Friday, January 15, 2016

Separatist Updates for January 1-15, 2016: New Catalan President, Oregon Militia Standoff, Civil War in Turkey


After Coalition Deal, New Catalan President Vows Independence within 18 Months.  President Artur Mas of Catalonia lost his chance to form a fragile coalition government for his autonomous region on January 3rd when the small, left-wing Popular Unity Candidacy (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular, or C.U.P.) party refused to back him.  On January 9th, Mas announced he was stepping aside as party leader and as president.  Late the following night, just before a midnight deadline, Mas’s party and the C.U.P. reached a deal and elected, in a 70-63 vote, Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó as the new president of Catalonia.  Puigdemont, age 53, was mayor of the town of Girona and a former journalist.  In his acceptance speech, he echoed a famous quote from a Catalan martyr of the Spanish Civil War, saying, “The invaders will be expelled from Catalonia.”  He promised independence from Spain within 18 months.  (Catalonia is listed in my article last month on “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2016.”)


Serbian Premier, Bosnian Serb President Defy Bosnian Court on “Republic Day.”  The unspoken agreement by which leaders in the Republic of Serbia keep at political arm’s length their more virulently nationalist ethnic kindred in the separatist Republika Srpska in neighboring Bosnia & Herzegovina deteriorated significantly on January 9th as Serbia’s prime minister, Aleksandar Vučić, attended celebrations in the Srpska capital, Banja Luka, for “Republic Day,” marking the republic’s declaration of independence in 1992 from Bosnia amidst the chaos of the Wars of Yugoslav Succession.  Moderates in Serbia railed against this symbolic return to revanchist nationalism.  In addition, Republika Srpska’s president, Milorad Dodik, attended in defiance of a Bosnian federal court ruling that the celebration day was discriminatory against Muslim Bosniak and Catholic Croat fellow citizens because it falls on a holy day in the calendar of the Eastern Orthodox faith, which most Serbs follow.  Dodik has frequently spoken in favor of his republic’s secession from Bosnia and reunification with Serbia and has even suggested a referendum be held by April.  (Republika Srpska is listed in my article last month on “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2016.”)

Serbian Patriarch Irinej joined Bosnian Serb and Serbian leaders
Aleksandar Vučić and Milorad Dudik in Banja Luka on Republic Day.

Bosnians Divided over Arrests of Bosniaks Accused of Anti-Serb War Crimes.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, federal police on January 4th arrested three Bosniaks (Muslim Slavs) accused of war crimes against Serbs during the Bosnian War.  The alleged attack occurred in 1992 in Zalazje, not far from Srebrenica, site of the infamous massacre of Bosniaks by Serbs that same year.  The Serb mayor of Srebrenica, Miloš Milovanović, praised the arrests but pointed out that far too few Bosniaks have been arrested for war crimes and none have been punished.  But pro-Bosniak organizations like the Mothers of Srebrenica and Žepa Enclaves criticized the arrests, saying that “these arrests will be used by politicians to minimise and justify the genocide committed in Srebrenica.”

Kosovars Riot over Government Concessions to Serbia, Montenegro.  Rioting broke out in Pristina, the capital of the partially-recognized Republic of Kosovo, on January 9th.  A fire was started in a government building, and police used tear gas and water cannons against protestors hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails.  Among 8,000 or so protestors, dozens (police said two), as well as two journalists and 10 police, were injured.  The demonstrators were demanding that the Kosovar government step down on the argument that its recent deals with Serbia and Montenegro were unconstitutional.  (Serbia still regards Kosovo as a rebel province.)  One ethnic-Serb legislator in Kosovo said, after the rioting, that police had done nothing while protestors urinated in an Orthodox church.  Among the parties organizing the demonstration was Vetevendosjë, a nationalist party which wants to merge Kosovo into a “Greater Albania.”  That party particularly objected to agreements which grant more local autonomy to majority-Serb municipalities in North Kosovo.

The rioting in Pristina this month

Alsatians Sidelined, Normans Reunified as Redrawn French Regions Take Effect.  As of January 1st, France’s 22 régions (administrative regions) have been reduced to 13 in a wholesale streamlining that reveals some of the country’s anxieties over regional identities.  Though the French government is more centralized than those of other European Union (E.U.) states, and though the smaller départements (all 101 of them, including overseas ones) are a much more powerful level of local government, the régions still have symbolic significance, not least because some of the local nationalism that challenge French nationalism, such as those in Brittany, Corsica, Alsace, Occitania, Savoy, Normandy, and French Catalonia, have a strong stake in how régions are demarcated.  Some of the new changes please regionalists, such as the merger of Upper Normandy and Lower Normandy into Normandy.  Their very bifurcation was a vestige of the time when France worried that the Nordic-derived Norman French were susceptible to Nazi Germany’s “Aryan” ideology.  (The fears were mostly unfounded.)  Alsace and its German-speaking population, which are also a source of strong regional feeling, are now merged with Champagne–Ardennes.  Meanwhile, the far less regional-minded residents of Picardy and Franch-Comté found their entities absorbed into mergers with Nord–Pas-de-Calais and Burgundy, respectively.  Two régions with long histories of resistance to French rule were able to keep their borders: Brittany, with its often nationalistic Celtic population, and the large Mediterranean island of Corsica.  Here, the central government seems to gamble that dividing or subsuming those entities would stoke, rather than tamp down, regionalist sentiment.  In Corsica, at least, it seems to have made no difference: separatists took power there in a recent election in which most of the rest of the south of France tilted heavily toward the neo-fascist National Front party.

