July 4 Around the World: 8 Occupied Nations Who Still Cannot Celebrate Their Independence


Americans will celebrate tomorrow the 236th birthday of the United States on July 4. But there are also 25 other nations — including Algeria, Belgium, South Sudan — will also celebrate their independence this month.

Independence day celebrations are perhaps the most common holidays in the world torn, dominating most dialogues between different cultures and nations.

Every year, more than 100 nations celebrate their independence day, however, Independence Day is not always a popular event, sometimes associated with regime change in these countries. Some other countries — like the Ukraine and Czech Republic — celebrate two independence days, as they have been occupied twice by the same colonial power under two different names.

Yet, there are still more territories and states under occupation.

The mere existence of a separatist movement within any state or unrecognized UN territory is a justification that there is at least a fragment of the society who wants a state of their own, and they’re entitled to this right.

Below is a list of some territories and states currently occupied by outsider nations, who won’t be celebrating their own Independence Day. The list is not comprehensive. It will not attempt to argument the legality of the occupation or whether all these territories do approve or disapprove of it

1) Palestine, aka West Bank and Gaza

West Bank and Gaza have been under Israeli occupation since the Six Day War in 1967. Israel seized back Jerusalem form Jordan, and has since controlled the borders of the two disjointed territories of Palestine. Middle East scholars have been discussing the occupation for decades; the Palestinian people – though Arab Muslims like hundreds of millions of others in the region – are a distinct people in the Middle East. They have a distinct culture, dialect, characteristics and have always expressed their desire for a state of their own. In fact, both territories, being the holy lands of three different religions, never enjoyed any geographic or governmental autonomy, ever. The region has always been under the control of the strongest power in each period of time. 

2) Kurdistan

The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group in the Middle East. Large communities of Kurds live in eastern Turkey (Anatolia), Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. This is due to the Treaty of Sèvres and partition of territories formerly ruled by the Ottoman Empire prior to WWI. There is a major discrimination against Kurds in their native regions, because they are not allowed to form any advocacy groups, political parties or any kind of representation of the Kurdish identity, not even a flag. In contrast, you’ll find an excessive number of Turkish flags in Turkish Kurdish regions, especially Anatolia, and billboards stating “how good it is to be Turk” are abundant. The region remains tense as violence between both sides has escalated again in the recent years. Up until 2011, Syrian Kurds were denied Syrian citizenship.

Iraqi Kurdistan is the only recognized territory in the region for Kurds. It enjoys an autonomous status within Iraq as a federal state since the new Iraq constitution of 2005.

3) Kabylia

Kabylia is a Berber-ethnic or Amazigh (English for "free men") region in Northern Algeria. The Kabylia people are a distinct ethnic group from Arabs. They’re not native Arab speakers; their native language is the Kabyle language, or taqabilit. Most Kabylians loathe Pan-Arabism as they feel that it’s imposed on them by the Algerian government. French colonization of Algeria left the country in a severe identity crisis. The Algerian government is obnoxiously authoritarian and has oppressed any non-Arab movement since independence in 1962. The Berber Spring made by young Berbers in the country and in France forced the government to recognize Amazigh as a national language – though still poorly taught in public schools – despite being the native language of a sizable ethnic group of the Algerian people. Further protestations in 2001 led to the creation of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia. The movement does not advocate for the secession of Kabylia but regional autonomy and the integration of the region within a federal state of Algeria. The Kabyle people are fairly secular although most of them are Muslims. 

4) Tibet

Despite being geographically, culturally and linguistically distinct from China, Tibet is still not recognized by the People’s “Republic” of China as a separate state. During the 1960s, between 200,000 and 1,000,000 people died in Tibet under Mao Zedong’s government. Separatist movements are not allowed. Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso removed himself from heading the care-taker Tibetian government in March 14th, 2011. 

"The Dalai Lama office was an institution created to benefit others. It is possible that it will soon have outlived its usefulness,” he said. 

Meanwhile, China has disapproved of these statements, like Tibetians’ rights for self-determination. Chinese authorities will select the new spiritual chief on behalf of the people. 

5) Western Sahara

The Western Sahara is an issue in North Africa between Arab countries that share many cultural ties. It is a disputed territory between Morocco, who has claimed it since 1957 after its independence, and the armed indigenous front, Polisario, proclaiming a Sahrawi Arab Democratic state. The Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1963, but, to this day, it is still majorly controlled by Moroccan army. The Moroccan government has moved many of its citizens to the Western Sahara and blocked them from going back in attempt to claim legitimately the territory. Both the Moroccan and Algerian government, who backs the Polisario, have been involved in war atrocities. The conflict doesn’t look like it will end soon, as most governments prefer taking a neutral position and mediation has been disrupted for years.

6) Northern Cyprus

Turkey has been occupying the Northern part of Cyprus, 36% of the region, since 1974 after a military coup by the island's Turkish neighbors, who invaded the country. Turkey’s military invasion of Cyprus was primarily to protect the interests of the Turkish Cypriots in the island. During the conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, about 80% of Greek Cypriots who left the northern part of the island were displaced, and some 60,000 Turkish Cypriots were displaced from the southern part as well. The island was partitioned by the UN and negotiations of Turkish removal of the island are unheard of at the moment.

7) Quebec

Quebecois are the native French-speakers of Canada. They enjoy the same rights as their fellow English-speaking Canadians, yet, still keep a distinct culture from the rest of Canada.

Quebecois are very attached to their “Frenchiness” as a unique cultural distinction. They scarcely use English in their daily conversations unlike European French-speakers who now lean towards a new mixed language called “Franglish,” used by many bilinguals. They also have a serious separatist movement. So far, FrenchQuebecers have lost in both referendums of 1880 and 1995 to gain self-sovereignty. Canadians are still opposed to the idea of a separate nation of Quebec, and so are French Canadians outside of Quebec. In 1995, the "No" camp again won, but only by a very small margin — 50.6% to 49.4%. 

8) Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

I don’t mean to talk on behalf of Welsh, Scots or the Irish, but, generally speaking, they all harbor bad feelings for England, especially considering their not so glorious history with the kingdom of England. The English media is not particularly friendly with its Celtics neighbors. English Cymrophobia is another word for discrimination against the Welsh in England and many of you may be already familiar with the unflattering feelings Welsh, Irish and Scots have in England. Although many residents of Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales still wishes to be a part of Britain, many others wish to have their own independent nations.

In fact, the list is very very long. As the UN encourages every people’s right for self-determination. There are many active separatist movements and countries still under military occupation by outsider forces, still in 2012. You may deem some of them racist like the white Afrikaners in South Africa who want a nation for their own, leaving black South Africans in another. You can see a full list here, and read more about it here.