Photo of the week: Ukraine’s Rada (parliament) turned into a blood-spattered mosh pit on May 25th as lawmakers debated whether to grant Russian status as an official language in ethnic-Russian-dominated regions such as Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and even Kiev. The brawl seemed to start after one parliamentarian said to another, “You’re a corpse. You have two days left to live. We will crucify you on a birch tree.” Watch a video of the brawl here. Also, you can watch a video of last year’s Ukraine Rada brawl, which involved smoke bombs, and the speaker of parliament being pelted with rotten eggs, here. (See my blog article on a similarly contentious language-policy proposal in Latvia. Also, see a story below, under “Asia—South Asia,” for a report and photograph of Kashmiri separatists throwing chairs at one another.)
UNITING ISLAMISTS, DIVIDED BAMBARAS, A BURKINA FASO BORDER CLASH, AND THE I.C.C. RAISE THE STAKES FOR “INDEPENDENT STATE OF AZAWAD.”
Tuaregs and Islamists Bury Hatchet, Form Government for Azawad. The largely secular Tuareg separatist militia, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (known by its French acronym M.N.L.A.), made a joint announcement with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia Ansar al-Dine on May 20th that the two groups have agreed to share power in a government for the Independent State of Azawad, which declared independence from the Republic of Mali last month. They named Belal Ag Sharif, head of the M.N.L.A.’s political bureau, as the interim head of state. A former Malian military officer, Mohamed Ag Nejim, will be Azawad’s “general co-ordinator of army.” Affairs will be run by a 40-member committee, with 20 seats each for the M.N.L.A. and Ansar al-Dine. No countries yet recognize Azawad’s independence. Also this week, Abdelmalek Droukdel, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, the Algerian-born commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.), the organization with which Ansar al-Dine is affiliated, announced on the A.Q.I.M. website that its fighters throughout North Africa were at the disposal of Ansar al-Dine as needed, though they would operate under the A.Q.I.M., not Ansar al-Dine, banner when engaging in “global jihad.” Droukdel added that Islamists in Mali ought to be working with, not against, Azawadi nationalists. Meanwhile, the Islamists running Timbuktu announced May 23rd that the Islamic law (shari’a) under which Azawad is now governed means that football (soccer) will be banned. (See my recent blog article on the Azawad declaration of independence, plus an earlier article on the Tuareg rebellion in the context of north–south conflict in the Sahel.)
The Islamists’ version of Azawad’s national flag (at least metaphorically)
Scores Dead in Clash at Burkina Faso Border with Azawad-Claimed Region of Mali. Reports are still coming in on a violent clash between members of the Dogon and Peul ethnic groups in Burkina Faso near the border with the Republic of Mali. The Peul transhumant herders of Burkina Faso are, through a binational agreement, allowed to use territory of the Dogon people over the border in Mali, but violence erupted on May 22nd over harm to Dogon croplands by Peul cattle, and raged for days. As of this writing, the death toll was approaching 100. The Dogon inhabit Mali’s Mopti region and some neighboring areas of Burkina Faso. Mopti is claimed by the unrecognized Independent State of Azawad, but it is not clear how much of it they actually control. Lack of central-government administration of the region may have contributed to the escalating violence. (See my recent blog article on the Azawad declaration of independence, plus an earlier article on the Tuareg rebellion in the context of north–south conflict in the Sahel.)
Sudan Resumes Air Strikes on South Sudan. In the ongoing war between Sudan and South Sudan, the South Sudanese government said on May 22nd that Sudan had been sending warplanes to attack its territory, again, over the previous two days, the first such attacks since May 9th. The new aerial bombardments were focused on the Waragat region of the South Sudanese state of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal. And Sudan claimed that on May 25th it had recaptured parts of Blue Nile state from what it claims are South Sudan–backed rebels, but South Sudan denies this. The two towns in questions are named—I am not making this up—Soda and Jam. The African Union’s Sudan point man, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, announced May 22nd that the northern and southern governments would meet again on May 29th in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in another attempt to salvage the peace. (See my blog article listing the struggle over South Sudan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Polisario Promises to Liberate Spanish and Italian Hostages of al-Qaeda. The Polisario Front, the separatist militia which runs part of the disputed territory of Western Sahara as the mostly unrecognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, promised on May 24th to risk the lives of some of its own soldiers by trying to liberate three European aid workers—two Spaniards and an Italian—who were kidnapped from a refugee camp in Algeria late last year. Polisario is currently negotiating with their captors, a branch of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.), according to the Sahrawi prime minister, Abdelkader Taleb Omar, who spoke at a seminar in Madrid, Spain. The three are believed to be currently under A.Q.I.M. guard in the Independent State of Azawad, which the international community regards as part of the Republic of Mali.