ISIS Takes Credit for Dagestan Fortress Attack on Russian Agents.  The Islamic State terrorist group (also known as ISIS, for Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) claimed responsibility early this month for a December 29th, 2015, attack in Derbent, in southwestern Russia’s Republic of Dagestan.  The attack, on the ancient Naryn-Kala fortress that is a busy tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, killed an officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service (F.S.B.) (successor to the feared K.G.B.) and wounded eleven other people.  Sources in Russia identify the three attackers as headed by one Abutdin Khanmagomedov of the Yuzhnaya gang, which has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.  In recent months, the Islamic State has been recruiting heavily in the predominantly-Muslim North Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya and the mostly lawless Dagestan republic, edging out another jihadist “caliphate” group, the Caucasus Emirate.  ISIS has even claimed that it has “annexed” Dagestan.


Turkey’s War with Kurds Kills Hundreds; Erdoğan Praises Hitler, Vows Devastation.  The situation in Turkey’s vast Kurdish region tipped more and more into open wide-scale civil war this month, with hundreds killed in fighting between government and Kurdish forces.  On January 1st, the army reported that two police, one soldier, and 12 militants from the armed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (P.K.K.) had died in fighting in Cizre district over the previous 48 hours.  That incident began when police dismantling a P.K.K. roadblock were attacked by rockets.  On January 2nd, Turkey’s military announced that 179 P.K.K. militants in Cizre, 27 in the Silopi district, and 55 Diyarbakir province’s Sur district—nearly 300 in all—had been killed in recent fighting, and that a school supposedly being used as a rebel training center was destroyed.  At least one civilian was killed and another wounded in a Turkish mortar attack on a home in Diyarkbakir on January 3rd, while on the same day a civilian was shot outside his home, and a soldier was killed by a P.K.K. bomb.  On January 10th, according to Turkish sources, 12 P.K.K. rebels were killed in a raid in Van province, but the Firat News Agency (A.N.F.), which is pro-Kurdish, said it was a raid on a civilian home and that the 12 dead were massacred civilians.  One police officer was killed in the operation.  Authorities said a total of 32 P.K.K. fighters were killed over that weekend.  A January 13th P.K.K. attack on a police station near Diyarbakir with bombs and long-range missiles killed six.  On January 5th, the military reported that 14 militants had been killed the day before in and around Sur, Cizre, and Silopi.  The statement added that 296 rebels had been killed since December 14th, when major operations began.  Over 100,000 people have been displaced.  Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who praised Nazi Germany in a speech this month, describes the ongoing operation in scorched-earth terms: “You will be annihilated in those houses, those buildings, those ditches which you have dug,” he said.  “Our security forces will continue this fight until it has been completely cleansed and a peaceful atmosphere established.”  Russia has criticized Turkish military actions in Kurdistan, prompting this reply from the Turkish foreign ministry: “For a country whose record on democracy, the rule of law, and human rights is very well known by everyone, which has caused indignation with its acts in neighboring countries such as Ukraine and Georgia and by violating international law, which has provided political and military support to crimes against humanity by the bloody-handed dictator in Syria, and which actively launched campaigns leading to the death of hundreds of civilians, giving a human rights lecture to others is only an example of dark humour.”  (Kurdistan is listed in my article last month on “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2016.”)

Turkey Releases Iraqi Vice Reporter Held on Terrorism Charges.  On January 5th, Vice magazine reported that a journalist in its employ, 25-year-old Mohammed Rasool, had been released from prison in Turkey after 131 days.  Rasool, who has also worked for the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, had been arrested in Diyarbakir, the notional capital of Turkish Kurdistan, and charged with “aiding a terrorist organization,” which Rasool, a citizen of Iraq, denies.  He is awaiting trial and may not leave the country.

Abkhazia Joins Russian Sanctions against Turkey.  The Republic of Abkhazia announced this month that it would be joining Russia in its program of economic and political sanctions against Turkey.  Abkhazia, which seceded from Georgia after the end of Communism, is recognized as independent only by Russia, its sponsor, and a handful of other countries.  Most of the world regards it as part of Georgia’s territory.

Ethnic Armenians, Angry over Turkish Base, Threaten Javakhk Secession from Georgia.  An association of diaspora Armenians from Georgia issued a formal statement this month, with strong pro-Kremlin overtones, calling on the Georgian government to block a plans by Turkey to establish a military base in Georgian territory.  The statement, from the Javakhk Diaspora of Russia, added that if the base goes ahead, ethnic Armenians in Georgia should gather signatures for a petition to allow Javakhk—an ethnic-Armenian district in Georgia abutting Turkey and Armenia—to secede from Georgia.  Armenia in recent years has become a close ally of Russia, while Georgia and Turkey remain aligned with the West.

Some Armenians’ vision of a “Greater Armenia”

South Ossetia Prosecutor-General Killed by Drunk Driver.  The prosecutor-general of the Republic of South Ossetia was killed in the street in Tskhinvali, the capital, police said on January 9th.  Merab Chigoyev died instantly when he was struck down by a drunk driver.  It is being ruled an accident.


