Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kurds, Alawites, Iraqis Itch to Carve Up Syria; Olympics Update; Bodoland; Gorno-Badakhshan: The Week in Separatist News, 22-28 July 2012

Photo of the week:  The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow, arrived in Kyiv, Ukraine, July 26th to be met on the tarmac by a bare-breasted activist with “KILL KIRILL” painted on her body, shouting “Begone!” (using a phrase from Orthodox exorcisms).  The woman, Yana Zhdanova, a member of the Ukrainian feminist activist guerilla-theater collective Femen, which specializes in topless protests, had worked her way into the greeting ceremony by posing as a journalist.  Femen said that Zhdanova was partly protesting the by now five months’ imprisonment in Moscow of three members of the Russian activist punk-rock band Pussy Riot, for holding a protest against Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, which included a “punk prayer” to the Virgin Mary.  However, Kirill (the name is the equivalent of Cyril) is also a controversial figure in Ukraine, since many Ukrainian Christians belong to a secessionist Orthodox rite which does not recognize the Moscow-based patriarchate.  Zhdanova was led away from the runway by security guards.


[Note: See these earlier articles from this blog on related topics, especially with respect to the Kurds and the Arab Spring: “And Now Civil War ... Could Syria Break Up?” (Nov. 2011), “The Iraq War Is Over, but Is Iraq’s Partition Just Beginning?” (Dec. 2011), “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012” (Dec. 2011); “Get Ready for a Kurdish Spring” (March 28, 2012); “Shifting Alliances in the Kurdish Struggles” (April 1, 2012); “Turkish Delights Hide Ugly History” (April 4, 2012); and, on a pretty much weekly basis, installments of my “Week in Separatist News” columns—and see especially my very recent article on this topic: “Syria’s Kurds Are Setting Up a Quasi-State—How Long Can It Last?”]

All the world’s eyes are on Syria this week, as a July 18th suicide-bombing that gutted the dictator Bashar al-Assad’s defense cabinet seems to have tipped the balance in favor of those trying to overthrow the government.  The battle now is for the two largest cities: Aleppo, and the capital Damascus.  The main rebel group, the Free Syrian Army (F.S.A.), and its internationally supported political arm, the Syrian National Council (S.N.C.), are dominated by Sunni Arab nationalists, many of them sympathetic to, or outright allied with, the Muslim Brotherhood.  This makes sense, since about 58% of Syria’s population are Sunni Arabs, and Sunnis as a whole (who also include Kurds and Turkmens) make up a total of about 75%, whereas the Assad regime, its inner circle, and its feared storm troopers known as the Shabiha (“ghosts”) belong to the minority Alawite sect, which is a local offshoot of Shi’a Islam.  But Alawites make up a full 12% of the population, Christians (mostly Arab and Eastern Orthodox, but with some (Catholic) Maronites) make up 10%, and the Druze (a separate religious group, which some do not even categorize as Muslim) make up 3%.  More to the point, the 9% of the population that is Kurdish and the 6% that is Turkmen tend to mistrust the Arab nationalists who dominate the opposition.  Neither Turkmens nor Christians have a coherent enough territorial base to seriously entertain aspirations even to an autonomous region, let alone a separate state.  The Druze, too, have learned in the long civil war in Lebanon and in the deadly proximity of their communities in Syria to northern Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, to keep their heads down rather than seek autonomous status; they are well aware that their small population size and their lack of strong ties to other communities make them vulnerable.  Our attention here is on two groups: the Alawites and the Kurds.  The Alawites had their own quasi-independent state during colonization by France as the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon between the world wars, whereas the history of the Kurdish people over the past century and a half has been one tragic attempt after another to establish a stable and independent Kurdistan.  (See my various articles on Kurdistan for details of this.)  First, let us look at the Alawite situation ...

Could an Alawite State Be Revived to Shelter a Deposed Assad Regime?  Alawite Arabs dominate one region in Syria only: Syria’s one coastal strip, stretching from the border with Lebanon to that with Turkey, including the cities of Latakia and Tartus.  At Tartus is an air-force base operated by the Russian Federation (formerly operated by the U.S.S.R.), Syria’s one ally.  This is Russia’s only permanent (sic) military presence in the Middle East.  Assad wants to stay in power, and Russia wants to stay in the Alawite region.  This makes a strong argument that both would work hard to establish a state or quasi- or de facto state in this coastal strip.  There are reports this week not only of large numbers of Alawite Arabs (who naturally fear reprisals by Sunnis after an Assad defeat) fleeing conflict zones and moving to the coastal area, but also of them forcing Sunnis out of the majority-Alawite area.  Mass killings by the regime in the town of Houla in May and in Qubeir in June led to speculation that these two Sunni villages, both of them surrounded by Alawite settlements on roads leading to the Alawite region, were being cleansed in preparation for a possible relocation of the Assad headquarters to Latakia and the coast.  Assad was even rumored to have relocated to Latakia after the July 18th bombing.  One Kurdish newspaper, the Kurdish Globe, ran an article, by one Behrooz Shojai, welcoming the possibility that Assad’s regime might secede as a Republic of Latakia (named for its largest town), in a revival of the quasi-independent Alawite State that flourished between the wars.  Dr. Mahmoud Arabo of the Kurdish Freedom Party also chimed in, predicting that Assad would try to establish an Alawite State.

Flag of the former Alawite State

But Shashank Joshi, of the London-based defense think-tank RUSI, says “we’ve not seen any movement of big heavy artillery, or big armored units,” to the Alawite region.  He also said, “Turkey would be very much against forming an Alawite state.  It has been concerned about Alawite grievances on its own territory.”  And Joshua Landis, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies and a widely read blogger on Syria, pooh-poohed this week the idea that Assad and his circle could retreat to the coastal region west of the mountains and set up a quasi-state, saying, “If Sunni rebels take Damascus, resistance in an Alawite enclave could not hold out.  Assad has done nothing to lay the groundwork for an Alawite state.  There is no national infrastructure in the coastal region to sustain a state: no international airport, no electric power plants, no industry of importance, and nothing on which to build a national economy.  Whoever owns Damascus and the central state will own the rest of Syria in short order.”

We shall see, however.  Remember, Assad still has chemical weapons.  And a desperate regime will do anything to preserve itself.  

Kurdish Factions, United, Declare Western Kurdistan Autonomous Region.  Rarely has the Kurdish people’s long, tragic quest for statehood advanced so quickly as it has in the past few days.  As I reported in a special report in this blog on July 23rd, almost immediately after the July 18th bombing, Kurdish forces started securing small parts of Kurdish-dominated towns and villages in the northern mountains along the border with Turkey.  On July 19th, Kobane, in Aleppo province, was liberated by the Kurds’ “Popular Protection Units,” and the following day Amude and Efrin fell to the rebels with little bloodshed.  The next day, Derki, a major center of Syria’s oil industry, was liberated.  The Cidêris district was also liberated around this time.  By July 25th, the town of Sari Kani had been liberated, as well as Tirba Spi.  By the 27th, Girke Lege and Dirbesiye were in the hands of Kurds as well.  The struggle now is for Qamishli, the largest Kurdish town in Syria and the notional capital of Syrian Kurdistan, which Kurdish nationalists call Western Kurdistan.  By the time of this writing, the Assad regime is reported to be still in charge of the city, but parts of it must have come at least temporarily under Kurdish control, since on July 24th in the city, the Kurdish Supreme Committee convened what it billed as its first post-liberation session in Qamishli.  The Committee is a new entity, consisting of a coalition of the Kurdish National Council (K.N.C.) and the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan (i.e., apparently, Syria’s pro-Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D.), the two groups who had pledged a unified front in a meeting presided over in Arbil, Iraq, by Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) on June 11th.  It is these two groups that formed the “Popular Protection Units” which, under the June 11th agreement, moved in and became the governing authority in the newly liberated areas.  By the 25th, the P.Y.D. controlled the border town of al-Hasakah, Turkey was responding with alarm to the newly declared Western Kurdistan Autonomous Region.  Kurdish flags now fly over all of the above mentioned cities except, perhaps, for Qamishli.

Syria’s Kurds are finished with Assad

How the Kurdish militias came into control of these territories is in dispute.  The Kurds claim that the smaller towns fell without bloodshed as they advanced, and that a battle for Qamishli was looming.  The P.Y.D.’s Hussein Kochar explained, “The Kurdish forces rejected a request by the F.S.A. and told them that they [Kurds] can control their own areas.”  But on July 23rd, Abdulbasid Seyda, the (ethnically Kurdish) president of the mostly-Arab-nationalist S.N.C., said, “The areas where these Kurdish factions have raised those flags are those Bashar al-Assad gave to them.”  He claimed that the P.Y.D. was informed beforehand by the regime which areas would be vacated so that the Kurds specifically could move in.  Seyda also tried to reassure Turkey’s foreign minister that “The Kurdish people are not on the side of these two groups”—meaning Turkey’s banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) and their P.Y.D. allies—“but on the side of the revolution”—by which he means the Sunni Arab revolution.  But the facts on the ground dispute this.  Seyda also responded to reports of P.K.K. flags being raised in Syrian Kurdistan that only S.N.C. flags were allowed to be raised.  But “allowed” by whom?  Kurds run these towns now.  The S.N.C. has no presence there.  Nuri Brimo, of the Democratic Kurdish Party of Syria, for his part says that the F.S.A. and the Kurds had already had an agreement to stay out of each other’s territories, but he admitted that the regime was committed to not attempting to retake Syrian Kurdistan.

Ankara Vows Military Action, If Necessary, to Prevent Kurdish Quasi-State.  The Turkish government, for its part, is livid.  Ankara accuses Assad of willfully turning the region over to the P.K.K., but also tried to minimize the situation, with one source saying, “We are closely following developments, but they [the Kurds] only control three districts.  The situation should not be presented as if they control all of northern Syria.”  This source also said, “Damascus left the region to the P.Y.D. both to deploy its troops in the center of the country for its clashes with the Free Syrian Army and to intimidate Turkey.”

Kurds in Qamishli

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made it clear on the 26th that he would not tolerate any kind of Kurdish entity in Syria.  He warned the P.K.K. and P.Y.D. against working together, adding, “It would not be possible for us to tolerate and watch this.”  Saying, “We will not allow a terrorist group to establish camps in northern Syria and threaten Turkey,” he refused to rule out the kind of intervention Turkey has long mulled, if it became necessary to prevent a Kurdish stronghold: “A safe zone, a buffer zone, refugee camps—all of these are possible alternatives.”

In reality, it’s not entirely clear yet how closely the P.Y.D., the K.N.C., and the P.K.K. are collaborating, or to what extent it is provisional.  Although the P.K.K. had reportedly, by the 20th, sent 2,000 fighters over the border from Turkey into Syria, there was a flap over whether to fly the Kurdish national flag or the P.K.K. one in the liberated areas.  (See my recent article for more details on these political maneuverings.)

F.S.A. and Kurds Now on Different Teams, but the K.R.G. Is a Firm Ally.  Also, as I reported earlier this week, the F.S.A. has accused Syrian Kurds of allowing Kurdish fighters from northern Iraq to join the fight in Syrian Kurdistan.  That was the claim of Kamal al-Labwani of the S.N.C.  But Kurds reject those claims, calling them divisive Arab propaganda.  Yilmaz Saeed, of the Kurdish Youth Movement in Syria, said that the Kurds flowing from Iraq into Syria were “Syrian Kurdish soldiers who defected from the Syrian army and resorted to Iraqi Kurdistan where they received military training and got organized.”  That is echoed by Barzani himself, who admitted July 23rd for the first time that he was training Syrian Kurds on K.R.G. territory.  Not everyone in Iraq is happy about this, needless to say.  A Shiite Arab member of Iraq’s parliament, Hussein al-Assidi, a member of the same parliamentary bloc as Iraq’s increasingly authoritarian Shiite Arab prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was reported on the 26th to be seeking a probe into the training camps, saying that they were “unconstitutional and contrary to international norms,” as well as being “interference in Syria’s internal affairs.”  Iraq’s Shiite-dominated central government has been, along with Russia and Iran, among Syria’s few allies in the international community.

Meanwhile, refugees are streaming across the border into Iraq.  Duhuk province in Iraq reported on the 25th that 11,000 refugees had arrived.

Kurdish and Alawite Stridency Means Some Sunnis Too Crave New State Entity.  Far more troublingly, the New York Times reported on July 24th on the increasing self-insinuation of al-Qaeda fighters from Iraq and elsewhere lending their support to Syria’s Arab nationalist, and often Muslim-Brotherhood-allied, opposition—in particular, apparently, on the Syrian side of Turkish-Syrian border checkpoints (though Kurds now seem to control Syrian towns just south of the border).  One al-Qaeda operative from Kirkuk, Iraq (a Kurdish-dominated town where Arabs also live), using the nom de guerre Abu Thuha, told the Times, “We have experience now fighting the Americans. ... Our big hope is to form a Syrian–Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims, and then announce our war against Iran and Israel, and free Palestine.”  Since al-Qaeda, along with Salafists and Wahhabists of other stripes, tend to regard Shiites as heretics and barely even Muslim (hence the demonization of Iran alongside Israel), Abu Thuha probably means a Sunni Muslim state embracing Syria and Iraq but excluding the Shiite-dominated coastal areas of both countries—echoing long-standing yearnings among Iraq’s Arabs for an eventual partition along sectarian lines.  The Times indicates that Abu Thuha’s statements, though he is only a foot-soldier, echo those of the al-Nusra Front for the People of the Levant, the largest of three al-Qaeda offshoots operating in Syria.

Rumors Fly of Foreign Fighters, Terrorist Plots.  Meanwhile, the pro-Israel, right-wing military-intelligence-oriented news website DEBKAfile claimed July 22nd that Assad was arming P.K.K. fighters at bases in Syrian Kurdistan and sending them off to do evil in Turkey—which, though such accusations were the gist of the 1998 near-war between Turkey and Syria, seems vanishingly unlikely to be going on now.  Amateur footage purporting to show a Free Syrian Army takeover of the Bar al-Salam border crossing north of Aleppo, at the Turkish frontier, not from the Kurdish-controlled town of Afrin, has been cited to bolster reports of possibly al-Qaeda-linked militants from Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Chechnya fighting alongside the F.S.A.  Ramzan Kadyrov, the authoritarian president who runs the Republic of Chechnya like an Islamic state within the Russian Federationdeclared almost immediately that there were no Chechen fighters in Syria.


Kurdish Lawmakers in Turkey Demand Öcalan’s Release before Negotiations.  While just to the south, Syria’s Kurds were setting up the basis of an independent state along the Turkish border (as reported in full in a recent article in this blog), some Kurdish members of the Republic of Turkey’s parliament told media in Istanbul on July 21st that they insist their government release Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned founder and spiritual leader of Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), saying that peace with the Kurds was impossible while he is behind bars.  They pointed out that Öcalan had not been allowed to see his family or his legal representation for a year.  Emine Ayna, a legislator from the pro-Kurdistan Peace and Democracy Party (B.D.P.) who is of the Zaza ethnic group (a subgrouping of Anatolian Kurds), said, “A negotiating table in which one side holds the key to the handcuffs of the other party won’t yield any results.”

Kurdish Civil War in Southeast Turkey Claims 22 Lives.  At least 20 people were killed and one presumed abducted in this week’s violence in southeastern Turkey’s Kurdish region.  One villager was injured when a tractor in Siirt province hit a landmine on July 21st.  The next day, a pick-up truck at a construction site in Hakkari province was set ablaze.  The driver is missing and is presumed kidnapped.  Both attacks are being blamed on the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.)  Also on July 22nd, four soldiers were killed and eight wounded when a military helicopter crashed in Hakkari, near the border with Iraq.  The military insists the incident was not combat-related, but it occurred in the same area as a raid the next day by security forces on a P.K.K. position, in which 17 rebels were killed.  A militant was shot dead by police after attacking with their vehicle with an assault rifle in Van province on July 26th, and the military on July 27th announced that two Turkish soldiers were killed and a third injured by a suspected P.K.K. remote-controlled roadside bomb in Diyarbakir province.  One civilian was also injured.  A border station on the edge of Iraq and a nearby battalion headquarters in Hakkari province were attacked by mortar fire, but there were no casualties.

To Punish Kurds for Unilateral Deals, Baghdad Bans Chevron from Iraqi Contracts.  The Republic of Iraq on July 24th barred the United States oil firm the Chevron Corporation from any contracts or agreements with the Iraqi central government, in retaliation for Chevron’s new contract with Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.).  Baghdad and the K.R.G. have been feuding for months, with the K.R.G. insisting it can make oil deals with foreign firms unilaterally, without seeking permission from, or sharing revenues with, the central government.  Baghdad disagrees.  Earlier this year, the Iraqi government imposed a similar ban, for similar reasons, on the Exxon Mobil Corporation (as reported at the time in this blog).

6 Kurdish Spies Killed in Twin Bombs near Iraqi Air Base.  Two coordinated explosions in Tuz Khurmatu, in Iraq’s Salahuddin province, killed six members of the northern autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government’s intelligence service, the Asayish, it was reported July 24th.  Three others were wounded in the explosions.  The site of the bombing lies outside the K.R.G.’s jurisdiction, but in an area considered historically and culturally Kurdish, also the site of an air-force base operated by the central government.

French Police Hand Suspected P.K.K. Regional Officer to German Prosecutors.  Authorities in France picked up a citizen of the Republic of Turkey near Paris on July 10th on a German arrest warrant and sent him to Germany on July 25th, where prosecutors say he is charged with membership in Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), which Germany, with the rest of the European Union (E.U.) lists as a terrorist organization.  The man, identified only as Sedat K., aged 29, is said to have been a high-ranking P.K.K. officially for Germany and Switzerland from 2009 to 2011, with duties that include fundraising.


Ganda-Koy, 5 Other Mali Militias Unite to Eject Jihadists from Azawad.  A new coalition calling itself the Patriotic Forces of Resistance (F.P.R., in its French acronym) has formed from six disparate militias in the Republic of Mali, with the purpose of dislodging Ansar al-Dine and other al-Qaeda linked Islamists who rule the northern two-thirds of the country in what some call the Independent State of Azawad.  An F.P.R. spokesman said, in a July 21st press conference, that the organization’s thousands of troops were undergoing training in Sévaré, in the ethnically diverse province of Mopti, which in some maps is part of the separate Azawad state.  Amadou Abdoulaye Cissé, leader of the Forces for the Liberation of the North (F.L.N.), one of the six groups, said, “We will go with or without the Malian army.  We will defend our territory, and our besieged relatives.”  The other five groups in the coalition are: Circle of Reflection and Action (C.R.A.), Ganda Izo, the Alliance of Communities of the Region of Timbuktu (A.C.R.T.), Armed Forces against the Occupation (FACO), and the Ganda-Koy Movement, whose leader, Me Harouna Toureh, is president of the F.P.R.  Ganda Koy is a formerly pro-government militia (meaning in favor of the current military junta in southern Mali, which took power in March) which seems to be dominated by Mopti’s Songhai nationality (as discussed in a recent article in this blog on the future of Azawad) and, oddly enough, just last week, with much fanfare, announced that it had defected to support the Islamists.  The F.P.R. seems to be filling a vacuum left by the July 15th declaration by the secular Tuareg-dominated National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.), whose secession in April was later hijacked by the Islamists, that it had given up on the goal of a sovereign Azawad, opting instead for autonomy.  The M.N.L.A. has been pushed out of power in every corner of Azawad by Ansar al-Dine and its allies.  Meanwhile, Mali’s mostly powerless caretaker civilian president, who is beholden to the military junta, returned to Bamako, the capital, on July 27th.  The president, Dioncounda Traoré, had been receiving medical treatment in Paris for two months after a savage beating by a mob that stormed his own presidential headquarters on May 21st (as reported at the time in this blog).  [Related articles: “Mali Becomes the Latest African Country to Split along North–South Lines” (Feb. 2012), “A New Country in Africa: Islamic Republic of Azawad” (April 2012), “Why It Matters What You Call Your Country: Cyprus vs. Northern Cyprus, Azawad vs. the Azawad” (April 2012).]

Me Harouna Toureh

U.S. Cuts Aid to Rwanda, Warns Kagame on War Crimes; Ugandan Troops in Kivu.  Though the Republic of Rwanda continues to reject accusations from the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.), the United Nations (U.N.), and others that it is secretly backing the rebellion in the D.R.C.’s eastern North Kivu province led by a mutinous Tutsi militia called M23, the United States’ Department of State said July 21st that it found sufficient evidence of such backing and will be cutting military aid to Rwanda, whose government is dominated by Tutsis.  The funds in question are $200,000 for an officers’ academy in Rwanda.  The U.S. said further actions were possible, and on July 25th Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, received warnings from the U.S. that he could face war-crimes charges in the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.).  Kagame replied, “This problem has not been caused by Rwanda and it has not been abetted by Rwanda.  Actually, the problem of D.R.C. came from outside.  It was created by the international community, our partners, because they don’t listen ... and in the end they don’t actually provide a solution.”  The Kingdom of the Netherlands will be suspending its 5-million aid package to Rwanda as well, it was announced July 26th, and the United Kingdom is delaying some of its payments too.  Meanwhile, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (O.C.H.A.) said this week that at least a quarter-million people had been displaced by the fighting in North Kivu, and a “civil society coordinator” for North Kivu told a reporter that regular army units from both Rwanda and Uganda had entered the D.R.C. on July 21st and were joining the battle, the Ugandan role being something the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the D.R.C. (MONUSCO) could not confirm.  As of July 26th, fighting was continuing between M23 on the one hand and the U.N. and the D.R.C. on the other, near the town of Rutshuru, in North Kivu.  M23 is led by Bosco “the Terminator” Ntaganda, who is wanted by the I.C.C. on war-crimes charges.

M23 forces in Karambi, North Kivu

Sudan, South Sudan Trade Accusations over Bombings, Aid to Darfur Rebels.  The Republic of South Sudan on July 21st filed a complaint with the African Union and with the United Nations Security Council accusing the Republic of Sudan—from which South Sudan seceded just over a year ago with a still-undefined border—of an aerial bombing the day before of the village of Rumaker in South Sudan’s northwestern state of Bhar el Ghazal.  The (northern) Sudanese government, for its part, replies that it was merely bombing a convoy carrying arms on behalf of the Justice and Equality Movement (J.E.M.), one of several anti-government armies operating in (north) Sudan’s Darfur region, just north of Bhar el Ghazal.  Sudan said that South Sudan is secretly supporting J.E.M. rebels, and on July 24th upped the ante by accusing South Sudan of treating Darfuri rebels wounded in fighting in (north) Sudan—referring to a recent battle between the Sudanese military and the J.E.M. in (north) Sudan’s disputed, and mostly southern-allied, South Kordofan state, near Darfur, in which 50 J.E.M. fighters were killed and many more wounded.  The J.E.M., for its part, says it seized 36 Sudanese military vehicles and took control of a territory that included the Tabaldi oilfield.  [Related articles: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012,” “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011).]

