnya and Dagestan.

Alim Zankishiyev of the Caucasus Emirate movement, in a photo from the page announcing his “martyrdom”

3 Militants Killed in Dagestan.  Three militants were killed in the Republic of Dagestan by Russian special forces.  They had been cornered by police in the village of Okyabrskoye, opened fire, and, according to the Voice of Russia news service, “were wiped out.”  They were members of the “Okyabrsky Gang,” which had been blamed for killing police officers at a Dagestani polling station during the Russian Federation’s presidential elections on March 4th.


South Ossetian Election Goes to Run-Off; Tibilov in Lead.  On March 25th, Leonid Tibilov, a former K.G.B. officer, came ahead with only 42% of the vote in the de facto independent Republic of South Ossetia’s presidential elections, meaning there will be a run-off on April 8th.  David Sanakoyev, a human-rights official, got 25%.  Alla Dzhioyeva, who was elected president of South Ossetia last year only to have the Supreme Court annul the vote and to have police raid her offices and savagely beat her until she resigned, commented on the March 25th vote, saying, “Whoever of them becomes a president, foreign and domestic policies of South Ossetia will be determined by Moscow.  After the selection that we witnessed, I have come to the conclusion that we as a nation decide very little.  At least, we have been put in that position.  Will this depend on Mr. Tibilov?  This will depend on how Moscow decides.”  (See my article on last year’s disputed South Ossetian election.)

Front-runner Leonid Tibilov

Independents Gain in Abkhazian Vote.  In the March 24th run-off elections in the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, 15 of the 20 contested seats for the 35-member parliament went to independent candidates.  In the first round, on March 10th, 11 of the 13 victors were independents.  There will be one more run-off, on May 6th, for the first district in Sukhumi, the capital, where only 25% voted on March 10th.  United Abkhazia, the party supporting President Alexander Ankvab, one 2 seats in round two.

Russian Diplomat Accuses Georgia of Mobilizing Forces at Abkhaz Border.  The Republic of Georgia has been mobilizing armed groups at its border with the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, which it claims as part of its territory, according to the Russian Federation’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, in remarks to the press on March 29th.   “Recent months have been characterized with escalation in the area of the Georgian–Abkhaz border, where provocations are being continued by the Georgian special services,” Karasin said on March 29th, in Geneva, Switzerland, where he is the chief Russian negotiator in seemingly endless rounds of talks over the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.   “Seven people have already been killed since January.  Some kind of armed formations have emerged.  It is also confirmed by Georgian opposition politicians.”  The following day, Batu Kutelia, deputy secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, called Karasin’s accusations “utterly absurd and groundless and ... an attempt to destabilize situation.”

Armenian-Canadians Rally at Azeri Embassy against “Aggression.”  In Ottawa, Canada, on March 23rd, hundreds of Armenian-Canadians rallied at Azerbaijan’s embassy on March 23rd against what they called Azeris’ long history of pogroms, exiles, and now territorial disputes directed against Armenia and the Armenian people.  The rally was organized by the Armenian Youth Federation of Canada.  The frozen conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhchivan regions figured prominently in the speeches.  The embassy refused to accept a letter from the youth group addressed to Farid Shafiyev, the Azeri ambassador to Canada.