Saudi Execution of Shiite Cleric Raises Sectarian Tensions throughout Middle East.  Tensions between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims across the Middle East flared after the government in Saudi Arabia executed a revered Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, on January 2nd.  Nimr was a focus for Saudi Arabia’s restive Shiite minority, who are a majority in his native Eastern Province, the country’s largest.  He was arrested in 2012 after being shot in a Shiite uprising against the House of Saud’s brutally repressive regime, which adheres to, and imposes on all, an archaic, extremist form of Sunni Islam.  After years of torture, hunger strike, and a death sentence, Nimr was executed along with 46 others for crimes such as “disobedience” and inciting foreign meddling (presumably by Iran).  International response was swift, with Iran cutting off diplomatic relations and officially inciting a mob to storm the Saudi embassy in Teheran (a crude tool of Iranian foreign policy familiar to those who remember the hostage crisis of 1979-81).  Already, Iran and Saudi Arabia are in fierce competition as local superpowers in a Middle East being remade in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions, with Yemen, Syria, and Iraq being torn by Shi’a-vs.-Sunni sectarian fighting and other areas, such as Bahrain, Lebanon, eastern and southwestern Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan’s Hazarajat region, and Iran’s Balochistan region being perpetually in danger of boiling over.  There is occasional talk of secession of Saudi Arabia’s majority-Shi’a Eastern Province, but since it accounts for the country’s entire Persian Gulf coast, the Sauds will do anything to prevent that.

Yemenis at the Saudi embassy in Sanaa protest the execution of Nimr al-Nimr.

Iraq Accuses Peshmerga of Using Trenches to Demarcate a Larger Kurdistan.  As a multi-sided war continues to rage in Iraq and Syria among Kurds, government forces, the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS), and foreign powers, the chairman of the defense committee in Iraq’s parliament claimed that trenches that the Kurdish Peshmerga are digging in northern Iraq are not just defenses against the Islamic State but are also being used as a flag-planting exercise to consolidate Kurdish sovereignty over coveted areas outside the relatively small Kurdistan Autonomous Region.  “The Kurdistan region uses its defense against I.S. as a justification to dig the trenches,” said the chairman, Saad Yosif al-Muttalibi.  “We don’t think this is to defend against I.S.  We think this is to separate Kurdistan from Iraq and it’s an attempt by Massoud Barzani [the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government] to declare Kurdish independence.”  Disputes over the trenches have at times flared up between Peshmerga and government-aligned Arab Shiite fighters near the town of Tuz Khurmatu.  (Kurdistan is listed in my article last month on “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2016.”)


Ethiopia Scraps Capital Expansion Plans That Sparked December Oromo Uprising.  Activists from the marginalized Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, won a victory on January 13th when the central government announced it was scrapping plans for an expansion of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromo farming areas.  In December, the expansion plans led to an eruption of protests and a government crackdown.  The government claims between 75 and 80 Oromos were killed in the unrest, while human-rights advocates say it was closer to 122, with “more than 4,500” put into “concentration camps” and 800 missing and unaccounted for.  The United States and other Western governments are pressing for Ethiopia to release Oromos arrested in the aftermath, including journalists.

If the oppressed Oromo people seceded from Ethiopia, there wouldn’t be much left.

Islamic State Suicide Attack in Western Libya Kills 60.  At least 60 police were killed and as many as 200 others injured on January 7th when a suicide bomber driving a truck filled with explosives hit a police facility in Zliten, in western Libya.  An affiliate of the Islamic State calling itself I.S. Vilayat Barqa, claimed responsibility.  Barqa is the Arabic name for Cyrenaica, Libya’s eastern region, where I.S. forces are concentrated.

Tuareg–Toubou Violence Erupts in Southern Libya.  Violence erupted in Obari, in southern Libya, on January 10th between members of the Tuareg and Toubou ethnic groups.  Four were killed and five wounded in the fighting, said to have begun with a Toubou raid on the city, which is majority Tuareg.  300 people have been killed in violence between the two ethnic groups since September 2014.

Thousands of Berbers Protest New Algerian Constitution’s Language Policy.  In Algeria, thousands of members of the Berber (a.k.a. Amazigh) minority marched in the streets of Tizi Ouzou, the notional capital of their Kabylia region, on January 12th (the Berber new year) to protest changes to the constitution that they feel do not go far enough in making the Berber language, Tamazight, official.  It has been upgraded from a “national language” to an “official language,” but a spokesman for the Kabylia Self-Determination Movement (M.A.K.) explained, “With this new constitution, they are planning to say that Tamazight, the language of North Africans, is an official language but Arabic is even more official.”  More concretely, Berbers object to the constitution’s stipulation that only Arabic-speaking Muslims are eligible for public office.

Somaliland Forces Attack Khatumo State Military Base.  Media in the self-declared but unrecognized Republic of Somaliland reported on January 14th that Somaliland troops had attacked a military base in the nebulous, on-again-off-again Khatumo State, a rebel entity whose territory straddles the disputed border between Somaliland and the de facto self-governing Puntland State of Somalia.  Somaliland’s military is trying to subdue the area so that voting can be held there for upcoming national (Somaliland) elections.  The skirmish occurred near the town of Sahdheer, according to Khatumo’s deputy interior minister, Abshir Abdulaziz.

