The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), in partnership with the Centre Internacional Escarré per a les Minories Ètniques i les Nacions (CIEMEN) and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), organized an international conference in Barcelona on the recent events in Catalonia and the struggle of the Catalonian democratic movement to exercise the right to decide.
The event, which took take place on Friday at the of CIEMEN headquarters brought together representatives of unrepresented nations and peoples to share their experiences in their struggle to exercise their right to self-determination and to express their support to the Catalan people..
The two panels of the conference concentrated on the challenges of unrepresented nations for international recognition and national experiences for the right to decide.
Maysing Yang, Ambadssador-at large - for Human Rights and Democracy of Taiwan, Shima Silavi from Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) , Elisenda Paluzie, president of Assemblea Nacional Catalana, Shadow US Senator Paul Strauss for the District of Columbia, and Naser Boladai, spokesperson for Baluchistan People’s Party, were among the speakers.
Other representatives from Tibet, Ogaden-Ethiopia and Iraqi Kurdistan each shared their experiences on the right of self-determination and the challenges they face in their countries.
Paluzie stated: “The exercise of the right of self-determination in Catalan’s case might be a turning point and the denial of this right for Catalonians is the denial of democracy.”
Shima Silavi from Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation referred to the suppression of minorities in Iran, and stated: “Part of the problem that we as unrecognised nations face is that the international community or the so-called keepers of the ‘world order’ in all subsequent UN and regional organizations’ resolutions and literature, use the word “peoples” over and over as the supposed possessors, or receivers, of self-determination.”
They all refer to people entitled to self-determination, without defining who constitute people, with sometimes vague or conflicting or even contradictory explanations and definitions. I guess this is what they call ‘creative ambiguity’.”
Silavi added: “The other part of the challenge and I cannot say it in any other way is the arrogance, superficiality and the lack of knowledge of the West and especially the European politicians and academics about the nations in Middle East. We are perceived as people who are culturally violent, sectarian with no ability to produce democratic and non-violent solutions to their multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies. These stereotypes should be broken. Most of population in this region are young and educated and fight for a secular and democratic future.”
By saying “This is just their culture, or that's just how they are”, which is something the Iranian government always says when condemned, the West releases the responsibility from itself to actually do something in response to massive human rights violations in Iran. Just imagine if around the years preceding the second World War someone would say Nazism and Fascism are part of the European culture, how would you feel ?”
"Using cranes to hang people instead of using it for building is not part of our culture, it is part of an anti-human regime ideology,”she said.
Executions in Iran
“More than half of Middle East executions happen in Iran . This is not a joke nd I do not understand why it is taken so lightly by European Union. Minorities make up 30% of the world population, while it is believed that 70% of conflicts are triggered by the denial of the rights of minorities.”
“And of course we have the internal challenge. Unfortunately in Iran, calling for the right of self- determination to many Persian people and academics is perceived as the first step toward separation. And due to lack of knowledge, racism and of course the state’s propaganda, they perceive minorities as a threat to fight, not to embrace, hence they refuse this right.”
“Until 60’s I was told by a Catalan friend that it was forbidden to speak Catalans , then these issues are issues that even nations in Europe struggle with. And I believe by creating a real solidarity , nations in Middle East can learn a lot and can get the support of other nations that share their plight, most notably the Catalans, because from the evidence it is obvious we are fighting the same battle but in different continents. Battle for the right of self -determination,” said Silavi.
In regards to challenges on EU level, Prof.Dr.Josep-Maria Terricabras and vice president of Greens/EFA Groupsaid : “Please do not misunderstand me, but the European Union doesn’t exist in the making. What we have now is a club of states which is a completely different matter. Those states take the decision. Then after taking the decision, everyone will do what they want. This is not a Union , not a family.”
Terricabras added: “That is simply some partners interested in business, in different affairs acting like a club. And this is a tragedy and we have to overcome it absolutely. In order to overcome this, we need courage, self-esteem. We have to show that we do this with peaceful means, that we have democratic methods."
He said his question to the European Union is always this: “Do you always accept new countries in the international community after a war? Or after silence? This is absolutely terrible. The ancient world believes that you can be independent if you fight, if you have lot of disgrace and killing and terrible suffering. That is not the new world of democracy and free will and that is what we try to show with Catalonia, that you can go into a new path, use a new way, new thinking, a modern and peaceful way of proceeding. Do we accept that our destiny is to create suffering to each other? No. We have to try and try again.”