Armenian Rally in Ottawa

Borat National-Anthem Spoof Played at Medals Ceremony, Angering Kazakhs.  The government of Kazakhstan responded angrily to the playing of a parody version of the Kazakh national anthem at a sports medals ceremony in Kuwait.  Maria Dmitrienko won the gold medal at the Arab Shooting Championships and when she received her medal the public-address system played, apparently inadvertently, the mock national anthem used in the 2006 ribald mockumentary film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, in which Sascha Baron Cohen plays a racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, lecherous, incestuous cultural envoy from Kazakhstan.  The phony lyrics include the lines, “Kazakhstan, greatest country in the world / All other countries are run by little girls ... / Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, you very nice place / From plains of Tarashenk to northern fence of Jewtown / Kazakhstan, friend of all / Except Uzbekistan, they very nosey people with bone in their brain / Kazakhstan, industry best in the world / We invented toffee and the trouser belt / Kazakhstan, prostitutes cleanest in the region / Except of course for Turkmenistan’s.” (Watch the Kuwaiti video here—complete with a dissident Kazakh YouTube member’s word-bubble editorializing.)  This was the second Kazakh-national-anthem snafu of the week: only days earlier, at a skiing festival in northern Kazakhstan, the Ricky Martin song “Livin’ la Vida Loca” had been mistakenly played instead of Kazakhstan’s actual national anthem, “Meniñ Qazaqstanım” (which features the much less catchy lyrics, “Sky of golden sun, / Steppe of golden seed, / Legend of courage / Take a look at my country!”).  Kazakhstan’s foreign minister, Ilyas Omarov, did not believe the Kuwaiti incident was unintentional and called it a “scandal.”  Still, one has to admit: having an event called the Arab Shooting Championships, with or without the hyphen, already sounds like something out of Borat.

Kazakh sharpshooting champion Maria Dmitrienko, who has a better sense of humor than her government,
listening to a spoof of the Kazakh national anthem at her medals ceremony

Ankara Denies Plan to Open Varosha to Greek Cypriots.  The Turkish Republic’s foreign ministry on March 26th denied a newspaper report that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was planning to open Varosha, a ghost town on Cyprus under control of the Turkish military, to settlement by ethnic Greeks.  Turks, Greeks, and Cypriots have in the past discussed such a move, but as of now the government in Ankara denies that it is on the table.

Erdoğan Signals Willingness to Negotiate with Kurdish Party.  The Turkish Republic’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced what sounds like a new approach to the Kurdistan question on March 23rd, in remarks to the press: as he put it, fighting with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) and negotiating with the Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.), the P.K.K.’s political wing. But Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chair of the B.D.P., said that Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned P.K.K. founder, must be part of any solution to the Kurdish question.  Two days later, at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Republic of Korea, the United States president, Barack Obamapledged support to Erdoğan’s war against the P.K.K., including lending aid in attacking P.K.K. outposts outside Turkey, as well as allowing all of the U.S.’s unmanned Predator drone aircraft to be used in the fight.  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan.)

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Barack Obama, allies for now

Turkey Turns Up Heat, Wiping Out All-Female P.K.K. Battalion in Mountains.  Turkish police and paramilitary troops wiped out all 15 members of an unusually all-female Kurdish militia unit during an operation in the thick mountainous forests of Bitlis province, near the border with Iraq, on March 23rd.  One member of a pro-government village militia was also killed, and three wounded.  On March 26th, further Turkish military reinforcements were sent into Adana and Hakkari provinces in the south, Tunceli province in the east-central area, and Trabzon province to the north on the Black Sea.  Some Kurdish storage bunkers were destroyed.  The Turkish Republic’s forces have killed 25 Kurdish warriors this week from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), which is fighting for a separate Kurdish state.  Meanwhile, the number of Kurds arrested during “Arab Spring” style demonstrations throughout Turkey on the Kurdish New Year last week is now counted as over 700, and a newspaper, Özgür Gündem, whose Istanbul offices were raided by the government on March 24th, because it was “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” (i.e., reporting on the P.K.K.), was forcibly shut down for a month.  (The shut-down has since been rescinded.)  On March 27th, Italian police arrested 5 Kurds in a series of coordinated raids throughout Italy.  The suspects are believed to be P.K.K. members extorting from Kurdish-Italians to support terrorist activity.  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan.)

Ankara Claims Kurd Group Planning New Intelligence Agency.  Turkey’s national police agency began announcing on March 28th that it had information that the banned Kurdistan Communities Union (K.C.K.) has plans to create its own intelligence agency.  The evidence came from hard disks confiscated from a suspect in a remote-controlled bombing of a police target in Istanbul on March 1st.  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan.)

Court Releases Falsely Arrested Turkish Student in “Poşu Case.”  A court in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 23rd released 22-year-old Cihan Kırmızıgül, a Turkish college student first arrested in Kağıthane two years ago for supposedly being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, only because he was wearing a Kurdish scarf, a poşu, while similarly dressed young people nearby were throwing Molotov cocktails.  A lawmaker for the Peace and Democracy Party, a pro-Kurdish party, had called Kırmızıgül’s case “a disgrace for Turkish democracy.”  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan.)