MASSOB Leader Announces, Then Scraps, Plans for Biafra Elections.  In Nigeria, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, a leader in the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), announced in early January that an election will be held February 22nd—after a three-day period of fasting and prayer—to elect a government for the proposed Republic of Biafra.  The polls were to be administered by the newly appointed chairman of the Biafra Independence National Election Commission (B-INEC), the Rev. Father Samuel Aniebonam, a Catholic priest.  Uwazuruike said that all of the electoral officers would be “men and women of God” like Father Aniebonam.  “Our election,” he said, “will not be like Nigeria’s election, it will be a transparent one.  In Biafra, there won’t be electoral fraud.  The tenure of the elected Regional Governor or Minister would be four years and nine months.  There shall be no second tenure.”  But only members of MASSOB or of its new parent organization, the Biafra Independence Movement (B.I.M.), will be allowed to vote in the elections.  Then, on January 11th, Uwazuruike announced that the election would be postponed indefinitely, to allow for more consultation.  (Biafra is listed in my article last month on “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2016.”)

Nnamdi and Uchechi Kanu, in happier times
Ailing and a New Father, Political Prisoner Kanu’s Fate Is Focus of Political Pressure.  The underground Biafra Radio news outlet reported on January 13th that an as-yet-anonymous pro-Biafra activist was bringing suit against Nigeria’s central government in New York the following day to press for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the imprisoned leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) organization.  Meanwhile, Kanu’s wife, Uchechi Kanu, gave birth on January 5th to a healthy baby boy, named Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.  Mrs. Kanu calls her husband “a prisoner of conscience.”  On January 6th, a group called Campaign for Democracy South East Zone gave the Nigerian government seven days to release Kanu, along with two other political prisoners: the former president Goodluck Jonathan’s national-security advisor, Col. Sambo Dasuki, and Chief Olisah Metuh.  Meanwhile, Kanu’s brother, Prince Kanu, said that the new father was sick and was being denied medical care.

Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the world’s newest Igbo freedom-fighter
Igbo Leader Claims Niger Delta Minorities Back Biafra Independence.  Amid growing friction in Nigeria between the large Igbo ethnic group, many of whom want an independent Republic of Biafra, and smaller peoples such as the Ogoni of the Niger Delta region, one Igbo leader says Niger Delta people are not Biafra’s enemies.  Chief Solomon Chukwu, of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), told the Vanguard newspaper in an interview published January 4th, “During the war [he means the Biafra War of 1967-70], people said the Niger Delta denied Biafra.  It is not true.  ... People like Ojukwu’s second in command, Gen. Philip Effiong, fought for Biafra till the end.  My father and many strong men of Niger Delta also fought for Biafra.  ...  Today, they still support Biafra.  ...  Everybody was saying Biafra is for Ndigbo and South East, but today the story has changed, the entire people of Niger Delta have realised the need to actualize Biafra. ...  Today, people from all over the former Eastern region and Niger Delta now attend MASSOB meetings.  Recently, we were in Warri, Delta State, where the people received us with a rousing welcome.  They were jubilating that this time, there will be no dichotomy again.  ...  The former Eastern region and Niger Delta are working in unison to actualize an independent Biafra.”

Ogoni Give Nigeria 30-Day Deadline on Environmental Cleanup.  A pro-autonomy group in southern Nigeria, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), on January 4th gave the Nigerian federal government a 30-day deadline to clean up oil-industry-related pollution in their territory as mandated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  MOSOP’s president, Legborsi Pyagbara, said if the deadline passed without action, then “we will take up series of non-violent measures to press down our message.”  Meanwhile, a federal court in Lagos on January 14th summoned a former rebel leader from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).  The leader, named Government [sic] Ekpemupolo, a.k.a. Tompolo, was active in the 2000s.  He is now a wealthy oil tycoon and is wanted on corruption charges.  Meanwhile, a lawyer for the MEND activist Charles Okah, brother of MEND’s leader, Henry Okah, says that his client is being held in solitary confinement in Abuja’s Kuje prison because he blew the whistle on abuses within the prison.  He is serving a sentence for a deadly 2010 bombing.

Kabila Frees Jailed “Kongo Kingdom” Militants in Reconciliation Move.  President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.) marked the new year by commuting the life sentences of nine militants from the group Bundu Dia Kongo (B.D.K.).  The nine were arrested in 2009 after a battle with police whose death toll was officially 27 but, according to some, as high as 100.  B.D.K., whose name means Kingdom of Kongo, wants to restore the monarchy that predated European colonists in an area that now includes parts of Gabon, Angola, and coastal areas of both the D.R.C. and the neighboring Republic of the Congo.  Kabila said the announcement was part of a new project of “national unity” for the chronically war-torn country.

Kenyan Police Recover Weapons Caches from Al-Shabaab, Mombasa Separatists.  Police in Kenya announced on January 5th that a series of arrests and raids on militant safe houses in the coastal region included the recovery of a rifle that was last seen being stripped from the body of a killed navy officer in February 2014 after an attack by the banned Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.), which seeks a separate state for the predominantly-Muslim areas of Kenya’s southern coast.  The rifle was recovered in the town of Majengo, a suburb of Mombasa.  Authorities are always keen to link the M.R.C. with Al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based Islamist terrorist network which also operates in Kenya, though the M.R.C. is far more moderate in its Islam.  The same day, an M.R.C. suspect arrested for illegal fundraising along with 41 others told a court in nearby Kwale that the M.R.C. is nearly broke.  Even the operational expenses of the group’s chairman, Omar Mwamnuadzi, he said, must be gotten through fundraising.

Kenyan police display seized weaponry

Uganda’s Ankole Royal House Dismisses New Claimant to Throne.  A claimant to the throne of Uganda’s disestablished Ankole Kingdom is in a war of words with the institution representing the deposed royal house.  William Katatumba, the kingdom’s prime minister, referred to the claimant, Umar Asiimwe, as a “mere spoiler” who is hurting, not helping, the cause of Ankole restoration.  “He is joking,” “Prince” Asiimwe responded hotly, “and he will not threaten me in my effort to reclaim my grandfather’s throne that was grabbed by selfish people who have never been in the kingdom lineage.  If he thinks Prince Rwebishenge is the king, let him call the Ankole elders, we will perform cultural rituals in order to see the rightful king.”  Charles Aryaija Rwebishegye Notomi ya Rugazinda was unofficially coronated as Mugabe (king) of the Ankole in 2011, after the death of his father, Prince John Patrick Barigye (1940-2011), who was King Ntare VI.  Asiimwe claims to be the fourth grandson of Ntare VI.

The royal pretender: Prince Umar Asiimwe

Busongora Monarchy Denounces Foreign Minister’s Son Claiming to be New King.  In another of Uganda’s kingdoms, Busongora, ministers and members of the royal family denounced the royal pretense of Dan Kashagama Bazira, son of a former Busongora foreign minister, who declared himself king in November.  Apollo Bwebale, son of the late king Apollo Bwebale Kabumba V, was crowned king early in 2015, but his long stretches of time out of the kingdom have inspired a movement to remove him.  Kashagama also calls himself chairman of the kingdom’s governing council.

Another royal pretender: Dan Kashagama Bazira


India Beefs Up Dalai Lama’s Security, Claiming Chinese Assassination Plot.  The People’s Republic of China claimed on January 4th that the government of India was trying to “frame” China by deploying extra security around the exiled Dalai Lama to defend against supposed “well-trained female agents” dispatched by Beijing to kill him.  Indian media cited government sources in saying that “there have been several instances in the recent past when alleged Chinese spies with maps and documents containing secret information have been arrested around his residence” in Dharamsala, India.  A Chinese government statement on the Tibet Autonomous Region’s official website noted, “Claims that China is sending spies to assassinate Dalai Lama are groundless as he has been snubbed by many countries and has lost his international influence.”

Target of an assassination plot?
Beijing Shutters Tibetan Hotel That Caved to Employee Ire over Language Policy.  A hotel in a Tibetan autonomous prefecture in China’s Qinghai province was shut down this month by the authorities after ethnic-Tibetan employees protested hotel rules banning the Tibetan language.  On January 7th, the Shangyon Hotel, in Rebkong County, eventually rescinded the policy and apologized to employees—prompting the shutdown, ordered from above.  These developments leaked to the outside world via social media.  Apparently as a result of the controversy over the hotel, Tibetan was given official-language status alongside Chinese in Rebkong, which is part of Qinghai’s Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Leaked photo of tortured political prisoner Kalsang Tsering
Situation Dire for Tortured Tibetan Political Prisoner Airlifted to Chengdu.  A former political prisoner in China has been airlifted from Lhasa, the Tibet Autonomous Region’s capital, to Chengdu for medical treatment on January 12th, according to Radio Free Asia, to treat him for injuries resulting from torture while in prison.  But R.F.A. adds that “there is little hope for his recovery” since his main injury, a large open wound in his back, “had failed to respond to treatment following his release, and his condition today remains critical.”  The former prisoner, Kalsang Tsering, was arrested in 2008 during protests held to coincide with the Olympics in Beijing.  140 Tibetans were murdered by the “People’s Liberation Army” and other authorities in the crackdown that followed.

Ursula Gauthier (right)

Beijing Expels French Journalist Critical of Treatment of Uyghur Minority.  A journalist from France had to leave China this month after criticizing the government’s treatment of Uyghurs, a Muslim minority who are a majority in the far-western Xinjiang Uyghur “Autonomous Region.”  The journalist, Ursula Gauthier, had been a correspondent in Beijing for the French magazine L’Obs (formerly Le Nouvel Observateur) since 2009.  In November, after the Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris, she wrote that the Chinese Communist Party’s rhetoric of solidarity with France in the fight against terrorism was hypocritical, given what she called “the merciless crushing of the Muslim Uyghur minority.”  Gauthier, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman lied, “overtly advocates for acts of terrorism and killings of innocent civilians,” and so, he said, “it is no longer appropriate for her to continue working in China.”

Police manhandle a Hong Kong protestor as she prepares to trample a P.R.C. flag.

Hong Kongers Protest “Disappearances” of 5 Booksellers Critical of Beijing.  Thousands of people rallied in the streets of Hong Kong on January 10th to protest the plight of five booksellers from a single bookshop who have been missing since late last year and are presumed to have been “disappeared” by China’s central government for selling books critical of China and its leadership.  The practice of abducting people in the dead of night and whisking them away to reeducation camps or torture chambers for merely whispering any criticism of Beijing is the norm in mainland China but has largely been absent from Hong Kong, because of the “one country, two systems” principle underlying the deal by which the United Kingdom surrendered Hong Kong to China in 1984 (it was handed over in 1997); human rights are to be preserved in the Hong Kong “Special Administrative Region.”  After the “Umbrella Revolution” of 2014, directed at Beijing’s refusal to allow direct democracy in the territory, an increase in “disappearances” could be what pushes Hong Kongers over the edge toward full-blown separatism.

This protestor spells out “Kidnapped!”

Kashmiri Separatists Distance Themselves from Islamists after Air Base Siege.  In India, Asiya Andrabi of Dukhtaran-e-Milat (“Daughters of the Nation”), which struggles for independence for Kashmir, found herself pressed to deny that her group has any links to the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS) terror group after three cousins from Hyderabad were arrested in December trying to fly to Srinagar in order, they claimed, to meet with Andrabi, who they said was promising to help recruit them for ISIS.  The three were nephews of Syed Salahuddin, the former head of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) who now heads the radical Islamist separatist militia the United Jihad Council (U.J.C.).  Meanwhile, the revered Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who heads the secessionist but religiously moderate Hurriyat Conference, said that ISIS was “anti-Islamic” and said young Kashmiris should not be waving its flags.  “Those fighting for Daesh,” he said, using a derogatory term for ISIS, “are actually murderers who are spilling innocent blood and are not in any way representing Islam.”  Kashmiri separatists are also believed to be behind a three-day-long siege that followed a January 2nd rebel attack on an Indian air force base at Pathankot, just over the border from Kashmir in Punjab state, that left 14 people dead.  The U.J.C., which wants an independent Kashmir, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by a brigade called the National Highway Squad, a previously unknown group.  But the Indian government has been focusing its arrests and investigation on an allied separatist Islamist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM, or “Army of Muhammad”).

A minority of Kashmiri separatists have gone over to the dark side.

Kashmir Rebel Warns Pakistan Not to Provoke India by Annexing Baltistan.  The head of India’s separatist Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (J.K.L.F.), Muhammad Yasin Malikwarned Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, on January 12th that any plans to integrate the autonomous region of Gilgit-Baltistan more closely into Pakistan would have repercussions in Kashmir.  Gilgit-Baltistan, along with “Free Jammu and Kashmir,” is part of the Pakistani-controlled portion of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.  India’s portion is the Indian state called simply Jammu and Kashmir.  “If Pakistan imposes its sovereign writ over Gilgit Baltistan,” Malik wrote in a letter, “India will then have a political and moral right to integrate Kashmir with it.  With one stroke, Pakistan will be helping India to consolidate its writ on Kashmir.”  Gilgit-Baltistan is largely self-governing, but its residents have been lobbying for a referendum giving them the right to choose whether to be part of India, China, or Pakistan or be an independent Republic of Balawaristan.

Baloch Militants Claim Responsibility for Lethal Landmine in Pakistan.  Two members of Pakistan’s coast guard died, and three were injured, when their vehicle hit a landmine on January 9th in the separatist province of Balochistan, near the border with Iran.  The incident occurred in the town of Koldan.  The Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A.) claimed responsibility for the bomb, adding, “We will continue targeting Pakistani forces.”

Maoist Ex-Premier of Nepal Blames India for Madheshi Autonomy Movement.  A Communist former prime minister in Nepal on January 5th accused political parties pushing for autonomy for the southern Madheshi region as stooges of India’s government.  Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a.k.a. Prachanda, who served as premier briefly in 2008 and 2009 after ten years as a Maoist rebel leader, is today chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal–Maoist (U.C.P.N.–M).  He says that leaders of the Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party are “working at the behest of India.”  He said that C. K. Raut, a computer scientist and separatist currently under house arrest, and Jai Krishna Goit, founder of the separatist Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, are the movement’s “military wing.”  This comes after months of unrest following a Nepali constitution adopted in September which southerners feel denies them regional autonomy.

If the Madheshi people seceded from Nepal, they would have a very very skinny country.

Malaysia Arrests Acehnese Sorceress Calling Herself “Queen of Malay Archipelago.”  A woman from Indonesia was arrested with her husband in Malaysia’s Malacca state on January 8th on charges of “impersonation,” after holding an “investiture ceremony” that she claimed legitimized her as royalty.  Calling herself “Queen of the Malay Archipelago” (she also uses the title “Queen Mother”), the 37-year-old, who goes by the name Her Majesty Bonda Ratu Kuasa Alam Kesumo Dinigratd Tun Saripah Muraini, also claims to be the daughter of the “Queen of the South Sea” (Ratu Laut Selatan) (a folkloric ocean deity), and she bears a ceremonial dragon’s-head dagger which she said was bequeathed to her “from the skies.”  She also claims supernatural powers, including the ability to control the weather.  Police confiscated her passport, removed several weapons from her home, and began an investigation into her identity.  She claims ancestry in both Turkey and in Indonesia’s westernmost and most conservatively Muslim region, Aceh, not far from Malaysia.  Her 45-year-old husband, whom she says she married at age 14, is Malaysian.  Two years ago, she formally applied to the Malaysian government for the restoration of what she claims is her sultanate—though none of the titles or domains she refers to actually exist.  The Sultanate of Malacca, whose territory included the arrestees’ current home, Sungai Rambai, was dissolved in the 16th century.  But she told an interviewer at that time that she was not interested in that crown, since with her current royal status 184 sultans in the Malay Archipelago are under her patronage.

Her Royal Majesty displays her mystic dagger from Heaven


Indonesian Police Kill Papua Rebel Involved in Deadly December Attack.  The national police force in Indonesia announced January 11th that they had launched an operation against separatist forces in the far-eastern Papua region, resulting in the death of one member of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Medeka, or O.P.M.).  Police claimed the dead man had played a role in an attack on a police station on December 27th in which three police were killed.  A second O.P.M. was said to be injured in the recent operation.

Don’t mess with the O.P.M.

Monarchist Separatists in Hawai‘i Seek Official Party Status.  In Hawai‘i, a pro-independence organization called the Aloha Aina Party has begun the process of establishing itself as a registered political party.  It will need 707 voter signatures by February 25th.  The party was founded by three members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, including Pua Ishibashi, land manager at the Office of Hawai‘ian Affairs.  Their goals include secession from the United States and restoring the Kingdom of Hawai‘i.


Right-Wing Militants Seize Oregon Federal Buildings to Protest Federal Land Policy.  Federal buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon are still under occupation by extremist right-wing militants after a January 2nd take-over.  The occupiers, who are heavily armed—and some of whom have ties to white supremacists and other hate groups—seem to be led by three sons of Cliven Bundy, an openly racist anti-government rancher from southern Nevada who led an armed uprising in 2014 against federal agents trying to enforce his payment of grazing fees—and made the feds back down.  That dynamic is in play now in Oregon, since police and state authorities are staying far away from the occupied buildings and claim they will not intervene, though they are letting food and supplies in.  The events began as a protest against the imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers charged with arson on federal lands run by the Bureau of Land Management (B.L.M.).  The Bundys believe that there should not be such thing as federal land.  Land, they and their followers claim, belongs to the people who work the land—ironically, for these ultra-conservatives, echoing the ideology of radical socialist land-reformers in places like Latin America.  The Bundys’ conservative Mormonism may play a role in the ideological stew of white supremacism, anarcho-libertarianism, firearms fetishism, and good-ol’-boy frontier mentality that informs this mini-movement.  One activist in the occupied building who spoke to the media identified himself only as “Captain Moroni, from Utah.”  Some observers think that this is designed to appeal to Mormons who will recognize the reference to the figure of the same name in the dog’s breakfast of 19th-century pseudo-scientific gobbledygook called the Book of Mormon who rallied the Nephites (a fictional ancient tribe) against a corrupt king under a “flag of liberty.”  The Malheur occupiers found some support from the novelist and neo-Nazi Harold Covington, founder of the Northwest Front organization, which aims to create an all-white Northwest American Republic that would include Oregon.  “Looks like someone may have decided to start the revolution without us,” Covington wrote on January 4th, adding, in reference to the massacre at a South Carolina church last summer by a fan of the Northwest Front, “What Dylann Roof did was a hissy fit.  This is not.  There is in fact a worthy cause here, a legitimate casus belli.”  In the most recent development, the militants are threatening to set up vigilante “citizen’s grand juries” to try in absentia public officials accused of violating (the militants’ reading of) the U.S. Constitution.  Meanwhile, the chairwoman of the Burns Paiute tribe, whose homeland includes Harney County and the occupation site, objected strongly to the Bundys and their followers’ claim to be “defenders” of the land against the federal government.  “Don’t tell me any of these ranchers came across the Bering Strait,” she said.  “We were here first.  We’d like the public to acknowledge that.”  Paiutes “don’t need some clown coming in here to stand up for us,” added Jarvis Kennedy, of the tribal council: “We survived without them before.”  (See my recent blog article on the Oregon standoff.)

The Bundy brothers—or at least two of them

California Counties File Secession Papers at “State of Jefferson” Rally at Capitol.  Proponents of creating a separate “State of Jefferson” in California’s far north rallied on January 6th in front of the state Capitol building in Sacramento.  Mark Baird, a retired pilot from Siskiyou County, at the Oregon border, who is the most prominent Jeffersonian separatist, stood on the Capitol steps to tell about 200 supporters standing in the rain that it was Jefferson’s “Declaration Day.”  Organizers said they had submitted to the legislature declarations from 15 of California’s 58 counties, requesting the right to secede and join Jefferson.  This brings, they said, the total number of such county declarations formally submitted to 21.  But the Keep It California political action committee (PAC) has poured cold water on those claims, pointing out that although voters in Tehama County and the boards of supervisors in Siskiyou, Modoc, Glenn, Sutter, and Yuba counties have approved the Jefferson proposal, voters in Del Norte County and boards in Trinity, Shasta, Sierra, Lake, Alpine, and—as of January 12thPlumas counties have rejected the plans.  Lassen County has plans to put the measure before voters.  (On the eve of the rally, the county board in Sierra Countyvoted 3-2 to opt out of the State of Jefferson movement.)  This all suggests that many county applications were filed by individual activists without any political mandate.  At the rally, Baird waxed libertarian in railing against the environmental and other policies of the state government under Governor Jerry Brown, whom he compared to the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.  “The government,” Baird said, “was not instituted to keep you safe from bad baby carriages and raw milk.  It was instituted to protect liberty.”  The closest thing to an ally Jeffersonians have within the state legislature, however, is Assemblyman James Gallagher, a Republican from Yuba City, in Sutter County, but on the day of the rally he told a reporter, “I sympathize with their frustrations, but this is not part of my legislative package.”

Charges Dropped against North Dakota Mayor for Burning White-Supremacist Buildings.  The mayor of Leith, North Dakota, the hamlet targeted in 2013 and 2014 by the white supremacist Craig Cobb, who wanted to turn-it into an all-white “Pioneer Little Europe” called Cobbsville, was set to go on trial January 12th in Carson, North Dakota, for failing to control or report a house fire, but on January 6th the charges against him were dropped for want of evidence.  The charges against the mayor, Ryan Schock, stemmed from an incident in 2014, after Cobb had been arrested on terrorism charges for menacing the community: the town government was burning down condemned homes formerly owned by Cobb which reverted to municipal ownership, but the blaze spread dangerously.  Cobb, who is serving a four-year probation, lives in nearby Sherwood.  Meanwhile, in Antler, North Dakota, where Cobb tried and failed to buy up property last year for a similar “Aryan enclave” project, a disused bank building which was among the properties the municipal government bought up to thwart the takeover will be ceremonially burned after Schock’s trial, but Schock does not plan to attend that event.

