TSAI ING-WEN ELECTED TAIWAN PRESIDENT FOR PRO-INDEPENDENCE PARTY—FIRST FEMALE LEADER OF A CHINESE-SPEAKING COUNTRY
In Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, a 59-year-old legal scholar, was elected on January 16th to be president of the Republic of China (R.O.C.) and the first female chief executive in the Chinese-speaking world (which also includes mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore). With 56% of the popular vote, her Democratic Progressive Party (D.P.P.), which favors looser ties with—and even formal independence from—the People’s Republic of China, unseated Ma Ying-jeo of the long-ruling Kuomintang (KMT), the party that persists in the conceit that the R.O.C. is the merely temporarily sidelined true government of all of China. But President-Elect Tsai made clear that she does not intend to provoke Beijing with any kind of independence declaration, which would almost certainly precipitate war.
Teen Pop Star Publicly Shamed for Waving Taiwanese Flag on Korean TV. In a bizarre sideline to the Taiwanese elections and the emotions it aroused, a 16-year-old K-pop singer from Taiwan named Tzuyu felt the need to apologize publicly on YouTube after a furor over her waving a Republic of China flag in November in an online-only segment of a television variety show in South Korea called My Little Television. It was little noticed outside Korea at the time, but another Taiwan-born pop singer, Huang An, an apologist for China’s Communist Party, complained about it on mainland China’s heavily government-controlled social-network site Weibo in January, wondering aloud whether Tzuyu (whose full name is Chou Tzuyu) was in favor of Taiwanese independence. Tzuyu—noted for the song “Like Ooh-Ahh”—was also criticized for referring to herself as Taiwanese instead of Chinese. Tzuyu is a member of an all-girl band called Twice, which also includes three members from Japan and five South Koreans. Huang An’s exposé led to the cancellation of both an appearance by Twice on Chinese television and a cellphone endorsement deal for Tzuyu that had been in the works. “Tzuyu, only 16, has limited political experience and can hardly take a political stance,” read a formal statement from JYP Entertainment, which represents Twice. “But the rumor has damaged our image in China and jeopardized our relations with Chinese partners.” In Tzuyu’s apology video, she bows, apologizes for hurting Chinese national feeling, and asserts that there is and always will be only one China. (And she loves Big Brother.) Even President-Elect Tsai (see above) chimed in on the controversy, saying, “I believe everyone feels hurt and angry to see that Chou was forced to do what she was made to do. ... Everyone should unite to voice their belief to the world that no national of the Republic of China should be [attacked] for identifying with her country.”
New Catalan President Seems to Rule Out Unilateral Independence Declaration. The newly elected separatist president of Catalonia clarified this month that, despite his vow to achieve independence from Spain within 18 months, there would not be a unilateral declaration of independence. The president, Carles Puigdemont, asked a television interviewer rhetorically, “Do we have sufficient strength to declare independence for Catalonia with this parliament?”, then answered, “Still no.” Puigdemont took office on January 10th (as reported recently in this blog), with a promise to achieve independence within 18 months.
Spain Reduces Sentences for 35 Basque Separatists in Plea Deal. Thirty-five Basque separatists from north-central Spain were given relatively short prison terms on January 21st after a plea deal in which they confessed to being members of the armed pro-independence group Basque Homeland and Freedom (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or ETA) and promised to renounce violence. This reduced their to 18 to 24 months, from a possible 10 years. Officially at least, ETA laid down its arms in 2011.
Blair Warns an E.U. “Brexit” Would Set Scottish Secession in Motion. The United Kingdom’s former prime minister Tony Blair warned the British public on January 26th that if the U.K. voted to leave the European Union (E.U.), it would almost certainly lead to Scotland voting to leave the U.K. Speaking about the upcoming vote this (probably) June on a British exit—a “Brexit,” as the idea is known—Blair said that, “If Scotland is taken out of the E.U. against its will, then obviously there will have been a fundamental breakdown in what should be a partnership of nations and it is highly likely that this would trigger an overwhelming demand for a second Scottish independence referendum.” Anti-E.U. sentiment is far higher in England and Northern Ireland than in Scotland and Wales—in fact, with Scotland’s 5 million people to England’s 53 million, Scotland has realistically no voice at all in the referendum—and Scotland only narrowly defeated an independence resolution in a 2014 referendum, with differing attitudes toward Brussels being very much in play. Even the Scottish National Party’s leader Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, says a second independence referendum in the event of a Brexit would be “unstoppable.” And a former S.N.P. leader, Gordon Wilson, said he was even considering, like many fellow Scots, voting to ditch Brussels for the sole reason of making Scottish independence more likely. “I helped steer the S.N.P. towards [a pro-]European policy” in the 1970s, he pointed out, “but certain things have happened and ... I want to look at it from the Scottish viewpoint.”
|Tony Blair, campaigning against Scottish independence two years ago|
Mebyon Kernow Urges London to Make 2016 “Year of Cornish Recognition.” The deputy leader of the United Kingdom’s Party for Cornwall (Mebyon Kernow, or M.K.) said at this year’s first party executive session that the British Parliament needs to make 2016 the year of “Cornish recognition.” “It is almost two years,” said the deputy, Loveday Jenkin, “since the British government bowed to years of pressure and recognised that the framework covered the Cornish. But they have since failed to act on this important convention in terms of the political recognition of Cornwall, and the protection of its distinct territoriality. They have also failed to properly invest in Cornwall’s distinct culture and identity. Mebyon Kernow believes that 2016 must be the year that Cornish recognition—in terms of politics and governance, territoriality and culture—becomes a mainstream issue across the U.K.” The M.K. economics spokesman, Andrew Long added that London owes Cornwall recognition “as one of the historic nations of the United Kingdom,” as deserving of devolution as Scotland or Wales.
Le Pen Breathes Xenophobic Fire in Milan as Padanian, Flemish Separatists Cheer. Right-wing separatist, ultra-nationalist, and other delegates cheered on January 24th as Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s ascendant neo-fascist National Front (Front national, or F.N.), addressed a thousand or so delegates at a rally in Milan for the European Parliament’s far-right, xenophobic Europe of Nations and Freedom (E.N.F.) caucus. In her remarks, she said that the current influx of Middle Eastern migrants to Europe would “impoverish European nations and kill their civility forever.” Among the other parties in attendance were the United Kingdom Independence Party, Italy’s Northern League (Lega Nord), and Belgium’s Flemish Interest (Vlaams Belang) party.
|Marine Le Pen, preaching hate with a smile in Milan, with a Flemish flag in the background|
Corsican Leader Irks Paris, Calling France Allied Country, Not Parent Country. The president of the Corsican Assembly, the regional legislature of the French-ruled island of Corsica, ruffled French feathers this month when he told a radio interviewer that he regarded France as a “pays ami,” i.e. a friendly country, or, translated more idiomatically, an allied state. It sounds friendly on the face of it, but the implication is that Corsica is not part of France. The Corsican leader, Jean-Guy Talamoni, who was in Paris for talks with Prime Minister Manuel Valls in preparation for new demands for Corsican autonomy to be written into the French constitution. Corsican separatists took control of the regional assembly in elections late last year.
Aigues-Mortes to Host 2016 Summit of Francophone Micronations. The Principality of Aigues-Mortes, a micronation surrounded by southern France’s Camargue region, announced this month that it would be hosting the first annual summit of the Organization of MicroFrancophonie (Organisation de la MicroFrancophonie, or O.M.F.), an organization of French-speaking micronations, on September 23rd and 24th of this year. In addition to Aigues-Mortes, a Medieval walled city which mints its own quasi-currency, other O.M.F. members include the Empire of Angyalistan (whose territory is “the horizon”), the Grand Duchy of Flandrensis (headquartered in Belgium), the Principality of Green Island (Principauté de l’Île Verte, off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada), the Principality of Hélianthis, the Republic of Padrhom (an acronym for Pays des Droits de l’Homme, i.e. “Country of Human Rights”), the State of Sandus (co-extensive with the State of Maryland in the United States), and the Republic of Valinois–Saint-Castin (which seceded in 2014 from the Federal Republic of St. Charlie, within Quebec), as well as the Republic of Jura, an actual, concrete secessionist movement in northwestern Switzerland. The O.M.F.’s secretary general is Her Serene Highness Olivia-Eugènie of Aigues-Mortes. (See a recent article in this blog for more on Aigues-Mortes, Angyalistan, and Flandrensis.)
|Princess Olivia-Eugènie and Prince Jean-Pierre IV, center,|
flanked by the Emperor of Angyalistan, the Queen of Ladonia, and other dignitaries
Swedish Saami Say Planned Norwegian Soapstone Mine Threatens Reindeer Herds. An indigenous Saami (Lappish) community in northern Sweden is bristling in opposition to plans to construct a soapstone mining operation in highly valued reindeer grazing lands. The community, Sirga, consists of about 300 Saami people and over 15,000 reindeer. Sirga’s chief, Jakob Nygård, said, “We have had reindeer in this area for a long time. Noise from machines and equipment will disrupt our practices. All the mountains will be mined. We need to start examining what will happen. ... We will see what we can do.” Sirga is in the vicinity of Hamarøy, just over the border in Norway. A Norwegian firm, Leonhard Nilsen & Sønner, has bought the rights to the soapstone deposits, previously thought too costly to extract.
|The Saami community leader Jakob Nygård, pictured here with some of the threatened land in dispute|
Bosniaks in Serbia Rally for Autonomy for Sandžak Region. In Novi Pazar, in southwestern Serbia, local Muslim Bosniaks rallied on January 17th demanding autonomy for the Sandžak region. Sulejman Ugljanin, president of the Bosniak National Council (B.N.V.) and the Party of Democratic Action (S.D.A.), said that self-rule for the Bosniak-dominated region along the border with Montenegro was the only way to protect local residents from the government in Belgrade, whose members “behave as if they were the owners of the lives of Sandžak’s citizens.” Referring to corruption and to violence against Bosniaks, Ugljanin added, “This savagery has reached its peak. We need to stop this evil.”
|Serbian Bosniaks rallying for autonomy in Novi Pazar|
Kosovo Serb Gets 9 Years for War Crimes; K.L.A. Commando Starves Self in Prison. A former commando in the Kosovo Liberation Army (K.L.A.) entered the fifth day of a hunger strike on January 19th, in protest over the refusal of medical treatment. The prisoner, Sami Lushtaku, is being held in a prison in Podujevë, near Pristina. He began his 12-year prison sentence in May 2015 after being sentenced on war-crimes charges, including the murder of an Albanian civilian in 1998. Meanwhile, on January 21st, a Kosovar Serb was sentenced to nine years in prison by a European Union (E.U.) court for war crimes against ethnic Albanian Kosovars. The convict, Oliver Ivanović, committed the crimes in 1999 during the Kosovo War. Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucić, said that the conviction “looks more like political force than law or justice.” In a separate trial, 11 Serbs being retried in an old case pleaded innocent to war-crimes charges on January 25th for offenses committed during the Kosovo War, including looting, killing, and torturing ethnic Albanians in four villages in 1999, with the larger goal of ethnic cleansing. Meanwhile, three opposition leaders in Kosovo called on January 22nd for mass protests against the current government, and even called for toppling the government by force, in anger over government accommodations with Serbia and Montenegro over the status of the ethnic-Serb minority in the country. The statement said that unless the current administration cancelled the agreements by February 17th—the eighth anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence—then citizens would overthrow the government. The three parties are the Kosovo Self-Determination Party, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, and Initiative for Kosovo.
|Sultan Murad I|
|Unrest in Chisinau (pictured here) is reverberating in Transnistria as well.|
At Least 5 Killed in Intermittent Fighting in Rebel-Held Eastern Ukraine. Despite a supposed cease-fire, ongoing intermittent shelling in the civil war in southeastern Ukraine’s Donbas region claimed a victim on January 23rd, with one Ukrainian soldier killed and another injured after an attack by pro-Russian rebels near Bulavynske, in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (D.P.R.). Some rebel attacks have used missile launchers and other weapons banned under the Minsk accords. Two days later, the D.P.R. announced that shelling by Ukrainian troops had killed two people—one a civilian—and wounded four others (two of them civilians). Ten homes were also destroyed, the D.P.R. said. And on January 31st the Ukrainian government announced that within the Donetsk oblast two Ukrainian soldiers had been killed—one in combat and one in a booby-trap, with three injured.
|Igor Girkin, a.k.a. Igor Strelkov, a fan of Stalin-style vigilante courts and executions|
Kremlin May Be Planning to Replace Donetsk Rebel Leader with Yanukovych Crony. The Kremlin puppet-masters in Moscow who control the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic (D.P.R.) and Luhansk People’s Republic (L.P.R.) in eastern Ukraine are preparing to oust the D.P.R.’s current leader, Oleksandr Zakharchenko, according to a pro-Ukrainian group, the Information Resistance Group (I.R.G.). Among the replacements being considered, according to the I.R.G., are two former cabinet members of the pro-Kremlin former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, whose impeachment in 2013 accelerated the current conflict. The two are Yanukovych’s former prime minister, Mykola Azarov, and his former first deputy prime minister, Serhiy Arbuzov. Meanwhile, on January 25th, Zakharchenko blithely told a Youth Socio-Political Forum this month about how he oversaw the obliteration of the village of Kozhevnya in July 2014. “It was our first offensive,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the course of fighting we practically destroyed this village. By burning down houses, we saved our lives and the lives of our people.”
Czech Communist Parliamentarians under Fire for Visit to Donetsk Republic. Two communist members of the Czech Republic’s parliament visited the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic for three days this month, causing a furor because they did it behind the backs of the Czech parliament and foreign ministry. The two M.P.s, Zdeněk Ondráček and Stanislav Mackovik, are members of the Communist Party of the Czech Republic (K.S.C.M.), and Ondráček is on a list of people banned from entering Ukraine, and in December was hustled onto a plane by Ukrainian authorities and sent home to the Prague. The government in Kyiv called the two Czechs’ entry into Ukraine illegal.
Donetsk Rebels Say “California Flu” Leaked by Secret American Lab Killed 20 Troops. The Donetsk People’s Republic’s propagandists betrayed their amateurism this month as press releases quoted Eduard Basurin, Vice-Commander of the republic’s army, in saying that the virus which recently killed 20 soldiers and hospitalized another 200 is something called the “California flu” and was intentionally released from a U.S. military facility near Kharkiv, in non-rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine. Of course, there is no such thing as a “California flu,” and the D.P.R. paranoiacs fail to explain how releasing biological agents into the general population could be expected benefit one side over the other a close-fought, street-by-street civil war like the one in the Donbas. Of course this doesn’t mean that most of D.P.R.’s Russian-speakers, their brains addled by Putinist propaganda, won’t fall for it hook, line, and sinker.
|Eduard Basurin accuses Washington of covert bio-terrorism in Ukraine.|
Tatar Leader Vows Blockade Will Continue Until Ukraine Reclaims Crimea. A Crimean Tatar activist and former deputy prime minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea before Russia’s annexation vowed on January 19th that Tatar civilians’ blockade of the Crimean peninsula will continue until Russia, which invaded and annexed Crimea two years ago, withdraws and allows reunification with Ukraine. The activist, Lenur Islyamov, said, “We showed the Tatars in Crimea, Ukrainians, and all pro-Ukrainian people that there is a genuine movement under way to free Crimea.” He added, “Crimea is the land of the Crimean Tatars. It is our land. “Therefore, when we organize an economic blockade, or an energy blockade, we are completely within our rights. We are Crimean Tatars. Crimea is our land.” Meanwhile, Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime minister of Russia under Vladimir Putin (2000-04) who now heads the anti-Putin People’s Freedom Party, met with Mustafa Dzhemilev, the exiled Crimean Tatar leader, in Strasbourg, France, during a Council of Europe event and told him, “Accept my reassurances that Crimea will eventually be freed and returned to Ukraine.”
Puppet Tatar Forum in Crimea Condemns Pro-Ukrainian Muslims. A pro-Kremlin conclave of Crimean Tatars on January 16th condemned the main organization of Crimean Tatars, now based in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, as a “clone” organization tarred with the brush of radical Islam. The conference, held in Simferopol, capital of the Republic of Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed two years ago, was called “New Challenges to the Unity of the Crimean Islamic Ummah” and included 450 delegates. It praised the Department of Crimean Muslims, a pro-Moscow puppet organization, and and said that any Tatars opposition to that body “are condemned by Allah as a grave sin.” It referred to Crimean Tatars allied with the Ukrainian government, which is recognized by most of the world as having sovereignty over Crimea, as being engaged in a “pseudo-jihad” which endangers the safety of those Tatars left in the peninsula. Meanwhile, a Russian court in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, ordered the arrest of Mustafa Dzhemiliev, the most prominent Crimean Tatar leader, who was exiled from his peninsula homeland two years ago as Russia invaded.
|Ramzan Kadyrov and his dog Tarzan|
Chechen President Parades Attack Dog, Vows Vengeance on Putin Critics. The Kremlin-appointed president of Russia’s Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, amped up his rhetoric against any and all who oppose President Vladimir Putin on January 19th when he published an article in Izvestia channeling Soviet-era rhetoric in blaming “Western lackeys ... this pack of jackals” in the media and in the Russian diaspora who hate Russia and sling mud at her. “The politics of these warriors for injustice,” he writes in the article, titled “The Jackals Will Be Punished under Russian Law,” “is an anti-people one that represents their own personal interests. When they criticize all and sundry without grounds, using vile words and spraying spittle, they think that we will remain silent. And when they get a tough response with mass support, they run to their defenders howling and tucking in their jackal’s tails. If these dogs have their protectors in our country, then the main protector of the Russian people is the president of our country, Vladimir Putin, and I am prepared to carry out his orders, no matter how difficult.” The article appeared two days after an ally of Kadyrov’s, Magomed Daudov, who is speaker of Chechnya’s parliament, posted on Instagram a photo (shown above) of Kadyrov with his pet dog Tarzan, a Caucasian shepherd, along with threatening comments. “This is our old friend, Tarzan,” Daudov wrote. “Tarzan just hates dogs of foreign stripes—especially American ones.” He said that Tarzan’s “fangs were itching” to sink into the flesh of “traitors” against Putin. A few days later, on January 22nd, a (possibly government-orchestrated) rally in support of Kadyrov was held in Grozny, the Chechen capital, drawing reportedly 700,000 people—half of Chechnya’s population. Analysts are divided as to whether Putin approves of Kadyrov’s rhetoric and is using him as a lightning rod or if Kadyrov is overstepping his bounds, perhaps dangerously so, trying to outflank Putin on the right.
|Alexander Zadolstanov of the pro-Kremlin “Night Wolves” motorcycle gang speaking at the pro-Kadyrov rally in Grozny|
BITS OF ASIA THAT LIKE TO PRETEND THEY’RE PART OF EUROPE
Cypriot Leader Offers to Make Turkish Official E.U. Language upon Reunification. The president of the Republic of Cyprus said on January 19th amid ongoing trilateral unification talks with the unrecognized Turkish puppet state the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus that Turkish could be made the European Union’s 25th official language as part of a final agreement. President Nicos Anastasiades and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, President Mustafa Akıncı, hope to produce a plan by the end of the year that will merge their two states into a federal union of two autonomous entities, similar to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Nagorno-Karabakh Friendship Group in French Parliament Grows to 48. In France, eight members of parliament have joined the Franco–Nagorno-Karabakh Friendship Group, bringing to 48 the number of French legislators who have thrown their support behind the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.), an ethnic-Armenian-populated Russian puppet state carved bloodily out of the western flank of the Republic of Azerbaijan in an Armenian ethnic-cleansing campaign after the fall of Communism. No United Nations member state recognizes the N.K.R., not even its sponsors, Armenia and Russia. The new members are Bruno Le Roux, the Socialist leader in the parliament; six other Socialists, and Emmanuel Mando, head of the Rhône–Alpes region’s “Union of Democrats and Independents” coalition. Estimates of the number of Armenians in France range as high as 750,000 (the French government is constrained by law from compiling ethnic census data)—easily the highest in western Europe.
Slovene Lawmakers: Killing 613 Azeris Is “Genocide,” Killing 1.5 Million Armenians Isn’t. The National Council in Slovenia, one of the houses of its bicameral parliament, passed a resolution on January 20th recognizing the Armenian massacre of 613 people in Khojaly, Azerbaijan, in 1992 as “genocide.” That event was part of the Nagorno-Karabakh War between the newly independent Azerbaijan and Armenia after the fall of Communism. However, Slovenia, unlike most major western European countries, has so far refused to recognize the massacre of possibly one and a half million Armenians by the Republic of Turkey as a genocide. The Khojaly massacre is also considered a “genocide” by the governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Romania, and Sudan. (See my blog article on the politics of genocide recognition in the South Caucasus.)
Israeli Justice Minister Wants Independent Kurdistan as Buffer between Iran, Turkey. The Israeli minister of justice joined her boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in supporting the idea of an independent Kurdistan, according to news released on January 20th. Israel’s justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, told the annual meeting of the Institute for National Security Studies (I.N.S.S.) in Tel Aviv that the Israeli government “must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly towards Israel. The Kurdish people are a partner for the Israeli people,” she said, adding that “the Kurds are an ancient, democratic, peace-loving people that have never attacked any country.” Meanwhile, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, told the Guardian newspaper in England that the Middle East’s borders will need to be redrawn because the old Sykes–Picot agreement had dramatically failed. He added that world leaders realized this, but, “as you know, diplomats are conservatives and they give their assessment in the late stages of things. And sometimes they can’t even keep up with developments.” On January 26th, Barzani added that, ideally, a referendum on independence should be held “before the U.S. presidential election” in November.
Turkey Arrests 27 Signatories of “Peace Declaration” Critical of War on Kurds. In Turkey, security forces on January 15th arrested, then released, 27 academicians who were among more than a thousand signatories to a “peace declaration” condemning Turkey’s war on its Kurdish minority and demanding an end to curfews. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who earlier in the month had compared his government favorably with Nazi Germany’s, referred to the signatories—an international array including the American linguist and peace activist Noam Chomsky—as “dark, nefarious, and brutal” and equated them with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (P.K.K.). The arrests took place in and around Kocaeli province, near Istanbul. “The right to life, liberty, and security,” the peace declaration read, in part, “and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated. We demand that the state abandon its deliberate massacre.”
Scores Die in Ongoing Civil War between Turks and Kurds. Meanwhile, scores—if not hundreds—died in two weeks of ongoing fighting between Turkey’s military and security forces and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (P.K.K.), which is fighting for an autonomous or independent homeland in southeastern Turkey. A skirmish between the military and the P.K.K. in Diyarbakir province on January 15th killed 16 P.K.K. fighters and injured eight soldiers, one of whom died of his wounds the next day. On January 16th, Turkish tanks attacked the town of Cizre, causing dozens to flee the destruction. The military reported on January 19th that a skirmish in Sur, in Diyarbakir province, killed one Turkish soldier when a group of P.K.K. fighters opened fire on some troops. On January 21st, the Turkish army announced that it had killed 33 P.K.K. fighters the day before (two civilians were also killed, Kurdish sources said), bringing the P.K.K. death toll to 641 for the previous five weeks, according to the military. Kurdish sources said two civilians were also killed in the January 20th operations, including a city councillor in Cizre who was trying to clear wounded people out of the streets when he was shot. The violence there continued into the following day. On January 23rd, the P.K.K. claimed responsibility for a truck bomb attack on a police station and nearby housing in Cinar the previous week, in which six people were killed, including three children. Two soldiers were injured on January 22nd when they came under attack by P.K.K. fighters in Sur. On January 22nd, a bomb was tossed into a schoolyard in Diyarbakir province, injuring five children. The Turkish government blamed the P.K.K. for that attack. On January 27th, three soldiers were killed in fighting in Sur district, in Diyarbakir province, while thousands fled the area. On January 31st, in Sirnak and Diyarbakir provinces, security forces reportedly killed 17 P.K.K. fighters. In incidents not directly related to the fighting, at least 28 Kurdish refugees fleeing Turkey died when their ship capsized in the Aegean Sea; a total of 65 were killed. Other reports said 70 Kurds drowned in the accident. Twenty Kurdish bodies later washed up on the Greek island Kalymnos, some from Iraqi Kurdistan. The following week, a boat with 65 refugees, mostly Iraqi Kurds but with an Afghan skipper, capsized near Samos, and at least 24 Kurds were believed dead. Amnesty International issued a report on January 21st condemning Turkey’s crackdown, calling it “collective punishment.” Meanwhile, any softening of the United States’ position on the conflict seemed farther than ever as Vice-President Joseph Biden met with the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, on January 23rd and declared the P.K.K. a “terror group, plain and simple.”
Russia Says ISIS Runs Training Camp in Chechen Enclave of Georgia. The foreign minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, told reporters at his annual press conference on January 26th that the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS) was operating a training camp in the Republic of Georgia, in the Pankisi Gorge region. The government in Tbilisi immediately denied the claim. Lavrov also spoke of a willingness to restore diplomatic ties with Georgia, which were cut in 2008 after the South Ossetia War. Lavrov said ISIS uses the supposed Pankisi Gorge base “to train, rest, and replenish their supplies.” The Pankisi Gorge is home to a Muslim minority called the Kist, who are part of the Chechen ethnic group. Islamist radicals have in the past called for the creation there of an Islamic emirate called Pankisi Jamaat.
Amnesty Report on Ethnic Cleansing by Kurds Disputed by Arab “Victims.” A report by Amnesty International on January 20th said satellite data and field interviews with more than 100 eyewitnesses back up accusations that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq are not just fighting the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS) but also deliberately destroying Arab villages. Sometimes, the report said, they worked in concert with Yezidi militias or with Kurdish fighters from Turkey and Syria, and bulldozing, detonations, and arson were all used to destroy communities. Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response advisor, who conducted the investigation, says the actions “may amount to war crimes.” The Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) reacted swiftly, denying the accusations and saying that the incidents it was aware of were examples of Peshmerga using self-defense. Later, on January 26th, Arab community leaders in Makhmour disputed the Amnesty report, saying that some villages were relocated, but for their safety, and that it was the Peshmerga that was protecting Arab civilians and communities from ISIS.
Budget Crisis Leads to Road Blockades in Iraqi Kurdistan; Crucial Pipeline Bombed. Inability to pay public servants became a more concrete crisis for the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) in northern Iraq on January 17th as residents of the town of Darbandikhan and surrounding areas, in Sulaimaniyah province, blocked major transport roads, preventing tanker trucks from passing through. The protestors demanded better jobs and more prompt disbursements of pay. Some government employees have not been paid since September 2015—largely the result of budget cuts from the central government in Baghdad. Then, on January 29th, an explosion the interior ministry blamed on “terrorists” destroyed a gas pipeline responsible for about half of the Kurdistan Region’s electricity supply.
Kurds Find Yezidi Mass Grave in Iraqi Town Liberated by ISIS. In Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga forces found a mass grave near the town of Shingal on January 17th. The fifteen to 20 bodies within are believe to be those of Yezidi men killed by the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS) before November, before Shingal was liberated from ISIS control by the Peshmerga. The United Nations, in a report released on January 19th, estimated that about 3,500 people, mostly Yezidis—and most of them being women and children—are being held in slavery by Islamic State.
France Vows to Recognize Palestine If Talks on “Two State” Solution Founder. The French government raised the stakes considerably as it prepared to host a several-weeks-long summit to push for a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine: it threatened to diplomatically recognize Palestine if no progress is made. “France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference,” said Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, “bringing together the parties and their main partners, American, European, Arab, notably to preserve and make happen the two-state solution.” But, he said, if attempts to solve the decades-old conflict hit a wall, then “we need to face our responsibilities by recognizing the Palestinian state.” So far, the only western European countries to recognize Palestine are Iceland, Malta, Sweden, and Vatican City. Meanwhile, the president of China, Xi Jinping, said during a visit to Egypt on January 21st that he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. He made the comments while addressing a session of the Arab League in Cairo. Xi also mentioned $15 billion in aid China plans to offer in special loans to develop Middle Eastern industry.
|The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority|
|A victim of the January 25th stabbing in a Beit Horon grocery is brought to the hospital.|
North African al-Qaeda Chapter Calls for Reconquest of Two Spanish Enclaves. A video from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.) posted on YouTube on January 15th calls on Islamist militants to take back Ceuta and Melilla, two communities on the Mediterranean coast of north Africa, surrounded by Morocco, which are part of the Kingdom of Spain. The video, narrated by Abu Obeida Yusuf al-Annabi, A.Q.I.M.’s leader, refers to Spain with its old Arabic name “al-Andalus.”
Sweden Decides against Recognizing Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The government of Sweden announced on January 15th that it had decided against granting diplomatic recognition to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (S.A.D.R.)—a decision greeted with delight by the Kingdom of Morocco, which illegally occupies Western Sahara, and with disappointment by human-rights activists. The Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, gave a curt explanation, saying the current administration’s position was “consistent with the assessment of previous governments in this regard,” i.e. that “the criteria required under international law to recognize Western Sahara are not fulfilled.” M’hammed Grine, of Morocco’s Party of Progress and Socialism (P.P.S.), said that Sweden’s entertainment of the idea of recognition had been “a source of a great crisis” between the two countries, praising Sweden for “not embrac[ing] a separatist utopia, supported by Algerian hegemonic temptation completely outdated in a precarious regional geostrategic context carrying enormous risks.” Meanwhile, in the Canary Islands, an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Spain off the coast of Africa, President Fernando Clavijo met with a representative of the Polisario Front and renewed his territory’s commitment to freedom and self-determination for the Sahrawi people.
2 Berbers Dead after Clashes with Sahrawis in Moroccan Campus Unrest. University students from the separate Berber and Sahrawi ethnic groups came into violent conflict on campuses in Marrakesh and Agadir in Morocco on January 23rd, leaving two Berbers dead. Rival protests over the question of Morocco’s illegal control of most of the territory of Western Sahara was at issue, with Berbers of the Amazigh Cultural Movement (A.C.M.) opposing recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (S.A.D.R.) because of what it called the Polisario rebel group’s mistreatment of Berbers in S.A.D.R. territory it controls. One Berber student, Omar El Khaleq, was beaten to death by pro-Polisario rioters during the protests, and another succumbed to his wounds four days later. The A.C.M. blames Polisario directly for the deaths.
|Omar El Khaleq, the Berber student recently killed in campus unrest|
Oil Facilities Bombed in Niger Delta after Rebel Leader’s Arrest Ordered. Several oil facilities in Nigeria’s Delta State, in the ethnically volatile Niger Delta region, were damaged on the night of January 15th-16th by bombs set by militants, according to Nigerian media. The affected facilities included important pipelines. The blasts occurred shortly after a federal court in Lagos ordered the arrest of a former rebel leader named Government Ekpemupolo, a.k.a. Tompolo, former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Corporations targeted in the bombings included the Nigerian Gas Company, Chevron, and NECONDE, and government sources said the damage was costing those companies nearly two and a half million dollars per day. Tompolo is now a wealthy oil tycoon charged with corruption. Most of the explosions occurred in the territory of Tompolo’s native Gbaramatu Kingdom. Tompolo claims no link to the attacks—a position echoed a few days later by other former members of the MEND leadership, though one MEND veteran, Africanus Ukparasia , a.k.a. General Africa, claims Tompolo planned the attacks with another MEND militant named General Shoot at Sight. Military forces entered Okpelama, Tompolo’s home community, on the 16th looking for militants. At least two local monarchs have condemned the bombings: Ogiame Ikenwoli, the Olu of the Warri Kingdom, and Orhue I, the Orodje of the Okpe Kingdom. Meanwhile, another former MEND member, Excel Toriomo, a.k.a. General Monday, said on January 21st that the governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, has tried to have him assassinated, apparently in anger over Toriomo’s switching party membership from the People’s Democratic Party (P.D.P.) to the All-Progressives Congress (A.P.C.). Another group, the Arogbo Ijaw National Front, complained this month about rampant ethnic violence and crime in Ondo State. The Ijaw group blamed the current situation on the military having shut down “a local anti-vices outfit” called Gallery Security Services, which is run by Chief Bibopre Ajube, a former frontline commander for MEND.
|Government Ekpemupolo (“Tompolo”), in the garb|
of the sect to which he now belongs, the Brotherhood of the Cross and Sword
Biafran Political Prisoner, Denied Bail, Writes Open Letter to European Parliament. In Abuja, Nigeria, a federal court denied bail to the Nnamdi Kanu, the jailed leader of the organization Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB), on January 29th. His case has been adjourned until February 9th. He was arrested in October 2015 on charges of sedition and “ethnic incitement” for operating the pirate media network Radio Biafra, among other activities. The same day, a judge in Port Harcourt, in Rivers State, granted bail to 20 Biafra activists also held since October. (Earlier, also in Port Harcourt, a judge remanded two Igbo men to prison on conspiracy charges on January 21st for a demonstration six days previously at which, the judge said, they conspired to declare war on Nigeria.) On January 27th, Kanu released an open letter to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, in advance of a scheduled appearance before that body by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari. In the letter, Kanu writes, “I am that Biafran locked up in Buhari’s DSS [Department of Security Services, Nigeria’s secret police] dungeon for 98 days without trial, given inhuman treatments, tortured and abused. ... “I am that Biafran his 7 years old child was shot to death in Aba, that Biafran his brothers and sisters were massacred in Onitsha. I am that Biafran his people were again massacred in Aba, that Biafran his people are being kidnapped, extra-judiciary killed and illegally imprisoned by Buhari. I am that Biafran who Buhari illegally ordered soldiers of Gowon to invade my land and slaughter my children, sisters, brothers, fathers and mothers in their millions in 1967. ... The treatment of Kanu represents how Biafrans are treated in Nigeria, we are Biafrans, condemned by Nigerian government and deprived of right to live, speech, belong, freedom and thrive.” (Read the full text here.) Meanwhile, at least eight people were reported killed by police during a rally for Biafran independence in Aba on January 18th. Police claim there were no deaths or injuries. The same day saw protests were held in six different southern states, all protesting Kanu’s continued detention. As this article is being written, reports are emerging that a ship hijacked off the coast of the disputed Bakassi Peninsula, in far-southeastern Nigeria, on January 29th is now being held captive by militants, who say that they will blow up the ship with its foreign crew unless Kanu is released immediately.
Pro-Independence Igbo King Found Murdered; Separatists Suspect Foul Play. A traditional Igbo monarch known for his activism in pursuit of a Republic of Biafra was founded murdered by a roadside on January 20th. The 52-year-old Agbogidi Akaeze Edward Ofulue III, the Obi (King, or Prince) of Ubulu-Uku, in Nigeria’s Delta State, was abducted from his vehicle on a bandit-infested road on January 5th and then found dead in the bushes 15 days later alongside the badly decomposed body of an unidentified Hausa man. A Fulani herdsmen was arrested on January 19th in connection with the murder. But an anonymous former Biafran intelligence agent from the late 1960s told The Biafra Times that the Ubulu-Uku king had in fact been assassinated by Nigeria’s government for his pro-independence activities. Giving only his nom de guerre, “Holy-Eyes,” the agent said the king had been involved with the Biafra Restoration Committee and had pressed the Biafran cause with the European Union (E.U.) and United Kingdom, among a life of pro-independence activism. “Nigerian government was very late in the day in killing him,” “Holy-Eyes” said. “If they had killed him a year ago, it would have somehow affected the struggle negatively. But they were as clumsy as ever, and the man was able to evade and outsmart them at every turn on the assignment, until it was completed. ... You see our worldwide demonstrations? That was part of the work his committee did. You see how smooth and effective the protests have been, then you will know that our brother was a genius.” The monarch, also an evangelical minister, had ruled the community of Ubulu-Uku since 2006. Meanwhile, within the formally organized Biafran movement, one faction of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) accused the head of another faction, Ralph Uwazuruike, of plotting against the secretariat of the first group, in Imo State. The claim was made by the faction led by Uchenna Madu, which refers to Uwazuruike as MASSOB’s former leader.
|The assassinated Obi of Ubulu-Uku, shown here in red during a ceremony|
Shooting of Ogadeni, Fears of Oromo “Cannibal” Raise Tensions in Somaliland. The Ogaden National Liberation Front (O.N.L.F.), a rebel group aiming for a separate state in the border region straddling eastern Ethiopia’s Somali Region and Somalia itself, blamed the government of the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland for the death of an Ogadeni man who was shot to death January 18th in Hargeisa, the Somaliland capital. Local police called the death a targeted killing and said they have begun to round up suspects. The next day, police in Hargeisa rounded up several members of the ethnic-Oromo community—who are also from Ethiopia—after an Oromo man supposedly killed and ate an ethnic Somali toddler.
The president of Khatumo State—a warlord fief with shifting territory in the disputed borderlands between the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland and the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia—rattled sabers at Somaliland on January 31st, claiming that the republic is illegally occupying Khatumo territory in what the outside world regards, technically, as the Federal Republic of Somalia’s Sool province. “This time ’round we saying enough is enough,” said the president, Ali Khalif Galeyr, “and we shall be waging war against them soon so that we recapture our land, and as well show them who we are.”
Azawadi Separatists among Suspects Rounded Up after Burkina Faso Attack. Approximately 15 members of the National Movement for the Liberation for Azawad (M.N.L.A.), a northern Malian rebel group, were rounded up for interrogation by police in Burkina Faso in the wake of the January 15th terrorist attack on the Hotel Splendid in Ouagadougou, the capital, which killed 30 people. Police also arrested refugees from Mali in a refugee camp in Burkina Faso. Also detained were four citizens of Niger, including Adal Rhoubed, an ethnic-Tuareg physician who is running for president of Niger. Meanwhile, in Mali itself, the killing of three police officers in Mopti province on January 20th focused suspicions on Tuareg rebels. The three were killed in an ambush by “terrorists,” according to police. This follows the January 15th killings, also in Mopti, of two soldiers guarding a relief aid convoy and a security guard who died when a market in the village of Dioura came under attack by militants. Then, on January 28th, one Malian soldier was killed in an ambush just outside Timbuktu, deep in the Azawad region, and near Gao, elsewhere in Azawad, three other Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit a landmine.
|No longer so splendid after jihadists got through with it|
Kenyan Police Arrest Chairman of Mombasa Republican Council. The chairman of the Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.) was arrested at his home in coastal Kenya on January 24th and was arraigned the next day on charges that include membership in, and fundraising for, a banned organization. The chairman, Omar Mwamnuadzi, was also charged with possession of an “article bearing the words ‘Pwani si Kenya’”—Swahili for “Coast [province] Is Not [part of] Kenya”—a slogan which the prosecutor claims is in itself an incitement to violence. Mwamnuadzi denies all charges. A day before Mwamnuadzi’s arrest, police arrested three alleged M.R.C. members in a raid on a mosque in Diani, near Kwale, where they received a tip a secret meeting was being held. About 30 people eluded arrest in the raid.
|Omar Mwamnuadzi of the Mombasa Republican Council|
Matabeleland Separatists Join Furor over Non-Ndebele-Speaking Teachers in Zimbabwe. The Mthwakazi Republic Party (M.R.P.), which wants to secede from Zimbabwe, joined protests this month sparked by the central government’s appointment of teacher who don’t speak the Ndebele (Matabele) language to schools in Matabeleland North province. The M.R.P. is echoing complaints from local communities that the dictator Robert Mugabe’s secret police force, the Central Intelligence Organisation (C.I.O.), has been targeting Ndebeles who are vocal on the issue. Mbonisi Gumbo, an M.R.P. spokesman, said, “C.I.O.s are going around Lupane in the Gumede and Masenyane areas intimidating people over their resolution to sign a petition against” one of the teachers. Mugabe is a member of the more northerly Shona ethnic group.
Switzerland Denies Political Asylum to Baloch Rebel Leader from Pakistan. The government of Switzerland on January 15th turned down a request for political asylum by Brahamdagh Khan Bugti, the exiled leader of the Baloch Republican Party (B.R.P.), an organization which is banned in Pakistan and seeks independence for the Balochistan region. A few days later, the former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf was officially acquitted in the elder Bugti’s killing. Bugti fled Pakistan in 2006 after his grandfather Nawar Akbar Bugti was killed by the Pakistani military, fearing his own assassination would be next, and lived in Afghanistan until moving himself and his family to Switzerland in 2010. The Pakistani government quickly praised the Swiss decision. Two days later, separatist sources told media that, although Bugti intended to file an appeal of the decision, he is now considering moving to a country with no extradition agreement with Pakistan. Candidates included Bahrain, France, Germany, Kenya, Norway, Oman, Qatar, South Africa, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. Musharraf’s acquittal, on January 18th, came after his indictment last year for various crimes committed during his tenure, including the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto. There is yet to be a ruling on the Bhutto murder. Musharraf currently lives under house arrest in Karachi while his cases move through the courts.
Baloch Liberation Army Claims Credit for Killing 6 Soldiers, Assassinating Poet’s Son. On the outskirts of the city of Quetta, in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, an army vehicle hit a roadside bomb on January 18th, resulting in an explosion in which six paramilitary soldiers were killed. The Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A.) claimed responsibility for the incident. The previous day, according to the Baloch National Movement (B.N.M.), Pakistani troops abducted young Baloch people out of several communities, and three bodies riddled with bullets found in the area around Turbat were identified as those of three “freedom fighters” abducted by the military on January 13th. Then, on January 20th, members of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps killed five B.L.A. fighters, including a commander, in Barkhan district. Three B.L.A. fighters were captured. Baloch insurgents are also suspected in an attack on soldiers in a gas station in Quetta’s snooty Satellite Town suburb. Four police were killed in the attack. The B.L.A. took responsibility for the assassination of the 27-year-old son of Bashir Bedar, a prominent Baloch author and poet. The son, Fazul Bashir, was shot by unknown assailants in the town of Tump on January 28th as he returned from mosque. The B.L.A. statement said the younger Bashir was a spy for the government.
|The Balochistani home minister, announcing Abdul Manan’s death|
3 Separatist Guerrillas Killed in Military Operations in Indian Kashmir. Two Kashmiri militants were killed in a battle with Indian troops in Naina, in Jammu and Kashmir, in northern India, on January 20th, after the troops converged on the village on a tip that Kashmiri separatists were hiding out there. One home was destroyed, with the body of a third militant suspected to be beneath the rubble, and an explosion, possibly the accidental detonation of a grenade wounded two villagers, one of whom died later. The events led to spontaneous anti-government protests in Naina and in a neighboring village, Batpora, in which an armored vehicle was set aflame and riot police responded by shooting one man to death and injuring two others. Indian security forces “launched an operation against militants,” sources said, in Kashmir’s Kupwara district on January 29th, and the fighting lasted into the next day, with at least one separatist guerrilla killed.
Hindu Nationalists Call Muslim Riots in West Bengal Ploy to Create Indian “Kosovo.” Indians are steeling reeling from an outburst of sectarian violence on January 3rd in West Bengal state, when a Muslim rally boiled over in anger over remarks by a Hindu politician in Uttar Pradesh who supposedly who called the prophet Muhammud the “world’s first homosexual.” This has prompted some Hindu observers to raise the spectre of Muslim separatism. A police station and other government buildings and vehicles were set on fire in Kaliachak, in West Bengal’s Malda district, where Muslims are almost as numerous as Hindus, and 30 police were injured. India’s ruling party, the radically Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.), is using the riot to whip up Islamophobia in the country, though some analysts say the events had less to do with religion than with criminal conflict related to counterfeit currency rings and poppy-growing syndicates that are in conflict with the police. One Islamophobic political analyst, Jay Bhattacharjee, wrote in Swarajya magazine that West Bengal had parallels with Kosovo and blamed the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party for allowing Malda and other West Bengali districts near Bangladesh to tip toward a Muslim majority. The violence has given a boost to the B.J.P., which hopes to secure control of West Bengal in upcoming elections.
|Muslims and Hindus in West Bengal’s Malda district don’t always get along.|
Graffiti in Thailand Province May Herald Muslim Rebels’ Spread to New Areas. Authorities in Thailand have become concerned in mid-January over the appearance on roads in Surat Thani province of graffiti touting the Runda Kumpulan Kecil (R.K.K.) rebel group, since that province is considerably farther north than the R.K.K.’s usual area of activity. One of the graffiti, which are in Arabic and Burmese scripts, reads, “Welcome, R.K.K. Fighters.” Another says, “Death Route—Watch Out.” And on January 28th, authorities discovered rockets and other weaponry in Pattani province bearing the legend “Nampra Army”—referring to a faction of the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), an older organization, dating to the 1960s, which shares the R.K.K.’s goals. The R.K.K. has been fighting an insurgency for 14 years to try to get all or parts of the far-southern provinces near Malaysia—Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala—to secede as a separate Muslim-dominated state.
Karen Rebels Say Burmese Soldiers Burned Down 10 Homes after Firefight. Rebels from the Karen ethnic group battled Burma’s military from January 23rd to 26th, with a Karen splinter group, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (D.K.B.A.), claiming the Burmese burned down 10 homes, in retaliation for the wounding of two men from the government-aligned Karen Border Guard Force. The government denies the accusations. The D.K.B.A. is a reincarnation of sorts of the former Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in a more secular guise. The fighting occurred near Kawkareik, in Karen State.
Missing Hong Kong Publisher Confesses on Mainland TV, Raising New Questions. One of the five booksellers missing from Hong Kong and feared “disappeared” by the mainland Chinese government for their dissident publishing and other activities (discussed recently in this blog) appeared suddenly on Chinese television on January 17th, confessing through tears that he had turned himself in to Chinese authorities over a fatal drunk-driving accident 11 years ago. The publisher, Gui Minhai, who is also a naturalized citizen of Sweden, says he killed a young woman while driving drunk in Ningbo, in Zhejiang province, in 2003 and was given a suspended sentence but skipped the country in violation of his probation the following year. Now, he says, he is returning to China. He had last been seen at his condominium in Thailand in October 2015. Gui and the other four missing men are employees of Mighty Current Media, which publishes and sells books about the sex scandals and corruption of mainland Chinese officials—the kind of activity that would would be a one-way ticket to a reeducation camp on the mainland but is tolerated in Hong Kong because of the “one country, two systems” guarantees under which the United Kingdom surrendered Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Most Hong Kongers believe there is more to the story than Gui’s televised version of events and that he is being held against his will. Amnesty International says Gui’s “confession” “has no validity from a legal standpoint.” Another of the five, Lee Bo, a dual citizen of China and the U.K. last seen in Hong Kong on December 30th, is apparently being held on the mainland. His wife says she visited him there in late January at a “guesthouse” in an unspecified location, where she says he was a “witness” in an ongoing investigation. The European Union (E.U.) has called the illegal Chinese detention of E.U. citizens “unacceptable.”
|Gui Minhai’s tearful televised “confession”|
Police Round Up Inner Mongolian Herders after Protests Hit Social Media. Hundreds of ethnic Mongolian herders in the People’s Republic of China’s “autonomous” region of Inner Mongolia held public protests in front of government buildings on January 20th over the withholding of herders’ subsidies in compensation for grazing bans. Some herders then distributed on social media video clips of the protests in the community of Darhan-Muumingan Banner, and some were interviewed by human-rights activists and foreign journalists. Beijing responded quickly: local police abducted at least a dozen herders on January 25th and interrogated them aggressively about “engaging in national separatism” before releasing them. Others received threatening phone calls. In 2008, the central government banned livestock grazing in the area but offered monetary compensation. Those payments stopped abruptly six months ago without explanation, causing extreme economic hardship for the Mongolians, who are a minority in their own “autonomous” region—which Mongolian nationalist call “South Mongolia.” “Now our very survival is threatened,” one herder told the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center.
|Inner Mongolia is one of China’s largest subdivisions|
Courageously defying strict bans on such expression, over one thousand people in China’s Tibet “Autonomous” Region gathered at a Buddhist monastery in Kardze, a “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” in Sichuan province to pray publicly for the health of the 14th Dalai Lama. “This is an annual prayer gathering which usually begins on January 13 and ends on January 25,” an exiled Tibetan official told Radio Free Asia, “but following a notice sent out on January 20 by the Central Tibetan Administration [the Tibetan government-in-exile, in India] requesting prayers for His Holiness the Dalai Lama while he undergoes a health check at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S., the Tibetans extended their praying for two extra days.” A gigantic portrait of the Dalai Lama was incorporated into the open-air prayer sessions. Chinese authorities, miraculously, stayed away.
Polynesian Separatist Opposition Leader to Run for President ... of France. The opposition leader in French Polynesia, Oscar Temaru, who supports independence for the territory, announced this month that he intended to run for president of the French Republic, of which French Polynesia is a constituent “overseas collectivity.” But he told an interviewer that his real intention was to win the French election “here in Maohi Nui, not in France” (using a native Polynesian term for the territory, which includes the archipelago of Tahiti). Temaru is of mixed Tahitian, French, and Māori (indigenous New Zealander) ancestry.
Australian Monarchists Propose Making Queen Elizabeth Their “President.” Monarchists in Australia—those who want the country to retain its status as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state—responded to a rise in activity by the Australian Republic Movement (A.R.M.) this week by proposing a compromise that involved Her Majesty being given the lesser title of President of Australia, but with the position still being hereditary. The suggestion was made by David Flint, who heads the organization Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. In reply, Peter FitzSimmons, who chairs the A.R.M., said, “We’re so chuffed that monarchists are really starting to warm to the idea of a true Australian republic,” adding, “If pleasing everybody means having Her Majesty the Queen as President of Australia, so be it. Australians are reasonable people.” Among other voices in support of the proposal was Tony Abbott, the recently ousted ultra-conservative prime minister, who said, “This is the kind of thing Australia needs.” It is unclear in what sense a state with a hereditary head of state, even one called “president,” would be a republic.
|Following a well-established tradition of monarchist Australian prime ministers|
displaying an utter ignorance of royal protocol, Tony Abbott put his hand
on H.R.H. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, during a royal visit to Canberra
Parti Québécois Leader to Stay On Despite Tax Inquiry, Marital Problems. In Canada, the leader of Quebec’s pro-independence Parti Québécois (P.Q.), Pierre Karl Péladeau, attempted on January 28th to lay to rest talk that he might step down. “Don’t worry—I’ll be there,” he said, in response to speculation that he might not lead the P.Q. into the next provincial election, in October 2018. Péladeau’s separation from his wife was recently made public, support for the party is slipping in the polls, and the media have been inquiring into whether the francophone media conglomerate he runs, Quebecor, is paying all its taxes.
|Pierre Karl Péladeau|
Tsimshians, Lawmakers Vow to Save British Columbian Island from Gas Project. An agreement was struck, in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, on January 24th to end a long-standing occupation (as detailed recently in this blog) by members of the Tsimshian nation of an island whose salmon-based ecology is threatened by a multinational corporations billion-dollar plans for a liquid natural gas plant. The “Lelu Island Declaration” was signed by Tsimshian hereditary chiefs from the Nine Allied Tribes of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and four provincial and federal parliamentarians from the New Democratic Party (N.D.P.). Nathan Cullen, who represents the Bulkley Valley constituency in Ottawa, said, “This project isn’t going to happen. This project can’t happen.” Leaders from the Gitxsan, Wet’suwet’en, Lake Babine, and Haisla nations also signed the accord. But cold water was poured on the agreement the following day by the “chiefs”—not actual hereditary chiefs, but government-salaried, locally-elected administrators—of five Tsimshian communities. Their declaration states that the Lelu Island protection agreement was without their “consultation or support.” None of the five communities—Kitkatla, Metlakatla, Kitsumkalum and Kitselas (near Terrace, B.C.), and Gitga’at (Hartley Bay, B.C.)—has ownership rights on Lelu Island.
|Celebratory signatories to the Lelu Island Declaration|
Sidelining of Pipeline Deals under Trudeau Reawakens Alberta Separatism. The Calgary Herald in Alberta, Canada, reported this week that Justin Trudeau’s ascent to the prime-ministership in Ottawa last year is stoking a resurgence of separatist feeling in the province, which seems to wax and wane according to how far left or right politics in the federal capital are leaning. Following Trudeau’s promises this month that his Liberal Party would not just be a “cheerleader” for pipeline projects, in the way that his Conservative Party predecessor, Stephen Harper was, ordinary Albertans, fearful of the effects on their economy, are voicing more skepticism about the whole idea of Canada. Over 13,000 people have “liked” the Republic of Western Canada” Facebook page founded a few short months ago. The Herald quoted one poster to that forum opining, “It would be nice if the Quebec sponges would return the money we have donated to their pathetic welfare state.”
|Militant nutcases at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon|
Oregon Refuge Standoff Drags On Despite Killing of 1 Militant, Arrests of Many Others. The armed standoff by extremist anti-government militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon entered a violent phase on January 26th, with one militant dead and several under arrest. Ammon Bundy, the de facto leader, and at least five others were en route to a community meeting in the town of John Day, about 70 miles away, when they were arrested by Oregon State Police on a state highway. During the arrest, LaVoy Finicum, a spokesman for the militants, was shot and killed. In addition to Bundy, son of the racist Mormon patriarch and anti-government militant Cliven Bundy, of Nevada, those arrested included another of the 14 Bundy siblings, Ryan Bundy; Shawna Cox, of Utah; Ryan W. Payne, of Montana; and Brian Cavalier, a former bodyguard of Cliven Bundy’s from Nevada who used the nom de guerre “Fluffy Unicorn” (don’t ask). Two others, Peter Santilli, of Ohio, and Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, of Arizona, were arrested shortly afterward in Burns, Oregon, and Jon Eric Ritzheimer, the 32-year-old member of the group with the strongest ties to white-supremacist hate groups, turned himself in to police in Arizona. Earlier, Kenneth Medenbach, age 62, had been arrested while driving off-site to the grocery store on January 15th in a (stolen) Fish and Wildlife Service truck, and two days later a former Cliven Bundy bodyguard, Schuyler Pyatte Barbeau, had been arrested near Springdale, Washington, for illegal possession of semi-automatic weaponry that he was hoarding in preparation for “shoot-outs with law enforcement.” Barbeau had already been on the F.B.I.’s radar for loudly talking about plans to “lynch” a California judge who had sentenced him on an earlier weapons charge. One of the militants remaining at the wildlife refuge, Jason Patrick, of Georgia, said that the mood there was “prepared but calm.” He added, “They said ‘peaceful resolution,’ but now there is a dead cowboy.” On January 27th, however, Patrick was one of three arrested as he voluntarily left the compound, out of a total of eight who left that day; another was Dylan Anderson, of Utah, who used the nom de guerre “Captain Moroni.” Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) in very short order took the unusual step of releasing a video clearly showing Finicum reaching for his gun before being shot in the arrest, the occupiers and their supporters continue to call it a “cold-blooded” murder. The day after his arrest, Ammon Bundy released a statement through his attorney in which he begged the remaining militants to end the occupation. “Let us take this fight from here,” the statement said, addressing those still within the compound. “Please stand down. Go home and hug your families. This fight is ours for now in the courts. Please go home.” But Cliven Bundy himself, interviewed in Nevada on January 28th, disagreed and urged the remaining militants to “battle on,” saying, “I’ll tell you one thing, we’re dang sure going to have to fight his battle over and over if we just give up right today.” The events began on January 2nd, when the Bundys and a group of other militant extremists took over the refuge in protest over the sentencing of local ranchers for arson on public lands, though their demands focused on the larger issue of libertarian objections to the vast scale of federal ownership of land in the rural West—the same issue that animated the elder Cliven Bundy’s standoff in 2014. As of this writing, the standoff continues, with possibly only four or five militants left inside the compound. (For more on the Oregon standoff, see a recent article from this blog.)
|Jon Ritzheimer, a true-blue patriotic American, shown here in happier times|
San Diegan Running for California Assembly on Platform of Independence from U.S. Among the candidates for elections to California’s legislature this year is Louis J. Marinelli, of San Diego, who told media this week that his ultimate aim is the state’s secession from the United States. Though he has little chance against the Democratic incumbent, he hopes in the long term to get Californian independence on a referendum ballot. “There are two kinds of people in California,” he said to a Los Angeles Times reporter: “people who identify themselves as Californians and Americans who are occupying California.” Marinelli, a 29-year-old E.S.L. teacher with a Russian wife, was born in Buffalo, New York. Formerly, he was a vocal activist against same-sex marriage and organized a campaign called “Summer for Marriage 2010” but in 2011 had a dramatic change of heart to become an opponent of the anti-same-sex-marriage movement, though he still said he supports “traditional marriage.”*
2 More California Counties Drop out of State of Jefferson Movement. In northern California, the executive officer of Nevada County clarified for the public on January 15th that his county was not part of the movement to secede and form a 51st state called the State of Jefferson. Rick Haffey, the executive officer, said his office had been flooded with inquiries after media quoted Jefferson activists at a rally a few days earlier as saying they were submitting secession declarations on behalf of 21 northern counties, including Nevada County. Haffey said, “The County of Nevada has not taken any action on this issue and has no plans to take action. It is not something the Board of Supervisors is considering.” This follows a unanimous vote by Plumas County’s board of supervisors three days earlier to rescind its previous decision to put secession from California on the ballot in November 2016. Perhaps this is why Mark Baird, head of the Jefferson Declaration Committee, may be turning his freedom-loving attention to other noble causes. At a public meeting on wolf-management policy in Yreka, in Siskiyou County, on January 21st, he said that he believes that it is no accident that the canine predators, for whom environmentalists express so much concern, are killing ranchers’ livestock and that in fact wolves are being “trucked into” northern California. He has no evidence, but he is looking for it. Neither Nancy Pelosi nor the Knights Templar were mentioned as suspects, but it’s too early to rule anything out.
Georgia Legislator Likens “Confederate Cleansing” to ISIS, Moves to Protect Symbols. A member of Georgia’s legislature introduced legislation on January 28th to reverse the trend of what he called “Confederate cleansing”—the erasure of the state and region’s Confederate history, as evidenced by a broad movement to remove Confederate flags and other symbols from public spaces. His proposals include making Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E. Lee’s Birthday into state holidays, creating special protections for the pro-Confederate memorial at Stone Mountain, and designating April “Confederate Heritage Month” (appropriate, I suppose, since it includes April Fool’s Day). The lawmaker, Rep. Tommy Benton, of the Republican Party, who is a retired history teacher, explained the proposals by saying, “I’m tired of the anti-Confederate rhetoric toward Stone Mountain and any other Confederate monument that’s out there. We’re entitled to our heritage just like other people are entitled to theirs, and there seems to be an attempt to do Confederate cleansing. I refer to that as more cultural terrorism than anything. They’re attacking us for no reason at all. We’ve not done anything to provoke them or anything else.” (Yes, he really said that—a history teacher.) “They’re very similar to what’s going on in the Middle East with ISIS that’s destroying all those mosques and temples and everything because they don’t agree with that history over there, so they’re just destroying it and doing away with it.” He also made statements minimizing the racism and dangerousness of the Ku Klux Klan, which he says was a positive vigilante group which “made a lot of people straighten up.”
|Rep. Tommy Benton’s idea of “being straightened up”|
Second Party Joins PIP in Calling for Puerto Rican Independence. A second party has joined the Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) in demanding that the United States government hold a referendum on Puerto Rico’s political status. The smaller party, the Hostosiano National Independence Movement (M.I.N.H.), made the announcement on January 18th. “The PIP proposal should be backed by all independence movements,” the statement read, in part, “and, even more, by all the Puerto Rican people.”
PRACTICALLY BLOODY ANTARCTICA
British Labour Party Leader under Fire for Seeking “Dialogue” on Falklands. The divisive new leader of the United Kingdom’s incredible shrinking Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, revived controversy by calling for dialogue with Argentina, which was defeated by the U.K. in a short war in 1982 after it invaded and attempted to annex the Falkland Islands, a British territory. “It seems to me ridiculous that in the 21st century we would be getting into some enormous conflict with Argentina about some islands just off it. Yes, of course the islanders have an enormous say in it but let’s bring about some sensible dialogue.” The U.K.’s prime minister, David Cameron, lambasted Corbyn and told Argentina’s new president, Mauricio Macri, in his first meeting with any Argentine president, that the Falklands would remain British so long as that was what Falklanders preferred. Shortly afterwards, the outgoing Argentine ambassador to the U.K., Alicia Castro, revealed to media that Corbyn had told her that he would like to see a “power-sharing” agreement in the Falklands, along the lines of that in Northern Ireland. The Falklands have no indigenous people, and Argentina has never had a permanent settlement there; its claim stems from an 1820 flag-planting by a naval mercenary from Connecticut in the name of the Spanish crown. In a 2013 referendum, Falklanders voted 1,513 to 3 in favor of remaining a fully British territory, without any sharing of sovereignty with Argentina. It is not clear, then, what Corbyn thinks there is to talk about, or why he is interested in becoming prime minister of a democracy (the U.K.) if he doesn’t think people have the right to choose who governs them.
|H.R.H. Anne, the Princess Royal, during a visit|
to the Falklands amidst the Jeremy Corbyn kerfuffle
Saami Athletes to Defy Warnings against Visiting Abkhazia for Alternative World Cup. The governments of Norway and Georgia are warning footballers against attending an unofficial tournament for aspirant nations this year in the Russian puppet state of Abkhazia. Norway’s department of state has long warned citizens against visiting Abkhazia, which most of the world other than Russia and a handful of countries regards as part of Georgia. And the Georgian government has given notice that entering Abkhazia—a Russian client state which has been de facto self-governing since 1994—from anywhere but Georgian territory is a violation of its law. “At the moment they [athletes] cross the border into Abkhazia in the north [the Russian side], we will raise criminal cases,” the Georgian embassy in Norway announced. Members of the Saami (or Lappish) nation—an indigenous people whose homeland stretches across parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia—have a team, called F.A. Sápmi, which is one of 12 slated to play in the tournament, which is being organized by the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA). The vice-president of ConIFA (in wording implying that he himself is Abkhazian), tried to reassure the Saami footballers, saying, “We have nothing to do with the Georgian Embassy, because Abkhazia is independent. There has been war between Abkhazia and Georgia in 1992-1993. Therefore we still have a political problem with our neighboring country.” ConIFA’s president, Per-Anders Blind, is an ethnic Saami. The F.A. Sápmi coach, Håkon Kuorak, said that his team would be traveling to Abkhazia no matter what.
* Thanks to Louis Marinelli himself for writing to me and clarifying his position on this point—and apologies to him for an earlier version of this article which misrepresented him.
[You can read more about these and other sovereignty and independence movements both famous and obscure in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar. The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]