Catalonia and Kurdistan are on the verge of independence. So, why are western governments standing in the way? If not through peaceful referenda, will these two peoples have to fight for statehood?
Catalonia, Kurdistan… the latest nations seeking independence.
So, why are western governments standing in the way?
After a weekend of police violence, Catalonia is on the verge of declaring independence from Spain.
A referendum resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of founding a breakaway republic.
But King Felipe went on television to call for unity, labelling the referendum as illegal, saying it undermined peace and prosperity for all of Spain.
But his words likely fell on deaf ears among some Catalan people, reeling from scenes of brutality against unarmed citizens, dished out by national police on orders from Madrid.
The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could not have handled this any worse.
Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of independence for one moment, tactically, they should have just ignored the referendum.
The courts had ruled it as unconstitutional, so Madrid should have shrugged its shoulders and taken a long siesta, while the Catalan leaders staged a piece of meaningless political theatre.
Instead, their hysterical, heavy handed over-reaction has bolstered Catalan separatism.
Catalonia’s regional leaders say they’ll formally declare independence in a matter of days. All of Spain is braced for a turbulent and uncertain outcome.
The same is true in Kurdistan, where 93% voted in favour of independence from Iraq, in a referendum held just days before the one in Catalonia.
The Kurds have been the only winners from the war in Iraq. After years of persecution, they have managed to solidify their autonomy and form something resembling a functioning mini-state with a competent army.
America and the west are happy to give the Kurds weapons to fight Islamic State and liberate Shia and Sunni parts of Iraq, but they have been obstructionist in the Kurds’ quest for statehood.
They are worried about Turkey, which has been persecuting its Kurds for a long time; and fears a Kurdish state would catalyse rebellion among its Kurdish population in the south, possibly joining forces with Kurds in Syria and Iran.
The west also fears if the Kurds break away, they won’t be able to hold the Shia and Sunni parts of Iraq together. They might fracture, to the benefit of Shia Iran.
Ironically, Israel is the only state to have backed an independent Muslim Kurdistan.
I believe in self determination. If any nation of peoples wishes to form an sovereign state and has majority support for doing so, the only question to be resolved is how, not if.
So, yes of course, Kurdistan should be recognised and welcomed into the international community, at the United Nations. So too Catalonia, after a legal and unhindered fresh referendum, with a higher voter turnout.
Half the nation states in the world are artificial constructs, whose borders were drawn for the convenience mostly of British and French imperialists.
True nationhood is a feeling of unity with the people around you. A shared language, culture, history, religion. You cannot bind different people together against their will. Madrid and Baghdad will have to learn this lesson soon, or else there will be blood.
I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.