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The World’s Next Country: Kurdistan. #Oromia January 22, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Catalonia, Kurdistan, Kurds, Self determination.
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Kurdstan map

The World’s Next Country

(EBIL, Iraq) — As you walk around the streets of this city of 500,000, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the capital of a small but up-and-coming Middle Eastern country. Police officers and soldiers sport the national flag on their uniforms — the same flag that flies proudly on public buildings, and, in a giant version, from a towering pole in the center of town. There’s a national anthem, which you might hear on the national evening TV news, broadcast solely in the local language. You’ll also notice imposing buildings for parliament and the prime minister, as well as thediplomatic missions of a number of foreign states, some of them offering visas.

Yet appearances deceive: This is not an independent state.

Yet appearances deceive: This is not an independent state. You’re in Iraq — more precisely, the part of northern Iraq known officially as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). You’ll be reminded of this fact when you open your wallet to pay for something: the local currency is still the Iraqi dinar (though the U.S. dollar circulates widely). Nor do any of the foreign governments that maintain consulates in Erbil recognize Kurdish statehood; nor, for that matter, does the government of the KRG itself. For the time being, Iraqi Kurdistan is still under Baghdad’s writ.

Emphasis on “for the time being.” In July of last year, KRG President Massoud Barzani asked his parliament to start preparing for a referendum on independence. It was a suitably dramatic response to the stunning disintegration of the Iraqi state under then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Earlier, in January 2014, Maliki’s government had cut off financial transfers to the Kurds as part of a fight over control of oil resources, enraging Erbil even as his repressive policies toward Iraq’s Sunni Arabs were fueling the dramatic rise of the Islamic State (IS). Last summer, after IS forces shocked the world by seizing control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the jihadists pushed from there deep into Kurdish territory, at one point getting within 25 miles of Erbil.

Buoyed by U.S.-led airstrikes on IS positions, the Kurdish army, the Peshmerga, soon rallied, forcing the Islamic State to retreat. But the Kurds didn’t stop there. The collapse of the demoralized Iraqi Army in large swathes of northern Iraq had created a vacuum that Kurdish troops were only too happy to fill. Almost by accident, KRG leaders abruptly found themselves ruling 40 percent more territory than at the start of the conflict.

This expansionbrought a particularly important prize: Kirkuk, the city long hailed by Iraqi Kurdish nationalists as “our Jerusalem,” the spiritual and political focus of a future state.

This expansion brought a particularly important prize: Kirkuk, the city long hailed by Iraqi Kurdish nationalists as “our Jerusalem,” the spiritual and political focus of a future state. It also helps that Kirkuk sits at the center of one of Iraq’s biggest oil fields, and that gives the Kurds a lucrative source of income that could help to sustain the economy of a new country. Iraq’s Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen have long squabbledover control of the city; in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein poured huge resources into an “Arabization” campaign that used forced population transfers to undermine Kurdish influence there. In June 2014, by contrast, the government in Baghdad could only look on helplessly as Peshmerga forces supplanted fleeing Iraqi troops and took over the city.

The 30 million Kurds of the Middle East don’t only live in Iraq, of course. But all of them are feeling the tremors of change. Iran, which has a significant Kurdish minority of its own, is strengthening its ties with the KRG, which it views as a vital ally in the fight against IS. In Syria, the civil war has enabled Kurds to set up wide-ranging self-administration in the northeast of the country — thus eroding the border between Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, who now travel back and forth across the line without visas. And in Turkey, home to the region’s largest Kurdish minority, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has abandoned long-held policies aimed at the suppression of a distinct Kurdish identity and is conducting peace talks with the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), responsible for a decade-long insurgency in eastern Turkey.

All of this means that the Kurds, who enjoy the unenviable status of the world’s largest nation without a state, now find themselves on the verge of establishing their first viable national homeland — nearly a century after the Great Powers carved up the post-World War I Ottoman Empire into the countries of today’s Middle East, ultimately leaving the Kurds out in the cold. (The Soviet Union sponsored the creation of a Kurdish republic in Iran in 1946, but it quickly collapsed when the Soviets withdrew their support.)