Turkey Secretly Preparing for Likely Partition of Iraq.  The government of the Turkish Republic has been planning in secret for an increasingly likely break-up of Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines, according to a Turkish newspaper columnist, quoting an unnamed government source.  Abdullah Bozkurt, of Today’s Zaman, wrote on March 26th (read his article here) that, if Ankara fails to help keep Iraq together, Sunnis and Kurds must be encouraged to form a united front to prevent Iraq’s Shiite majority from forming an independent state that would be under the sway of Iran.  Turkey supports the al-Iraqiya political movement, a pluralist, centralist coalition, while the stridently pro-Shiite administration of Iraq’s current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is more congenial to Iran.  Bozkurt’s source seems to indicate that his government feels Iraq’s Kurds could be influenced either way, towards unity or partition.  “The resentment of Kurds towards Iran is such,” Bozkurt writes, “that they would rather see Turkish boots on the ground instead of Iranians meddling with their affairs.”  Turkey’s diplomatic strategy includes building friendship with Iraqi Kurds and trying to smooth disagreements between them and Iraq’s Sunni Arabs.  (Turks, like Kurds, are predominantly Sunni.)  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan, as well as another recent article on separatism in Iraq.)

Kurdish Regional Government Claims Kirkuk Oil Field, Cuts Production.  The Kurdish Regional Government (K.R.G.) in northern Iraq announced on March 26th that the national government in Baghdad must seek the K.R.G.’s approval for any development of the oil fields of Kirkuk, a Kurdish city which remains, to Kurds’ consternation, outside the K.R.G.’s jurisdiction.  The K.R.G. minister of oil also announced a reduction in K.R.G. crude-oil exports from 90,000 barrels per day to 50,000—and said it would shut down production entirely if it was not paid money it says Baghdad owes it.  Meanwhile, Talisman Energy, Inc., and WesternZagros Resources Ltd., both based in Calgary, Alberta, reported on March 26th that light oil had been discovered at the Kurdamir-2 well in Iraqi Kurdistan.  Richard Herbert, a Talisman vice-president, said, “We have tested only a portion of an upper zone, but we have clear indications that there is oil here, in addition to natural gas and gas condensate.  We are now drilling into the deeper objectives and will conduct more extensive testing, including stimulation, over the summer.”  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan, as well as another recent article on separatism in Iraq.)

An oil field in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraq’s Kurdish Parliament Cracks Down on Phantom Bodyguards.  A parliamentary committee formed by the Kurdish Regional Government (K.R.G.) in Iraq to look into a large-scale scam involving salaries to non-existent bodyguards reported last week that the K.R.G.’s budget lists more than 67,000 names as active bodyguards on payroll, with 50,000 of those guarding senior government officials.  The report, by the Kurdistan Presidency Reform Committee, states, “Most of the bodyguards are only names on paper. The salaries taken under the names of the bodyguards mostly end up in the pockets of the senior officials themselves.”  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan, as well as another recent article on separatism in Iraq.)

Trial Date Set in Murder of Kurdish Journalist.  Trial proceedings will begin on April 3rd in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in the case of Sardasht Osman, a Kurdish student and freelance journalist who was kidnapped at his university in 2010 and whose body was found shortly afterward in Mosul.  Osman’s family disputes the official story that he was killed by members of the Sunni Salafist anti-government Jamaat Ansar al-Sunnah militia for refusing to work with them.  Members of Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling élite are also suspected.  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan, as well as another recent article on separatism in Iraq.)

Activists condemning the murder of the Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman

Israel Using Iraqi Kurdistan to Launch Intelligence Operations in Iran.  The United Kingdom’s Sunday Times newspaper reported March 25th that Israel’s government is infiltrating Iran with undercover agents and is using a permanent base in Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan region as a staging ground for the operations.  Israeli commandos, at least some disguised as Iranian soldiers, are entering Iran to try to find “smoking gun” evidence for Iranian production of nuclear weapons, suspicions of which are cited as the reason for the unprecedented ramping up of anti-Iranian war rhetoric by the Israeli government over the past few months.