“Cobbsville” during the height of the crisis

Gullah–Geechees Sue Georgia for Destruction of Language, Culture on Resort Island.  On Sapelo Island, a resort area off the coast of Georgia, local African-Americans who identify as Gullah–Geechee filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Georgia this month, claiming that touristic development on the island is forcing them out and threatening their language and culture.  “You’re looking at the deprivation of our human and civil rights through public corruption,” said one of the plaintiffs, Reginald Hall, adding, “The state is violating land ownership rights outside of what the Constitution of the United States of America has written.”  There are an estimated 36 remaining Gullah–Geechees on the island, in a community called Hog Hummock.  The suit singles out R. J. Reynolds, Jr., the tobacco tycoon, for buying up most of the island and crowding the Gullah–Geechees into a small area.

Queen Quet of the Gullah/Geechee Nation
(though she is not a party to the current lawsuit)

War Criminal Šešelj Asks Serb-Americans to Vote for Trump; Neo-Nazis Agree.  Along with racists, xenophobes, gun nuts, homophobes, and people who believe the Earth is flat, Donald Trump may be poised to win over yet another constituency in his quest for the presidential nomination for the Republican Party: Serbian-Americans.  Vojislav Šešelj, a legislator and founder of the Serbian Radical Party, is awaiting sentencing by an international court for crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War, and on January 3rd he announced on Twitter, “I call on brother Serbs who live in the USA to strongly support Republican Party candidate Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential elections.”  Šešelj, who believes that Serbia should invade and decimate the Muslim populations in Bosnia and Kosovo, is especially enamored of Trump’s plan to force Muslims to register with the government and for the borders to be closed to any Muslims wanting to come to the U.S.  Also this month, the Southern Poverty Law Center (S.P.L.C.), which tracks hate groups, reported that two prominent white supremacists, Jared Taylor of the New Century Foundation and William Johnson of the American Freedom Party (A.F.P.) lent their angry voices to robocalls directed at caucus voters in Iowa, asking people to vote for Trump.  The A.F.P. also has its own presidential candidate, Bob Whitaker, whose campaign slogan is “Diversity Is a Code Word for White Genocide.”  Trump also has the support of the Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and the Council of Conservative Citizens hate group.

“Would you like some Kosovar casserole with some sauer-Croat on the side?”
War criminal Vojislav Šešelj posted this defiant photo on Twitter recently
after someone called him a “butcher.”

Airborne South Carolina Neo-Confederates Buzz G.O.P. Debate Site with Treason Slogan.  In South Carolina, scene of last year’s white-supremacist massacre at an African-American church, a newly minted hate group called Save Southern Heritage protested Governor Nikki Haley’s order to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse last year by flying over Charleston on January 14th with a plane trailing a banner that reads, “No Votes for Turncoats.”  The occasion was the Republican Party presidential debate being held just below, where most candidates have distanced themselves from the suddenly widely stigmatized Confederate flag but in other respects were falling over themselves trying to see who could sound the most racist and xenophobic.  A press release from Save Southern Heritage explained, “This is a message to Mrs. Haley and the other G.O.P. traitors who turned their back on the average S.C. voter by bringing down the Confederate Memorial flag at the Statehouse Confederate Memorial.  We will not forget this treason!”  (American neo-Confederates are listed in my article last month on “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2016.”)


Tijuana Mayoral Candidate Backed by “Republic of Baja California” Movement.  One of the four candidates who declared this month their intention to run for mayor of Tijuana, a border city in northwestern Mexico, draws his support from the movement for the surrounding state, Baja California, to secede from Mexico.  The candidate, Gastón Luken Garza, formerly served as a legislator affiliated with the opposition National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, or PAN) before recent constitutional changes allowing independent candidates.  Luken’s platform includes mass-transit reform and anti-corruption efforts, but he is funded by the group Republica de Baja California (R.B.C.), which formed a few years ago to protest tax reforms that threatened the system of border-state maquiladoras on which much of Baja’s economy depends.  One R.B.C. co-founder, César Faz, says, “We formed a team in which people like Gastón, ... myself, and others can work with themes of convergence, without the prior agendas controlled by the heads of political parties.”


New “Western Armenia” Football Club Loses to Marseille in First Friendly.  The Football Federation of Western Armenia lost in a 3-2 friendly against Olympique de Marseille on January 6th in what was its first match.  The newly formed team became a member last June of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA), which aims to give athletic representation to stateless nations.  “Western Armenia” is the name for the Armenian territories lost when the Republic of Turkey swallowed up planned Kurdish and Armenian homelands after the First World War, but the F.F.W.A. is said to, in one journalist’s words, aim “to unite all football players who make up the Armenia Diaspora with the sport of soccer.”  The club includes footballers from Yerevan (Armenia’s capital), Istanbul, and elsewhere in the world.  (See my recent blog article on some of ConIFA’s unsavory bedfellows.)

[You can read more about all these and other sovereignty and independence movements both famous and obscure in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon