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Secession seeking provinces: the most intriguing cases

Separatism or secession means in general terms the claims made or formulated by an ethnic, racial or religious group in which demands for a territorial autonomy are presented. These groups tend to be minorities in their respective countries; consequently they seek to create their own political entity away from the state in which they live so that they may be able to display their particularities more independently and freely without being integrated into a larger group that may marginalize their identities. A state as a political entity is defined according to 4 criteria which are a territory with a central government, a population and international sovereignty. The separatists have recourse very often to the usage of violence and are generally known as the separatist movements. Moreover, it is quite frequent to find them in the multi-ethnic countries, comprising different ethnic groups. This could be the natural result also of discrimination and possible oppression faced by these groups. Such was the case of 2 of the most famous cases of secession seeking provinces that are Kurdistan and Kosovo; two cases that had varied degrees of success in gaining their independence. Other cases exist in other regions in the world like in Latin America and the rest of Europe like Catalonia in Spain and Monaco in France. It is important to note that in the past few days, Kosovo that seeks to claim its independence from Serbia, the NATO and the European Union’s representatives tried to intervene between the province and the country in order to ease the fast-growing tensions between them as violence escalated.

To begin with, technically, in the international law, a country is sovereign when it is recognized as such by the other sovereign countries, without actually specifying the minimum number of countries required for that sake. It was thought that the right to self-determination only belonged to the colonized populations and not the minorities in countries. However, there are regions that have the right to self-determination without enjoying self-governance. Kurdistan is a region making part of Iraq where there is a high concentration of Kurds population that is ethnically distinguishable from the other Iraqi population. Historically, the Kurds have been distributed geographically between 4 main countries which are Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. It was not until the end of the First World War that they began aspiring to create their own state and enjoy autonomy. It was in 2005 with the constitutional reforms in Iraq that effectively gave Kurdistan its independence. It is actually a federal state with a federal constitution but the exception with the other federal state around the world is the amount of autonomy it gives to Kurdistan. That said, Kurdistan not only has its proper government which is a parliamentary democracy but also its proper diplomatic missions and its own consuls and embassies. It deals with the other countries and conducts its foreign affairs almost entirely independently of Iraq. In addition, the independent region, composed of three major governorates, exploits its natural resources and sells them for its own benefit without returning to the central government, or the capital which is Baghdad.

However, it is important to remind that their efforts to gain their autonomy had been obstructed frequently before, because already the agreement to independence was signed with Baghdad in 1972 after years of struggles and confrontations. In the 1980’s occurred the Anfal genocide that targeted the Kurds and in 1991 they organized uprising against the oppression they suffered from the regime of Saddam Hussein and many thought of becoming refugees in neighboring countries like Turkey. Even after they were left by the Iraqi forces, the Kurdish parties could not actually take the step to declare its independence. It is only after the American invasion of Iraq and the fall of Baath Party in 2003, that reforms could be finally introduced in the Iraqi constitution in 2005 in the favor of Kurdish People. Although it is an independent region, it could not proclaim itself as an independent country in spite of international support that it gained from fighting against ISIS and gaining territories. A referendum was organized in 2017 that was in favor of the independence was immediately quelled by Iraqi’s offensive against Kurdish territories.

The other interesting case is the most recent one; which is the conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. Historically, Kosovo, mostly populated by Albanians, was partitioned several times on several occasions since 1913 where it was divided between Serbia and Montenegro. In the 1930’s, there were attempts to evict the Albanians from the province and populate it instead by Serbs and Montenegrin. Later, during World War 2, it was integrated in Yugoslavia. The communist regime in Yugoslavia following World War 2 put the province under the control of Belgrade, but strong resistance by the Albanian national movement began to appear in the 1960’s.  Consequently, it gained the status of an autonomous province in 1974 by the Yugoslav constitution. Suppression and violent clash followed demands for autonomy in the 1980’s where Belgrade in 1989 abolished Kosovo’s autonomy. This had sparked a full-scale war between the Serbs and Albanians inside the province in 1998 conflict that resulted in genocides and crimes of ethnic cleansing that led to the intervention of NATO, the United Nations and international tribunals to stop the conflict.

There had been attempts by the Albanian Diaspora to create a parallel government but a resistance movement called the KLA emerged instead to lead the efforts towards independence. Violence still continues until the present century where anti-Serbian riots emerge. However, in 2008, the province declared its own independence from Serbia who does not recognize until today. Furthermore, the Unites States, Japan and several countries in the European Union recognize as an independent country to the point where Kosovo had actually presented its membership candidature to the European Union just like Serbia. Also, it established its own foreign ministry to conduct autonomously its foreign affairs and its own government with a prime minister. Its capital henceforth is Pristina. 3 days ago, the European Commission intermediated for a hope to ease tensions between Belgrade and Pristina in response to the sporadic violence that occurred in Northern Kosovo few weeks ago. Problems related to the borders and license to cross them between the Serbia and the de-facto independent Kosovo have emerged over the years.

To conclude, we see the cases of Kurdistan and Kosovo. One only gained regional independence and the other is a partially independent country. Yet, the ever-growing nationalism and international support must further and quicken the independence processes to defend and advocate the rights of these populations to assert their origins and distinctiveness.

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