Kurds Kill 13 Turkish Soldiers Trying to Cross into Iraq.  The banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) announced on March 27th that the day before it had killed 13 Turkish soldiers and wounded six others who were trying to cross the border from Turkey to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan, as well as another recent article on separatism in Iraq.)

P.K.K. Kidnaps Kurdish Leader in Syria; Body Found 4 Hours Later.  The nephew of the assassinated founder of Syria’s Kurdistan Future Party (K.F.P.) was himself killed in northern Syria’s Kurdish region on March 26th, allegedly at the hands of Turkey’s banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), which is traditionally allied with the embattled Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  The victim, Muhammed Xelef Ciwan—who succeeded his uncle Mashaal Tammo after Tammo’s allegedly P.K.K.-directed murder last year—was abducted from his home by four P.K.K. fighters in broad daylight and found dead four hours later in Darbasiyah with his neck slashed, along with other wounds.  His funeral was the following day.  Kurdish dissident groups in Syria claim that seven prominent K.F.P. leaders have been assassinated recently by the P.K.K., including, last month, members of the Democratic Union Party of the Kurds and the Democratic Kurd Party.  (See my new article on the ongoing crisis in Kurdistan, as well as recent articles on separatism in Iraq and in Syria.)

Israeli Soldiers Kill Palestinian as Thousands March Peacefully.  One Palestinian marcher in the Gaza Strip was shot dead by Israeli soldiers on March 30th as thousands in Israel and surrounding countries, including the illegally occupied Palestinian Territories, held peaceful marches and protests in what is now the annual event called “Land Day,” inspired by the street politics of the Arab Spring revolutions.  The idea was to march on Israel’s borders from without.  During last year’s protests, 38 were killed at the borders with Lebanon and in Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  This year, people were mostly kept away from the borders themselves.  In the one fatality, 21-year-old Mahmoud Zaqout was shot and killed while approaching the Gaza–Israel border in a thousands-strong march led by Hamas, the Islamist militia that rules the Gaza Strip.  37 protesters in the Gaza Strip were injured.  Rock-throwing, tear gas, and stun grenades featured in clashes in and around Jerusalem, and, in southern Lebanon, Lebanese security forces kept protesters from the border.  Radical militant Islamist and orthodox Jewish groups also engaged in demonstrations.

Land Day, in Jerusalem

Palestinian Ends Hunger Strike, Promised Release.  A Palestinian who has been hunger-striking in an Israeli prison for 66 days will end his fast in exchange for his release.  Khader Adnan, age 33, is held under a law allowing military authorities to imprison someone for six months without charges, and renew the imprisonment indefinitely—which essentially mean that Israel’s government can put anyone in prison for life whenever it wants for any reason whatsoever.  Adnan’s hunger strike inspired a general strike in the Palestinian Territories and rallies in his support.  He will now be released in April, and under the terms of the agreement the law under which he is held will not itself be examined by Israel’s court system.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Palestinian supporters of the hunger striker Khader Adnan

Israeli Court Orders West Bank Outpost Dismantled; Israel Cuts Ties with U.N. Council.  The largest illegal Jewish settlement outpost in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was ordered this week by Israel’s Supreme Court to be dismantled.  The court extended the original deadline of March for the makeshift hilltop hamlet of Migron, which has a population of over 300.  Yariv Oppenheimer of the Palestinian-rights group Peace Now said, “The land of Migron should go back to its owners, the Palestinians.”  Meanwhile, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, responded to last week’s resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council (H.R.C.) to investigate the effects of the Israeli settlement movement on human rights in the Palestinian Territories by announcing on March 26th that Israel was severing ties with the H.R.C.  The Israeli envoy in Geneva, Switzerland, has already been ordered to cease cooperation with the H.R.C.  The United States ambassador to Israel echoed Israel’s sentiments, saying the H.R.C. is “obsessively focused” on Israel, at the expense of more pressing human-rights situations such as those in Syria and Iran.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Saying prayers for the Migron settlement

