5 November 2017

21st Century Political Prisoners

How can it be that we have political prisoners in Western Europe in 2017? Earlier today, former Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont turned himself in to Belgian police after fleeing Spain to seek political asylum. Before Puigdemont fled Spain, he was leading the campaign for Catalonian independence. The Spanish government constantly blocked Catalonia’s calls for independence and called their referendum illegal. Things turned nasty when Spanish police violently quashed the Catalan protests. When Puigdemont left Spain in fear of his freedom, Spain put out an arrest warrant for him. 

How is it possible that we are accepting of political prisoners in 2017? Puigdemont’s arrest warrant was in place because of his political ideology. What happened to political freedom? We have to remember that we’re talking about Spain here and not East Germany. Puigdemont has done nothing wrong and is being treated like a violent fascist revolutionary. The Spanish government stripped Puigdemont of his powers as leader of Catalonia and called their vote for independence illegal. What we have here is a Spanish government that is scared of losing a vital part of Spain’s economy. Catalonia makes up around twenty per cent of Spain’s GDP. It’s natural that they’d be scared in their position, but that doesn't mean you can start governing like the Soviet Union. The should respond by granting people their democratic right.

Whether you believe that Catalonia should be an independent country or not, you should agree that the Catalonian people should get the right to decide for themselves. It is not up to us or the Spanish government to decide Catalonia’s future. I’m a firm believer that people should have the right to determine their own future. Scotland democratically decided their future in 2014 with their independence referendum. It showed the world how democracy should be. What Spain is doing to Catalonia is utterly undemocratic. Imagine if Scotland weren't granted their referendum in 2014. Imagine the uproar there would've been. But the British government gave the Scottish people the right to decide their own future. This is how it should be. It doesn't matter if you believe Catalonia should be an independent country. In 2014, I didn't think Scotland should've been an independent country. However, I supported their wish for a referendum because we should all have this right.

It should now be the role of other nations to speak to Spain and insist that Catalonia is granted a referendum. For Britain, it should be the role of the foreign secretary to speak to the Spanish government. Although I agree that we shouldn't tell other countries how to govern, when foreign governments are disregarding fundamental human rights such as democracy, it should be down to other democratic governments to push them in the right direction. Although I doubt the British government will want to interfere with Spanish affairs, it should be our duty to guide the Spanish government. It simply can’t be right that we have people fleeing because of their political ideology from a democratic country in the 21 century.

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