Friday, November 30, 2012

In U.N. Vote, Palestine Gains Nearly the Last Remaining Markers of Sovereign Statehood

Some countries that win their independence get it all at once.  Others achieve it in painful, incremental steps over decades.  The State of Palestine is in the second category.  Yesterday, November 29, 2012, the State of Palestine was admitted as an “observer state”—not member state—in the United Nations General Assembly.  This is the same status that Switzerland had before 2002 and which Vatican City still has—both of them long recognized by the entire world as true, sovereign states in every sense of the word.

What is—or rather, perhaps, will eventually be seen to be as—the date of Palestine’s independence?  1948?  1974?  1988?  1993?  2011?  2012?

Palestinians were offered an independent state after the Second World War, as part of the same U.N. plan that created the State of Israel, but Palestinians did not want their homeland divided and half given away to new arrivals, so they rejected the plan, and Israel filled the entire vacuum created by the United Kingdom’s relinquishment of its Palestinian mandate, and Israel forced aside as many Palestinians as it felt it needed to in order to build a nation in its enlarged allocation.  The seeds of decades of grievance were planted.

Born in two disconnected shards of territory—the West Bank and the Gaza Strip—relinquished by Jordan and Egypt in the 1970s after their defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, the idea of a newly sovereign Palestine arose gradually, with the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.).  The P.L.O. was granted “observer” status in the U.N. General Assembly in 1974 as the “sole representative of the Palestinian people,” but it was not a member state.  The P.L.O.’s government-in-exile declared independence in 1988, and one by one nations around the world, starting with its Arab allies, recognized it.  Not just the Muslim states that never—and in some cases still don’t—recognize Israel, but eventually most of the world.  Perhaps the moment when states recognizing Palestine tipped above 50%, whenever that was (some time in the 1990s?) could be thought of as its independence day.

In 1993, the concrete trappings of statehood—the administration of actual territory—came with the Oslo Accords.  These agreements created the Palestinian National Authority, which now governs Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank.  In exchange, the P.L.O. and Fatah (which governs the West Bank) officially pursue a two-state solution and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

In 2011, Palestine applied for full member-state status in the U.N.—a symbolic gesture, since it was a foregone conclusion that the United States—Israel’s only true ally—would use its veto power as one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to block the move, despite the fact that the motion had an overwhelming majority of member states supporting it.

This time around, with a revised goal of observer-state status, vetoes are not possible; it is a clear vote by the General Assembly.  The vote yesterday was 138-9 in favor of admission, with 41 abstentions and 5 absences.

The “yes” votes included the Security Council members Russia, China, and France; and major nations such as India, PakistanJapan, Brazil, Argentina, MexicoNigeria, South Africa, New Zealand, Indonesia, Spain, Italy, Austria, all of Scandinavia, nearly all of Latin America, the entire Muslim world, nearly all of Africa, etc. etc.

The 41 abstentions included NATO and other U.S. allies such as Australia, the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, and South Korea, as well as NATO and other western-leaning countries in eastern Europe which are known for their slavish adherence to U.S. foreign policy: Poland, the Baltic States, Slovakia, and so on.  But even these countries would not go along fully with the U.S. denial of the arc of history.

The eight “no” votes were the U.S., Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic (see “slavish adherence,” previous paragraph), four former U.S. colonies (Panama, plus the quasi-independent Marshall IslandsFederated States of Micronesia, and Palau), and Nauru, an eight-square-mile speck in the Pacific which is the third-smallest country in the world.  If there were ever any doubt that the U.S. was on the wrong side of history on this question, this pathetic list drives the point home once and for all.

How U.N. member states voted on Palestinian statehood this week.  “Yes” votes are in green, “no” votes in red, abstentions in yellow, and absences in blue.
So what does this mean in practical terms?  Not much right off the bat.  Palestine already enjoys diplomatic relations of a sort with much of the world and deals, to all practical purposes, as a sovereign state with nearly every country—even those that do not recognize it diplomatically, including Israel.  But now all of the things Israel does to Palestine—bombing its cities, blockading its ports, building illegal armed settlements in its territory, assassinating its leaders—are acts of aggression by one state against another.  So, of course—and very justly so—are Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.  No longer can Hamas hide behind the legalistic ambiguities enjoyed by “non-state actors.”  In the long term, this is the best thing for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people both; their fates are intertwined, and they both deserve equal amounts of dignity and recognition—and responsibility for being peaceful global citizens.

Meanwhile, not only the terrorists of Hamas but also Israel’s bloodthirsty generals, its unaccountable and amoral intelligence agencies, and its ultra-right-wing fanatical West Bank settlers—who do not represent the Israeli people as a whole, it should be said—all of them are stomping mad about what happened yesterday.  That’s perhaps the surest sign that this was the right thing to do.

Happy birthday, Palestine.

[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.]

Monday, November 26, 2012

Breaking News: Separatists Triumph in Catalonia Election

Mas’s Coalition Slips in Catalan Vote, but Leftist Separatists Gain; Referendum Now Likely.

The landmark elections to Catalonia’s regional parliament on November 25th left the separatist ruling coalition, Convergència i Unió (CiU, or Convergence and Union), with 12 fewer seats—now only 50 out of 135—meaning its leader, Artur Mas i Gavarró, will now have to join with other parties to push through his promised referendum on independence from Spain.

A likely partner is the leftist pro-independence party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (E.R.C., or Republican Left of Catalonia), which came in second with 21 seats, up from a previous 10.

That combination would give separatists a strong majority.  Spain’s ruling People’s Party (P.P.) gained only one seat and now has 19.

[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.]

Saturday, November 24, 2012

War in Gaza, Obama in Myanmar—Plus Bodoland, Kukiland, San Andrés y Providencia, Principality of Tartupaluk, and Forgottonia: The Week in Separatist News, 18-24 November 2012


The war of rockets and airstrikes between the State of Israel and the blockaded, half-starved Gaza Strip portion of the Palestinian Territories, which is ruled by the Islamist terrorist militia Hamas, escalated dramatically this week, but a cease-fire brokered by the United States and by Egypt’s new government pulled both sides back from the brink of all-out war, even as Israel was readying troops for a ground invasion.  In the end, Israel lost two soldiers, with 20 wounded, while four Israeli civilians were killed in rocket attacks and more than 200 wounded.  On the Palestinian side, Israel claims to have killed 120 Hamas and other Islamist militants in Gaza in what it was calling “Operation Pillar of Strength,” seriously damaging—but by no means erasing—their ability to launch rocket attacks on civilian areas.  Hamas claims that 105 civilians were killed, including many children, and United Nations estimates corroborate most of that.  Nearly 1,000 were injured, and numerous buildings were leveled.  Twelve rockets were fired after the November 21st cease-fire, but for the most part it is holding.  For the most part, after all that, no one is much better off.

France Pledges to Back Palestinian Membership in United Nations Vote.  The foreign minister of the French RepublicLaurent Fabius, indicated on November 22nd that his government’s delegation to the United Nations (U.N.would support the State of Palestine’s planned November 29th application for “observer state” status in the General Assembly.  While not stating intentions outright, Fabius said, “As far as this government goes, I would like to remind you of the campaign pledge number 59 of the candidate, now President François Hollande, which said that there would be an international recognition of a Palestinian state.” 


[For updates from Nigeria, including Boko Haram violence and the Bakassi Peninsula dispute, see this week’s “Nigeria Update.”]

After Azawad Battle, Tuaregs Vow to Regroup while MUJAO Retakes Town.  In the Gao region of northern Mali, fighting that had already killed dozens was ongoing between the secular Tuareg separatist army called the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.) and one of the two al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militias that govern the northern two-thirds of the country.  The Islamist group, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), on November 17th ordered about 300 fighters to head to Gao from Timbuktu in case the M.N.L.A. decided to regroup.  Within a few days, the town of Ménaka, near the border with Niger, had been retaken by MUJAO from the M.N.L.A., according to Ménaka’s mayor, Baay Ag Muhammed, speaking to media from exile in Bamako, Mali’s capital, to the south.  One M.N.L.A. fighter said, “Our goal remains to retake Azawad from the hands of A.Q.I.M. and its allies” (the acronym referring to the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb), adding, “We can fall back, but it’s only to be able to better push forwards after.”  As of November 19th, however, there was still ongoing fighting for Ménaka, and by the next day there were reports of “a real massacre,” with dozens dead.  Among the dead was Bajan Ag Hamato, a local Tuareg legislator, and six of his staff.  In the surely-inflated partisan death tolls as of November 21st, the M.N.L.A. claimed 65 dead MUJAO and A.Q.I.M. fighters and only one M.N.L.A. death, plus 13 injuries, while MUJAO claims it killed more than 100 M.N.L.A. warriors and took 20 prisoner.

Mali Islamists Abduct 7th French Citizen, outside Azawad Territory.  A native of Portugal who is also a citizen of France was abducted on November 20th by one of the two Islamist militias that control the de facto independent Azawad republic in northern Mali, though the kidnapping occurred far from their area of control, in Diéma, in far-southwestern Mali, near the border with Mauritania.  (Other sources say he was grabbed in Nioro, to the north of Diéma, the following day.)  The victim, Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, who is 61, is the seventh French citizen to be abducted by in Mali.  The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has claimed responsibility.

Barotse Rebel General Rejects Clement Sinyinda’s Resignation as Premier.  The commander of the Barotse Liberation Army (B.L.A.), in western Zambia, has rejected the resignation of the separatist Barotse kingdom’s ngambela (prime minister), Clement Wayinyae Sinyinda (reported on last week in this blog).  In an open letter to the Barotse (Lozi) king, Libosi Imwiko II, the commander, Gen. James Mwiya, states, “The Barotseland Army state that Hon. Sinyinda is still the Ngambela of Barotseland, he was chosen by the Citizen of Barotseland not by the Litunga or Indunas and represented Kingdom of Barotseland ....  Therefore the indunas who are chanting his resignation should resign themselves.”  Meanwhile, three organizations—the Barotse National Youth League (B.N.Y.L.), the Barotse Freedom Movement (B.F.M.), and the Movement for the Restoration of the Barotseland Agreement (MOREBA)—have written an open letter to King Liboso Imwiko, warning of the dangers of a power vacuum by writing, “It is a wise saying that ‘an idea whose time has come cannot be stopped.’  Like one of us once said: the Train taking Barotseland to its Freedom has taken off it is either you get on board, get out of the way or you risk being run over.”  Meanwhile, there are rumors and reports that Sinyinda’s disagreement with the king stemmed from the throne’s decision to accept a 42-billion-kwacha “bribe” from the federal government to soften its stand on secession.

Canadian Oil Firm Signs Offshore Deal with Cabinda Government-in-Exile.  An oil exploration firm based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Kilimanjaro Capital, Ltd., signed a deal on November 17th for rights to oil blocks off the coast of the Republic of Angola’s Cabinda exclave.  But Kilimanjaro signed the deal not with the Angolan government—which grants Agip, Total, and Chevron rights to operate those blocks—but with the Republic of Cabinda, a government-in-exile which aims to break Cabinda away from Angola.  During colonial rule by Portugal, Cabinda was a separate colony from the rest of Angola, the two being separated by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s narrow finger to the sea.  An attempt to set up an independent Cabinda when Portugal decolonized in 1975 was squashed by the Angolan rebel movement that became the new national government.  The Cabindan government-in-exile now operates offices in Paris and in Pointe-Noire, just over the border in the Republic of Congo.  Kilimanjaro Capital also has an offshore deal with the Government of Southern Cameroons, an unrecognized state which aims to secede from the Republic of Cameroon.

Puntland Nabs 2 al-Shabaab Rebels, Prompting Retaliatory Killing, Abductions.  Security forces in the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia on November 17th captured two members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militia in Galkayo and recovered a cache of explosives.  One of the two was Mohamed Nuh Aden (nom de guerre: Abu Hafsa), a native of the neighboring unrecognized Republic of Somaliland who is head of the group’s “assassination division” and a former security chief for Ahmed Abdi Godane (a.k.a. Sheikh Moktar Ali Zubeyr), al-Shabaab’s top commander.  The second was Abdirizak Hussein Tahlil (nom de guerre: Ilk’ase), from the de facto independent Galmudug State, to Puntland’s south.  Puntland sources feel that those arrests were what prompted the abduction, two days later, of four Puntlanders and another Somali by a militia to the south of Galkayo in Galmudug-administered territory.  Also on November 19th, a Somali businessman was gunned down and killed outside a mosque in the Puntland-administered northern half of Galkayo.  That killing is also believed by Puntland authorities to be an “al-Shabaab response” to the arrests.

Puntland Militias Ambush, Kill 2 Pastoralists in Disputed Sool Region.  In the Sool region which is in dispute between the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland and the de facto independent Puntland State of Somalia, militias loyal to Puntland this week ambushed and killed two local pastoralists and injured several others.  The incident occurred in the Taleeh district.


[For updates on Serbia, Kosovo, and Vojvodina, including developments in Fatmir Limaj’s war-crimes trial, see this week’s “Kosovo and Serbia Update.”]

Polls Show Catalan Separatists Unlikely to Gain Majority in November 25th Vote.  Opinion polls being published in Spain are indicating that the elections to Catalonia’s parliament on November 25th may leave the separatist party of the Catalan president, Artur Mas, short of the majority needed to hold its planned referendum on independence.  Mas’s currently minority-ruling coalition, Convergència i Unió (CiU) is projected to end up with the same 62 seats, whereas 68 of the 135 seats in the chamber are needed to form a government without platform compromises.  However, should a vote on secession ever be put before the Catalan people, other polls indicate it would pass with 57%.

Russia, Irked by Energy Deal, Wants Moldova to Open Consulate in Transnistria.  The Republic of Moldova’s recently elected president, Nicolae Timofti, this week rejected a proposal from the Russian Federation to open a Moldovan consulate in the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (better known as Transnistria), a wafer-thin sliver of territory along the border with Ukraine which Moldova still claims as its territory but which has been functioning as an unrecognized Russian puppet state since the end of the Cold War.  Timofti says there cannot be normalization with the region until Russia’s military withdraws from it.  The exchange came amid criticism from Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, who has been railing against every move by Moldova, a former Soviet Socialist Republic, to become politically closer to the European Union (E.U.) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Most recently, Moldova has joined the E.U.’s “Third Energy Package” program, which would restrict Russian natural-gas firms’ control over pipelines running from Russia through Moldova to the rest of Europe.

Police Kill 2 Rebels in Shoot-Out in Kabardino-Balkaria.  Two militants were killed on November 17th in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, in southwestern Russia’s North Caucasus region, in an exchange of fire with police in the village of Baksanyonok.  No police casualties were reported.

Bombings in Dagestan Village Kill 3, Wound 9.  A pair of terrorist bombings in the Republic of Dagestan, in southwestern Russia’s predominantly-Muslim North Caucasus region, left two policemen and one civilian dead this week.  The first blast was a car bomb outside a bank in the village of Shamilkala, and the second was timed to explode as police and others arrived to respond to the first.  It was the second that killed the three people.  Nine people were also injured.

Aftermath of this week’s car bomb in Dagestan

Border Policeman Found Shot Dead in South Ossetia.  A border-security officer in the Republic of South Ossetia, a Russian puppet state whose partially recognized independence was secured in a 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, was found dead with a bullet in his head.  Police are investigating.  The officer, Maj. Vladimir Kozayev, was a veteran of the 2008 South Ossetia War.

[For updates on Turkey, including the Kurdish struggle, see this week’s “Kurdistan Update.”]


[For updates on Syria, Iraq, and Iransee this week’s “Kurdistan Update.”]

South Yemen Separatist Rebels Kidnap 3 Soldiers from Military Base.  Separatist fighters in the Republic of Yemen seeking to restore the formerly independent South Yemen on November 23rd kidnapped three members of the Yemeni military.  The abduction occurred in Ad Dali’ province, in south-central Yemen.  The masked rebels apparently broke into military installation and snatched the soldiers from their beds.  The Southern Movement claimed responsibility.


Bodoland Leader Arrested in Assam in Wake of Hindu–Muslim Violence.  In the wake of last week’s resurgence of interethnic violence in India’s far-northeastern Assam state, which killed 11 people (as reported last week in this blog), police have cracked down on leaders of the Bodo ethnic group.  Mono Kumar Brahma, a member of the Bodoland Territorial Council (B.T.C.) was arrested November 17th, and police said they recovered weapons from his home.  His family says the police planted the weapons.  A few days later, on November 20th, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (N.D.F.B.) split into rival factions over the crisis, which has derailed negotiations to release the imprisoned N.D.F.B. leader Ranjan Daimary, who was scheduled to participate in peace talks next month.  Daimary was arrested in Bangladesh in 2009 in connection with a series of terrorist bombings the year before.

Mono Kumar Brahma on his perp walk
2 ULFA Rebels Killed in Skirmishes in Assam Hill Country.  Meanwhile, in the village of Parabari, in Assam’s Kamrup district, a skirmish with security forces killed a militant from the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), and another ULFA rebel was killed November 20th in the Thanti Hills area of the state’s Goalpara district, near the border with Meghalaya state.  Later, on November 22nd, a high-profile ULFA member named Muhim Gogoi (a.k.a. Muhim Asomsurrendered to the army in the Tinsukia district.  He had been the personal bodyguard of Paresh Baruah (a.k.a. Paresh Asom), ULFA’s commander-in-chief.

Police in Assam trying to keep the peace
Kuki Bandh Paralyzes Imphal, Brings India to Negotiating Table; Nagas Cite Intimidation.  In Manipur, in far-northeastern India, a bandh, or general strike or “blockade,” called by the Kuki State Demand Committee (K.S.D.C.), which wants a separate state within India for the Kuki ethnic group, paralyzed the state capital, Imphal, leading to panic buying.  The United Naga Council (U.N.C.) reported that members of Manipur’s Naga ethnic minority were being subjected to intimidation in order to bring about Naga support for the bandh.  On November 22nd, the K.S.D.C. suspended the bandh after the government agreed to a political dialogue.

12 Sikh Separatists Given Prison Terms for 1987 Bank Heist in Punjab.  A special terrorism court in India sentenced 12 Sikh bank robbers to 10 years in prison each on November 20th.  The 12 were members of the Khalistan Commando Force (K.C.F.) who robbed a branch of the Punjab National Bank in 1987 in one of the country’s heftiest bank heists ever.  The robbery was intended to help purchase weapons for what was then an active insurgency to create a separate Sikh republic, to be called Khalistan, in what is now India’s Punjab state.

Andhra Pradesh Congress M.P.s Mull No-Confidence Vote over Telangana Issue.  Members of Andhra Pradesh’s parliament, in southern India, who represent the Telugu-dominated region of the state, were threatening this week to abstain from votes and even initiate a no-confidence motion in the parliamentary session beginning November 22nd, in order to push for the creation of a separate Telugu state, to be called Telangana.  The M.P.s are from the Indian National Congress (I.N.C.), which is the ruling party of both Andhra Pradesh and India as a whole.


Obama, on State Visit, Urges Burma to Enfranchise Rohingyas; Ethnic Rebels Freed.  During a state visit to Burma on November 20th, the United States president, Barack Obamaurged the authoritarian military junta that rules the country as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to extend citizenship to the 800,000 predominantly-Muslim Rohingya people in the west of the country whose suffering at the hands of Buddhist mobs this summer and fall have turned opinion against the human-rights situation in the country.  On the day of his visit—on which he was accompanied by his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton—reports were emerging of another Rohingya village burned to the ground by Buddhists in Rakhine (a.k.a. Arakan) state.  Afterwards, an Obama aid told media that the junta had expressed a commitment to “addressing the issue of citizenship for the Rohingya.”  Meanwhile, the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi angered many, not least the government of Bangladesh, by labeling the Rohingya conflict “an international tragedy”—which implies that the Rohingya are not Burmese and therefore not Burma’s problem.  A couple days before Obama’s visit, the junta announced that 45 political prisoners would be released, including three members of the Kachin Independence Organization (K.I.O.) and two members of the Karen National Union (K.N.U.).

Okay, gals, get a room, willya.  There are photographers here.
5 More Pro-Tibetan Self-Immolations Include British Buddhist Monk in France.  Amid an acceleration of self-immolations by Tibetans in protest over Communist China’s brutal rule in Tibet, a taxi driver who was the mother of two children became the latest suicide in this wave of burnings on November 17th when she set herself on fire and died in Tongren County in a Tibetan region of China’s Qinghai province, which has become the epicenter of the recent self-immolations.  Her name was Chagmo Kyi, according to human-rights groups.  The same day, one Sangdag Tsering, aged 24, immolated himself in front of a government building in Qinghai’s Zeku County and later died.  Meanwhile, a citizen of the United Kingdom has become the first Westerner to choose self-immolation as a form of protest against Chinese rule in Tibet.  The Briton, who was born David Alain but became known as Tonden when he converted to Tibetan Buddhism, died from immolation on November 15th at a small Buddhist monastery near Labastide-St.-George, in south-central France.  He was 38 years old.  On November 19th, the burned body of a 25-year-old Tibetan herder was found in the home of his brother, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, in Qinghai province’s Xunhua County, and the following day Tsering Dongdri (also spelled Dhondup), a 35-year-old farmer, burned himself to death in Xiahe County, in Gansu province.

