The government of Catalonia, Spain, voted to officially recognize the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) on October 20, 2021. Approving a resolution that was initially presented in parliament in July 2021, Catalan lawmakers voted to recognize the AANES as a “political entity.” The vote was concluded with 80 lawmakers voting for the resolution and 49 voting against it.

“The Parliament of Catalonia recognizes the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria as a legitimate administration based on democratic confederalism as a political entity,” states the resolution. “It emphasizes the potential of democratic confederalism as a peaceful, inclusive, democratic, and co-existent solution in the Middle East, based on municipalism, feminism, and social ecology.”

The resolution further “calls on the institutions, civil society and the citizens of Catalonia to promote a network of solidarity to participate in the reconstruction of the region and in fraternity with its citizens, both for the material reconstruction of the country and for the permanent or temporary reception of refugees; while reflecting on the network of solidarity between Catalonia and Bosnia in the early 1990s, based on the fraternity between the two peoples, cooperation and citizen participation and an active role of municipalism.”

“It urges the General Government of Catalonia to create a table of different administrations, entities and civil society to promote this network of solidarity,” states the resolution.

The news was met with much commentary on social media, with supporters of North and East Syria expressing gratitude and and using the hashtag #GràciesCatalunya.

Catalonia has declared itself an autonomous region of Spain, with the Catalan parliament officially voting for its own independence from Spain on October 27, 2017. The Catalan independence movement has been gaining momentum since the 1970s. Catalonia contains the provinces of Girona, Lleida, Tarragona, and the populous province of Barcelona.

There are over 100 regions in the world that can be called “autonomous.” Besides Catalonia and the AANES, some well-known examples are: Hong Kong, which was declared autonomous from China via Sino-British treaty; the Zapatista region in Chiapas, Mexico, which rose up against the Mexican government in 1994 and has retained autonomy since then; and the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Iraqi neighbor of North and East Syria which governs apart from the national government of Iraq.

Many Catalans consider themselves a nation-state that is not yet recognized. Gaining recognition as a nation-state typically involves being granted formal recognition by a plurality of other countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. It most often also involves being granted full participatory status at the United Nations. The most recent nation-state to accomplish international recognition is South Sudan, which achieved independence from Sudan and became the 193rd member of the United Nations in June 2011.