By RAPHAEL KIYANI
Recent days in Spain have proven to be both violent and turbulent, scenes in Barcelona sending shockwaves around Europe and the wider world. The unfolding chaos that has manifested itself in Spain has been bubbling up for many years and it has now sprung forth with intensity. The social and political climate may have shifted to one of hostility but it has also shifted to one of hope and liberty. To many, it may seem like a labyrinth of complexity underpinned by emotive issues. Why has the Catalan Independence referendum in Spain garnered such passionately strong support, opposition and controversy and why has it been marred with brutality? Catalan nationalists have had a long thirst for separatism and this came to a head on October 1st 2017 with a referendum on independence.
Catalonia is an autonomous region of Spain that has retained a distinct culture and identity separate to that of Spanish nationalism throughout its history. Indeed, Catalans are an ethnic group that emerged in Catalonia complete with their own language. For many Catalans, being a part of Spain is counter to the idea of self-determination and would rather split and become their own nation state. Many of the people of Catalonia have had a yearning for independence from Spanish rule for decades. Furthermore, economic issues have hurt Spain in recent years sparking further apathy towards the Spanish government in Catalonia, which increasingly seems unrepresentative in the eyes of many. The people of Catalonia took action recently by participating in a referendum on independence, passionate Catalans in their droves voted to separate from Spain and form their own state.
Why has this sparked controversy? Put simply, the Spanish government deems separatism as unconstitutional, an illegal political move by one of its regions. Many other Spanish citizens feel this also, asserting that such an action is illegitimate. Barcelona is an economic juggernaut that fuels a fifth of Spain’s entire economy, the political power-brokers in Madrid would be aghast to let that go also. Thus, as the referendum was held, there was a show of force from the Spanish authorities wishing to halt the vote. Some would argue, proportionate. Some would argue, brutal and excessive. Despite the political camps people sit on, the police response has shifted further sympathies to the Pro-Catalan base. Discussions on constitutional legitimacy seemed to have faded into the background when we witnessed fellow human beings being beaten and dragged out of polling stations. Some argue the repression of the independence vote echoes shades of Franco’s fascist regime that violently crushed any form of nationalistic sentiment among Catalans.
Opinions amongst Spaniards are fiercely divided over this issue and it has sent Spain spiralling into their biggest crisis in decades. Whatever the outcome of this heated political debate, we should all hope for a peaceful, democratic solution rather than one of violence and chaos.