Former Yemeni Minister Threatens to Side with Southern Secessionists.  A former cabinet minister for the Republic of Yemen threatened on March 25th to join the movement for the former South Yemen to reestablish itself as an independent state.  In a seminar in Sana’a, the capital, on the Gulf Cooperation Council’s plan for Yemen’s transfer of power, the former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Saleh Basura, expressed impatience with the pace of north–south dialogue, saying, “If we could not discuss the problems of Yemen through understanding, I will call for secession to get rid of the lawlessness you live.”  (See my article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

U.S. Court Gives Kashmiri Separatist 2 Years for Spying for Pakistan.  Ghulam Nabi Fai, a Kashmiri separatist, was sentenced on March 30th to two years in prison by a United States federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on charges for spying on behalf of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (I.S.I.) in an effort to influence U.S. policy on Kashmir, a territory claimed by both India and Pakistan which also has its own independence movement.  He was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in July 2011.  The prosecutor in his trial had noted Fai’s phony university degree and his connection to the 1986 murder of Ismail al-Furuqi the founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Virginia.

Indian Authorities Suspect Tamil Radicals in Nuclear Protest.  Authorities in India are calling it significant that two activists arrested on March 23rd for protesting a controversial nuclear power plant in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu are members of Tamil separatist groups, though the term separatist is being used fairly widely here.  One of the arrested, Vanni Arasu, is a spokesperson for the Tamil political party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, which is not separatist but merely favors pluralism and an end to caste discrimination.  Authorities suspect Tamil radicals of being behind the demonstrations.

Sikh Separatist’s Hanging Stayed after Uproar.  A spokeswoman for the Republic of India said on March 28th that the planned execution, on March 31st, of Balwant Singh Rajoana, for his role in a 1995 suicide bombing “has been stayed while the appeal is under consideration with the president.”  The approaching date for the hanging of the Sikh radical mobilized human-rights groupsSikh clergy and political leaders, and the anti-death-penalty movement.  Parkash Singh Badal, the Chief Minister of Punjab, the Indian state where most Sikhs live, said he would take up the issue with India’s president, Pratibha Patil, and prime minister, Manmohan Singh (himself a Sikh).  The bombing killed a former chief minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, during a period of civil war for a separate state for India’s Sikhs.

Balwant Singh Rajoana, condemned Sikh separatist terrorist

Tibetans in Sichuan, New Delhi Self-Immolate; India Rounds Up Activists.  A 27-year-old Tibetan man, Pawo Jampel Yeshiset himself on fire in New Delhi on March 26th in protest ahead of the visit to India of the president of the People’s Republic of ChinaHu Jintao.  The incident occurred during a pro-Tibetan rally of about 600 in front of India’s parliament.  The man had burns over 90% of his body and was taken to a hospital, where he died two days later.  Hu was arriving for a summit in New Delhi on March 29th for the summit of the “BRICS” organization of “emerging,” second-tier almost-superpowers, consisting of Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa—hence the acronym.  Indian police catered to Chinese sensibilities by cracking down on Tibetan dissidents, locking down Tibetan neighborhoods, and arresting hundreds without charge.  But they could not squelch the text of Yeshi’s suicide letter, publicized during the BRICS conference on the “Burning Tibet” blog (read it here).  In it, he wrote, “The fact that Tibetan people are setting themselves on fire in this 21st century is to let the world know about their suffering, and to tell the world about the denial of basic human rights.  If you have any empathy, stand up for the Tibetan people.  We demand freedom to practice our religion and culture.  We demand freedom to use our language.  We demand the same right as other people living elsewhere in the world.  People of the world, stand up for Tibet.  Tibet belongs to Tibetans.  Victory to Tibet!”  Thousands attended an emotional, highly politicized funeral for the martyr in Dharamsala, seat of Tibet’s government-in-exile, on March 30th.  Meanwhile, in China’s Sichuan province, near Tibet, a 20-year-old member of the dissident Kirti Buddhist monastery killed himself through self-immolation on March 28th—the 20th such death so far this year.  In a rare criticism, a spokeswoman for the United States Department of State warned that Beijing’s demonization of the Dalai Lama was aggravating the situation.  (See the photo at the beginning of this blog, and see my recent blog article on Tibet.)

