|Hong Kong’s streets have been cleared, but no one is conceding defeat (see below under “Asia”)|
Kosovo Names New Government; Mustafa of L.D.K. to be Premier. After a six-month stalement, the parliament of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo has formed a new government. The new prime minister, after a 73-to-38 vote by legislators, will be 63-year-old Isa Mustafa, of the Democratic League of Kosovo (L.D.K.). Mustafa is expected to continue three-way negotiations with Kosovo’s former parent country, the Republic of Serbia, and the European Union (E.U.), on formalizing Kosovo’s independence in preparation for admission of both countries to the E.U., and to move more aggressively than his predecessors in seeking prosecution for war crimes committed by Kosovars in their struggle for independence in the 1990s.
|Isa Mustafa, Kosovo’s new prime minister, with Kosovar and Albanian flags|
|The 110 countries that recognize Kosovo’s independence are in green.|
Russo-Austrian Opera Diva Criticized for Posing with Novorossiya Rebel Flag. In St. Petersburg, the renowned opera singer Anna Netrebko has placed herself on the side of the pro-Kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine, by posing with a flag of the self-styled Federal State of Novorossiya (or “New Russia,” consisting of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic) during an event at which she donated 1 million rubles to the cause of building an opera house in the war-torn city of Donetsk. She posed for the flag with Oleg Tsaryov, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament who sides with pro-Russian rebels. She later claimed that she did not recognize the flag and that the photo was not her idea. A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Austria, where Netrebko lives and has dual citizenship, said, “Her meeting with a separatist leader and having a photo taken in front of a separatist flag is highly problematic. Given the really difficult situation we are facing in Ukraine, this is anything but helpful.” Austrian Airlines also severed its celebrity-endorsement contract with her, adding, “We distance ourselves from extreme political positions and the use of armed violence.” This is not the only time that Austria and Russia have found themselves on opposite sides of a politically-tinged scandal in the world of vocal performance. When the bearded drag-queen Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen in May, Russian nationalist leaders in Russia and Ukraine condemned the win as an example of Western decadence.
|Tsaryov and Netrebko in the now infamous photo with the flag of Novorossiya|
(whose resemblance to the flag of the Confederate States of America is,
as described in detail in an article in this blog, more or less coincidental).
|“Next year, in Sebastopol!” (according to an American wingnut)|
|The jihadist attack this month in Grozny|
Former Scots Separatist Premier Salmond to Run for Parliament—the One in London. The former First Minister of Scotland and head of the Scottish National Party (S.N.P.), who resigned in September after bringing Scotland to the brink of independence in a referendum, now says he will run for Parliament—the British parliament, that is. Alex Salmond, who is currently the S.N.P. M.S.P. (member of Scottish Parliament) for East Aberdeenshire, made the announcement at a party meeting December 7th in the town of Ellon. The riding he plans to seek is that of Gordon, in Aberdeenshire, currently represented at Westminster by Sir Malcolm Bruce, of the Liberal Democratic Party. Though this puts him out of Scottish politics in a way, Salmon reiterated that he fully expects a repeat referendum on independence in his lifetime.
|It’s back to Blighty for Busby the bomber|
|ETA—still fighting the Man after all these years. (Nice berets, by the way.)|
|King Peter fights city hall|
|Saxony’s premier Stanislaw Tillich with fellow Sorbs|
|The once-vast nation of Ingria (shown in green) now numbers only a few thousands|
Uruguay Veep Hints at Plan to Be First to Recognize Nagorno-Karabakh. The vice-president of Uruguay, Danilo Astori, surprised many on December 8th when, on a state visit to Armenia, he declared that his country was interested in becoming the first country to grant diplomatic recognition to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.), an Armenian puppet state carved out of Azerbaijan’s western flank by Armenian and Russian forces after the fall of Communism. (But Uruguayan recognition of the N.K.R. has been rumored as long ago as 2012, as reported at the time in this blog.) Armenia and the Armenian-American (i.e., Armenian-U.S.) diaspora prop up the N.K.R., but neither Armenia nor Armenia’s ally, Russia, nor any other country has taken the step of recognizing it. But, as Astori said in a joint press conference with the speaker of Armenia’s parliament, Galust Sahakyan, in response to a question about N.K.R. recognition, “My country is working toward that direction.” Astori also laid a wreath at the Dzidzernagapert Armenian Genocide Memorial and spoke of plans to build an Armenian Genocide museum in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital. Uruguay is one of several left-leaning states in Latin America which have allied themselves against United States foreign influence—the others are Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia—and, in a Cold War–style polarization, make a point to take positions contrary to U.S. foreign-policy positions on matters such as Crimea, Cuba, Iraq, Palestine, and Puerto Rico.
|Vice-President Astori honors Armenian genocide victims;|
will he turn around and lend legitimacy to ethnic cleansing by Armenians next?
South Ossetia President Won’t Rule Out Annexation to Russia in Coming Treaty. The president of the Republic of South Ossetia, a Russian puppet state on what most of the world regards as part of the Republic of Georgia, said on December 10th that his country would soon sign a treaty with Russia like the one signed a few weeks ago (discussed last week in this blog) between Russia and South Ossetia’s sister republic in Georgia’s west, Abkhazia. The details are yet to be worked out, said the president, Leonid Tibilov, but he explained, “The range of [possible levels of] integration can be pretty wide: from becoming a subject of the Russian Federation to an associated partnership.”
With Caucasus Emirate Divided, Some Suspect ISIS Role in Chechnya Attack. Some experts on the Caucasus region are speculating strongly that Islamic State (a.k.a. Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS) had a role in the December 4-5 terrorist attack (reported at the time in this blog) in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s Chechen Republic, which left 20 dead. As reported last week in this blog, the Caucasus Emirate movement was quick to claim responsibility, but the editor of the Caucasian Knot news-website Gregory Shvedov pointed out, “The underground intends to demonstrate that the existing security system is not effective. We reported a split in the ‘Caucasus Emirate’ with some insurgents joining ISIS. There is still a question who really was behind the current attacks.” Though they have coeval aims and use the same Ottoman Empire jargon of “emirates” and “caliphates,” the Caucasus Emirate and ISIS are not firmly linked; the Emirate has not aligned itself very strongly with ISIS’s global-caliphate agenda, as some in groups like Nigeria’s Boko Haram (as reported in this blog) and Somalia’s al-Shabaab have. But one faction may be making common cause. Such an alliance would cause an odd triangulation in the region: ISIS is fighting both the “Great Satan” the United States and the Syrian government which the U.S. wants to step down, while Russia, a deadly enemy of the Caucasus Emirate, is an ally of Syria. A wider conflagration on these terms would find a Syria–Iran–Iraq–Russia axis allied against Kurdistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, moderate Syrian rebels, and the U.S., while ISIS and the Caucasus Emirate would be at war with all of the above.
|Are some factions of the Caucasus Emirate now in bed with ISIS?|
|Waving Kurdish flags|
|The idea of a Sunni Arab autonomous region now has Kurdish support.|
Irish, Danish Parliaments Take Up Recognition of Palestine. The Irish political party associated with the Republican struggle for independence and for unification of the island, Sinn Fein, moved in the parliament in Dublin on December 9th to call on the government of Ireland to grant diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine. A similar motion passed the upper house of parliament in October, and this follows similar non-binding resolutions (discussed last week in this blog) in the legislatures of Belgium, France, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The resolution calls on Ireland to “officially recognize the State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in U.N. resolutions, as a further positive contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.” It also states that “continued Israeli settlement construction and extension activities in the West Bank is illegal and severely threatening the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.” Pro-Palestinian sentiment is uncontroversial in Ireland. The government has said it will not oppose the bill. Meanwhile, Denmark’s parliament took up the question of Palestinian statehood on December 11th. One of the parties sponsoring the Danish bill was the separatist Inuit Ataqatigiit (I.A.) party in Greenland, a Danish possession. But the measure was defeated handily. Nonetheless, the country’s foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, said that eventual Danish recognition of Palestine was likely.
|Many Irish nationalists see themselves as natural allies of Palestine.|
|Worse than al-Qaeda ever was: Islamic State’s “peculiar institution”|
Last Remaining French Prisoner of Malian Islamists Freed in Shady Prisoner Swap. The French government revealed on December 9th that the last French hostage held by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.) in Mali had been released. But rights groups and other observers expressed outrage that the release was apparently negotiated in a deal that involved the prior release of four Islamist terrorists held in Bamako, the Malian capital. The four were a Western Saharan (Sahrawi), a Tunisian, and two Tuaregs from northern Mali closely associated with the Tuareg terrorist group Ansar al-Dine and its feared fanatical leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly. That group, along with A.Q.I.M. and others, ran a separate state in northern Mali called Azawad for much of 2013 before being ousted by French troops. Ironically, the two Tuaregs had been arrested in 2011 for the kidnapping of Serge Lazarevic, the French citizen released this week. The other Frenchman kidnapped with Lazarevic on that occasion, Philippe Verdon, was found shot to death in 2013. Drissa Traore, of the Malian Association for Human Rights (Association Malienne des Droits de l’Homme, or A.M.D.H.), said of the prisoner release, “The liberation is a violation of the rights of the victims but also of the principles that say the government should not interfere with the work of the judiciary.” The French government has for decades come under harsh criticism from nearly every other modern democracy for its unapologetic practice of negotiating with terrorist kidnappers, including paying ransoms which are then used to finance later kidnappings.
|Lazarevic and Verdon in capitivity with Ansar al-Dine gunmen. (The “Al-Andalus” logo|
refers to Ansar al-Dine’s long-term aim of “recapturing” Andalusia, in Spain. That’s a whole other story.)
|The emir is on his throne, and all’s right with the world|
|The Mombasa Republic flag|
Police Dismantle Last Hong Kong Protest Camp; Democracy Activists Not Giving Up. Police in the People’s Republic of China’s semi-autonomous Hong Kong Special Administrative Region arrested over 200 people as they dismantled on December 11th pro-democracy protest camps blocking highways since September, putting a symbolic end to the so-called “Umbrella Revolution” that challenged the Communist Party dictatorship’s chokehold on power more seriously than anything since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. These protests were in response to a decision from Beijing to allow only candidates hand-picked by the central Communist Party to run in Hong Kong elections. For democracy advocates, this clearly violates the spirit, and probably also the letter, of the 1984 treaty which transferred sovereignty over the territory from the United Kingdom to Beijing in 1997. The Chinese government conceded nothing, and on paper the movement achieved nothing. But the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens taking over the major public spaces and demanding drastic revolutionary political change, without being gunned down, proves for many that the dictatorship knows its days are numbered. And activists are very far from conceding defeat. One protester, Cat Tang, said, “We have learned we have power when we are together and have enough people. Today, we don’t have enough people. But tomorrow, sometime, we can.” “This is the start, the very beginning,” said another, Charlotte Chang, aged 19, “and the pressure will accumulate. The next protests will be more aggressive,” she said, adding, “Those who claim political neutrality cannot go on. You can’t pretend not to care.” And, as Lee Cheuk-yang, a Hong Kong legislator, put it, “The young people have awakened. This is really the gain of the movement.”
|Caution—men at work burying democratic hopes|
|Enemies of the state, needing liquidation? Sindhi nationalists on parade|
800 Papuans Rally against Military Beating of 12-Year-Old; Troops Open Fire, Kill 5. On December 8th, in Enalotari, on the Indonesian-ruled portion of New Guinea, police and military opened fire on about 800 Papuans demonstrating peacefully. Five people were killed, mostly teenagers, while 17 others, including five schoolchildren, were injured. The demonstration was in response to an incident during a Christmas-tree-decorating ceremony in the town, when a group of Indonesian soldiers savagely beat a 12-year-old boy with rifle butts. The boy’s condition is unknown. Most residents of the states of Papua and West Papua are Christian or follow tribal religions, while the majority in Indonesia is Muslim. Indonesia’s minister for security affairs, Edhy Purdijatno, said the soldiers at the demonstration did nothing more than “defend themselves” from “a bunch of people fighting the authorities.” Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (H.R.W.), said of the incident, “The Indonesian government needs to investigate why security forces found it necessary to fire into a crowd of peaceful protesters. Ordinary Papuans are too often victims of security force abuse for which no one is ever punished.”
|The scene in Papua this week after the army moved in|
|Marie Pa Ariki, traditional Queen of the Cook Islands|
Uruguay Uses Gitmo Prisoner Deal to Seek Release of Puerto Rican Independence Activist. The Republic of Uruguay, is agreeing to accept six prisoners (or “detainees,” as the misleading euphemism would have it) from the United States’ illegal prison camp in occupied Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and hopes that it can use leverage from this favor to secure the release of U.S. political prisoners, including an independence fighter from Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony in the Caribbean. In an open letter to President Barack Obama, Uruguay’s president, José “Pepe” Mujica, affirmed his commitment to accepting the Guantánamo prisoners, writing, in pointed language about U.S. policy, “We have offered hospitality to human beings suffering an atrocious abduction in Guantánamo. Since the time of our independence, and even before, individuals and sometimes large groups of people have come to this country seeking refuge from international wars, civil wars, tyranny, religious and racial persecution, poverty and also destitution.” In exchange, Mujica hoped that the U.S. would consider releasing three Cuban spies who have been held since 1998 and the 70-year-old Puerto Rican separatist, Oscar López Rivera, who is more than thirty years into a life sentence that has included twelve years of solitary confinement. There is almost no chance that the U.S. will agree. For Mujica, though, the these matters are personal. A former leftist guerilla with the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberación Nacional-Tupamaros, or M.N.L.–T), Mujica spent thirteen years in prison, including spending two years in brutal solitary confinement boxed up at the bottom of a dilapidated horse trough.
|Still behind bars, but Pepe gave it the old college try|
|Gitxsan activists at a roadblock|
|Hilldale, Arizona—an average American community, except for|
the heavily-armed citadels, the razorwire, the harem chambers,
and the rows and rows of magical Masonic underwear on the clotheslines.
Olympic Committee Green-Lights Kosovo for 2016 Games; Serbs Furious. The International Oluympic Committee (I.O.C.) on December 9th granted full recognition to the disputed Republic of Kosovo, removing the last hurdle for the mini-state to send athletes to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This week’s decision is a ratification of a decision made in October. The government of Serbia, which still claims Kosovo, reacted angrily, with its foreign minister stating, “We see this decision as unacceptable and unprincipled, therefore maintaining that it contravenes the Olympic Charter. The act represents a biased politicisation of sport, while the International Olympic Committee, a universal organisation dedicated to the development of sport and the promotion of understanding and friendship, has assumed the role of a political arbiter.” The minister, Ivica Dačić, did not explain how it was that not granting Kosovo recognition would not have been a political arbitration as well. Some questions the I.O.C. cannot simply dodge.
|Besim Hasani, president of Kosovo’s Olympic Committee|
[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar. 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.]