Tanzanian Police Round Up 43 Zanzibar Separatists.  Police in Tanzania announced July 22nd they had arrested 43 suspects in a massive street riot waged July 20th between police and an Islamist group called Uamsho.  The riot began when members of UAMSHO (the Swahili acronym for Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propaganda, though it is also the word for “Awakening”), who are fighting for a separate state in the predominantly-Muslim Zanzibar archipelago, staged a prayer service in Zanzibar for victims of a July 18th ferry disaster which quickly devolved into a skirmish with police.

Middle Belt Youths Will Fight Fire with Fire if Boko Haram Attacks Persist.  Over the July 21-22 weekend, a youth organization in Nigeria’s central Middle Belt region—where Muslims and Christians live side by side more than in the Muslim-dominated north or the Christian south—threatened to match the level of violence of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram if the violence did not cease.  Alhaji Abdulazeez Bello, president of the youth group, Middle Belt Youths Focus, said, “Should the situation degenerate to a dangerous dimension, the good people of Middle Belt will have no other option than to defend themselves, even with the last blood in them.”  The Middle Belt has been the new focus of Boko Haram terror attacks recently.  [Related articles: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012,” “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Jihadists Imperil Nigerian Unity” (June 2011).]

Boko Haram Violence in Nigeria Kills 18, Including 4 Children; 40 Prisoners Freed.  Eighteen people, including four children, were killed in violence related to the jihadist militia Boko Haram in northern Nigeria this week, while at least 12 were injured and 40 inmates were freed in a prison break.  What follows is a rundown of the various incidents.  Two children were killed and at least 10 other people injured on July 22nd in Bauchi when a bomb planted in a wheelbarrow next to a tavern exploded.  Serving beer is forbidden under the Islamic law (shari’a) under which Nigeria’s northern states, including Bauchi State, are governed.  Islamists are suspected in the attack, and also in another attack the day before in nearby Yobe State’s capital, Damaturu, in which two 15-year-old twin brothers, both Muslim, were murdered, almost simultaneously with their élite boarding school being burned to the ground.  Also, on July 23rd, two people were killed in crossfire during a shootout at a Maiduguri customs office.  On July 23rd, also in Yobe State, bomb-tossing Boko Haram fighters shot their way into a prison to free 40 prisoners.  The same day, Boko Haram announced the martyrdom of Habibu Bama, a supposed mastermind of the Christmas 2011 massacre in several towns in northern Nigeria which left scores dead.  The State Security Service (S.S.S.) announced last week it had captured Bama.  The circumstances of his death were left unclear.  In Kano, four police officers were killed on July 25th when suspected Boko Haram fighters, on motorcycles and dressed as police themselves, opened fire on them near the home of the town’s inspector-general of police.  Also that day, suspected Boko Haram fighters bombed and set ablaze a police station in Borno State, killing two security officers.  A civilian was hit by a stray bullet in that incident.  The same day, two businessmen from the Republic of India were killed and a third injured when suspected Boko Haram members attacked a gum-arabic factory in Maiduguri, according to the military.  The Joint Task Force (J.T.F.) rounded up 26 suspects in Maiduguri on July 26th and 27th, including suspected masterminds of the factory attack. On the 27th, gunfire and bomb blasts were reported in and around Maiduguri.  In Bauchi State, three state police officers were killed on July 26th by gunmen believed to belong to Boko Haram.  [Related articles: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012,” “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Jihadists Imperil Nigerian Unity” (June 2011).]

Kenyan Court Lifts Ban on Mombasa Republican Council.  The High Court of the Republic of Kenya this week lifted the national government’s ban on the Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.), which wishes the predominantly-Muslim Coast Province to form a separate country, on the grounds that the ban was unconstitutional.  But a three-judge panel in Mombasa itself warned the M.R.C. to cease its separatist activities.  Kenya’s deputy solicitor general, Muthoni Kimani, said July 26th that his office would appeal the ruling, adding, “Any group or organisation challenging the constitutional authority and territorial integrity of the Republic of Kenya cannot enjoy protection by the constitution.”

Matabeleland Rejects Draft Zimbabwe Constitution, Urging More Devolution.  In the Republic of Zimbabwe, the Matabeleland Civic Society Forum (M.C.S.F.) has rejected a draft national constitution for not offering enough decentralization.  The M.C.S.F., which represents 36 civil-society organizations in the three provinces that constitute the homeland of the Ndebele ethnic group, wants provincial legislatures and devolution of some taxing powers to the provinces, plus more local control over natural resources.  Dumisani Nkomo, an M.C.S.F. spokesman, said that six out of the 10 provinces were in favor of more devolution.

Barotse Separatist Leader Calls Off Rally over Insults to King.  The prime minister of the separatist Barotse National Council (B.R.C.), Wainyae Clement Sinyinda, asked members of the Lozi (Barotse) nationality, in western Zambia, to cancel a mass demonstration planned for July 25th in Mongu, capital of Western Province, and historically the capital of Barotseland.  The Barotse community has been in turmoil since Zambia’s president, Michael Sata, called the Barotse king, Lubosi Imwiko II, a powerless “nobody” (as reported at the time in this blog).  Insulting the king is especially grave in Barotse culture because kings are not allowed to speak publicly and so cannot verbally defend themselves.  But Sinyinda let hang the implication that the government had reason to fear Barotse people’s ire: “We don’t want to respond because it will be an earthquake.”

Khaatumo State No Longer Exists? Tell That to Somaliland Troops Fighting It.  Just weeks after the self-declared Khaatumo State, also known as the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (S.S.C.) State, seemed to have buried the hatchet with its enemy, the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland, and dissolved itself, fighting broke out again, first on July 22nd (reports seem to indicate) and again a few days later, between Somaliland forces and those described as “loyal to” Khaatumo State—whether or not Khaatumo State even exists anymore.  The new fighting was around the border town of Buhoodle, in the (formerly?) disputed Cayn state on the frontier between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the part of the Somali Republic that has been operating as an independent Republic of Somaliland since 1991.  The Puntland State of Somalia also sometimes claims the area, but it is generally administered by Somaliland.  Reports indicate seven deaths and 15 wounded, primarily civilians.  [Related articles: “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Somalia the ‘Failed State’—So What Are Somaliland and Puntland? Chopped Liver?” (Feb. 2012), “Introducing the Republic of Wadiya” (May 2012).]

... or not.

Mogadishu and Garowe Iron Out Last Constitutional Differences.  A spokesman for the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia, Ahmed Omar Hirsi, told media this week that President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole met in Puntland’s capital, Garowe, July 24th with a visiting delegation from the Somali Republic’s internationally recognized but largely ineffective Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) in Mogadishu and ironed out differences between the two governments over a new Somali constitution that will no longer be “transitional.”  Puntland’s objections had included how representatives in the Somali parliament, the National Constituent Assembly (N.C.A.), would be chosen.  Puntland had unilaterally appointed 102 Puntland representatives on July 18th, whereas previous agreements had been to allow traditional elders to name all 825 N.C.A. members.  In the new compromise, brokered by the the T.F.G.’s deputy prime minister, Abdiwahab Ugas Hussein, 75 delegates will be appointed by Farole’s government and the rest by elders in Mogadishu.  Now, according to Hirsi, “there are no other issues” dividing Puntland and the T.F.G., and the entire Puntland delegation will attend the N.C.A.’s inaugural session next month to ratify the new constitution.  In general, Puntland—which is expected to remain de facto independent although formally it is a constituent state of the Somali Republic—has demanded a more loosely federal constitution than what the leadership in Mogadishu and its allies in capitals abroad have been trying to push through.  [Related articles: “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Somalia the ‘Failed State’—So What Are Somaliland and Puntland? Chopped Liver?” (Feb. 2012), “Introducing the Republic of Wadiya” (May 2012).]

Puntland Forces Push to Purge Galkayo of Pirates.  Somali media reported July 24th that the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia had launched a “security operation” to clear the city of Galkayo of sea pirates who use various lawless towns on the Somali coast for their bases.  On the first day, three suspects were arrested.  Part of the focus of the operation is to track down three aid workers from Kenya abducted near Galkayo on July 11th (as reported at the time in this blog).  The northern part of Galkayo is Puntland territory, while the southern portion serves as capital of another quasi-independent entity, the Galmudug State of Somalia.  The operation is being coordinated with the Mudug State police, an entity technically coming under the more-or-less fictional Somali Republic.  The old Somali Mudug State is partly under Puntland, partly under Galmudug jurisdiction.  (The name Galmudug is a blend of the names of two Somali Republic states, Galguduud and Mudug.)  The Puntland initiative follows a July 22nd incident in which a pirate-owned vehicle collided into a police checkpoint, resulting in one death on each side and three arrests.  [Related articles: “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Somalia the ‘Failed State’—So What Are Somaliland and Puntland? Chopped Liver?” (Feb. 2012), “Introducing the Republic of Wadiya” (May 2012).]

Al-Shabaab Executes 4 Members for Treason in Somaliland, Spying.  The al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia which governs much of southern Somalia and has expanded into parts of the north on July 22nd executed three of its own members in the port city of Merca in the area some al-Shabaab call the Islamic Emirate of Somalia.  The al-Shabaab “judge” who presided said that one of the suspects, who apparently admitted to working for MI6, the United Kingdom’s foreign-intelligence service, and for turning Muslims in to the authorities in the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland in what used to be the far northwest of Somalia.  The other two, according to the judge, planted transponders in vehicles to allow them to be destroyed by United States drone aircraft.  The executions were announced on a website associated with al-Shabaab.  [Related articles: “Remembering Odumegwu Ojukwu: On Biafra and on an African Continent Riven by European Borders” (Nov. 2011), “Somalia the ‘Failed State’—So What Are Somaliland and Puntland? Chopped Liver?” (Feb. 2012), “Introducing the Republic of Wadiya” (May 2012).]

Boer May Get Life in Mandela Assassination Plot.  A guilty verdict that may bring a life sentence was handed down July 26th in Pretoria, South Africa, to Mike du Toit, convicted now of treason in a 2002 white-supremacist plot to assassinate Nelson Mandela, the former president, overthrow the African National Congress (A.N.C.), and chase all blacks out of the country.  Du Toit is only the first of 22 members of a militia called the Boeremag (literally, “Boer Army”) to face such charges.  He was also convicted in a 2002 bombing in Soweto which killed one person.  His is the first treason conviction since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Mike du Toit


Hearing Scheduled for 4 Suspects in Tatar Mufti Attacks; Other Arrests Made.  In Kazan, capital of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Tatarstan, a district court has scheduled a July 27th hearing for four suspects held in the July 19th assassination of one local moderate Muslim leader and the nearly simultaneous attempted killing of another (reported last week in this blog).  A federal investigator said that he would request at least two months of custody for all four suspects, adding that there were other suspects that were may be arrested soon, some “in other cities and districts of the republic.”  The suspects are: Rustem Gataullin, chairman of the board of Idel-Hajj, a firm that runs pilgrimages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia; Murat Galyayev, head of Vakf parish; Airat Shakirov; and Azat Gaintudinov.  Gataullin’s arrest has led some to speculate on motivations that have more to do with corporate corruption or financial disagreements than politics or theology.  Both the murdered deputy mufti, Valiulia Yakupov, and the head mufti, Ildus Faizov, who survived a car bomb, were moderates and vocal critics of radical Islam.  Also detained is Abdunazim Ataboyev, a citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan.  On July 23rd, it was announced that another suspect had been arrested, and another arrest was announced on the 27th, bringing the total to six.  The sixth was Marat Kudakayev, former police and security-forces liaison for the Tatarstan Muslim Board.  Faizov had headed the same organization’s department of education.

19 Killed in Rebel Violence in Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria.  Nineteen people died in violence connected to Islamist separatism over the past week in various republics of the Russian Federation’s North Caucasus region.  In the Republic of Ingushetia, rebels attacked a military convoy with grenades and machine guns on July 21st, killing two soldiers and injuring three others, according to Russia’s ministry of the interior.  The same day, in the nearby Republic of Dagestan, police cornered and killed two rebels in an apartment building in Makhachkala, the Dagestani capital.  On July 24th, police killed three members of the “Kyzylyurt gang”—the same gang to which the July 21st suspects had supposedly belonged—in Novy Kostek, village in Dagestan, in an incident that injured one police officer.  Russia’s federal anti-terrorism agency reported a July 6th incident in the Circassian-majority Kabardino-Balkar Republic, to the west, in which two rebels were killed.  On July 27th, officials reported that a prolonged siege and hostage situation overnight in a suburb of the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, had ended with hostages freed, including children, and eight militants dead—some of them wanted figures in arms-trafficking and organizing terrorist attacks.  One of the dead was a female suicide-bomber whose explosive belt killed her but not the nearby special-forces officers.  Also on July 27th in Makhachkala, three people died in a car bombing blamed on Islamist extremists.  Russian media reported the same day that police had raided and shut down two gun-smuggling and gun-modification workshops in the Bryansk region, at the borders with Ukraine and Belarus, and seven gun-runners, all from either Chechnya or Ingushetia, were arrested.  Both republics, along with Chechnya and others, are plagued by a long-standing insurgency, growing out of the Chechen Wars that followed the fall of Communism, which aims to set up a radical Islamist state called the Caucasus Emirate in the Muslim areas of Russia’s southwest.

Spanish Civil Guard Hijacks Gibraltar Boat in U.K. Waters, Prompting Outcry.  The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office’s Minister for Europe, David Lidington, expressed “shock” over the “disgraceful behaviour” of the Kingdom of Spain’s Civil Guard in a July 20th hijacking of a Gibraltar-registered vessel in U.K. waters.  In the incident, guardsmen boarded and took over a Gibraltarian sport-fishing boat in the territorial waters of Gibraltar, a self-governing U.K. territory attached to the Spanish mainland which Spain continually reiterates its desire to reclaim—a territorial dispute that has been exacerbated by disputes between the two nations over fishing grounds.  The guardsmen then arrested and, according to an official complaint from Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar, “forcibly conveyed” the ship “and its occupants to Algeciras at high speed and without navigational lights.  They subsequently confiscated perfectly legal equipment aboard the vessel.  The individuals aboard the vessel were not suspected of being involved in any illicit activity of any kind.”  Gibraltar’s government pointed out that this was part of a pattern of illegal incursions by Spain on Gibraltarian territory since 2009.  Gibraltar is a two-and-a-half-square-mile peninsular rock which was captured by the British Navy in 1704 during the War of Spanish Succession and formally ceded to Britain by Spain at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.  In 2002, its 29,000 residents, who are ethnically mixed, voted by 98% to reject a proposal for shared Spanish and U.K. jurisdiction over the territory, preferring the status quo; the U.K. has consistently said it will respect Gibraltarians’ own choice, whether it be U.K. rule, Spanish rule, shared rule, or independence.  The large rock is a constant source of friction between the two national governments.  Earlier this year, Spain’s Queen Sofía boycotted Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee in London over the question of Gibraltar (as reported at the time in this blog).  [Related articles: “Prince William Lands in the Middle of a New Cold War over the Falklands” (Feb. 2012), “What Is a Colony? The United Nations’ Definition Needs an Overhaul” (June 2012).]

The flag of Gibraltar

Austrian State Bans Infant Circumcision, Provoking Jews and Muslims.  Mere days after Germany’s parliament (as reported last week in this blog) worked quickly to restore religious minorities’ rights to infant penile circumcision in the wake of a Cologne judge’s ruling banning the practice as mutilation, the Republic of Austria has begun moving in the opposite direction.  Vorarlberg, Austria’s smallest state, nestled between Bavaria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein in the Alps, this week ordered all hospitals in the state to cease performing the procedure.  The state’s governor, Markus Wallner, said he had taken the measure in order to wait until Austria adopted a uniform approach to the matter.  Infant circumcision is a religious duty for observant Jewish and Muslim boys.  Austria has in general been the least contrite and introspective of all the former pieces of the Nazi empire, even though Austria and Bavaria were the cradle of Nazi theology and ideology.  (Adolf Hitler was born in Austria.)  The former United Nations secretary-general Kurt Waldheim was elected President of Austria in 1986, not long after his gruesome war crimes in the Nazi Wehrmacht were revealed—creating the unusual situation, for six years, of the head of state of a modern Western industrial democracy with whom no other world leader was willing to be photographed or shake hands.  And members of extremist right-wing parties that are openly nostalgic for Nazism are routinely elected to high office in Austria.

Wherever former Austrian president Kurt Waldheim (center) is now—and I have my theories—
his Aryan foreskin is probably quivering with delight over the renewal of anti-Semitic politics in Vorarlberg this week.


Tajikistan Battles Kill 42 after Warlord Blamed for Beating Spy Chief to Death.  Twelve members of the Republic of Tajikistan’s military, along with 30 rebels, died July 24th in a wide-ranging battle in the vast, mountainous Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (G.B.A.O.), though one source says 20 civilians died (it is not clear if that includes rebels), and unconfirmed reports put the civilian death toll at almost 100.  The fighting was sparked by the July 21st beating death of Maj.-Gen. Abdullo Nazarov, local head of Tajikistan’s secret police agency.  By July 25th, a cease-fire was announced, and the Tajik government had sent its minister of defense to the G.B.A.O. to demand the handover of four men accused of killing Nazarov, including Tolib Ayombekov, a former warlord.  Forty rebel fighters have also been arrested, including eight Afghans. The G.B.A.O. covers nearly half of Tajikistan’s territory but its mountainous terrain has only 3% of the country’s population.  The region is dominated by the Pamir ethnic group.  It was the center of anti-government forces during the civil war which raged for five years after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) in 1991-92.  The G.B.A.O. declared independence during the war but was brought back into Tajikistan in the deal that ended the conflict.  That deal also included a government job for Ayombekov, a rebel leader, who nonetheless is suspected of continuing to run armed drug-smuggling gangs.  The G.B.A.O. is bordered on the east by the People’s Republic of China, on the south by Afghanistan, on the north by Kyrgyzstan, and on the west by two other subdivisions of Tajikistan: Kahtion Province and—here’s the big finish, look it up if you don’t believe it’s really called this—the Districts of Republican Subordination (or, in Tajik, Ноҳияҳои тобеи ҷумҳурӣ).  It sounds like a warren of secret back rooms at a Washington, D.C., sex club.

Azeri, Armenian Reports Conflict in Soldier’s Defection or Capture or Wounding.  Both sides along the tense border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Armenian puppet state called the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.) gave conflicting stories this week about a possible shooting incident which later sounded like either a defection or a capture.  Firuz Faradzhov, a 19-year-old conscript in the Azerbaijani army, was shot July 25th (later reports said the morning of the 26th) in or near the Gedabek district, at the border with the N.K.R., according to Azerbaijan’s ministry of defense.  The next day, Armenia’s ministry of defense denied the report, saying that Armenia was still honoring the cease-fire.  Azerbaijan’s version is that the soldier had lost his way and was shot, but Armenia claims that Faradzhov deliberately crossed the border carrying a white flag and surrendered to Armenian forces in the early afternoon of the 26th.  Apparently no longer claiming there had been a shooting, the Azerbaijani foreign ministry responded by saying that Faradzhov had been captured by Armenian troops.  Azerbaijan claims Armenia has violated the cease-fire 11,000 times this year so far.  [Related article: “The Armenian Genocide Debate: Turkey, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Politics of Memory” (April 2012).]

Tanzania Angers Azerbaijan by Recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh—Probably by Accident.  The Republic of Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry has sent a stern message to the United Republic of Tanzania over a listing of the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.) as a separate country on the Tanzanian foreign ministry’s website, in a list of countries whose citizens required a visa to visit Tanzania.  The message, according to a foreign-ministry spokesman who announced the situation this week, had to be conveyed via the Azerbaijani embassy in Egypt, since Azerbaijan does not have a diplomatic mission in Tanzania.  The N.K.R., which is predominantly ethnically Armenian, was created out of territory conquered from Azerbaijan by the armies of Armenia and Russia after the fall of Communism.  No state in the world formally recognizes the N.K.R., not even its patron and sponsor, Armenia.  [Related article: “The Armenian Genocide Debate: Turkey, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Politics of Memory” (April 2012).]

Chechen Politician Says Tbilisi behind Terrorism in Ossetia, Ingushetia.  A former member of Chechnya’s now-exiled separatist government accused the Republic of Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, of directing terrorist attacks within the Russian Federation.  The accuser, Khizri Aldamov, who held the position of General Representative in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria during the Chechen Wars, told television interviewers on July 26th that bombings in the Republics of North Ossetia–Alania and Ingushetia, both part of Russia, had been the work of Zemlikhan Khangoshvili, a Chechen from Georgia whose gang “was formed with active government help from Tbilisi”—and thus, in his reasoning, from Georgia’s closest Western ally, the United States.  He also accused the Georgian government of trying to poison him in 2004.  Aldamov, according to the deputy chairman of the Georgian parliament’s foreign-relations committee, is, like Khangoshvili, a Chechen with Georgian ties and was “an ambiguous character” who had had a working relationship with Georgia’s former president, Eduard Shevardnadze—who, Aldamov said this week, also trained terrorists.  Aldamov lives in Georgia but last month met in Grozny, the Chechen capital, with that republic’s authoritarian Moscow-appointed president, Ramzan Kadyrov, lamenting to him “wasting all those years” in Georgia.  Accusations of the type Aldamov is leveling normally come from Russia’s Federal Security Service (F.S.B.), successor to the Soviet K.G.B.  [Related article: “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists,” featuring a profile of Akhmed Zakayev.]