Telangana Statehood Activist Sets Himself Ablaze in Andhra Pradesh.  Also on March 26th, a young auto-rickshaw driver in Hanamkonda, in India’s state of Andhra Pradeshimmolated himself in support of statehood for Andhra Pradesh’s Telangana region.  About 800 Telangana separatists have killed themselves in support of the cause since 2009.  (With that kind of body count, it seems that it would not kill the government to redraw some state boundaries a bit.  I mean, it’s not like they’re asking for their own country.  Criminy.)

Beijing Sentences Uighur Attacker to Death.  The People’s Republic of China on March 26th handed down a death sentence for Abudukeremu Mamuti, a Uighur man, of “organizing and leading a terrorist group, and intentional homicide” for a knife attack in Yecheng County, Xinjiang province, in February, in which 13 people died.

Mass Rally Planned in Taiwan against Kuomintang’s “One China” Comments.  A former county commissioner in the Republic of China on Taiwan said on March 25th that he was organizing a 100,000-person march for May 20th to protest new rhetoric of “one country, two areas” by the ruling Kuomintang, or Chinese Nationalist Party.  The Kuomintang’s former chairman, Wu Poh-hsiung, used the phrase in a meeting with the People’s Republic of China’s president, Hu Jintao, on March 22nd in Beijing.  The former commissioner, Su Huan-chih, told a press conference the statement had a potentially devastating effect on Taiwan’s international standing and could lead many to believe the Kuomintang was content to allow Taiwan to be a province ruled from Beijing.

11 Killed in Southern Thailand Coordinated Bombings and Drive-By Shootings.  Nine people were killed and 112 injured in three coordinated bomb attacks in downtown Yala during mid-day shopping, in southern Thailand’s predominantly Muslim and ethnically-Malay south on March 31st.  Those blasts also caused several buildings to catch on fire.  The bombs were timed to go off at 10-minute intervals.  Also on Saturday, a policeman was injured in a motorcycle bomb attack in Pattani province, and earlier, on March 25th, two were killed in drive-by shootings blamed on separatists.  The dead were a defense volunteer in Pattani province and an assistant village head in Narathiwat province.


Philippines Wants Muslim Separatist Groups to Merge, Negotiate as One.  The official “peace advisor” to the president of the Republic of the Philippines, it was reported on March 29th, suggested that the two largest factions in the struggle for a separate Muslim state in the southern Philippines should merge, so that they can negotiate as one for peace.  The advisor, Teresita “Ging” Deles, made the offer to the Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (M.I.L.F.) (for more information on them, just do a Google search for “MILF”).  She noted that currently the two groups are “at cross-purposes” and that both sets of negotiations are over the same territory.  Negotiations seem to be moving toward agreement on an autonomous region in the south to be called the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, with a level of sovereignty similar to that of Hong Kong within the People’s Republic of China.

Moro National Liberation Front fighters, with their flag


Black Panthers Offer “Dead or Alive” Bounty for Killer of Florida Teenager.  The militant African-American separatist organization the New Black Panther Party is offering a $10,000 “reward” (critics point out that a bette word might be bounty) for the “capture” of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch captain of mixed European and Hispanic ancestry who shot and killed an unarmed African-American 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, in an Orlando, Florida, suburb on Feb. 26th.  The leader of the Panthers, Mikhail Muhammad, announced the bounty on March 24th, answering, when asked if he was not promoting violence, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  Muhammad also called for thousands of black men to mobilize in a search for Zimmerman, who is in hiding because of death threats, and Panthers are also distributing posters asking for Zimmerman “dead or alive.”  Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime, but the case has gone before a grand jury.  The New Black Panthers are described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “virulently racist” anti-Semitic (among other things) hate group.  Mainstream civil-rights leaders very quickly strongly opposed the bounty.  The Rev. Jesse Jackson stated, “I think disciplined, persistent, non-violent action works.”