“An independent Kurdistan is something that all Kurds dream of,” retiree Ramzi Maaroof, 65, told me as we chatted in the Erbil bazaar. “I’ve been waiting all my life to see it.”

“An independent Kurdistan is something that all Kurds dream of,” retiree Ramzi Maaroof, 65, told me as we chatted in the Erbil bazaar. “I’ve been waiting all my life to see it.”

If the dream finally becomes a reality, there is one nation in particular that the Kurds will have to thank for it: the United States. Even though U.S. policy toward the Kurds has often been subordinated to the same spirit of realpolitik that defines so many of Washington’s policies in the region, today’s Iraqi Kurdistan traces its origins to two key events: the establishment of a no-fly zone over the region after the Allied victory over Saddam in 1991, and the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator in the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. As a result, Kurds tend to be overwhelmingly pro-American — to an extent that comes as quite a jolt to anyone who’s spent time in other parts of the Middle East.

And yet President Obama and his predecessors in the White House have all been notably reluctant to give their blessing to Kurdish statehood — out of the not entirely unreasonable fear that creating a new player in such a volatile neighborhood could invite serious instability. To name but one possible risk: a declaration of secession by Iraqi Kurdistan could prompt the final collapse of rump Iraq into separate Sunni and Shiite statelets, intensifying sectarian conflict throughout the region.

This climate of uncertainty helps to explain why Kurdish leaders respond to questions about their timetable for statehood with perceptible caution. “The path is full of obstacles,” says Fuad Hussein, President Barzani’s chief of staff. Iraqi Kurds, he says, are still a long way from standing on their own feet economically. Kirkuk may give them a promising source of petroleum, but since they have no access to the sea, they’re dependent on the goodwill of Baghdad or their neighbors to ship their oil to world markets. And even if matters have improved in recent years, Hussein notes, that goodwill is far from given. Over the past century all the governments that harbor big Kurdish minorities have embarked on brutal efforts to tamp down any hint of Kurdish self-determination — and Kurds haven’t forgotten. More urgently, Iraqi Kurds still face a major existential threat from the new Islamic State stretching along a 600-mile border to the south. Andcollapsing oil prices certainly don’t help.

Far from wholeheartedly embracing President Barzani’s announcement of the independence referendum, most Kurdish officials now hasten to downplay it. “There will come a time when Kurdistan will become an independent state,” Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani told me. “Whether now is the right time is not clear.” For his part, Hussein stressed that the Kurds are intent on giving Iraq another chance — especially now that the troublesome Maliki, who resigned in September, has given way to the much more congenial Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who recently signed a deal with the Kurds ensuring them a 17 percent share of Iraqi oil revenues as well as funding for the Kurdish military. (Indeed, Barzani’s referendum announcement may have been aimed partly at pressuring Baghdad to get serious about negotiations.)

“We want to give Iraq a chance to be a democratic state,” Hussein assured me.

“We want to give Iraq a chance to be a democratic state,” Hussein assured me. He didn’t have to add that the Kurds have been waiting for just such an outcome for more than a decade now, and that they can’t be expected to wait forever.

But they’ll still need to proceed carefully. Given the vulnerabilities of their position, the Kurds can’t afford to be seen as the ones responsible for the final demise of Iraq. If Iraqi Kurdistan really does decide to grab the ring of independence, it will need to make sure that Baghdad, its own neighbors, and, perhaps, most importantly, the United States, are all more or less reconciled with the move. Hussein compares the birth of a Kurdish state to a newborn baby: “We don’t want to have a child that has many illnesses, and that will pass away after a few months. A child must have a good environment, and parents that will take care of it.” If Kurdistan is to be born, he says, “it must be a part of stability in this area.” Of course, even the healthiest babies have sometimes been known to give fits to the neighbors. The Kurds may yet pull it off. But don’t bet on it anytime soon.

Read at:  https://foreignpolicy.com/category/christian-caryl/

Self-Determination: Catalan people back independence in the symbolic referendum vote. #Oromia November 10, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Catalonia, Self determination.
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OVoters queue to take part in the symbolic Catalan independence referendum.

Over 80 percent of people who took part in the symbolic referendum voted in favor of cutting ties with Spain

About 1.6 million people in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia have voted in favor of breaking away from the country and carving out a new nation in a symbolic independence poll, according to partial official results.

Results released early on Monday with 88 percent of votes counted showed that over two million people voted and 1.6 million favored forming a new nation.

More than five million were eligible to vote, meaning many did not bother to participate amid worries about the vote’s lack of legal guarantees and its non-binding status.

Catalan lawmakers opted for the watered-down poll after plans to hold an official referendum on independence were suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court amid the central government’s challenge that the referendum was unconstitutional. The court then suspended the mock vote on the same grounds.

Spanish state prosecutors said they were continuing an investigation to determine if by holding the informal vote the Catalan government had broken the law.

Justice Minister Rafael Catala called the vote “an act of propaganda organized by pro-independence forces and lacking any democratic validity.”

The regional government defied the suspension, manning polling stations with 40,000 volunteers.

“Despite the enormous impediments, we have been able to get out the ballot boxes and vote,” Catalan president Artur Mas said after casting his ballot at a school in Barcelona.

Polls in recent years say the majority of Catalonia’s 7.5 million inhabitants want an official vote on independence, while around half support cutting centuries-old ties with Spain.  It came two months after the Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom.

Sunday’s symbolic vote was the latest massive pro-independence demonstration in the wealthy region fiercely proud of its own traditions and language.

“I voted for independence because I’ve always felt very Catalan,” said Nuria Silvestre, a 44-year-old teacher. “Maybe I wasn’t so radical before, but the fact that they are prohibiting (the vote) from Madrid has made me.”

Mas has said the vote was only symbolic. It likely will lead to regional elections that would stand in for a referendum on independence, unless the Spanish government relents. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/11/9/catalonia-symbolicvotefavorsindependence.html


Read also @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/10/catalans-vow-push-independence-80-favour-split



The economic Case for National Independence: Catalonia, Flemish, Scotland and Oromia April 25, 2013

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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“Conventional wisdom holds that nationalism and separatism are characterized by close-knit bonds and intense allegiance to a common history, lineage, land, and language. This is largely correct, but the current situation in Spain and Belgium paints a slightly different picture. In more prosperous and federal regions, financial concerns, intensified by economic gloom apportioned unevenly, can reinforce nationalist and separatist sentiment. Relative prosperity empowers an already divergent people who wish to garner greater control of their economic destiny. Economic separatism may be the wave of the future in a more developed and globalized.”

As Catalonia or else where the Oromians make the historical, territorial,social and economic cases for their national independence. Oromia is located mainly within Ethiopia and covers an area of about 232,000 square miles (600,000 square kilometers). The 3.5 million-year-old fossilized human skeleton known as “Lucy” (or “Chaltu” in Oromo) was found by archaeologists in Oromia. Present-day Oromos also live in Kenya and Somalia. In the late nineteenth century, Oromos were colonized and mainly by Abyssinian Ethiopia. They lost their independent institutional and cultural development.   Oromia has been considered the richest region of the Horn of Africa because of its agricultural and natural resources. It is considered by many to be the “breadbasket” of the Horn of Africa. Farm products, including barley, wheat, sorghum, xafi (a grain), maize, coffee, oil seeds, chat (a stimulant leaf), oranges, and cattle are raised in abundance in Oromia. Oromia is also rich in gold, silver, platinum, marble, uranium, nickel, natural gas, and other mineral resources. It has several large and small rivers used for agriculture and for producing hydroelectric power. Since colonization the Oromian economy has been structured towards serving the interests of the highly exploitative and economically poor Abyssinian colonizers. Oromo’s human rights and civil rights have been violated by one Ethiopian government after another. Oromos do not have control over their lives, lands, other properties, or country. They do not have a voice in the government, and they are not allowed to support independent Oromo political organizations. Oromos have been threatened, murdered, or imprisoned for voicing against economic exploitation and social marginalization.  Oromos are not treated according to the rule of law. Today thousands of Oromos are kept in secret concentration camps and jails  or being killed just for being Oromo.  Their bodies are thrown into the streets to terrorize the rests of Oromo people and to prevent them from supporting the Oromo national movement. Human rights organizations such as Africa Watch, the Oromia Support Group, and Amnesty International have produced evidences upon evidences on human rights violations against the Oromians. The Oromians are voicing: Oromia shall be free! (Oromiyaan ni bilisoomti!). That is the demand for national economic, political and social independence.

‘Catalonia, with an economy the size of Portugal, could be on the brink of breaking away from one of the oldest states in the world. How did it come to this? Home to over seven million inhabitants in a region hugging the northeastern Mediterranean coast, Catalonia has long claimed a language, culture, and history different from Spain. During the Franco years, the Catalan language and even the national dance, the “sardana,” were banned. Since Franco’s death in 1975, and the ensuing democratic transition, Catalonia has received limited self-rule in Spain’s federal system, particularly in areas such as education, health, and policing. The region, up to now, has mainly focused not on outright independence, but on greater autonomy within the framework of the Spanish state. In 1979, almost ninety percent of Catalans approved the original Statute of Autonomy, which granted more powers of self-government but kept Catalonia as a regional entity within the newly democratic Spain. Separatist attitudes for a while polled relatively low, and the primary political party extolling independence, the Republican Left of Catalunya (ERC), has not been a major political force. But this dynamic is changing and rapidly. Pro-independence sentiment is on the ascent. Recent celebrations of Catalan National Day, “La Diada” – unusual in that it commemorates a defeat, in 1714 in the War of Spanish Succession – brought over a million protestors to the streets of Barcelona, the Catalan capital, in a noisy bid for greater autonomy from Madrid. La Vanguardia, an influential Catalan newspaper, published a poll in September of this year that put the independence sentiment at over fifty-four percent, a significant increase from thirty-five percent in 2009. Catalan President Artur Mas seems to be following the people’s lead, if belatedly, by joining the pro-independence bandwagon. Hailing from the mainstream center-right Convergence and Union Party (CiU), an erstwhile supporter of increased autonomy within Spain, Mas has called snap elections for November 25. This election, which many view as a de facto referendum on independence, could then be followed by an actual vote on secession from Spain in 2014. This quest for self-rule would, however, be difficult. The Spanish constitution would need to be amended and the measure would need nationwide approval from all Spaniards, not just those in Catalonia. But if Catalans do indeed vote for and unilaterally declare independence, Madrid would be under severe pressure to at least listen to their demands for fiscal autonomy. The regions of Navarra and the Basque Country already enjoy this right – although not full independence. Under the Spanish federal system – known as “café para todos” (coffee for everyone) – the country is organized into seventeen “autonomous communities,” with each sharing powers with Madrid. This serves partially as a wealth redistribution process, by which more affluent regions send a portion of their revenues, via Madrid, to poorer regions. Catalonia, whose economic success since industrialization in the 19th century has made it one of the wealthiest regions in Spain, currently accounting for roughly a fifth of Spanish GDP, increasingly views this arrangement as unfair. The recent economic turmoil has exacerbated the feeling of being unfairly gouged by Madrid. With rising unemployment and shrinking output, Catalans have called for more funds to help service their own needs. On a net basis, the region currently sends approximately eighteen billion euros, nine percent of Catalan GDP, a year more to Madrid than it receives back in investment. Moreover, Catalonia now maintains the biggest regional debt in Spain, approximately forty-two billion euros, and recently had to go hat in hand to Madrid to request five billion euros in emergency assistance from an eighteen billion euro liquidity fund launched by the government in June to help finance regional debt. The Catalan region is shut out of financial markets because of the overall Spanish fiscal situation and must repay nearly six billion of bond maturities this year. Accordingly, it is no surprise that many Catalans view greater fiscal control as a means to plug the deficit and help alleviate the economic shortfalls. Independence has been transformed into an economic issue, with proponents arguing that such a step would free Catalonia from the burden of aiding the rest of Spain and allow Catalan wealth to remain in Catalonia. President Mas recently voiced this grievance, declaring, “Spain is a backpack that is too heavy for us to keep carrying. It’s costing us our development.” Spain is not the only country in Europe facing a separatist backlash nurtured by economics. Belgium, famous for its communitarian and federalist structures, is also falling victim to this phenomenon. Split between Francophone Wallonia in the south, and Dutch-speaking Flanders to the north, the country faces the prospect of dissolution along economic lines. Walloons were the wealthier Belgians in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, profiting from industrialization. But now the situation is reversed. Flanders, on the back of a burgeoning services sector, is now more economically viable. A University of Leuven study notes that Flanders hands over roughly sixteen billion euros a year to Wallonia. And the Flemish, especially with the current economic turmoil in Belgium and across Europe, are growing more resentful of subsidizing their less affluent neighbors. Local elections in early October confirm the resentment, with the separatist Flemish party, New Flemish Alliance (NVA), sweeping the region. NVA won twenty out of thirty-five districts and its leader, Bart De Wever, was elected mayor of Antwerp, the de-facto capital of Flanders and a commercial hub. De Wever, just prior to his electoral victory, echoed the widely felt condemnation of fiscal transfers to Wallonia, proclaiming, “The Flemish have had enough of being treated like cows only good for their milk.” In the nearby United Kingdom, regional independence for Scotland is a major issue. The dynamic, however, is slightly different from that of Catalonia and Flanders. Unlike in Spain and Belgium, the British Government has already sanctioned a referendum on Scottish independence due to take place in 2014. Moreover, many see Scotland as more dependent on U.K. resources, rather than the other way around, as Glasgow is not the economic engine that is Barcelona and Antwerp. A recent Ipsos MORI poll indicates a drop in Scottish support for independence from thirty-nine percent in January to thirty percent now. One might conclude that independence sentiment would be higher if Scotland was richer than the rest of the U.K. and economics was more of a factor. This larger phenomenon of economic separatism can also be seen in the context of the European Union. In federalist systems, like Spain, Belgium and the EU, different provincial entities share power with a central authority, which transfers wealth among the various parties. Unity in diversity is dependent on economic reallocation of funds from richer to poorer regions to help develop the entire economy. EU Structural and Regional Funds are based on this premise. They inject capital from richer member states into lesser developed, usually new members. Ironically, Spain is often hailed as one of this program’s greatest success stories, as investments from Brussels turned the country’s economic fortunes around to the point that now Spain is a net contributor to the EU budget. Eurozone financial assistance is also based on the same thinking. But just as in Spain and Belgium, there is a backlash against fiscal transfers within the EU and Eurozone framework. Many Germans resent having to use German tax payer money to bail out fellow Eurozone members such as Greece, a country seen as economically irresponsible. Conventional wisdom holds that nationalism and separatism are characterized by close-knit bonds and intense allegiance to a common history, lineage, land, and language. This is largely correct, but the current situation in Spain and Belgium paints a slightly different picture. In more prosperous and federal regions, financial concerns, intensified by economic gloom apportioned unevenly, can reinforce nationalist and separatist sentiment. Relative prosperity empowers an already divergent people who wish to garner greater control of their economic destiny. Economic separatism may be the wave of the future in a more developed and globalized world.’ http://www.fairobserver.com/article/catalonia-and-rise-economic-separatism-europe




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