Two referendums for independence were held in Autumn 2017 in regions which had fought long-standing battles just to make voting possible. Eventualy, the days for casting votes arrived and the whole world followed the referendum processes in Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan. However, both referendums were met with fierce rejection by their home countries, Spain and Iraq, and, indirectly, by the European Union, Turkey and the international community. Kurdish President Masoud Barzani resigned, even though 90 percent of the Kurds in Iraq voted for independence, as the results backfired and triggered a regional crisis. Immediately after the Catalan referendum, President Carles Puigdemont fled to Belgium amid fears that he was likely to be prosecuted, after Madrid had declared the referendum illegal. While Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February 2008 was followed by the recognition of the new country by over a hundred states around the world, Kurds and Catalans were left unrecognized and abandoned. While he was stepping down from power, Mr Barzani repeated that old saying that “the Kurds have no friends but the mountains”, as his people were betrayed once again by the international powers.
In the shadow of these dramatic political processes, a very vibrant cultural and literary scene exists, together with the civil and NGO sector, which could surely offer some response to these events – especially on the question of the role of a writer in unstable political times and climate. It was quite interesting to observe the reactions of writers after the Catalan referendum, especially those who have inclined toward right-wing positions (as in the case of Mario Vargas Llosa). What happened to Kurdish writers during that turbulent referendum period, what is happening with Kosovan writers today and has freedom there finally “learnt to sing as the poets have sung of it’?
The repercussions of these political events on the lives of individuals and communities are both grave and long-term. These events will also affect the cultural landscapes of these regions and their immediate surroundings. Curiously, one region is in the very heart of the European Union, while the other one is in one of the most unstable and violent zones of today’s world. We witness the phenomenon of permanent wars and migrations, while at the same time walls are being rapidly built and state borders fortified; this being the case not only with the outer borders of ‘Fortress Europe’ but also with its internal borders, which are much less open now than they were only ten years ago. We also have the case of the United Kingdom and its departure from the EU. Can we draw parallels with some other movements for independence around the world? Are we allowed to debate on why Brexit IS possible, while independent Catalonia IS NOT, or does that debate makes little or no sense? We witness also the ever greater globalisation and seeming convergence of the world, although arguably mainly in the sphere of economy, while simultaniously the gap between the rich and the poor is growing on both the local and the global level. How do the attempts for independence of Kurds and Catalan people fit into these turbulences?
Even though certain political figures persist in reminding us about the singularity and uniqueness of the Kosovo’s case, we are witnessing the slowing down of the political resolution of the ‘Kosovo question’, as outlined in the Strategy for enlargement of the EU in the Western Balkans recently adopted by the European Commission. Does this mean that senior EU officials have linked the three Ks (Kosovo, Katalonija, Kurdistan) and tried to create balance at the expense of Kosovo?
The international literary festival POLIP will attempt to deal with this topic as a blind spot of the international community, which at one point turned to violence in order to preserve the status quo and existing order of nation-states. For this reason we invite authors from different countries to take part in POLIP debates and public readings, hoping that their engagement will cast some light on the recent events and offer some ideas regarding the challenges of our near future.
Therefore the POLIP Festival and its zone of influence could be seen as a certain Free Literary Republic, where Machiavelli’s Prince and Plato’s State, Elfride Jelinek’s Piano Teacher and Svetlana Alexievich’s Chernobyl Prayer meet, like in the eponymous Ray Bradbury’s story; but, above all, POLIP festival is a zone for people who wants to freely discuss the future of the world we all live in and which concerns us all.