Michigan Judges Acquits 7 Members of Hutaree Militia.  In Detroit on March 27th, a federal judge dismissed conspiracy charges against seven members of an armed anti-government organization called the Hutaree Militia, writing, “The evidence is not sufficient for a rational factfinder to find that defendants came to a concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the authority of the government of the United States as charged in the indictment.”  The initial charges were that the militia planned to kill a police officer and then catalyze a larger overthrow of the U.S. government by attacking mourners at the funeral.  Weapons charges against the militia’s leader, David Stone, Sr., and his son, Joshua Stone, will proceed.  Hutaree means “Christian warrior” in the group’s private jargon.  Their motto is, “Preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive,” and their aim was to create, out of several adjacent rural counties in Michigan, an independent but anarchistic Colonial Christian Republic ruled only by God’s law.

Insignia of the Hutaree militia.  C.C.R. stands for Colonial Christian Republic, not Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Echo Hawk Denies Federal Recognition to Tennessee Cherokees.  The United States’ Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Larry Echo Hawkrejected on March 26th the Central Band of Cherokee’s petition for federal recognition as an Indian tribe.  The finding was that the 407 members in Lawrence County, Tennessee, “did not demonstrate that its members descend from a historical Indian tribe or historical Indian tribes that combined” but were merely “a voluntary association that formed around a claim.”  As a distinct group, there is no record of them before 2000, and there are indications that they may in fact all be white.

Canadian Court Refuses to Rule in Gitxsan Governance Case.  The Supreme Court in British Columbia, Canada, has declined to rule in a dispute over democratic representation in the Gitxsan Nation in remote northwestern B.C., saying it is for Gitxsan communities themselves to resolve.  The nation’s chief treaty negotiator, Beverley Clifton Percival, a.k.a. Gwaans, said the Gitxsan Treaty Society welcomes the opportunity.  Gitxsan communities have been paralyzed for months in a dispute between the Treaty Society and some hereditary chiefs over economic development and other issues.  The Gitxsan were plaintiffs in one of Canada’s landmark land-claims cases, Delgamuukw v. the Queen, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

First Nations Rally in Vancouver against Oil Tankers.  Hundreds of First Nations leaders, environmentalists, and others marched through downtown VancouverCanada, on March 26th to protest the continuing use of British Columbia’s coastal waters by oil tankers.  The rally coincides with the 23rd anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.  Protesters also condemned plans for the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline, which will run to Kitimat, B.C., in Haisla territory.  Edwin Newman, a.k.a. Qvíltákv, a Heiltsuk hereditary chief, said, “We are trying to protect a way of life, a way of life that we’ve enjoyed as Heiltsuk people and as coastal people since time immemorial.  We’re pleading with our coastal neighbors to stand with us to fight this issue.”

Rally in Vancouver against oil tankers


British Deny Sending Nuclear Sub to Falklands.  Nick Clegg, the United Kingdom’s deputy prime minister, is rejecting “insinuations” from the Argentine Republic that the U.K. has sent a nuclear-armed submarine to the South Atlantic Ocean during a period of heightened tensions between the two countries over the disputed Falkland Islands.  He was responding to comments by the Argentine foreign minister, Hector Timerman, who had said that an “extra-regional power” had dispatched a submarine to the region bearing Trident nuclear missiles.  Both men were in Seoul, Republic of Korea, attending the March 26-27 Nuclear Security Summit.  The U.K. is party to a 1969 international agreement designating Latin America a nuclear-free zone.  (See my recent article on the Falklands dispute.)

6 Nobel Laureates Beseech U.K. to Negotiate with Argentina.  Six recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize sent a joint open letter to the United Kingdom’s prime minister, David Cameron, on March 28th, asking him to “review the British government’s position of refusing to dialogue on” the matter of conflicting claims by Argentina to the Falkland Islands.  The signatories are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of South AfricaAdolfo Pérez Esquivel, of Argentina (who opposed the military junta in Buenos Aires that waged the Falklands War); Rigoberta Menchú, of GuatemalaMairead Maguire and Shirin Ebadi, of the Irish Republic; and Jody Williams of the United States.  (See my recent article on the Falklands dispute.)

Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu

[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.]

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon