People all over the world, including the Scots, Catalans, Tuaregs, Crimeans, Kurds, Pashtuns, Basques and Palestinians are fighting for the right to have their own states. They want to control their lands and destinies and reclaim their national identities. Nations are usually defined by the common grounds of culture, language, and ethnicity within certain natural boundaries such as rivers, seas and large mountains. Because certain groups of people want to expand their territories through wars and conquests, other ethnic groups have been oppressed or even exterminated.
History is almost always written by the winners, and world maps are mostly drawn with the blood of the losers. Five hundred years ago, the conquest of the Americas by Europeans meant the start of the genocide of native tribal populations from current-day Canada all the way to Brazil. Large-scale European colonialism, and its hideous helper slavery, redrew the world map entirely on all continents. Most of the conflicts at play today have their origins decades or even centuries ago, and they can usually be traced back to the criminal follies of European colonial empires. Empires come and go, but they leave deep scars on world maps that foment conflicts for long periods.
Many of the problems in the Middle East today, for example, originate from decisions by Great Britain and France in the aftermath of World War I, after they defeated the Ottoman empire. Instead of splitting the Kurds between Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran, a state of Kurdistan should have been created. The treaty of Sevres, signed in 1920, provided for the recognition of a Kurdish state, but the agreement was never implemented. Kurdistan still does not have recognized boundaries on any maps (see above image, where the red, white and green flag covers Kurdistan). Another colossal geopolitical blunder with dire consequences was the 1948 rubber stamping of a Jewish state’s creation in Palestine.
History stubbornly continues to challenge the arbitrary geography that imperialists have imposed. Unfortunately, the struggles are often violent. Despite the power and oppressive natures of Turkey and Israel, for example, neither the Kurds nor the Palestinians will ever relinquish their legitimate aspirations to have a state to call home. Besides Western instigation, the civil war unfolding in Ukraine has its roots in the ill-conceived and abrupt dismantlement of the Soviet Union in 1991. Paradoxically, the biggest challenge to globalization, which can be regarded as an extreme kind of imperialism, may take the form of a return to older cultural divides. This is happening even at the heart of former colonial powers like Spain, with the case of Catalonia, and the United Kingdom with Scotland. Soon to follow could be independence for the Basques that would involve France as well as Spain, and perhaps even a push for independence of Corsicans from France.
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