There is a fine line between citizens that are nationalists and citizens that are exercising their right to self-determination. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, self-determination is the “determination by the people of a territorial unit of their own future political status.” Nationalism, on the other hand, is defined as “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” In my time in Belgrade, I have had many conversations about the difference between these two terms. While Women in Black activists generally denounce nationalism, they usually agree with citizens’ right to self-determination.
Personally, I also think that we need to stop thinking of ourselves as Americans, Serbs, Croats, Arabs, etc and instead start thinking of ourselves as just human beings, plain and simple. We’ve outlawed racist actions in the United States, but many individuals don’t realize that strong nationalism often leads to racism on a global scale, too often justified by a country’s border lines.
A country that is currently treading this fine line between nationalism and self-determination is Kosovo. Excuse my ignorance but before my arrival in Belgrade I didn’t know that the status of Kosovo as a country, was even an issue. Perhaps this ignorance stems from the fact that the United States recognizes Kosovo as a distinct country. Unfortunately, Serbia does not. Kosovo, a territory with a population that is 88% Albanian and only 7% Serbian, declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. This was Kosovo’s second attempt at independence; this was provoked partially by the burning of homes, rape and mass murders of Albanians at the hand of Serbian authorities. If I remember correctly from my International Law class from the fall, succession from a country is only allowed under international law if a group’s human rights are being violated and no other solution can be found. In the case of Kosovo, it seems that it was justified to secede after the Serb authorities committed mass atrocities.
Currently, 62 out of the 192 United Nations member states recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state. But the United Nations has not recognized the country, mainly due to Russia’s opposition to recognition. And since Russia has veto power through it’s seat on the Security Council, it is unlikely that the UN will recognize Kosovo anytime soon. Unfortunately, citizens of Kosovo are unable to travel to many parts of the world since many countries do not recognize a Kosovo Passport.
In one of my earlier blog posts I spoke about the role that governments and laws should be playing in protecting citizens. But when a government so clearly fails to protect its people, and is actually the one causing harm, shouldn’t citizens have the right to govern themselves and claim independence? How did we become a world in which we are not allowed to ask for our basic human rights and exercise the liberty of governing ourselves?
Posted By Simran Sachdev
Posted Jul 26th, 2009