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A 12-year-old boy has been bullied and threatened because he expressed himself in Catalan in his secondary school WhatsApp group

The boy showed an attitude that should stand as an example to all Catalan-speakers, refusing to be intimidated and continuing to use Catalan at all times.

A United Nations Special Rapporteur recently demanded an end to hate speech against national minorities and criticised the populist politicians who spread it

Plataforma per la Llengua has discovered that a 12-year-old pupil from the Camp de Tarragona area has been a victim of a campaign of language-related bullying by classmates. The other children would not accept him expressing himself in Catalan in his secondary school WhatsApp group, even though it is the language of his family and the traditional native language of Catalonia. The boy's parents sent Plataforma per la Llengua screenshots in which his classmates' demands could be read. They explained that afterwards he was insulted and bullied with threatening phone calls. There were even calls to have him beaten up.

The boy kept using Catalan at all times and refused to bow to the bullies' demands and threats. Plataforma believes that the boy's self-confidence and loyalty to his language is an example to all Catalan-speakers suffering similar experiences. Only determined widespread resistance to Spanish supremacism can reverse the minoritisation of the Catalan language.

Catalanophobia, a goldmine of Spanish nationalist votes, is under United Nations scrutiny

One of the pillars of majority Spanish nationalism is the supremacism of the Spanish language. This anti-egalitarian ideology presents the Spanish language as the "common" language of all citizens of the State using historically revisionist arguments that conceal the fact that it has only recently become widespread in Catalan-speaking territories and that State coercion and the arrival of members of the national majority have played a central role in this. Spanish nationalism promotes the idea that it is "natural" that Catalan-speakers should know Spanish, and that they cannot expect reciprocity from Spanish-speakers and so must defer and adapt linguistically. The ultimate aim is the disappearance by assimilation of minority language communities and the achievement of a homogeneous Spanish-speaking citizenry.

Catalan-speakers' resistance to this supremacist approach generates great hostility from Spanish nationalists. Over the last few years, the political parties involved in this tendency - including the socialist PSOE as well as the right-wing parties PP, Ciudadanos and VOX - and the general media have continually encouraged catalanophobia. The parties of the Spanish right have promised that they will prohibit requirements for autonomous community government civil servants to know Catalan, and they have shown outright opposition to the educational model of language immersion in Catalan. In some cases, they have even declared themselves to be in favour of the State encouraging population movements to consolidate Spanish nationalism in Catalonia. Some regional PSOE bosses have maintained the same approach using the same verbal aggression. The socialist prime minister of Aragon, Javier Lambán, has even said that almost all great Catalan novelists write in Spanish and that "a Catalan tore off wall paintings from Aragon to take them to Barcelona".

Spanish supremacist discourse is not limited to the political debate: the normalisation of hate explains behaviour like that of the secondary school bullies in Camp de Tarragona. Discourse has social consequences. That is why the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, has expressed concern over the apparent inactivity of the Spanish government on this matter. In his report on Spain in March 2020, de Varennes explained that he had received reports indicating there had been an increase in "hate speech, vandalism, physical threats and even aggression against members of the Catalan minority and, to a lesser extent, other national minorities" and that "the authorities are not reacting sufficiently to these reports or initiating judicial actions to tackle them, so they are indirectly contributing to creating an atmosphere of nationalist extremism and growing intolerance towards minorities". Plataforma per la Llengua was one of the organisations that sent a report on these matters to the Special Rapporteur.

In October this year, Fernand de Varennes once again referred to the worrying increase in hate speech against national minorities in various European States. At a United Nations regional forum on preventing conflict by protecting minorities' rights, the Special Rapporteur warned that many European States have gone backwards, interpreting the rules that protect these groups to a lower standard. At the same time there is an increase in the demonisation of minority groups on the internet and in nationalist and populist political discourses. De Varennes pointed out that without explicit recognition of minorities their rights cannot be protected and, without such protection, the threat of violent conflict is increasing. The Special Rapporteur asked for European and world institutions to intervene to protect minorities and protect peace, objectives requiring an understanding of these groups' grievances and the establishment of mechanisms to guide States and correct excesses.

Plataforma per la Llengua had previously contributed to the European forum, setting out ideas similar to those maintained by De Varennes. The organisation considers it very positive that the Special Rapporteur should demand European and world solutions for Catalan-speakers because it has no confidence that the Spanish government has the will to protect them. De Varennes has announced that in 2022 another regional forum will be held in Vienna, 30 years after the UN declaration on the rights of national, ethnic, religious and language minorities. The aim of the meeting will be to make progress in establishing effective mechanisms for protecting these groups, and Plataforma per la Llengua trusts that it will be able to take part and contribute its points of view.


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