Self-Determination in the Basque Country
The Basques, settled on the Franco-Spanish border, are a people who do not have a country that exists as an entity of its own. They are not recognized internationally. Their borders are not respected, and their culture is repressed. Thus the history of the Basque Country is one of contentious protest against imposed conditions, unremitting effort in defense of its identity and a relentless search for a means of democratizing public life. They have not been able to practice or pursue the right to self-determination as stated in the international covenants on human rights (above) and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples from Algeria, July 4th, 1976, that, “Every people has the fundamental and inalienable right to self-determination. It defines its political status in all freedom, without any external foreign interference."
Spanning approximately 20,000 square kilometers, with three provinces in the “north” under French rule, and four provinces in the “south” under Spanish rule, the Basque people enjoy a strong sense of pride in their culture. This pride stems mainly from their unique language; the true essence of Basque identity. Its roots trace to before the invasion of the Indo-Europeans, around 4,000 years ago. Therefore, it is the oldest known language in all of Europe.
The Basques have struggled to keep language as the cornerstone of their culture. However, under Spanish rule this has been greatly challenged, especially in the 20th century. In the first decades of the last century, children caught speaking Basque in schools were beaten as a means to discourage the use and growth of the language. And while the majority of the country suffered under the Franco Regime, the situation for the Basque people was made worse with interferences such as doing away with all public signs in Basque and prohibiting the civil registration of children with Basque names, such as “’Iñaki, Kepa, Koldobika and all others which flagrantly smack of separatism’,” (Astrain 12). One could be shot for speaking the language or gathering in small numbers. Torture was also very common with at least 100 cases reported annually and these numbers hold to present day. However in recent years, through the medium of Basque at private language schools known as ikastolaks, progress has been slow, but constant. Nevertheless, the number of individuals who use it daily or at least have a working knowledge of language are still sadly disproportionate. (Astrain)
Although the language is slowly being reintroduced to communities, repression continues because they do not enjoy any political unity, but rather an excess of political institutions and functions. Therefore, the Basques are deeply dissatisfied with both their lack of territorial unity and the inferior status of their language, as well as frustrated by the lack of a more participatory democracy. It is said that, “The...