David Alain, a.k.a. Tonden, immolated himself for Tibetan freedom.
South Thailand Muslims Denounce Imam’s Assassination; 2 Dead in Train Ambush.  Three people were killed and at least 15 injured on November 18th as suspected Muslim separatists ambushed a train in southern Thailand’s Narathiwat province.  Meanwhile, Muslim spiritual leaders have been denouncing the assassination in Yala province on November 14th of a moderate ethnic-Malay imam (as reported last week in this blog).  A former member of Runda Kumpulan Kecil (R.K.K.) who had turned over a new leaf to embrace peace, he was killed, it is believed, by R.K.K. members angry at his betrayal of their cause and methods.  The imam, 50-year-old Abdullateh Todir, also may have been targeted, police suggested, because he collaborated with police in bringing unrepentant insurgents to justice.  R.K.K. has been fighting for decades to establish an ethnic-Malay Muslim state in the south of Thailand, an authoritarian Buddhist monarchy.

Aftermath of the train ambush in southern Thailand

French Polynesian President Mulls Boycotting Elections over Sarkozy’s Unfair Reforms.  The separatist-minded president of French Polynesia, Oscar Temaru, said this week that he is not ruling out calling for a boycott of next year’s territorial elections.  Temaru claims that the new rules instituted by France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy (since succeeded by François Hollande), are designed to keep Temaru’s party, Tavini Huiraatira—whose coalition in the deeply divided territorial assembly, is quite vulnerable—out of power.

Indonesia Up in Arms over Plans to Make Rebel Insignia New Aceh Flag.  The Republic of Indonesia’s military commander in Aceh, on the northwestern tip of Sumatra, lodged objections on November 22nd to proposals to make the flag of the now-disarmed separatist militia the province’s new flag.  The proposal, by the autonomous, Islamist government of the province, runs counter to a 2007 law which bans insignia from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), or anything resembling them, from official seals or emblems, according to the commander, Maj.-Gen. Zahari Siregar.  The Acehnese legislature, however, is very near approving the new flag.

Free Aceh Movement rebels with their (now banned) flag

Danish–Canadian Dispute over Island near Greenland Complicated by Principality Claim.  The governments of the Kingdom of Denmark and Canada are set to sit down in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, next week to discuss the case of Hans Island, a half-square-mile large rock between Greenland (which is Danish territory) and Ellesmere Island, which is part of Canada’s Nunavut territory.  But the island is also claimed by the self-described Government of Tartupaluk (Tartupaluk being the Inuktitut/Greenlandic name for the island).  That self-proclaimed statelet is the brainchild of Calvan van Ulft, a student at Ottawa’s Carleton University who declared the islet free for the taking in 2006 since it was in dispute (demonstrating a deep misunderstanding of international law), and crowned himself prince.  Prince Calvan, who seems to have no connection to actual indigenous groups, is not invited to the nation-to-nation talks.  At that time, he proclaimed Tartupaluk the world’s 204th sovereign state—though at that point there were 193.

Hans Island, a.k.a. the Principality of Tartupaluk
British Columbia First Nations Activists Chase Oil-Pipeline Surveyors Off Territory.  See today’s full article on this development.

Quebec’s Parliament Will Keep Maple Leaf in Chamber, after Liberals Defy P.Q.  In Quebec’s legislature, the Liberal Party took a position against the separatist Parti Québécois (P.Q.) and its narrow coalition government, thus clinching the defeat on November 21st of a proposal that would have ordered the removal of Canada’s national Maple Leaf flag from the parliament.  Separatists point out that the flag, which was first designed in 1965, was only introduced into the chamber for the first time in 1985 and, moreover, was removed during the P.Q.’s dominance from 1994 to 2003.

Governor Brownback Says Kansas Will Remain in United States.  The Republican governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, told a newspaper interviewer on November 15th that, despite a petition with thousands of signatures on the White House’s “We the People” petition website, Kansas would not be seceding from the United States.  “Kansas,” Brownback said, “is and will always remain a state in the United States of America.”

This boring, unimaginative flag is not likely to become a national flag any time soon.
White Supremacists Hop on State-Secession Bandwagon, Dream of “White Republic.”  The Southern Poverty Law Center (S.P.L.C.), a nonprofit organization which has been monitoring hate groups in the United States since the civil-rights era, reported this week that the wave of online petitions to secede from the U.S. (reported on earlier in this blog) has been embraced especially enthusiastically by the white-supremacist right-wing fringe.  Stormfront, a website run by a former Ku Klux Klan leader named Don (wait for it) Black, featured message threads on the petitions with comments such as this one from “MattwhiteAmerica”: “We would be better off using all of our strength to secede 80% white states.  A state like Texas, [Louisiana], [Mississippi], [Alabama], [California] etc. are going to need a good old fashion [sic] war to remove the non-whites.  ...  I’m saying this as most non-whites are socialists and takers.  We won’t get a good constitution without a solid white majority.  We need to form a white republic.”