Khizri Aldamov

Abkhaz Pagan Priests Decry Decision against Declaring Paganism State Religion.  A council of pagan priests in the Republic of Abkhazia, a de facto independent state which most of the world regards as part of the Republic of Georgia, is reacting angrily to last week’s decision not to include paganism, referred to as “the ancient Abkhazian religion,” among Abkhazia’s state religions (as reported last week in this blog).  Speaking out on Facebook, an Abkhaz pagan named Khadzhara Khvartskia, wrote that the Abkhaz government has forgotten the “power of Abyzhnykh,” which has “for centuries kept out land from dark internal and external forces, that they should not cross the line beyond which starts universal confusion and excitement of people.”  Last week, the head of the newly separated Abkhaz Orthodox Church, Vissarion Apliaa, had said that Abkhaz paganism was dead and that all peoples on earth should take Christianity as a starting point.  In 2003, however, 8% of Abkhazia’s residence, and a higher percentage of ethnic Abkhaz, claimed Abkhaz paganism as their religious affiliation.

The Lashkendar Shrine, a pagan pilgrimage site in Abkhazia


Morsi Loosens Gaza Border, Meets Hamas, in Shift in Policy toward Islamists.  After squeaking into office last month as the Arab Republic of Egypt’s president in its first truly free election, Mohamed Morsi shifted his policy this week toward the Islamists who govern the quasi-independent Gaza Strip territory to its east by loosening the border and by sitting down with Ismail Haniyeh, Gaza’s de facto prime minister and a leader in the terrorist Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas.  Morsi’s new Muslim Brotherhood government announced July 23rd that it would be significantly easing travel restrictions between Egypt and the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestinian Territories.  And on July 26th, Morsi met with Haniyeh in Cairo.  They discussed allowing more Qatari oil to flow into Gaza via Egypt and more Palestinians to travel between their shared border, but Morsi stopped well short of opening the border completely.  During the days of dictatorship, Egyptian authorities had tended to take a hard line against Palestine, in order to preserve peace with Israel and to avoid the spread of jihadist ideology into Egypt.  The new moves are especially significant in light of Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza, put in place after the 2006 elections in which Hamas took control of the tiny territory’s government, turning it into a terrorist fiefdom out of the control even of the Palestinian National Authority government in Ramallah, in the West Bank.  The Gaza Strip was Egyptian territory from the Ottoman Empire all through and including the 1949 United Nations plan which established the State of Israel.  Israel conquered the Strip in 1967, and in 1979 Egypt relinquished its claims to it, paving the way for its establishment as part of the self-governing Palestinian Territories in the 1994 Oslo Accords.  [Related article: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”]

Hamas flags


50 Killed in Assam as Bengali Muslims Clash with Bodos.  In India’s remote, ethnically diverse far-northeastern state of AssamBengali Muslim settlers (mostly descended from those displaced by Bangladesh’s 1971 war for independence from Pakistan) and indigenous people from the Bodo ethnic group clashed over the July 21-22 weekend, leaving at least 50 dead.  The violence began on July 20th when the All Assam Minority Students’ Union (A.A.M.S.U.) called a 12-hour bandh, or general strike, in Dhubri district as a protest over attacks on minorities in the state—in particular in the Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts (B.T.A.D.), where Bodos themselves have become a one-third minority as the result of an influx of Muslims seeking land.  Other versions of events say the murder of four Bodos by unidentified Muslim men on that day sparked reprisals.  Supporters of the strike tried to forcibly close shops and other venues in the towns, bringing them into conflict with riot police.  The offices of the Bodoland People’s Front, in Gauripur, were also ransacked.  Most dramatically, on July 24th, a Rajdhani Express train bound for Delhi was stopped in its tracks in the B.T.A.D., in Assam’s Kokhajar district, near the borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh, by villagers armed with spears and clubs, angry about damage done to their homes during their stay in relief camps.  Police opened fire on 400 rioters on July 24th, killing five under a shoot-to-kill order and also injuring several others through gunshot or trampling.  Also, a local magistrate was injured in an ambush en route to visit a relief camp.  In the violence so far, 41 have been killed and scores injured, 200,000 have fled their homes, and an estimated 500 villages have been burned to the ground.  Police have discovered some bodies dumped in the jungle, hacked to pieces with machetes.  Meanwhile, to the south of Assam in the state of Meghalaya, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (H.N.L.C.), who are fighting for an independent homeland for the predominantly-Christian Khasi ethnic group, has threatened “stern action”—which in past statements of theirs has meant the death penalty—against women who dress immodestly, anyone who drinks alcohol or carouses, and against supposed anti-Khasi spies for the police.

Refugees in Assam

Kukis Demand Separate State in Manipur, Despite Cease-Fire with India.  The Kuki National Organisation (K.N.O.), which has a formal cease-fire with the Republic of India, reiterated on July 25th its assertion that “if Kukis do not have a separate land for proper administration they would not enjoy and exercise their rights.”  The K.N.O.’s home secretary, named (what else?) Anton Kuki, made the comments at the village of Chehlep, in the Kuki homeland in Manipur state, in India’s ethnically diverse far-northeast, during the marking of Martyrs’ Day.  Meanwhile, the Kuki National Front, which is also party to the cease-fire, has designated more than half of Manipur’s land as a future Kuki state.

After Kashmiri Youth Killed, Separatist Leaders under House Arrest to Avoid Unrest.  Senior separatist leaders in India’s northern, predominantly-Muslim Jammu and Kashmir state were placed under house arrest on July 27th, ostensibly to head off unrest stemming from the shooting of a young man by Indian soldiers.  Those under house arrest include Syed Ali Shah Geelani, spiritual leader of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Kashmir’s separatist umbrella group, as well as Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, his moderate counterpart.  After the young man, Hilal Ahmad Dar, was shot by the military in the village of Aloosa, in far northern Kashmir, on July 24th, Farooq and Geelani both condemned the shooting, and Yasin Malik, from the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (J.K.L.F.), called for a march on the headquarters of the United Nations Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), in Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar.  Hilal Dar was killed, according to his family, as he was emerging from a mosque, unarmed, but the military called him an “armed militant” and claim they recovered a weapon from him.  Geelani has called for a general strike throughout Kashmir for July 28th to protest the killing.  Meanwhile, on July 28th, two tourists were killed in a hand-grenade attack in Bijbehara, in Kashmir.  Four were wounded in the incident.

Yasin Malik

Baloch Separatists Kill 8 in Raid on Pakistan Coast Guard Checkpoint.  The Pakistan Coast Guards (P.C.G.) lost eight men to ethnonationalist violence on July 21st when about a dozen rebels on motorcycles and in pick-up trucks and armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-launchers raided a coast-guard checkpoint in Gwadar, in the far southwest of Pakistan, near the border with Iran, killing eight.  The Baloch Liberation Front (B.L.F.), which would like the surrounding Balochistan province to form a separate state, claimed responsibility, claiming 15 guardsmen had actually been killed.  Last week, a P.C.G. tanker near Gwadar was damaged in a grenade attack, and then, days later, 18 people, including 6 P.C.G. guardsmen, were hurt when a military vehicle transporting suspects arrested for the tanker attack overturned.  Earlier in the month, 19 civilians were killed when a presumed B.L.F. branch called the Baloch Liberation Tigers opened fire on Punjabis and Pashtuns trying to escape across the border to Iran.  [Related article: “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”]


Taliban Vow Revenge Unless Pakistan Cuts Ties with Burma over Rohingyas.  In Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, and around the world, Muslim heads of state have been condemning Burma’s military junta (which calls the country the Republic of the Union of Myanmar) for its treatment of the disenfranchised Rohingya people of its Rakhine province, a Muslim minority which bore the brunt of ethnic clashes with members of Burma’s Buddhist majority last month.  The United Nations’ human-rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, too, is calling for an independent investigation.  But the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, the radical Salafist militia which thrives in the warlord-ruled hinterlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, upped the ante on July 26th by putting the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on notice: unless Pakistan shuts down the “Myanma” embassy in Islamabad and cuts off all diplomatic relations, then “we will not only attack Burmese interests anywhere but will also attack the Pakistani fellows of Burma one by one.”  The warning came from Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesman for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (T.T.P.), or, literally, “Student Movement of Pakistan,” the militia that rules much of Pakistan’s lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  Meanwhile, 23 Rohingya asylum-seekers fleeing the violence in Burma escaped from a detention facility in Bogor, on the island of Java in Indonesia, on July 25th.  [Related article: “The Moment Burma’s Separatist Minorities Have Been Waiting for” (Jan. 2012).]

Suu Kyi’s First Parliamentary Address Backs Minority Rights; Still Mum on Rohingyas.  The Nobel peace laureate and globally revered opposition leader in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, gave her first address to Parliament as a newly elected member on July 25th, championing the rights of ethnic minorities, who she insisted should be treated equally.  But she did not mention the most dramatic interethnic violence in Burma recently, that of the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised Rohingyas—predominantly Muslim “Bengalis” in a Buddhist-majority nation—in Rakhine state.  She has faced criticism for her silence on the subject.  Asked last month whether the Rohingya ought to be treated as Burmese citizens, she said, “I do not know.”  Peace between minorities and the majority is a keystone of the reforms being showcased by the rapidly reforming military junta that rules Burma as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.  [Related article: “The Moment Burma’s Separatist Minorities Have Been Waiting for” (Jan. 2012).]

Aung San Suu Kyi, addressing parliament for the first time

Kachin, Short on Food, Continue Fighting Burmese Army; 4 Killed.  Fighting continued in Burma’s Kachin State between the Kachin Independence Army (K.I.A.) and the Burmese military, with battles between Bum Sawn hill and Daw Hpum on July 20th and at Ban Kawng and near Laja Yang on July 21st.  Near Gang Dau on July 22nd, three Burmese soldiers and one K.I.A. fighter were killed in a battle.  Meanwhile, Kachin people are running short of food and are in dire need of aid.  [Related article: “The Moment Burma’s Separatist Minorities Have Been Waiting for” (Jan. 2012).]

4 Killed, 7 Injured in Southern Thailand Separatist Violence.  In southern Thailand’s separatist Pattani region, a car bomb in Sungai Kolok, in Narathiwat province, demolished a pick-up truck parked on a busy shopping street, but only three were injured, none seriously.  In Pattani province, about 20 rebels in pick-up trucks shot and killed four soldiers and injured two on July 28th.  That attack was captured by surveillance cameras.  Narathiwat, Patti, and Yala provinces are predominantly Muslim and ethnically Malay in an overwhelmingly Buddhist kingdom.

The July 28th Pattani ambush


Despite Dissident Group, Most Gitxsan Chiefs Support Treaty Society.  After a three-day conclave, the majority of the chiefs of the 64 sovereign “house groups” (territory-holding matrilineal extended families) of the Gitxsan Nation in northwestern British Columbia, Canada, renewed their support for the Gitxsan Treaty Society, which negotiates with the provincial and federal governments on behalf of the nation, according to the Chief Negotiator, Beverley Clifton Percival, as reported July 20th.  But 15 house-groups have split away from the Treaty Society and formed the Gitxsan Unity Movement.  Divisive issues within the nation have included whether or not to support a controversial pipeline project (as reported earlier in this blog).  The Gitxsan have been the most aggressive and pro-sovereignty First Nation in B.C., a province in which a lack of any treaties for most of its land area casts a legal cloud over Canada’s very jurisdiction over the territory.


Argentine President Boycotts Olympic Opening Ceremonies.  The Argentine Republic’s embassy in the United Kingdom confirmed July 25th that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would not attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in London this week, nor would she attend any other events.  Argentina and the U.K. have had soured diplomatic relations in recent months as Argentina has provocatively reiterated its claim on the Falkland Islands, which the U.K. successfully defended from an Argentine invasion in 1982.  [Related articles: “Prince William Lands in the Middle of a New Cold War over the Falklands” (Feb. 2012), “What Is a Colony? The United Nations’ Definition Needs an Overhaul” (June 2012), “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).]

London Organizers Slammed for Listing Georgian-Born Olympians as Native Russians.  The first of the conflicts over unrecognized states at this year’s Olympic Games in London flared this week, over two wrestlers, one from South Ossetia and one from Abkhazia, whose birthplaces are officially listed by the Olympic Committee as Russia.  Besik Kudukhov, the native South Ossetian, and Denis Tsargush, born in “Gudauta (RUS)” (Gudauta is in Abkhazia), are both on the Russian Federation’s Olympic team.  The two regions are regarded by most of the world as part of the Republic of Georgia, but they are de facto independent republics, and a handful of countries, including Russia, recognize them diplomatically.  An overwhelming majority in both republics hold Russian passports.  So the wrestlers are probably “dual citizens,” or maybe even simply Russian citizens, but the listing of their birthplaces (and birthplaces are inconsequential as far as the Olympics are concerned) is the source of the controversy.  Georgia’s Olympic committee has filed a formal protest.  Later, it emerged that several athletes representing former pieces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) whose current independence is not in dispute, such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, were also erroneously listed with their non-Russian birthplaces as “(RUS).”  [Related articles: “South Ossetia Update: ‘Independent’ Elections in an ‘Independent’ State—Russian Style” (Dec. 2011), “What Is a Colony? The United Nations’ Definition Needs an Overhaul” (June 2012), “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).]

Poor Scottish Eyesight Blamed in Korean Flag Error.  On the first day of Olympic competition, on July 25th, the first diplomatic row of the games occurred when a giant video monitor accidentally (or not?) displayed South Korea’s flag instead of North Korea’s as North Korea faced Colombia in tennis in a game in Glasgow, Scotland.  A Scottish optometrist’s firm was quick to seize on the snafu as the theme in its new ad campaign.  [Related articles: “The Pyongyang Giant: North Korea’s Photoshop Mystery” (January 2012)“10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).]

Circassians, with an Eye to Sochi 2014, Bring Grievances to London.  Protests have begun in London over the timing and setting of the next Olympic Games—the winter games to be held in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.  Circassian protesters, who include eight from the vast global Circassian diaspora visiting from New Jersey, in the United States, are focusing on the Olympics because the Sochi games will be held in the town where the Ubykh people, a sub-group of Circassians, were to all intents and purposes exterminated exactly 150 years earlier.  Circassian people still struggle for equal rights in the region in southwest Russia where, in the 1860s and ’70s, the Russian Empire launched a series of brutal pogroms in its southward expansion.  Circassian grievances also include tens of thousands of Circassians trapped in Syria’s civil war whom Russian authorities will not allow to return to the relative safety of their homeland.  [Related article: “10 Ethnonationalist Causes That Might Disrupt the Olympics” (July 2012).]

New Jersey Circassians, taking their message to London

[You can read more about Kurdistan, the Alawite State, Bodoland, Gorno-Badakhshan, Circassia, 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.]

1 comment:

  1. as 35 millions of Kurds in Turkey and Total almost 60 million Kurds allover the world,are asimilating by states arab and turks.where ever you read our Kurds right are stolen and the show our population such a stupidly total 30 million in world.wikipedia written by turks i think.i am one of 1,5 million Kurds in Izmir western Turkey and our population rises 2 times more than turks you can look at TUIK institute for population and so on and will see real numbers of Kurds.
    i hope one day we Kurds and Berberi People will have their countries in their own name both are more than 50 millions in the world.
    in Syria they need much help Kurds.


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