Thursday, December 20, 2012

10 Separatist Movements to Watch in 2013

Last year around this time, I wrote an article here titled “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.” As is always the case with such things, there were some successes and failures in my predictions.

The ominous black flag of Ansar al-Dine flew over a captured city in northern Mali in spring of 2012.
The push to partition Belgium into Flanders and Wallonia (no. 10 on last year’s list) did indeed surge to the forefront as a movement, thanks to the election of a member of the Flemish nationalist party to the mayoralty of Antwerp in October (as reported at the time in this blog), partly riding on the wave of separatism initiated by Scotland and Catalonia.  Kawthoolei (no. 6), as an independent homeland for the Karen people of southeastern Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar) is to be called, is perhaps a bit closer to reality: the military junta that rules the country began liberalizing at breakneck speed earlier this year, and peace accords with ethnic minorities are among the showpieces of Burma’s détente with the West.  Burma’s war against the Kachin minority has, if anything, intensified, and Buddhist pogroms against Muslim minorities in western Burma are putting the country and its reputation at risk, but the Karen, who have a strong lobby in the West, may just emerge from all of this unscathed; in fact, the junta may cut them loose if only to show that they’re not complete fuckers (though it is quite possible that they are, in fact, deep down, complete fuckers after all; we’ll see).  Northern Nigeria (no. 5), where the approximately 50% of the nation that is Muslim are concentrated, has indeed suffered an acceleration of terrorist agitation by the brutal Islamist militia Boko Haram, with thousands now dead.  This is the greatest threat to Nigeria’s unity since the Biafra War, and calls for a separate state or some sort of partition are becoming a clearer voice in the hubbub.  South Sudan (no. 2), which is more properly speaking the aftermath of a successful secessionist movement, did indeed see an explosion of violence along the still undefined border with its parent country, Sudan, but it’s quite likely that this will die down and become one of the world’s many low-level, misery-inducing insurgencies, in the Nuba Mountains, South Darfur, and other regions.  Kurdistan (no. 3 last year, no. 1 this year; see below) and Palestine (no. 1 last year, no. 3 this year; see below) were indeed major stories of 2012, with, in Kurdistan, the establishment of a fragile West Kurdistan Autonomous Region amid Syria’s civil war and, at the United Nations, the dramatic admission of the State of Palestine as a non-member observer state, despite a still-raging-at-that-point vest-pocket war between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip.

The conflicts in Pakistan’s restive province of Balochistan (no. 9 on last year’s list), in Indonesia’s far-eastern Papua and West Papua provinces (no. 7), and in the parts of the Republic of Yemen that would like to restore the independent South Yemen (no. 4) ground on, but without coming any closer to resolutions.  The campaign for northern Italy to secede as Padania (no. 8) collapsed completely, thanks to the Euro Zone crisis, which brought down Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition government, in which the separatist Northern League was an unlikely junior partner.  And then, the League’s charismatic founder and leader, Umberto Bossi, resigned amid a corruption scandal.  Padania may rise again, but not any time soon.

Umberto Bossi’s northern Italian separatist movement
was virtually obliterated by the Euro Zone crisis in 2012.

My list also failed to include Scotland and its forward movement toward independence (no. 4 on this year’s list; see below), Catalonia’s rising separatist movement (no. 6 this time around; see below), the autonomy declaration in Libya’s eastern Cyrenaica region, the declarations of independence in the Bakassi Peninsula portion of the disputed border area between Nigeria and Cameroon, or the (unexpected by anyone) establishment of the Independent State of Azawad (no. 2 this year; see below) in northern Mali.  I also had no idea that a reelection of Barack Obama could inspire an upsurge of separatism in America’s red states (see no. 9 below).

Now, without further ado, are Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2013:

10. Jubaland

Let’s start with one most people have never heard of.  At the beginning of the year, southern Somalia, which was at the time ruled by al-Shabaab, a merciless Islamist army affiliated with al-Qaeda, was being invaded by an African Union (A.U.) force led by Kenya and Ethiopia, with United States aid, to try to dislodge the group and restore rule from Mogadishu.  For Kenya, this meant setting aside for the moment plans for a possible buffer state in the region in order to settle a grudge: Kenya suffers more spillover of al-Qaeda terrorism than anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa, and it has its own Muslim separatist movement around Mombasa that it fears may become radicalized with militant Islam in the way that the Zanzibar separatist movement in nearby Tanzania has been.  In the late summer, the A.U. coalition more or less succeeded—liberating the southern city of Kismayu and putting al-Shabaab on the run.  However, the Federal Republic of Somalia in Mogadishu, although it this year ended its “transitional” period and is supposedly now “normalized,” is, disappointingly, not much closer to extending its actual administration of territory very far beyond the outskirts of the capital.  So, local southern militias, some nearly as brutal and nearly as Islamist, are taking advantage of the power vacuum in the south to try to revive a regional government called, at various times, Jubaland, Azania, or even Greenland (sic), which has for brief periods enjoyed de facto independence during Somalia’s long civil war.  In the short term, many Jubalanders would like to establish a self-governing (de facto independent) autonomous state—like Galmudug and Puntland, to the north (see map above)—but Mogadishu and the A.U. are resistant to this idea.  They’ve seen how Galmudug and Puntland have, for all their relative stability, become havens for sea pirates.  An autonomous Jubaland, especially one run by Islamists, may not solve much.  But Jubalanders are tired of war and tired of instability and, it seems, they are tired of being part of Somalia.

Postage stamps from Jubaland’s brief quasi-independence in the 1920s as the Italian colony of Trans-Juba
Two rival designs for the flag of Jubaland State

9. Texas

Texas is one of only four states that joined the United States from the position of an independent state applying for admission (the others being Vermont and, more ambiguously, Hawaii and California) and has always had a separatist streak.  Lingering bitterness toward the North in this former slave state is perhaps stronger than anywhere else in the territory of the failed Confederate States of America.  Today, it is among the reddest of red states—the home not only of George W. Bush but of Lyndon B. Johnson, whose “betrayal” of fellow “Dixiecrats” by pushing through civil-rights legislation in the 1960s lay the groundwork for Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy”—in which the Republican Party courted Southern white racists, which is why today’s electoral maps look the way they do.  Texas is also home to extreme forms of political nuttiness, much of it swirling around issues of sovereignty.  I have reported in this blog on the Texan separatists getting their panties in a bunch over (actually rather routine and benign) monitoring of national-election polling places in Texas by “ferners” from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (O.S.C.E.), and on some Texan politicians’ fears that President Barack Obama is planning on allowing the United Nations to institute direct rule in the Lone Star State.  Local redneck folklore has it that Texas has the constitutionally ordained right to secede from the Union at any time—which is false, though it does have the right to devolve into as many as five separate states (which would have the effect of turning the U.S. Senate into a particularly bad episode of Hee Haw).  In the hours after Obama was reelected in November 2012, Texas was the second state (after Louisiana) to be represented in online petitions on the White House’s website calling for secession from the U.S.  All 50 states, plus the State of Jefferson and Molossia, had petitions in the days that followed, but of all these Texas got the most signatures—119,044—though, to be fair, some of those may have come from Northerners whose attitude toward Texan independence is “Don’t let the screen door hit you where the Good Lord split you.”  To be sure, this is mostly a rhetorical, symbolic reflection of fears of federal intrustion (“First Washington frees our slaves, then they make us take down the ‘No Coloreds Allowed’ signs, now they want everyone to have access to affordable health care—what horrors are next??”).  Even Governor Rick Perry, whose warm comments about Texan independence may have contributed to his failed bid for the presidential nomination, continues to chime in on the subject.  But serious or not, events in 2012 have put the word “secession” on everyone’s lips in Texas.  The Texas Nationalist Movement (T.N.M.) says its membership has spiked as never before and has just formed its own political action committee (PAC).  Don’t expect Texas to secede any time soon; that would require an act of Congress.  But don’t expect the idea to die down any time soon either, at least not as long as there is a black man in the white House, especially one who, after the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre this month, really is trying to take people’s assault weapons away.

8. Alawite State

Lattakia and Tartous provinces, along Syria’s coast, formed the Alawite State in colonial times,
and may one day do so again.
This time last year, everyone was predicting that by this point the civil war in Syria would be over, that the dictator Bashar al-Assad would be killed or in exile, and that Syria would be on a possibly rocky way towards something at least better and more democratic.  But with thousands more dead, there is still no end in sight.  This keeps open the possibility (discussed in this blog in November 2011) that Assad and his inner circle may yet try to relocate from Damascus to the coastal areas that are the homeland of the minority to which they belong: the Arabs of the Alawite sect of Shi’a Islam.  This region, comprising Syria’s only two coastal provinces, Lattakia and Tartus, are separated from the rest of Syria by a mountain range and in the 1920s and ’30s enjoyed quasi-independence under France’s colonial mandate as the Alawite State—an entity that some would like to revive as a sovereign state.  Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities—including Druze, Christians, and Kurds—have always been less fierce in their opposition to the Assad dynasty than the Sunni Arab majority has been, but the Alawites have been his positive allies, and their coastal region has as a consequence seen far less violence than the rest of the country.  If Assad is simply removed from power, à la Moammar al-Qaddafi or Saddam Hussein, then we can expect a horrific backlash against Alawite civilians by a new government in which radical Sunni Islamists who regard Alawism as heretical.  (Alawites are relatively secular Muslims, with a mix of Christian practices and a tolerance and mysticism some compare to that of Bahai’ism or Sufism.)  Thus, there might be pressure for the West, if it removes Assad, to create a protected zone for Alawite civilians.  Or: Assad may be able to escape to the Alawite region and maintain a drastically shrunken version of his country as his own fief.  The fact that Syrian rebels are even now trying to cut off escape routes to the coast suggests that both sides are gearing for a battle premised on this contingency.  Other civil wars in history have ended with the losing side allowed a smaller, truncated territory as a separate state: North Korea, Taiwan, and—for a while—South Vietnam come to mind.  Libya, too, in its civil war last year, was for a while partitioned along battle lines following old historic boundaries which threatened to become permanent.  The recent decision to deploy United States troops and Patriot missiles just over the border in south-central Turkey perhaps makes an Alawite State less likely—and it would seem like a defeat to the Syrian majority if they end up with a country once an economically strategic oil route but now suddenly landlocked and at the mercy of their old enemies for coastal access—but many political observers over the past year have lost money betting against Assad’s tenacity.  (Kurdistan complicates the question of Syria’s fate, of course; see below.)

Flag of the Alawite State
7. Tibet

Very little has changed in the brutal rule by the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) of Tibet in terms of actual policies, to say nothing of improvements, but the visibility of this movement has been raised considerably in 2012.  The Summer Olympics in London were the occasion for many political protests, including those in favor of the Tibetan struggle for self-determination.  More dramatically, self-immolations by Tibetans, many of them Buddhist monks, in desperate protest over the political situation, have spiked in late 2012, bringing to (as of this writing) 95 such incidents since the wave of self-immolations began in 2009.  Beijing is stepping up its response to that situation, with a barrage of propaganda blaming the 14th Dalai Lama for the protesters’ deaths.  Something is happening in the closed world of Chinese-ruled Tibet, and in the even more secret world of dissidents, whose ardor for independence has not dimmed the slightest in over six decades of domination.  This may be the year everything blows up—with, as is always the case in the Chinese sphere of influence, unpredictable results.

6. Catalonia

This year saw Catalonia, a small region in northeastern Spain catapulted into international stardom for its sudden surge of separatist feeling, the triumph of separatists in regional parliamentary elections, and, just within the past couple weeks, the formation of a ruling separatist coalition and an agreement to hold a referendum on independence in 2014, the same year as Scotland’s (see below).  This development can be seen as one of the more profound political repercussions of the Euro Zone crisis.  Catalonia is Spain’s wealthiest region and thus has long chafed at the fact that it essentially subsidizes poorer areas.  Add to this that it is also Spain’s most indebted region at the moment, and you have Catalans feeling that it is the profligacy of those poorer regions that has landed them in this pickle.  Catalonia enjoyed de facto independence during the Spanish Civil War and has long considered itself not really Spain, with closer cultural and linguistic affinities to France than other Spanish regions have.  Hence their feeling that they are somehow a “northern European” success story that should not have to suffer for a financial crisis caused by the irresponsibility of “southern Europe” (the same dynamic, in the same rhetorical terms, that is at work among Italy’s northern separatists and Belgium’s Flemish ones).  Since Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, Catalonia has become more and more independent, with their own devolved parliament, their own educational and language policies, etc.  (The much smaller number of Catalans just over the border in France have, like other French linguistic and ethnic minorities, almost no political recognition or rights.)  But Catalonia is still wedded to Madrid when it comes to the collection of taxes and how the revenue is spent.  Expect most of Spanish politics in 2013 to revolve around the tussle over whether Catalonia is even allowed to hold a referendum (Madrid says no), what happens if they do anyway (Catalonia has requested NATO protection should Madrid send in the tanks), and whether an independent Catalonia could remain automatically, or even at all, within the European Union (E.U.)—a question faced also by Scotland (see below) and which is at the moment up in the air.  (Separatist tendencies in Galicia and, especially, the Basque Country are also set to be debated this year.)

5. Barotseland

Greater Barotseland
The Barotse, or Lozi, people formed an independent monarchy well into the period of British colonialism and dealt with Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa Company as a sovereign entity until their absorption into British North-Western Rhodesia in 1900.  When North-Western and North-Eastern Rhodesia merged to become the independent Republic of Zambia, Lozis feared the loss of their special status under colonialism and negotiated the 1964 “Barotseland Agreement” with Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda, which promised them greatly enhanced autonomy.  But successive Zambian presidents have ignored the agreement and have even chipped away at Barotse rights and neglected the infrastructure of what was at first called Barotseland province and then, in a further insult, renamed simply Western Province.  In the past year, the Barotse Royal Establishment, whose king and prime minister are only ceremonial but command wide loyalty among the people, held a plebiscite of Lozi communities which came out overwhelmingly in favor of independence.  Since then, rhetoric from Barotseland and from the Zambian central government in Lusaka has become increasingly bellicose and at various points seemed at risk of tipping into open conflict.  Unlike other tribal separatist movements in Africa, the Lozi have a functioning government, headed by a charismatic king, Libosi Imwiko II, who has a strong a public mandate.  The Lozi are also well armed and make common cause with Lozi separatists just over the border in the Republic of Namibia’s smaller Caprivi Strip territory, which means any conflict there could become quickly internationalized.  Boundaries are also messy: some Lozi live in neighboring Zambian provinces, and some minority ethnic groups in Barotseland prefer to stay Zambian.  The international media have utterly ignored the lurch towards civil war in Zambian Barotseland.  My guess is that in 2013 they will no longer be able to.
King Libosi Imwiko II
The flag of Barotseland
4. Scotland

In the British Isles, much of 2013 will be consumed by a debate over whether residents of Scotland should vote, in their plebiscite the following year, to secede from the United Kingdom.  Much of the wrangling over the form of secession has been settled: an independent Scotland would be a non-nuclear state but within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it would keep the British pound but would be more open to joining the Euro Zone than the U.K. is, and it would probably keep Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and become a completely sovereign Crown dominion, like Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.  Still to be settled (as with Catalonia; see above) is whether Scotland can stay in the E.U. after it splits from the U.K.—i.e., whether it would have to reapply for admission and whether the U.K. would block it.  Legal scholars and political scientists are divided on this question; it has never come up before (but see my article from this blog looking at precedents in other international arenas).  This coming year, we will see the government in London pulling out the heavy guns, bringing Tony Blair on board the “Better Together” campaign to try to convince Scots with threats, cajolery, and hyperbole that secession will be a disaster (will a drooling Margaret Thatcher be wheeled out amid royal pomp to handbag a bagpiper?), while Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party (S.N.P.) and their “Scotland Yes” campaign will try to ride a rising wave of nationalist feeling.  Right now, according to polls, there are not quite enough “yes” votes, but a year is an eternity in politics.

3. Palestine

This has been a banner year for the State of Palestine, which declared independence in 1988 when it was a government-in-exile that controlled no territory, gradually accrued diplomatic recognition from most of the world, and in the 1993 Oslo Accords was given a quasi-governmental status as the Palestinian National Authority (P.A.), controlling the Gaza Strip and scraps of the West Bank.  In November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted in a landslide to admit Palestine as a non-member “observer state,” with only eight nations—the United States, Israel, and a rapidly shrinking rogue’s gallery of U.S. vassal states like Canada and the Marshall Islands—voting against.  Until the U.S. sets aside its Security Council veto, Palestine cannot become a full member state, but now that it is recognized as a state its status is hugely enhanced.  Most crucially, anything the State of Israel does to the West Bank and Gaza Strip is now an act of hostility by one state against another, which unleashes all sorts of legal and political consequences.  Not that this deters Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is at the mercy of the small militant fundamentalist Orthodox Jewish political parties that hold the balance of power in Israeli politics.  He has vowed to accelerate the building of illegal Jewish settlements, and he has mapped out a plan that uses settlements to break up the West Bank into ungovernable shards of territory, further locks down its Palestinian inhabitants into a vast razor-wired ghetto, and cordons off East Jerusalem, their hoped-for capital.  International condemnation of the plans have been an avalanche.  Meanwhile, on the Palestinian side, the West Bank and Gaza are further apart politically than ever.  The West Bank is ruled by Fatah, the actual Palestinian government, which is committed to statehood and peace with Israel, while the Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, a radical Islamist terrorist organization, funded by Iran, which is pledged to Israel’s destruction and will likely one day again initiate rocket attacks on civilians, like the ones last month that exploded into a stalemated but deadly vest-pocket war between Gaza and Israel.  No one knows what will happen next, but 2013 will be interesting.

2. Azawad

At the beginning of 2012, the Republic of Mali—a massive, mostly politically stable nation in west Africa—was on nobody’s radar as any kind of international trouble spot.  But the Tuareg ethnic group that dominates the arid, sparsely populated northern two-thirds of the country had staged rebellions before, seeking more autonomy for their vast landlocked Sahara homeland, which also spills over into Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Libya.  Ah, Libya—that was the problem.  In Libya’s civil war in 2011, Tuareg militias sided with Moammar al-Qaddafi and after his defeat, fearing retaliation, they fled in droves, with much of Qaddafi’s arsenal, to northern Mali.  There, the local Tuaregs—a nomadic people, related to Berbers—seized the opportunity of increased numbers and arms to rise up and take control of the north.  The feebleness of the central government’s response to the crisis inspired Malian troops to stage a military coup d’état in March, and the ensuing political chaos in the southern capital, Bamako, created even more of a vacuum for the Tuaregs in the north to fill.  Despite some cosmetic handovers of power to civilian puppets, the disorganized military junta still controls the southern third of Mali.  In the north meanwhile, the Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.) declared an Independent State of Azawad in early April, but its revolution was quickly hijacked by two radical Islamist armies: the Tuareg-dominated Ansar al-Dine and the Algerian-based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which is a branch of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.).  The Islamists have controlled Azawad since then, implementing a brutal form of shari’a (Islamic law): banning music, shutting down pubs, arresting unveiled women, amputating thieves’ hands, stoning adulterous couples to death, and, in a way most sickeningly, bulldozing into oblivion any ancient Sufi architectural treasures they deem heretical.  The fate of the temples and libraries of Timbuktu, one of the centers of ancient civilization, is as yet not fully known, with the whole north—an area the size of France—mostly sealed off from the outside world.  The world has taken notice—mostly because northern Mali now threatens to become a training ground and staging area for al-Qaeda terrorism, in the way that Sudan was in the early 1990s, Afghanistan was in the late 1990s, and southern Somalia threatened to become in more recent times (see no. 10, Jubaland, above).  Observers already warn of a worrying increase in coordination and friendship between Ansar al-Dine and MUJAO and other radical Islamist groups such as Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia.  Though it has taken a long time for the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), the African Union (A.U.), the European Union (E.U.), and the United Nations (U.N.) to agree on how and when to handle the situation, everyone predicts that some time in 2013 an international force, dominated by France but with U.S. participation as well, will invade to bring Azawad back into Mali—whether the junta in Bamako approves or not.  Expect the fiercest fighting to take place in Mopti, a densely populated, ethnically diverse province in the borderlands between Azawad and Mali proper.  Expect also, perhaps, that Mali will be the new Afghanistan—an open wound of interminable civil war.