Map showing the current partition of Western Sahara
Nigeria Rejects U.S. “Favor” of Listing Boko Haram as Terrorist Organization. The Federal Republic of Nigeria’s national-security advisor and its ambassador to the United States have both requested that the U.S. not put Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgency in the predominantly Muslim north of the country, as a so-called “foreign terrorist organization.” Although they can hardly deny that it fits the letter of that description, Nigeria is worried that such a designation would complicate efforts to negotiate with Boko Haram and worries that the U.S. may be looking for an excuse to intervene in the increasingly unpredictable spread of Islamism in the wider region in places like northern Mali. Nigeria’s minister of defense, Bello Mohammed, points out that Boko Haram does not operate outside of Nigeria. (See my blog article on north–south divides in Africa and another listing northern Nigeria as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Berber Separatist Leader Visits Israel. The Algerian folk singer Ferhat Mehenni, who is president of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (M.A.K.), a Paris-based organization which seeks an autonomous region within Algeria for the Kabyle, or Berber, people, visited Tel Aviv, Israel, this week to rally support for his cause. Algerian politicians across the political spectrum called the visit an irresponsible attack on the country’s unity, and some called for his citizenship to be stripped. Mehenni is also head of the Provisional Government of Kabylie, which operates in exile. His son was assassinated in 2001, presumably by the Algerian government or its loyalists.
Ferhat Mehenni, folk singer and autonomy activist, with the Berber national flag
Mombasa Republican Council Courting New Regions for Secession from Kenya. In Tana River County in the Republic of Kenya’s Coast Province, locals are reporting that representatives of the Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.), which would like the predominantly-Muslim Coast Province to form an independent state, is setting up a local office in Madogo, in the county, and trying to rally support from local community leaders. Elders and town councillors are asking for government help in keeping the M.R.C. out of their part of the province.
Cyrenaica Autonomists Put Up Candidates in Libyan Local Elections. Libyans went to the polls May 19th in Benghazi, the main city in the eastern region of Cyrenaica and the former capital of the formerly independent Emirate of Cyrenaica. The Cyrenaica Congress—which is supported by descendants of the Cyrenaican emirs and of the former king of Libya, whom Moammar al-Qaddafi deposed—put up candidates for city council, making the election a referendum of sorts on the Congress’s aim to return to the pre-Qaddafi loose federal system under which Cyrenaica had autonomy. Election results have not yet been announced. (See my blog article on Cyrenaica’s declaration of independence.)
1 Conviction, 1 Acquittal in Terre’Blanche Murder Trial. The trial for the murder of the South African white-supremacist militant separatist Eugène Terre’Blanche (reported on earlier in this blog) ended May 22nd with the conviction of one of his farmworkers for bludgeoning him to death and the acquittal of the younger, 18-year-old defendant with only a housebreaking conviction. Terre’Blanche, founder of the violent, right-wing Afrikaner Resistance Movement, was murdered in the sleep at the age of 69 with a steel pipe at his farm in Ventersdorp, North West Province (formerly Transvaal), in northern South Africa. One controversial aspect of the trial was the defendants’ accusations that Terre’Blanche had sexually assaulted them, but the judge rejected that defense, concluding that the convicted killer, Chris Mahlangu, who is 29, had invented that claim after apparently finding semen on Terre’Blanche’s genitals after the killing. The defense lawyers claimed that police or the prosecution had deliberately removed the alleged semen from the crime scene to prevent its analysis, a claim which the judge eventually rejected.
Eugène Terre’Blanche at a rally in the 1980s
Scots Officially Launch Independence Campaign amid Splits over Queen, Pound. The Scottish National Party officially launched on May 25th its campaign for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom, which will be decided in a referendum in 2014. But there are splits within the secessionist camp, with some objecting to plans by Scotland’s pro-independence First Minister, Alex Salmond, to retain the U.K.’s currency and—like Canada or Australia—keep Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. The Scottish Green Party, the second-largest separatist party in Scotland, proposes an independent republic with its own currency. A new poll shows 33% of Scots favoring independence, with 57% set against it.
Mladić Genocide Trial to Resume Next Month in Hague. The trial of Ratko Mladić, accused of war crimes and genocide as commander of the separatist Republika Srpska forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990s, is set to resume on June 25th, after a procedural delay (reported in this blog last week) on procedural grounds (related to the availability of evidence to both sides), it was announced May 24th. Mladić is being tried by the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, an ad hoc international court which convenes in the Hague, in the Netherlands.
New Serbian President Must Balance Kosovo Policy and E.U. Hopes. A former ultranationalist with ties to the notorious war criminal and dictator Slobodan Milošević defeated a moderate, the incumbent Boris Tadić, to become president of the Republic of Serbia on May 20th, disappointing those looking for reform and integration with Europe. The new president, Tomislav Nikolić, favors Serbian membership in the European Union, but is also expected to take a somewhat harder line on the secessionist Republic of Kosovo than his predecessor. (See my blog article on the Kosovo crisis.)
Tomislav Nikolić, Serbia’s new president
Indonesian Muslim Leader, in Kosovo, Urges Jakarta to Grant Diplomatic Recognition. The leader of one of Indonesia’s largest Muslim societies, said May 18th during a visit to the Republic of Kosovo that his organization supports Kosovo’s independence and urged the Indonesian government to grant the country diplomatic recognition. The leader, Din Syamsuddin, who is chairman of the organization Muhammadiyah, cited Indonesia’s 1945 constitution, which guarantees the right of peoples to independence and freedom from colonialism. However, despite their constitution, Indonesia has repeatedly denied self-determination to people in the South Moluccas, Aceh, Timor-Leste, West Papua, and elsewhere. But, Syamsuddin noted, Kosovo is predominantly Muslim and should be supported. Only 91 states recognize Kosovo’s independence from the Republic of Serbia. (See my blog article on the Kosovo crisis.)
Spain Gives 2 Basques 843-Year Prison Terms for 2002 Bombing. In Spain, a court sentenced two terrorists from ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, “Basque Homeland and Freedom”), it was announced May 20th, to lengthy prison terms for a bomb attack against a Civil Guard residence compound in Santa Pola, Valencia, in 2002 which killed two civilians, including a 6-year-old girl. The defendants, Óscar Zelarain and Antoni Otegi, were given 843 years each—the oddly high number being because of 51 charges of attempted murder, one for each of the people present on the city block at the time of the attack. (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Basque separatist Idoia López Riaño, a.k.a. la Tigresa.)
Zelarain and Otegi in the dock. They’ll be wearing different stripes soon.
Russian Police Still Picking Off Militant Leaders in Dagestan; 5 Dead in Raids. In a house siege May 18th in Makhachkala, capital of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Dagestan, Russian commandos killed a suspected co-plotter in the May 3rd suicide bombing in the city that killed 13 (reported on in this blog), while another surrendered. The two men were holding women and children hostage in a private house before police negotiated the hostages’ release and the surrender of one of the men. The second threw a grenade instead and was killed by the commandos. On May 20th in Vinsovkhozny, Dagestan, according to Russia’s federal Anti-Terrorism Committee, police had killed the head of the local Khasavyurt gang, Aslan Mamedov (nom de guerre: Muas), who was also reportedly the third-ranking leader in the Dagestani branch of the separatist Caucasus Emirate movement, being “emir” of north Dagestan. The Committee relished the “elimination of such an odious warlord.” A second militant was also killed in that raid. Two militants were also killed by police in the nearby village of Tukhchar. On May 22nd, a police station in the “Black Stones” neighborhood of Makhachkala was attacked by unknown assailants in a drive-by shooting, killing two police and injuring three. Meanwhile, a Russian bomb squad defused a powerful homemade bomb found just outside Malgobek, in the nearby Republic of Ingushetia, it was reported May 19th. No further information was available.
Son of Slain Radical Dagestani Leader Shot in Moscow. Murtuz Khachilayev, the son of Nadirshakh Khachilayev—a member of parliament for Dagestan and former head of the extremist Russian Muslims’ Union who was jailed for his ties to militant Wahhabism and later murdered in Makhachkala in 2003—has himself been shot in Moscow. He was shot in the stomach, and his companion, Shamil Ichalov, was killed. The police have no leads on his assailant.
BITS OF ASIA WHICH LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE
Circassians March in Istanbul to Mark Genocide by Russia. Thousands of Circassians and their supporters marched to the Russian embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 21st to mark the 148th anniversary of what they call Russia’s genocide of Circassians, who were subsequently massacred and dispersed from their homeland on the Black Sea coast between the Crimean peninsula and the North Caucasus. In particular, they object to Russia’s choice of Sochi, in Circassia, as the site for the 2014 Winter Olympics, “the symbol city of the genocide,” where the Ubykh subgroup of Circassians were essentially exterminated. The Russian government warned the Turkish government that allowing such demonstrations harmed Russo-Turkish relations. There are more than a million Circassians living in Turkey.
Circassians demonstrate in Istanbul
First 50 from Russian Troop Buildup Arrive in Abkhazia. The first 50 recruits trained at a special military training camp in the Russian Federation’s nominally Circassian but ethnic-Russian-dominated Republic of Adygea have arrived in the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia to augment the Russian-manned military base there. Over 1,000 new troops are to arrive by mid-summer. Aside from Russia and a handful of other countries, the international community regards Abkhazia as part of the Republic of Georgia.
Abkhaz Police Find More Caucasus Emirate Arms Caches. One of the suspects arrested May 4th in the alleged foiled Olympic terrorist plot against Russia (reported in this blog), Rustan Girsba, has led police in the Republic of Abkhazia to six more arms caches on May 22nd. The caches included anti-tank grenade launchers, a flame-thrower, and lots of ammunition. Girsba is the supposed leader of a militia called Abkhaz Jamaat, associated with the region’s Islamist separatist Caucasus Emirate movement.
Armenia Boycotts NATO Summit; No One Notices. The Republic of Armenia refused to attend the summit meeting in Chicago, Illinois, this week of the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (of which it is not a member) over wording that it objected to on the question of territorial disputes. The NATO joint declaration draft released before the summit said, “We remain committed in our support of the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova and will also continue to support efforts towards a peaceful settlement of these regional conflicts.” (NATO also condemned Russia’s support for the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.) Armenia, which does not recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, felt the statement should have referred to the right to self-determination for regions such as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which seceded from Azerbaijan as an Armenian puppet state in 1992. Armenia also boycotting this week’s Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan, over the same conflict, and no one noticed that either. (See my recent blog article on Armenian–Azerbaijani relations.)
The Dictator, Banned in Tajikistan, Now Edited for Uzbekistan. After being effectively banned last week in the Republic of Tajikistan (as reported in this blog), the English film comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s new political satire, The Dictator, will now be shown in the Republic of Uzbekistan, but with twelve minutes edited out. The film—in which Baron Cohen portrays Admiral General Aladeen, despot of the fictional Republic of Wadiya, in the Horn of Africa—is also banned in the Republic of Belarus. His 2006 film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, evoked angry reactions in Central Asia for its portrayal of Kazakhstan as a dirt-poor, nuclear-contaminated wasteland full of bigots and perverts. (See my recent blog article on the Republic of Wadiya.)
Israel Denies Planning to Send 20,000 Commandos to Cyprus. In the wake of the Israeli air force’s May 14th violation of the airspace of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (as reported in this blog), Israel’s government was compelled this week to deny rumors circulated in a Turkish newspaper that the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had asked the Republic of Cyprus for permission to send 20,000 commandos to the island to protect a natural-gas terminal. Turkey, which established Northern Cyprus as a puppet state in a 1974 invasion, is the only country in the world which does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus as the legitimate government of the entire island. (See my recent blog article on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.)
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (in pink)
Turkish Court Gives Legislator, Former Nobel Nominee 10 Years in Prison for Her Opinions. A court in Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of the Republic of Turkey’s region of Kurdistan, sentenced Leyla Zana, a Kurdish member of the Turkish parliament who was once a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize to ten years in prison on May 24th for what the court called spreading propaganda. The charges stem from speeches she made in 2007 and 2008 which the court considered in support of the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.). As a member of parliament, Zana will not need to begin serving her sentence until she leaves parliament. Her term ends in 2015.) (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings, plus another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle and a third listing Kurdistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Ankara Interior Minister Accuses Syria of Hosting P.K.K. Bases. The embattled dictatorship of the Republic of Syria is allowing its territory to be used by fighters from Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) launching attacks in Turkey, according to the Turkish minister for the interior, Idris Naim Sahin, who cited Turkish intelligence in making the accusations on May 23rd. Sahin even said that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is allowing the P.K.K. to virtually run some Kurdish towns on the Syrian side of the border. In 1998, Turkey and Syria nearly went to war over alleged Syrian support of the P.K.K. The Turkish government has over the past few months moved to the forefront of international opposition to Assad, at the same time that it has been building economic and political ties with northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) (see next story, below). (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings, plus another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle and articles on border conflicts between Turkey and Syria and on prospects for the partition of Syria.)
The flag of Kurdistan
Kurd-on-Kurd Violence on Rise in Syrian Civil War. Kurdish activists in the diaspora are reporting fighting between opposing Kurdish factions in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Most of the violence is between the Kurdish National Council (K.N.C.) and the Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.). The P.Y.D. is affiliated with Turkey’s banned militant separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) and accuses the K.N.C. of being mainstream and conciliatory. KurdWatch, an online news source, reports that some of the violence has been prompted by P.Y.D. supporters in Qamishli and elsewhere burning Kurdish flags and displaying portraits of Abdullah Öcalan, the P.K.K.’s imprisoned founder. At least one activist has accused the Arab Shiite dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad of being behind the P.Y.D.’s provocations in order to divide Kurds. The Turkish government opposes Assad and supports the mainstream opposition to the regime but has been waging a brutal war for decades against its own Kurdish population. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings, plus another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle and a third on prospects for the partition of Syria.)
Iran to Review Death Sentence of 2 Kurdish Brothers Arrested for “Fighting God.” Under apparent pressure from international human-rights organizations, the Islamic Republic of Iran will be reviewing the case of two Kurdish brothers who were sentenced to death after their 2009 arrest for “anti-Islamic activities” and “fighting against God.” One of the two brothers was a members of a Kurdish political party but neither was very politically active, though the father of one of them was a peshmerga (Kurdish rebel). The men’s father, Iqbal Moradi, told media that the decision came after meetings between Kurdish lawyers, human-rights groups, and Iran’s deputy minister of justice, Ayatollah Amoli Larijani. (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings, plus another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)
On Video: Israeli Troops Standing By as West Bank Settlers Shoot at Palestinians. Outrage flared in Israel and abroad after an Israeli human-rights group, B’Tselem, released a video clip showing Israeli Defense Forces standing by idly while Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank open fire on young Palestinian protesters throwing stones. One protester was shot on the side of the head but was not killed. (Watch the video here.) (See my blog article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
South Yemen Separatists and Opponents Brawl on Reunification Anniversary. In Aden, capital of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, a.k.a. South Yemen, supporters and opponents of a Southern re-secession collided violently on May 22nd on the anniversary of both the unification of north and south Yemen in 1990 and a failed secession bid on that date in 1994. The two mobs were led by, respectively, Hirak, also known as the Southern Movement, and al-Islah, also known as the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, the current Republic of Yemen’s main opposition party. Witnesses reported what appeared to be injuries as the two sides scuffled. (See my blog article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
The former split
Sindhi Separatists Ambush Bus in Pakistan; 9 Passengers Killed. The Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (S.D.L.A.) has taken responsibility for an ambush of a passenger bus in southern Pakistan May 25th which killed nine people and injured 12. The attack occurred in the Kazi Ahmed district in the state of Sindh, which the S.D.L.A. would like to form a state independent of Pakistan. The S.D.L.A. stopped the bus, boarded, and opened fire. The attack came on the eve of a high-profile conference in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, in the north, on how to address the separatist insurgency in Sindh’s neighboring southern state, Balochistan. Typically, Sindhi nationalists are less violent and organized than separatists in the neighboring state of Balochistan. (See my blog article listing Balochistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
General Strike, Army Dragnet Shut Down Kashmir Capital; Rival Factions Brawl. Srinagar, the capital of India’s state of Jammu and Kashmir, was virtually shut down May 21st as Kashmiris closed up shops and businesses to mark the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of the Muslim cleric and separatist leader Mirwaiz Mohammed Farooq, whose killing is still assumed by many to have been orchestrated by the Indian government. Indian troops set up roadblocks, curfews, and razor wire to prevent rallies and parades associated with the anniversary. It also marks the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Abdul Gani Lone, another Kashmiri separatist leader killed during the same anniversary in 2002. The following day, during an All Parties Hurriyat Conference seminar in the city on the Kashmiri independence movement, members of rival factions turned to fisticuffs and chair-throwing over the question of whether a United Nations resolution on Kashmir was applicable or not.
Rival Kashmiri separatist factions resort to throwing furniture
Assamese Separatists Call Strike to Protest Gandhi Visit. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which seeks independence for India’s far-eastern state of Assam, called for a May 26th shutdown of the state to protest the impending visit of Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of the assassinated Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who heads the Indian National Congress party. ULFA said in a statement, “The shutdown is being called to protest against the Indian colonial occupation in Assam, and the government’s bid to set up nuclear warheads in Assam, for converting Assam to a thriving ground of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, setting up of mega-hydropower projects in collusion with big companies to exploit the water resources of the state, and the recent move to set up the National Counter-Terrorism Centre.”
Former Sri Lanka Army Chief Freed on Pardon, Vows Revenge for “Vendetta.” The former commander of Sri Lanka’s army, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, left prison May 21st following a pardon from President Mahinda Rajapakse. Fonseka was a key figure in the victory over the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in the decades-long civil war that ended in 2009. In 2010, he ran against Rajapkse for president, criticizing him for not giving him enough credit for the victory and threatening to have him arrested if elected. Fonseka is still presumed by many to have won the most votes, but Rajapakse was declared winner and promptly had Fonseka arrested on arbitrary charges related to offenses committed during the war. “I will save the country,” Fonseka said upon his release. “The people will correct the injustice caused to me. I was a victim of a vendetta.” (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Tamil activist Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, a.k.a. “M.I.A.”)
World Uyghur Congress Reelects Kadeer in Tokyo While Beijing Pouts. The World Uyghur Congress reelected Rebiya Kadeer as its president last week during its fourth triennial meeting in Tokyo, Japan. The Japanese government’s granting of a visa for Kadeer—a former political prisoner who defected from China to the United States—had caused an outcry from the government of the People’s Republic of China, which brands her a dangerous separatist (as reported last week in this blog).
Papuans Arrested in Vanuatu Protesting Ties to Indonesian Military. “About two dozen” supporters of independence for the Indonesian-administered western half of the island of New Guinea were arrested in the Republic of Vanuatu last week for demonstrating against the Vanuatuan government’s military ties with Indonesia. The group Solomon Islands for West Papua is now urging the Melanesian Spearhead Group (M.S.G.)—a regional body consisting of Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu—to take a stronger position against Indonesia, by admitting a West Papuan separatists group as an M.S.G. member. The Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front, a militant pro-independence group in the French colony of New Caledonia, is already an M.S.G. member. (See my blog article listing West Papua as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)
Aboriginal Conclave Issues Declaration of Sovereignty from Australian “Invader State.” A May 25th press release from the Kuradji Aboriginal Embassy at Sandon Point, a northern suburb of Wollongong, New South Wales, announced the intention of Aboriginal leaders from across Australia, solemnized in the signing of a formal Act, to form what is to be called the National Unity Government of the Sovereign Union of First Nations Peoples in Australia. The statement refers to the government of Australia as “the invader State” and called for the building of sovereign institutions by Aboriginal communities across the continent. Among its resolutions is that “It is our inherent sovereign right to declare and advance our interests in all lands, waters, natural resources, subsurface and airspace as decreed by our DREAMINGS and songlines, through our obligation to Mother Earth and Creation.”
Amnesty International Wades into Debate on Australia’s Northern Territory. Some Aboriginal leaders in Australia are taking umbrage with the 50th annual report on global human rights published this week by the London-based human-rights organization Amnesty International, which condemned the Australian government’s controversial proposal to extend paternalistic management of Aboriginal communities in the country’s Northern Territory for another 10 years. Bess Price, an Aboriginal politician, said, “When Amnesty came to central Australia they were managed and guided around by the protesters,” adding, “Amnesty wants to keep us in ghettoes in the bush without individual rights, choices, and options.” Amnesty’s position, however, is supported by the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the Yolngu Nations Assembly. (Elsewhere in its report, Amnesty, while also praising recent developments such as the bringing to trial of the Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladić (as reported last week in this blog), tallied ongoing human-rights abuses such as war crimes against the Republic of South Sudan by its former parent state, the Republic of Sudan; Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and other Israeli–Palestinian conflicts; and an escalation of repression of ethnic minorities in Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar) despite recent reforms and cease-fires.)
Mexico Sets Aside Disputed Sacred Lands for Huichols after Anti-Mining Protests. The government of Mexico announced this week that it would set aside a half-million acres of land in the State of San Luis Potosí for the Huichol Indians. The area, known as Wirikuta, is sacred land whose imminent plunder by a Canadian mining firm, First Majestic Silver Corporation has led to nationwide protests. First Majestic has withdrawn its concessions, and Mexico City says no new ones will be granted.
Crackdown on Protests in Quebec Boosts Separatist Prospects. As protests over tuition increases in Quebec drag on, with increasingly violent confrontations with police and ever larger rallies bringing in other groups such as First Nations and environmentalist leaders, the pro-independence Parti Québécois (P.Q.) is also supporting the students and using the protests as a forum for its own message of secession from Canada. A new law introduced this week which curtails the right to protest, introduced by the formerly separatist provincial premier, Jean Charest, who now leads the unionist Liberal Party, is only increasing public support for the students, and for the P.Q.
Canadian First Nations Leaders Ask Prince of Wales for Audience with Queen. Representatives of Canada’s First Nations met on May 22nd in Ottawa with Charles, Prince of Wales, and indicated a desire to meet with Charles’s mother, Queen Elizabeth II, next year to discuss treaties. One Cree member of the delegation, Ovide Mercredi, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told media afterward that he had suggested to Charles the date October 7, 2013, the 150th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, a landmark document in Canadian aboriginal law which decrees that no territory is ceded to the Crown—or, by extension, to Canada—without treaty. By that definition, many areas, for example nearly all of British Columbia, are not legally part of Canada.
The Great White Father steps down from his palanquin for a parley
Johnny Depp Adopted into Comanche Tribe. While Elizabeth Warren’s run for Edward Kennedy’s seat representing Massachusetts seat in the United States Senate is being complicated by her dubious claims of American Indian ancestry, things got simpler for the actor Johnny Depp, whose claims of Cherokee and Creek ancestry were bolstered by his ceremonial adoption earlier this month by the Comanche Indian Tribe in New Mexico as an honorary member. Depp will be co-starring as Tonto in the upcoming (2013) Jerry Bruckheimer film adaptation of the popular radio and television series The Lone Ranger. The Oklahoma-born Comanche activist LaDonna Harris, founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity, hosted the adoption in a traditional ceremony at her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on May 16th. “Welcoming Johnny into the family in the traditional way was so fitting,” said Harris. “He’s a very thoughtful human being, and throughout his life and career he has exhibited traits that are aligned with the values and worldview that indigenous peoples share.” Johnny Wauqua, chairman of the Comanche Nation, was also in attendance. In the original 1930s radio series, Tonto was Potawatomi, even though that tribe lives mostly in Wisconsin, far from the stories’ American Southwest setting. In the television series, Tonto was portrayed by Jay Silverheels, who was of Mohawk (Iroquois) heritage from Canada.
Republican Lawmaker Tweets in Favor of Southern California’s Secession—from U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican who represents part of the United States’ most politically right-wing jurisdiction—Orange County, California—in the U.S. Congress, has attracted attention by announcing on his Twitter feed, in the context of a discussion of Balochistan’s struggle for independence from Pakistan, “If citizens of So. Cal want to leave US, then there should be a vote, & if majority agrees: bye bye,” adding, “If majority of citizens living on outer edge of any country vote separation they should get it,” and, “Specifically if citizens of SoCal vote independence or to become party [sic] of Mexico, then that is what should happen to So Cal.” Various proposals have surfaced over the years to divide California into predominantly-Democratic and predominantly-Republican states, along north-vs.-south or coast-vs.-interior lines—including, last summer, a proposal by the Riverside County supervisor for a Republican-dominated State of South California.
[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.]
LaDonna Harris and Johnny Depp
One proposal for a separate State of South California