Houston Joins El Paso, Austin in Seeking to Stay in U.S. If Texas Secedes.  While hundreds of thousands of Texans sign a petition on a White House website to allow Texas to secede from the United States, Houston has joined two other Texan cities—El Paso and Austin—in being the subject of a separate petition to remain in the union in the case of a Texan divorce from the U.S.  The Houston petition reads, “We, the city of Houston, think those asking for secession of the state of Texas are mentally deficient and do not want them representing us.  We would like more education in our state to eradicate their disease.  Thank you.  Please help us with these people.”  The El Paso petition is similarly caustic, reading, in part, “El Paso has little in common with the rest of Texas.  Its demographics are more similar to New Mexico.  El Paso is also proud to be part of the United States and wants no part of a state whom [sic] publicly contemplates secession from our great nation.”  Meanwhile, Josh Moon, a newspaper columnist in Alabama echoed the thoughts of many liberal Americans in supporting various secession movements, writing (in this case about the case of Texas), “We’ll start building a fence around that state (if we tell them it’s to protect them from us, we could probably get them to build the fence themselves), and we’ll give every person who signed one of these petitions free transportation.  That car/bus ride will be the last federal government resource devoted to any of them.  We put them all in there, call it something like Moronistan, slam the door behind them, and then live significantly less-stupid lives forever and ever.”  Meanwhile, a Republican politician from Arlington, Larry Scott Kilgore, is changing his name legally to Larry SECEDE Kilgore (sic; capitals are part of the new name) in preparation for his run for governor in 2014 with the platform, “Secession!  All other issues can be dealt with later.”

Larry Kilgore.  At least he spelled it right.
Neal Gamm, Self-Styled Governor of Western Illinois’s “Forgottonia,” Dies at 65.  Illinoisans this week are mourning Neal Gamm, an early participant in the movement to create a state out of 14 counties in western Illinois, to be called Forgottonia.  At the time, Gamm, who died November 16th in Ipava, Illinois, aged 65, was a theater student at Western Illinois University, in the Illinois–Iowa “Quad Cities” region.  Forgottonia was the brainchild of Frank “Pappy” Horn and his son Jack Horn, who in 1971 set up Gamm as Forgottonia’s “governor,” with a “governor’s mansion” in an empty storefront in the village of Fandon.  The publicity stunt was designed to call attention to the region’s neglected infrastucture.  But as Gamm told a reporter in 2010, the ultimate plans extended beyond mere statehood: “Secede from the Union, declare war and surrender—all a part of a political satire designed to draw desperately needed attention to a section of small-town America.”


World Court Gives Colombia San Andrés Isles but Expands Nicaragua Sea Boundary.  The International Court of Justice (I.C.J.) in the Hague, in the Netherlands, ruled on November 19th on the Republic of Nicaragua’s territorial claims against the Republic of Colombia for the San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina island groups in the southwestern Caribbean.  The I.C.J. recognized and affirmed Colombia’s long-standing occupation and administration of the territory, but granted Nicaragua extended offshore rights in surrounding waters, including lucrative energy reserves.  But Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, “emphatically rejects,” in his words, the redrawing of the marine boundary and would not “rule out any recourse or mechanism provided by international law to defend our rights.”  The islands are the homeland of the Raizal, an Afro-Caribbean people culturally distinct from the mainstream Spanish-speaking populations of Colombia and Nicaragua, though the Colombian government has intentionally diluted that population through a program of settlement by Latinos.  There are several Raizal separatist organizations in the archipelago.

Key Defection Enables Curaçao Separatists to Scrape Together Coalition Government.  In the Country of Curaçao, the Partido Antiá Restrukturá (PAR, or Party for the Restructured Antilles) was not invited this week to join in an attempt to form a coalition government after the October 20th elections (reported on at the time in this blog) in which Pueblo Soberano (P.S., or Sovereign People’s Party), which supports secession from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, won with a scant 23% plurality, leaving it with the difficult task of forming a coalition out of the colony’s fragmented political landscape.  But one PAR member, Glenn Sulvaran, defected to the coalition-building effort, enabling the P.S. to form a government with the help of two other parties: the P.N.P. (Partido Nashonal di Pueblo, or National People’s Party) and PAIS (Partido pa Adelanto I Inovashon Soshal).

[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.]

Kurdistan Update, 18-24 November 2012


Turkish Military Reports 24 Kurdish Rebels Captured in 2-Day Operation.  The Turkish military announced on November 16th that operations in southeastern Turkey’s Kurdistan region over the previous two days had captured 24 fighters from the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.).  Most of the operations took place in Tunceli province.  Then, on November 18th, Turkey’s military announced that five Turkish soldiers had been killed in a battle with the P.K.K. in Hakkari province.  It said one Turk was wounded.  Four P.K.K. rebels were killed, and four were taken prisoner.

Öcalan Calls End to Kurdish Prisoners’ Hunger Strike in Turkey.  A hunger strike by over 700 Kurds in Turkey’s prisons—joined by several prominent Kurdish politicians—ended on November 18th after Abdullah Öcalan, the long-imprisoned founder of the banned, separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), held talks with Turkish intelligence officials and called an end to the action.  Öcalan’s announcement was released by his brother on November 17th.


Soldiers, Kurds Skirmish in Turkmen Town in Northern Iraq.  In a Turkmen-dominated town in a disputed, Kurdish-dominated region of northern Iraq which lies just outside the Kurdistan Autonomous Regiona battle broke out between Iraqi soldiers and armed Kurds on November 16th, leaving two people dead and 10 injured.  The incident, in Tuz Khormato, near Kirkuk, began when troops attempted to search the home of a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (P.U.K.), the political party headed by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani.  One of the member’s bodyguards threw a grenade, leading to a short skirmish.  Within days, both the Iraqi military sent tanks and armored personnel carriers to reinforce their control over the area, and the Kurdish peshmerga were also mustering more forces for a possible showdown.

Turkmens in Tuz Khormato.  But Kurds and Shiites want to rule the town too.

Syrian Kurds Reject U.S. Urging to Join Rebel Umbrella Group as Killing Continues.  The spokeswoman for the United States’ Department of State, Victoria Nuland, said this week that Barack Obama’s administration is urging that Kurds be included in the newly coalesced armed opposition in Syria, called the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.  “There are a number of reports from inside Syria of some of the liberated areas where Kurdish populations and Sunni populations are working well together,” she said (obviously meaning to say Sunni Arab populations, since most Kurds are Sunnis), adding, “That’s certainly the direction that we encourage.”  Meanwhile, though, violence between predominantly Sunni Arab rebels and the Kurdish-run People’s Defense Units (Y.P.G.) (reported on last week in this blogcontinued in the town of Ra’s al-’Ayn (called Serêkanî in Kurdish), in Syria’s now-mostly-Kurdish-controlled Hasakah province in the far northwest, where rebels from the militias Jabhat al-Nusra and Ghurba’ al-Sham attacked a Y.P.G. checkpoint, leaving at least 18 dead, possibly many more.  Some blame the violence on jihadist elements that have infiltrated the Syrian opposition.  There were also reports that the president of the Kurdish council in Ra’s al-’Ayn, Abed Khalil, had been assassinated by rebel snipers.  And on November 20th, Saleh Muslim, the head of the Syria’s Kurdish-run Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.), which is suspected of links to Turkey’s banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), said that his group had not been invited to join the new group and would not join it.  He called the new Coalition a proxy group for the governments of Turkey and Qatar.  The Coalition has already been recognized by the French Republic, the United Kingdom, and others as the legitimate government of Syria.  Abdulbaset Sieda , the head of the Syrian National Council (S.N.C.), speaking to media in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, said that Jabhat al-Nusra, despite its claims, was not part of the Free Syrian Army (F.S.A.), and he disavowed S.N.C. responsibility for anti-Kurdish violence, but he said Kurds must choose sides in the Syrian civil war.

A P.Y.D. patrol in Syria

Rights Activists Call for General Strike over Plight of Kurds on Iran’s Death Row.  Human-rights activists in East Kurdistan, i.e. the portion of the Kurdish homeland which lies within Iranare calling for a public protest over death sentences passed on 27 Kurds being held in Iranian prisons.  A general strike and boycott of schools and other institutions is to start November 17th.  Most of the condemned prisoners are in the city of Saghez, in Iranian Kurdistan.  Meanwhile, exile rights groups announced this week that Zainab Bayazidi, a Kurdish political prisoner and women’s-rights activist, had been released on November 20th from a prison in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province.  Bayazidi was first arrested in 2008.

[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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