Friday, June 11, 2010

The Other Occupations

The Free Gaza Movement (FGM), the blockade of Gaza, and the deadly Israeli-FGM battle have focused attention on occupation and how it relates to Israel. However, with all the focus on the Israeli-Palestinian cycle of violence it is easy to forget that there are other occupations currently on going. Some of these occupations have been more violent and oppressive than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

*Note: I recognize occupation is a loaded word. History is full of invasions and occupations that turn into permanent changes which are now considered normal. The Saxons occupied the Briton's lands only to be occupied by Normans. The American continent has seen thousands of years of American Indians taking each other lands only to be replaced by rival European colonies who in turn became independent and launched campaigns of conquest against each other. I am not making judgments for or against these occupations.

Golan Heights

The Golan Heights are a full part ofIsrael (if one asks the Israeli government in Jerusalem) or an illegally occupied part of Syria (if one asks the Syrian government in Damascus). The Golan are frequently either confused as part of the greater Israeli-Palestinian struggle or just forgotten altogether.

The Golan Heights were conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and retained after the Syrian invasion of the Yom Kippur War. The main reason that Israel has held onto the heights is geographical. The heights tower above the Israeli population centers around the Sea of Galilee. The Syrians used this advantage to place effective artillery fire on Israel before the Six Day War. Presently the tables are turned with Damascus being visible to the naked eye from some parts of the Israeli-administered Golan Heights.

Israel ruled their part of the Golan Heights by martial law until the Golan Heights Law of 1981 went into effect. The bill extended the rule of law to the Golan and thus made it legally indistinguishable from the rest of the State of Israel. Currently there are some 17,000 Israeli Jews who live in the Golan. The Alawities (a non-Orthodox, kind-of-like Shia Muslim group) accepted Israeli citizenship in the 1980s. The big thorn in the Israeli side (and therefore hope for the Syrians) are the Druze (Druze are to Muslims as Mormons are to Christians; Druze believe in reincarnation and a priesthood). Over 20,000 Druze live on the Israeli side and the Druze a fiercely Syrian nationalists. They refuse to accept Israeli citizenship and frequently rally in support of Syria and use civil disobedience to show their disapproval of being separated from Syria.

On the plus side, unlike the split Palestinian Authority/Israeli-controlled West Bank or the Hamas-occupied Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights are relatively peaceful.


Do you support Tibetan independence from the People's Republic of China? If you do then you are more radical than the Central Tibetan Administration which is also known as the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Tibet has long been a part of "China" but rule from the various emperors, presidents, and warlords historically fluctuated between weak and non-existent. Tibet only proclaimed independence in 1921 when warlords were ripping apart the newly formed Republic of China. The Communist Chinese invaded Tibet in 1951 and then crushed a rebellion in the late 1950s which forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India.

Currently the Dalai Lama is advocating more autonomy for Tibet instead of independence. After being a supporter for independence it seems he has switched to supporting the traditional relationship between China-proper and Tibet. The People's Republic of China (PRC) meanwhile is not interested in local autonomy. The Beijing government has sponsored efforts to make Tibet more Chinese by supporting Han Chinese who move to Tibet. While the PRC claim that Tibet is over 90% Tibetan (warning: PRC government link) while pro-Tibetan independence sources state the number is much higher (I have heard up to fifty percent).

The PRC has been very patient with its occupation. It is hoping that time is on its side as demographics begin to shift while the military crushes any opposition before it can gain strength.


Kashmir has it all. Its dispute is as long as the Israeli-Arab conflict, it has two nuclear powers going head to head (the Middle East still has only one nuclear power), global jihad, and a much higher death rate. Since the latest eruption of violence in 1989, somewhere between 50,000 and 125,000 people have been killed (The first and second intifadas killed about 8,000 people while the latest Gaza fighting has claimed about than 2,000 lives).

The Kashmir struggle begins with the births of independent India and Pakistan. The Princely states, monarchies within India that were ruled by nominally sovereign princes within British India, were given the choice of joining Pakistan or India or becoming independent. India used force to prevent the Muslim-ruled but Hindu-majority Junagadh and Hyderabad states from joining Pakistan. However, when Hindu-ruled but Muslim-majority Kashmir was being torn apart India made sure to rush troops into Kashmir to ensure it going India. Kashmir has been the subject of three of the four wars between India and Pakistan. The 1947 war ended in dividing Kashmir along the Line of Control. In 1965 Pakistan attempted to start an insurgency but was defeated when the guerrilla war turned into a conventional war. Similar events transpired when another war broke out in 1999.

The insurgency tactic has been the cause of the trouble in Kashmir. Pakistan embraced independent insurgents by promoting Islamist jihad to take Indian Kashmir. The camps used to train Kashmiri insurgents have also been used by Pakistani militants and Islamist jihadist for conflict in India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia, and elsewhere.

The trouble has been centered in Indian Kashmir, known as Jammu and Kashmir. Successful counter-insurgency tactics combined with integrating Jammu and Kashmir into the rest of India has greatly reduced the violence in the last decade as Kashmiris consider themselves Indians more and more as time progresses. However, Pakistan has realized that supporting Islamist insurgents in Kashmir is the only practical tool they can use kinetically against India. Expect violence to continue in Indian Kashmir for years to come.

Western Azerbaijan

The Nagorno-Karabakh War began in 1988 when both Armenia and Azerbaijan were republics in the Soviet Union. It ended in 1994 after ethnic cleansing, foreign fighters, the creation of a de facto independent republic, and the occupation of western Azerbaijan. The American equivalent of this war would be something like Wisconsin fighting Michigan for the Northern Peninsula with Wisconsin using volunteers from Duluth, Minnesota to destroy the elite New York National Guard. The war would end with Northern Lower Michigan being ethnically cleansed of Michiganders.

Western Azerbaijan needs to be differenate from Nagorno-Karabkah (NK). NK was an automous region within Azerbaijan that was populated by Armenians. In between NK and the Soviet Armenian republic was the western part of Azerbaijan-proper. Towards the end of the 1980s the Azeris began removing special language and cultural rights for Armenians in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Ethnic violence reached fever pitch in 1988 with the Azeri-led Sumgait Pogrom against ethnic Armenians. War broke out and lasted six years. The war reached epic pitch when it ended in 1994: Afghan warlord (now allied with the Taliban) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar sent soldiers to fight for the Azeris; however, these troops were defeated by ethnic Armenian militiamen from Lebanon.

With the end of the war NK was not only under ethnic Armenian control but so was western Azerbaijan-proper. The Armenians ethnically cleansed this area yet surprisingly have not resettled ethnic Armenians there. Cities like Fuzuli and Agdam are ghost towns which mirror the destruction in Darfur. To this day what the Armenian plan for occupied western Azerbaijan remains a mystery.


Tallinn Maps said...

Sumgait Pogrom was in 1988 and not 1998.

Catholicgauze said...

Thanks Tallinn Maps. I corrected the typo.