Azawadi presidential motorcade
1. Kurdistan

At times, Kurdistan seems to be the center of the world—or at least of the world’s most high-profile crises.  A stateless nation of 30 million or so non-Arab Sunni Muslims, Kurds are spread over the edges of four separate countries, each of which is strategic, volatile, and riven by other conflicts as well: Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

A “Kurdish Spring” spilled into the streets of Turkey’s cities in 2012.
In Turkey, the fifth or so of the population that is Kurdish has been granted, grudgingly, some measure of rights in what is the most repressive and intolerant of any “western” “democracy.”  A bloody separatist insurgency, waged by the nominally-Communist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), which is classed as a terrorist organization by most of the West, has dragged on since the 1980s, but the pace of conflict picked up mightily in 2012, with P.K.K. attacks starting to range far afield from the Kurdish areas, an unprecedented “Kurdish Spring” street protest movement modeled on the Arab Spring revolutions, and, most shockingly to the regime in Ankara, a full-scale ground battle in the Şemdinli district of Hakkari province—right where Turkey meets Iran and Iraq—in which the P.K.K. for days or weeks controlled whole swathes of territory, though the government managed to cover this embarrassing fact up by sealing off the area.  Meanwhile, Turkey has cracked down on peaceful civilian Kurdish groups as well, even rounding up members of parliament, while in Turkey’s medieval prison system, torture of Kurdish “rebels,” some of them children, is routine.

Kurdish flags in Turkey honor the P.K.K. (left) and its imprisoned founder, Abdullah Öcalan (right).
The Turkish government blames this upsurge in conflict on the civil war across its southern border in Syria, where a seemingly interminable civil war has sent thousands of refugees north.  There, the dictator Bashar al-Assad pulled his forces from much of the border region, allowing Syria’s 2 million Kurds, who make up 9% or so of the population, to establish this summer a West Kurdistan Autonomous Region (W.K.A.R.), with its own flags, military, and quasi-government.  Kurds are wary of the increasingly jihadist-infiltrated Sunni Arab majority in the Free Syrian Army (F.S.A.), which they fear would marginalize and brutalize them more than Assad ever did.  The Turkish military is now threatening to cross the border into Syria, with United States and NATO backing, ostensibly to create a buffer zone between Turkish territory and the worst fighting, though this would smother the nascent Kurdish statelet there as a bonus.  But things could go in any direction: if and when Assad falls, Syria may break up into Alawite, Kurdish, Druze, and Sunni Arab territories (see no. 8, Alawite State, above), or Kurds may win an autonomous region as part of a coalition government, or the Kurds might end up squeezed between jingoistic Western-backed Turkish nationalists to the north and jihadist Sunni Arabs to the south.  The last scenario is probably more in line with the Kurds’ sad history.

Syrian Kurds celebrated the liberation of their territories from Assad.
How long will their autonomy last?
For the moment, the W.K.A.R. is being supported heavily by the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) in northern Iraq, which became a de facto autonomous fiefdom in the 1990s under the “no fly zone” the U.S. imposed on Saddam Hussein and which became a full-blown nation-within-a-nation in the post-U.S.-invasion constitution.  But the K.R.G. is being squeezed as well—by Turkey, which regularly forays over the border to bomb alleged P.K.K. bases in the mountains, and by Iraq’s Shiite-Arab-dominated central government in Baghdad, which is trying to prevent the K.R.G. from positioning itself economically and politically as a nation-state.  The Iraqi Kurdistan Region is crucial to Iraq getting its oil to European markets, and already the K.R.G. is making unilateral energy deals with multinationals and pipeline deals with Turkey, cutting Baghdad out of the loop.  Moreover, the K.R.G. would like to expand its territory to include oil-rich areas like Kirkuk—as it was once promised it could through referenda—and already there have been tense military standoffs between the K.R.G.’s well-armed peshmerga, the Iraqi army, and paramilitaries loyal to Iraq’s other major ethnic minority, the Turkmen, who also have a stake in the region and want an independent state.  Add to this that the Kurdistan Region’s full secession from Iraq would probably prompt the breakup of what is left of Iraq into Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab, and possibly Turkmen states.

Turkmens covet Kurdistan’s slice of the Iraqi pie as well.
Things are quieter in Iran’s chunk of Kurdistan, but perhaps only for the time being.  If, as some expect, Israel, with U.S. backing, attacks Iran during 2013, then the already sophisticated covert C.I.A. and Mossad support of the Iranian Kurdish separatist movement (to say nothing of Khuzestani, Baloch, Azeri, and Turkmen separatists) means Kurds could be the pawns in that game as well.  The whole world, then (Russia, remember, is invested in the Syrian civil war), has its fingers in the increasingly complicated, multi-faceted Kurdish conflict.  Kurds may finally gain the independent state they have hankered after for generations.  Or they could get clobbered from all sides in an apocalyptic genocidal free-for-all.

[You can read more about these and many other separatist and new-nation 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.]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Special Note to My Readers

As we move into the holiday season, “Springtime of Nations” will be putting the “Week in Separatist News” articles on hold for the time being.  As the most time-consuming aspect of this blog, it is a drain on other things that need to be going on right now, such as enjoying the holiday season and working on the book that is bound up with this blog.  (For those of you who don’t know yet, that book is 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, to be published in 2013 by Auslander & Fox.) When the “Week in Separatist News” feature does reappear, probably in January, it may be in revised form.

Meanwhile, other articles will continue to appear, including, by the end of this month, a run-down of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2013” (a follow-up to last December’s “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012”).

For now, then, a merry Christmas to the Chaldeans and Assyrians of Syria, the Copts of Egypt, and the Christians in northern and central Nigeria terrorized by Boko Haram; happy Hannukah to all those working for peace in Israel and Palestine; happy Winter Solstice to the pagans of Abkhazia, Scandinavia, the British Isles, and the Baltic States; happy Hogmanay to the people of Alba (Scotland); happy Imbolc to the Celts of Galicia, Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man; happy Guru Gobind Singh Gurpurab to the Sikh people of Khalistan (and, of course, of Wisconsin); 新年快乐 to those working for democracy and freedom in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and everywhere else in China; happy Bodhi Day to those fighting for freedom in Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and Burma; happy Zamenhof Day to the people of Neutral Moresnet; happy Pancha Ganapati to the people of Assam and Telangana and to the Tamil people of both Tamil Nadu and Tamil Eelam; and happy Mawlid an-Nabī to those fighting and suffering for freedom and tolerance in East Turkestan, EgyptAzawad, KurdistanPattani, Rakhine (Arakan), Palestine, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Western Sahara, Somaliland, Puntland, JubalandTurkey, Iran, BalochistanCircassia, Kosovo, Gagauzia, Dagestan, Tatarstan, Karakalpakstan, KashmirGorno-Badakhshan, South Sudan, Darfur, OromiyaKabylia, Yemen, and many other places.

[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 some time in 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.  (Meanwhile, if you still have money burning a hole in your pocket, an excellent way to support the “Springtime for Nations” blog is by considering donating a volume to the “Springtime of Nations” Research Library via the “Springtime of Nations” Amazon wish list.)]

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Island May Not Exist, but Now It Has a King

Last month, media attention was drawn to Sandy Island (a.k.a. Île du Sable), in the Coral Sea between Australia and New Caledonia when a University of Sydney plate-tectonics surveying ship headed to the island to investigate discrepancies in their charts and found out there was nothing there but open sea.  They had seen the island on Google Maps and Google Earth—shown as being in the territorial waters of New Caledonia and, thus, of the French Republic—but it has also appeared in numerous atlases and other sources.  Nor is this a mere location error.  Sandy Island doesn’t exist and has never existed.  Its posited existence and position were traced first to a 1908 map and then to one by the legendary British explorer Capt. James Cook from 1774.  The island’s non-existence was not very loudly suspected, if at all, but was unconfirmed for centuries.

Now, a German man calling himself King Marduk I has laid claim, on behalf of the State Kingdom of Marduk, to Sandy Island, which he claims does indeed exist and which he names after himself, i.e. King Marduk Island.  The self-styled king, who is named for a Babylonian god (or possibly for the eponymous alleged tenth planet of our solar system “discovered” by the crackpot archaeo-astronomer Zechariah Sitchin), several years ago tried to claim the Principality of Sealand, the disused World War II derrick off the coast of Essex, England, which is one of the modern world’s best known and most successful “micronations.”

His Majesty, King Marduk I

An image from the Kingdom of Marduk website
Other territories Marduk claims for his kingdom (called, in some reference, New Germania) include: much of the eastern Alps, including the Austria’s Vorarlberg state, the Italian region of South Tyrol, Liechtenstein, and parts of Switzerland and Bavaria around, and including, Lake Constance (Bodensee); various localities in the Swiss cantons of Schaffhausen and the cities of Basel and Bern; the entire former Kingdom of Württemberg; the Dogger Bank, the German island of Heligoland, and the artificial island Langlütjen, all in the North Sea; Hamburg and, by extension, the Baltic Sea; the island of Rockall, between Scotland and Iceland (and itself once the location of a publicity-stunt micronation called Waveland); Vatican City; the micronation of Seborga, on the border between Italy and France; parts of Ticino, in southern Switzerland; Jerusalem; and—why aim low, right?—all of outer space.

The former micronation of Waveland, in the North Atlantic
—claimed also by the Kingdom of Marduk.
Little is known about King Marduk himself, but a Swiss journalist who reported recently on Marduk’s royal territorial claims on the town of Büsingen, Schaffhausen, quoted the kingdom’s secretary of state, one Thomas Vogel, as saying—with a kind of wild inconsistency—that his monarch “shuns publicity and does not want to be recognized.  He lives in Tübingen in a stately residence, not a castle.  He has a huge royal fleet with twelve cars for state visits such as Jaguars and Mercedes.  Apart from a Rolex, he has not a lot of wealth.  The king is wise as a professor and lives rather modestly.”  The reporter, Hermann-Luc Hardmeier, who interviewed the bling-laden “Vogel” in Büsingen after his arrival in a limousine, seemed sure that “Vogel” was merely “Marduk” in disguise, but photographs of the monarch do not much resemble the man Hardmeier interviewed.

The Kingdom of Marduk’s secretary of state, Thomas Vogel,
arriving for an important press conference with a reporter from the Schaffhauser Nachrichten
Going back to Sandy Island—the French government has not yet responded to Marduk’s claims on its territory, but then again Paris has also reacted not at all to the fact that an island which it thought it owned now does not exist and what the implications are for its maritime boundaries.  Nor have their been responses from the separatist movement in New Caledonia or from an unrecognized nation which claims waters (which the world grants to Australia) just to the west of “Sandy Island”: the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands.  Theoretically, this could get ugly.

Postage stamps produced by the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands.
It’s nice to finally see the “bear” subculture honored with a stamp.
Here at “Springtime of Nations,” we will keep you posted on any further developments regarding non-existent islands.

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with 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.  (That is shorter than the previous working title.)  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 special announcement for more information on the book.]

Catalans, Basques Organize Themselves for Secession; Also Bashkortostan, Oromia, Casamance, Mahalla Republic, Corsica, Kukiland, Kabardino-Balkaria, South California: The Week in Separatist News, 9-15 December 2012


Catalan Separatist Parties Form Coalition, Plan Referendum for 2014.  Reports emerged this week of a meeting between Artur Mas i Gavarró’s independence-minded ruling party in the CataloniaConvergència i Unió (CiU, or Convergence and Union), and the autonomous region’s second-place party from last month’s regional election (reported on at the time in this blog), Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (E.R.C., or Republican Left of Catalonia) about forming a government.  Part of the agreement is that a referendum on independence from Spain will probably be held in 2014, the same year Scotland decides whether to remain in the United Kingdom.  Mas had only promised to hold a vote by 2017, but the E.R.C. pushed for an earlier date.

Gradualist Named Basque Premier, Will Need Radical Separatists to Rule in Coalition.  In Spain’s Basque CountryIñigo Urkullu was appointed the autonomous region’s prime minister on December 13th after an election in October in which his Basque Nationalist Party (E.A.J.) came out with a plurality of 21 out of 75 seats (as reported at the time in this blog), but, although the E.A.J. are gradualists on the question of independence, they will need to govern with the help of the more stridently separatist Euskal Herria Bildu (E.H.B.) coalition.


Mali’s Civilian Prime Minister Nabbed, Forced to Resign by Sanogo Coup Plotters.  The interim prime minister of the Republic of Mali, Cheick Modibo Diarra, who took office in a negotiated handover after a military coup d’état in March, was arrested by members of the military as he was trying to flee the country on December 11th and hours later announced his resignation on state television.  The soldiers who apprehended him were loyalists of Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led the original coup and who never really let go of the reins of power.  The new prime minister is Diango Cissoko, who had been minister of justice in the 1980s.  The rough transition calls into question the legitimacy of the civilian government, as well as prospects for an international intervention to root Islamists out of the self-declared Independent State of Azawad that prevails over the northern two-thirds of Mali.

Diango Cissoko, Mali’s new prime minister;
the implications for the retaking of Azawad are as yet unclear.
New Somali President Vows to Retake Puntland and Somaliland Ports.  The newly elected president of a supposedly newly post-transitional Federal Republic of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, vowed this week in a media interview to retake the harbor cities of Berbera and Bosaso, using words that sounded like a threat to undermine or even dismantle the de facto independent governments of Somaliland and Puntland, which have flourished in the northern half of Somalia as islands of stability, economic growth, and democracy during more than two decades of chaos and civil war.  Speaking confidently of the recent ejection of Islamist armies from Kismayo, the main port in southern Somalia, Mohamud said the next step will be Somaliland’s main port, Berbera, and Bosaso, in Puntland.  “The country has four main ports,” Mohamud said, “namely Mogadishu, Kismayo, Berbera, and Bosaso, which we intend to take-over soonest,” adding, “Once we seize full control of all the four ports, the federal government in Mogadishu shall apportion regional governments a minor share of the earnings”—the “regional governments” referring perhaps to Puntland, which is nominally a state within  Somalia, or perhaps to the at-this-point utterly fictional “provinces” of “Somalia” which overlay the political realities in the region.  Mogadishu’s refusal to recognize Somaliland’s independence is not new, but the Mohamud’s threats to Puntland’s autonomous status are.

3 Killed, 7 Injured in Somaliland over Election Results.  Violence accompanied the announcement of results from last month’s violence-plagued elections (reported on at the time in this blog) in the independent but unrecognized Republic of Somaliland.  In Hargeisa, the capital, three people were killed and seven injured during protests on December 6th by supporters of the Haqsoor political coalition.  The protests and unrest continued into the next day.  Later, on December 8th in Erigavo, scene of some of last week’s worst unrest and capital of the disputed Sanaag region, the offices of the electoral commission were raked with machine-gun fire.  No one was injured. ...

Post-election unrest in Hargeisa this week
... Somaliland Troops Retake Sool Town from Khaatumo Loyalists.  Meanwhile, in the nearby Sool region—also administered by Somaliland and claimed by Puntland—Somaliland national troops have retaken the town of Widwidh from loyalists of the officially-dismantled but surprisingly resurgent Khaatumo State, which tried to establish itself earlier this year in the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn regions in the Puntland–Somaliland border zone.  The town was retaken without a shot being fired, and the Khaatumo loyalists are believed to have fled into Puntland-controlled areas.

Puntland Commandos Raid al-Shabaab Camp in Mountains, Inflict Heavy Casualties.  In the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia, government commandos raided an Islamist militant camp in the remote Golis Mountains, inflicting heavy casualties, including deaths, though no exact figures were available.  The camp was operated by al-Shabaab, a jihadist army affiliated with al-Qaeda which has recently expanded into Puntland.

4 Homes Hit by Mortars in Somali City Divided between Puntland, Galmudug States.  Civilian homes were hit by mortar shells on December 7th in Galkayo, a city whose northern half is administered by the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia but whose southern half is capital of the similarly self-governing Galmudug State—both of them nominally parts of the dysfunctional, barely existent Federal Republic of Somalia.  The mortars came from the direction of Galmudug territory and landed on the Puntland side of the border.  Four homes were damaged.

Kenyan Police Kill 3 Mombasa Separatist Militants, Disrupting Attack Plot.  In Kenya on December 9th, police shot and killed three suspected members of the Mombasa Republic Council (M.R.C.) who authorities the next day claimed had been plotting an attack on a police station.  There were also arrested of four other members of the M.R.C., an organization which seeks to form an independent state out of Kenya’s predominantly-Muslim south-coastal region.

Nigerian Military, Police Clash with Boko Haram in Potiskum; 14 Dead.  Suspected members of northern Nigeria’s Islamist militia Boko Haram attacked police in the streets of Potiskum, in Yobe State in the northeast, on December 11th.  The military was called in to repel the attack, and after a shootout one police officer and 13 of the jihadists were dead.  There was also looting and arson in the city blamed on Boko Haram.

Ethiopian Court Hands Long Prison Terms to 9 Oromo Separatist Activists.  A federal court in Ethiopia handed down prison sentences of eight and 13 years to two members of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement on charges of inciting a separatist rebellion, supposedly as members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (O.L.F.), which seeks independence for the vast, sprawling southern region of Oromia.  Seven other Oromo activists were given long sentences for receiving paramilitary training in Kenya and for skirmishes with Ethiopian troops.

Police Round Up 15 Biafran Separatists in Enugu State.  Police in Nigeria’s Enugu State reported this week that 15 members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were arrested when authorities busted up a planning meeting in Ogwofia Owa.  Charges have yet to be brought.

Casamance Rebels Release 8 Captured Senegalese Troops in Gambia.  Eight Senegalese soldiers were released this week by rebels from a militia which seeks independence for the region of Casamance, in southern Senegal.  The Movement for the Democratic Forces of Casamance delivered the prisoners to the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) in a handover in the nearby Republic of the Gambia.

Alexandria, Other Egyptian Towns Declare Semi-Serious “Independence” from Morsi.  Separatism, if only of the tongue-in-cheek sort, has become a feature in the ongoing civil unrest and street politics in the Arab Republic of Egypt, where the new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, is facing what is increasingly resembling an Arab Spring revolution redux for his latest power grabs.  Alexandria and El-Mahalla El-Kubra, in the Nile Delta, are among the several municipalities across the country where local activists are declaring independence—in the case of Mahalla, one of the birthplaces of last year’s revolution and a major port with nearly a half-million people, a Republic of Mahalla.

Mahalla was one of the cradles of last year’s revolt against Hosni Mubarak.
This week, residents are talking (not seriously?) about independence from Mubarak’s successor regime.

2 Border Crossings Linking Serbia to Serb-Dominated North Kosovo Formally Open.  After protests and political wrangling, two border crossings operated jointly by the de facto independent Republic of Kosovo and the country that still claims it as its territory, the Republic of Serbia, opened on December 10th amid little fanfare.  The two crossings, Jarinje and Medarje, join Serbia proper with the region of North Kosovo, a Serb-dominated area lying out of Kosovo’s de facto control.  Four other crossings are to be in operation by the end of the year.

With Dominica on Board, Now More than Half of U.N. Member States Recognize Kosovo.  Following last month’s establishments of diplomatic relations by the Republic of Fiji (as reported at the time in this blog) and, the following week, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, another Caribbean island nation, the Commonwealth of Dominica this week became the 97th independent state to recognize the Republic of Kosovo.  This officially tips the balance, so that now just over one-half of the United Nations’ 193 member states now recognize Kosovo.  See this week’s full article on this development.
Separatists Burn 24 French Vacation Homes on Eve of Corsican National Holiday.  The Corsican National Liberation Front (F.L.N.C.) is claiming responsibility for the destruction of 24 vacation homes by arson and explosives on December 7th on Corsica, the large Mediterranean island which was transferred from Italy (the Republic of Genoa, actually) to France in 1769 following a brief period of independence.  No one was injured in the violence, which targeted vacated or partially completed homes.  A few hours before the blasts, a man believed linked to the F.L.N.C. was arrested in possession of explosives.  On the same day, the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is also Corsica’s unofficial independence day, a nightclub owner was gunned down and killed in what is probably an organized-crime hit rather than something related to the wave of arson.

One of 24 vacation homes in Corsica destroyed by separatists this week
Renzo Bossi, Son of Northern League Founder, Probed for Misuse of Public Funds.  The young son of Umberto Bossi, the founder and disgraced former leader of Italy’s now-marginalized separatist Northern League, emerged December 14th as the target of a new corruption investigation focusing on right-wing parties.  The son, Renzo Bossi, who is suspected of misusing public funds, was discussed in this blog earlier this year as no. 10 in a list of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”  Ironically, the press this week are referring to his being nicknamed “the Trout,” “because of his looks”—but it’s not clear if that is a compliment or not.  Certainly, the bee-stung lips and just general Mick Jagger look does not prevent another of the dozens of politicians newly under investigation—Nicole Minetti, a former regional councillor for Lombardy for the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà (P.d.L., or People of Freedom) party—from being considered a sex symbol.  Minetti, who is being investigated for spending €800 of public money on food and drink at a five-star hotel in Milan, is also still not free of charges that she procured underaged prostitutes for Berlusconi’s orgy-like  parties.  She began her political career as Berlusconi’s—ahem!—oral hygienist.  Yeah, that explains all the spit sinks at those bunga bunga parties.

Renzo Bossi and Nicole Minetti
Russian Troops Fail to Find “Bashkortostan Mujahideen” Training Camp in Urals.  The Caucasus Emirate separatist organization in the Russian Federation’s Muslim regions confirmed this week on their website an earlier report in the media from the Russian military that a militant Islamist training camp had been reported in the Urals region, run by the Bashkortostan Mujahideen, but that the feared Federal Security Service (F.S.B., successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B.) was unable to find it.  The website, the often-unreliable and propagandistic Kavkaz Center, which refers to the area in question, in Russia’s Republic of Bashkortostan, as part of the “Russian invader”–occupied “Idel-Ural,” links the Bashkortostan Mujahideen to a 2010 terrorist attack on traffic police in the city of Perm (which the site calls the “Russian-occupied Finnic country of Permia”).  The Idel-Ural State flourished briefly during the Russian Civil War as a multi-ethnic, predominantly-Muslim Menshevik state centered on modern Tatarstan, until it was crushed by Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks in 1920.  Bashkortostan, where native Bashkirs and Tatars just barely together outnumber ethnic Russians, declared independence briefly in 1992 before being cajoled by President Boris Yeltsin into joining the Russian Federation.

A new trouble spot?
A map showing the location of the Republic of Bashkortostan within the Russian Federation.
Dagestani Police Colonel Assassinated by Masked Housebreakers; 3 Militants Killed.  A police colonel was killed in southwestern Russia’s predominantly-Muslim Republic of Dagestan on December 9th when masked intruders broke into his home in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala.  The victim, Khizri Dzhabatyrov, was involved in investigations into corruption and white-collar crime.  Later, on December 13th three militants were killed in a shootout with police at a checkpoint in Makhachkala.

2 Militants, Including Suicide Bomber, Die in Police Siege in Ingushetia.  In Nazran, capital of southwestern Russia’s Republic of Ingushetia, in the North Caucasus region, a police siege of militants barricaded in a house ended this week with the two rebels dead in a hail of gunfire.  One of the dead men, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service (F.S.B.), had been commander of a “suicide battalion.”

7 Dead as Russian Forces Clash with Rebels in North Caucasus.  In Tyrnyauz, in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, in the predominantly-Muslim North Caucasus region, Russian Federation forces clashed for two days with militants starting December 11th, in skirmishes that left six rebels and one police officer dead.  Three of the rebels were on terrorism wanted lists.

Suspect Nabbed in Killing of T.V. Anchor in Kabardino-Balkaria.  Russian federal security forces this week arrested a suspect in last week’s assassination (reported last week in this blog) of Kazbek Gekkiyev, a television news anchorman in southwestern Russia’s Kabardino-Balkar Republic, in Circassia.  The suspect is Zeytun Boziyev, age 30.

Plotters in Deadly Dagestani Suicide-Bombing Targeting Sufi Imam Arrested.  Meanwhile, in the Republic of Dagestan to the east, Russian federal security forces arrested three suspects for playing a role in planning a mass killing on August 28th, in which a female break-dancing suicide-bomber (though she was not break-dancing at the time of the bombing) killed seven people, including an 11-year-old boy and a prominent Sufi imam (as reported at the time in this blog).  The three suspects are said to be members of the Caucasus Emirate movement, which aims to create an independent state out of predominantly-Muslim areas along Russia’s southern rim.

Caucasus Emirate Claims Military Atrocities against Civilians in Dagestan, Chechnya.  The often-unreliable Jihadist website Kavkaz Center, run by the separatist Caucasus Emirate movement, reported this week on a series of violent “pogroms” against against civilians in the Russian Federation’s predominantly-Muslim North Caucasus region that were not reported in other media.  In one incident, on December 5th, troops from the Russian ministry of the interior, along with allied paramilitaries, removed two men from their homes in villages in the Chechen Republic on suspicion of being associated with the Mujahideen.  Their fates are unknown.  In the other alleged incident, on December 8th, Russian troops raided the village of Chontaul in the Republic of Dagestan, breaking into homes, smashing furniture, and getting as far as pouring kerosene over two captured young girls and a young man with the intention of immolating them, before villagers intervened.  The website also reported the “abduction” by police of two female terrorism suspects in Chechnya.


Russian Chopper Carrying Border Guards Crashes in Abkhazia; 7 Hurt.  A helicopter operated by the Russian Federation’s Federal Security Bureau (F.S.B.), successor to the dreaded K.G.B., crashed in the de facto independent but only partially recognized Republic of Abkhazia on December 10th.  Seven passengers were injured.  The craft was bringing border guards to the line between Abkhazia and the country that still regards it as its territory, Georgia.


Southern Movement Motorcyclists Kill 2 Yemeni Soldiers in Drive-By Shooting.  Two soldiers were killed in a motorcycle drive-by shooting on December 11th in southern Yemen’s Ad-Dali’ province.  The perpetrators are suspected of being members of the Southern Movement, which would like to restore the independence of South Yemen.


Mizoram Chief Minister Backs Creation of Kuki State in Northeast India.  In India’s far northeast, the Kuki State Demand Committee (K.S.D.C.) claimed this week that high-ranking officials in the region, including the chief minister of Mizoram state, support the creation of a State of Kukiland for the Kuki ethnic minority.  Speaking of the Mizoram chief minister, Lalthanhawla (who has only one name), a K.S.D.C. spokesman said, “He had told us that he was not just the Chief Minister of Mizoram but of all the Chin/Kuki/Mizo/Zomi brethren in India and the adjoining Myanmar” (i.e. Burma).  Meanwhile, the K.S.D.C. were carrying out more blockades this week to get their message across.

One proposal for the boundaries of Kukiland

Dozens of Burmese Troops Dead amid Upsurge in Fighting with Kachin Rebels.  Rebels from eastern Burma’s Kachin ethnic group reported this week that dozens of Burmese soldiers were killed—out of at least 60 casualties—in a recent upsurge in fighting on December 9th and 10th.  “Fighting seems like nothing new now; it occurs everyday,” said a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization (K.I.O.).  Skirmishes were reported the morning of December 14th in the Lajayang region of Kachin State.

3 Uyghurs Given Death Sentences in Fishy “Foiled Hijacking” of Chinese Airliner.  A court in the People’s Republic of China—a one-party dictatorship with no independent judiciary—on December 11th sentenced three Uyghur men to death and one to life in prison for supposedly attempting to hijack a domestic airplane flight in late June (as reported in this blog), although it seems just as likely (as also discussed in this blog) that it was a scuffle between passengers over seating arrangements that the authorities are linking to Uyghur separatist terrorism for political purposes.  The court, in western China’s vast Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, said the men were guilty of a hijacking plot that included a plan to blow up the plane.

A cellphone-camera image of the scuffle aboard a Chinese passenger plane in June
which Beijing called an attempted Uyghur terrorist hijacking
3 Self-Immolations Include 17-Year-Old Girl as Grisly Tibetan Protests Show No Let-Up.  The wave of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting the People’s Republic of China’s brutal rule in their country continued this week, with two such burnings in a single day.  Kunchok Phelgye, a 24-year-old Tibetan Buddhist monk, died December 8th after setting himself on fire in front of the Taktsang Lhamo Kirti monastery in the Ngaba “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” in western China’s Sichuan province.  After his death, monks and other worshippers carried his charred body into the monastery to offer prayers.  Later in the same day, Pema Dorjee, age 23, set himself ablaze in front of a monastery in the Luchu region in the east of China’s “Tibet Autonomous Region,” in full view of worshippers.  He shouted slogans calling for Tibetan independence and the return of the 14th Dalai Lama from exile as he perished.  The following day, a 17-year-old girl named Wangchen Kyi, burned herself to death in a Tibetan region of Qinghai province, making her the eighth minor to take the step in the several-years-long wave of self-immolations.

Pema Dorjee, age 23, immolating himself to protest Chinese rule in Tibet
China Sentences 8 Tibetan Student Demonstrators to Harsh Prison Terms.  Eight Tibetan students were given five-year prison sentences on December 5th (but it was only announced several days later) for their role in a November 26th demonstration in western China’s Qinghai province over language rights.  Many students were injured by police and hospitalized in the course of the unrest, which was centered on the Sirig Lobling Medical School in Chabcha, Qinghai.


Confederate War College Sets Southern “Secession Clock” Forward 1 Hour.  On analogy with the “Doomsday Clock,” maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to represent how close we as a global community are to nuclear annihilation, there is also, it turns out, a “Secession Clock,” maintained by the Confederate War College (C.W.C.) website, based in Gilmer, Texas, to indicate how close we are to the reestablishment of the Confederate States of America.  This week, the C.W.C. moved it ahead one hour to 7 p.m., citing the wave of online secession petitions after President Barack Obama’s reelection last month (discussed recently in articles on this blog here and here), a Huffington Post poll showing 22% of Americans favoring their respective home states leaving the Union, and other separatist chatter.  Officially, however, the C.W.C. “does not have a position concerning secession at this time, though it does defend the Constitutional right of the sovereign states which formed the United States to divorce as was originally intended when the Constitution was approved by the respective states.”

Garry Trudeau chimed in recently on red-state America’s secession fever.
Maryland Catholic Anti-Gay Hate Groups’ Ties to Racist Dixie Separatists Exposed.  Not only did the Maryland Catholic Conference and the Catholic fraternal order Knights of Columbus fail in their attempt last month to defeat a Maryland state referendum recognizing same-sex marriage.  But now the two groups are trying to contain the damage from revelations from the Human Rights Campaign (H.R.C.), a gay-rights organization, that Michael Peroutka, the third-largest donor to their ad hoc pressure group the Maryland Marriage Alliance is a member of the League of the South.  The Alliance raised nearly a half-million dollars to defeat the ballot measure.  The League of South, which advocates secession of the southern states from the United States, is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (S.P.L.C.) as a racist hate-group.  The League opposes interracial marriage, calls slavery “God-ordained,” and believes society should be governed by an “Anglo-Celtic” élite.  Anglo-Celtic?  Oopsie, sounds like that southern European Untermensch Cristóbal Colón himself—you know, as in “Knights of”—wouldn’t clear that bar.  Ah, well, details, details.  It’s inspiring that hate groups are able to set such minor doctrinal differences aside, especially when there are minority groups to gang up on.

Inland Empire Politician Envisions 51st State of “South California” by 2016.  The supervisor of Republican-dominated Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, California, acknowledged to media this week that his “Rebellion 2012” campaign (reported on in detail earlier in this blog) to break 13 counties away to form a separate state of “South California” has slowed, but he still sees 2016 as a target date for the partition.  Though last month’s national elections detracted attention from his cause, the supervisor, Jeff Stone, says that a rally is planned for March or April for Temecula, in Riverside County, while another rally in Kern County will be held later in the year.  He says six attorneys are at work drafting a constitution for the proposed 51st state of the United States.  South California is merely one possible name for the new entity; other suggestions include Southern California, Western Nevada, and Free State.  Also suggested has been an annexation of the region by Arizona.  Ironically, Temecula and nearby Murrieta, in the very southwest of the vast Riverside County, are at the center of a new movement to secede to form California’s 59th county.


Puerto Rico Governor Calls Special Session on Statehood before Giving Reins to Opponent.  The recently defeated, outgoing governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, who helped usher the territory to a referendum win for his pro-statehood initiative last month, said on December 8th that he was calling for a special legislative session on how to advance the cause of becoming the 51st state of the United States.  The new governor, Alejandro García Padilla, of the Popular Democratic Party (P.D.P.), favors an enhanced, more autonomous version of the current commonwealth status, rather than statehood.

Alejandro García Padilla, Puerto Rico’s governor elect, is not a fan of statehood,
but it’s on the legislative agenda anyway.

Falkland Islands to Hold Referendum on Status in March 2013.  The government of the Falkland Islands has chosen March 10th and 11th, 2013, as the dates for a referendum on the future status of the archipelago, which is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom threatened as of late by the saber-rattling of an expansionist Argentine Republic.  The question is to read, “Do you wish to remain a self-governing British Overseas Territory?”

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it in spring 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

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