Identity, Conflict, and Politics in Turkey, Iran and Pakistan
Olivier Grojean, and Gilles Dorronsora
Pakistan, Iran and Turkey are the three major countries of the Muslim world. With a 394 million population in total, the three Muslim countries have always been a roller coaster of world political wrangling. Three have always remained a proxy battleground for the world powers to have their full sway on them.
Multiethnic, with a major Muslim majority, their collective and individual politics and lives are a mixture of contradictions. In a closely hierarchical society where religion, gender and class matter most, the identity of a single person is always a fluid and in a conflicting mode.
Also Read; Simmering politics of South China Sea
Such a scenario provides a very lucrative atmosphere for the manipulators to use identity differences that are generally based on religion, gender, and ethnicity for their interests.
But differences thus created and developed by anybody do not come alone. They bring another plethora of changes, and differences along with them. Which tussles and contrasts with the old individual identities and worldviews transforming and redefining those that already exist.
The introductory chapter lays the fundamentals of identity, hierarchy and mobilization on which the discussion is going to take place.
The first chapter focuses on the Sunni and Alvis rule in Turkey. The chapter title uses the words Narcissism of minor differences where two main sects of Islam dispute with each other over no matter.
Also Read; Dialectics of development in Indian politics
The second chapter again pinned on Turkey tries to investigate the paradoxical nature of cultural diversity in the country with a special reference to the Kurds. The cultural diversity as defined by Ankara and propagated by the country media has a double approach.
The Kurd problem once called by Ankara a civilizational or developmental issue due to Kurds’ resistance and militarism contrasted closely with the cultural diversity of Turkey which depicts this ethnic issue with a negative and low value for the Turkish people. Hence, generating new values replacing the existing one.
The Gilan Province of Iran has a history of revolt and insurgency against Tehran. The Jungle Movement of Gilan was an attempt to get liberation both from monarchy and from foreign intrusions as well.
The identity politics get more pronounced in two ways. One is peculiarities, the uniqueness of a culture which finds more positive expression when they buttressed by the majority of the central group of the country. The second method is quite the opposite when the major group of the land wants to engulf this minor group within itself.
The first method is the lively and positive way of cultural activism while the second one is editorial, pick-and-choose the negative method, used by the majority ethnic group of any country to suffocate the minor ones. This third chapter analyses Iran with special reference to its Gilan province.
The fourth chapter examines the tactics and nature of Turkish political parties. How do they use identity politics to neutralize or mobilize the masses in the national framework of Turkish politics? Why they did not ardently support the particularists’ making or at least try to make some space for them in the national political scene?
This becomes more noticeable with the coup of General Kenan Evren. They did not accept demands or identities which were not within the national political framework of Turkey. Rather they were settled indirectly and out of the way.
Instead, these identity issues were used by them in a gobbledygook way to control and manage their voters and supporters on the political scene.
But the human psyche and history it has gotten from its past does not change so quickly. The fifth chapter elaborates on this tension and rift between the British Muslims and British Sikhs who both migrated from South Asia. The partition of British India in 1947 between the successor states of Pakistan and India was a human bloodbath from both sides.
Though the descendants of two communities, Muslims and Sikhs, did not watch or suffer from this bloodshed directly, they still retain hostile feelings for each other.
The Community Cohesion Policy of Britain since 2005 is an attempt by the government to amalgamate these two South Asian diaspora into the mainstream of the British society leaving or at least mitigating their unpleasant memories for the best interest of British society.
The next chapter, the sixth one, hinges on Iran’s concern over its largest ethnicity, Iranian-Azerbaijanis, and its ethno-nationalism looking to the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan as a paternal state for them.
Also Read; Bangladesh; the circle of coups
After the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Tehran tried to submerge this Iranian Azerbaijani ethnicity within the manifold of Persian Shiite of the country but the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of Azerbaijan as an independent sovereign state made Tehran cautious about its Iranian Azerbaijani’s irredentism feelings.
The seventh chapter details the 1980s in the Middle East remembered for war, violence, and bloodshed in the region. Soviet Union intervention in Afghanistan and the signing of the Camp David Accords between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were not warmly received by the Arabs at large calling it a stabbing in the back.
The situation became even more precarious with the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Makkah by the Islamists. These four events though not directly linked with one another caused a decline of left and liberal ideological politics and a rise of Islamism, violence and conflict in this region.
The Indian Muslims are no exception to this identity crisis where they feel that they have been isolated and pushed to the wall having no option other than doing something unusual and extraordinary to feel their presence and voice.
Also Read; Words that rejuvenates
The eighth chapter deals with the bombing of London, and Glasgow airport in 2007. In the first attack out of four attackers, three were the British-born sons of Pakistani immigrants while the fourth one was a British-Jamaican.
While the jeep attack on the Glasgow airport was carried out by two men, one was a son of British Iraqi parents, while the other was an Indian engineer who succumbed to his injuries in hospital after one month.
Something interesting about them is that the author interviewed the attackers before the attack. Quietly possible the attackers would have given an interview to the author not revealing their real intentions to her.
In the ninth chapter the mass protests and violence in 2006 in Pakistan’s large city, Lahore, have been dealt with. The protest and violence against the Danish Cartoons not only rocked the country but the whole Muslim world was agitating over these blasphemous cartoons. Such a sensitive and religious issue perturbed all strata of Pakistani society.
The behaviour of three founding elements of society, individual or the micro level, the protesting or rallying mass or the meso level, and governmental and institutional or the macro level has been analyzed in Pakistani society.
The tenth chapter is about Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, the most underdeveloped province of the country raging with violence both from the Baloch nationalists and Islamic militants. For the last two decades, the province has been a battleground for different strife’s but after 9/11 there has been a tremendous spiral upward movement of violence and militancy perpetrated by Islamists and Baloch nationalists.
Also Read; Local Colours in High Colour!
This gave new definitions and redrawing to the social, and political relations particularly in this province and in the whole country at large.
The first capital of Pakistan, Karachi, was also jolted by ethnic and sectarian violence from time to time. The decade of 1979 to 1989 was the most bloodthirsty when even once peaceful Karachi University became a venue of students’ politics, violence, strikes, and even gun battles.
The hometown and province of former Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, executed by the military government of General Ziaul Haq, was a battleground of political, ethnic, and economic vendetta for almost ten years. The eleventh chapter of this book solely focuses on this period.
The last twelfth chapter of the book revolves around how a state uses religious and ethnic rivalries for its interests. The western Azerbaijani province of Iran is the case study where the new Islamic government of Iran after the Revolution tried to utilize the communal and religious or sectarian rifts for its clout.
Kurds following the Sunni school of Islam were marginalized by both the Shah government and the new Islamic Revolutionary government in Tehran in comparison to Shiite followers of Islam.
The Kurd’s demand for a liberal and self-governing autonomous region was crushed by the new revolutionary government in Tehran with the help of Shiite Azeris in the province. The town of Naqadeh was the main spot of these ethnic clashes in April 1979 killing people from both sides.
These twelve chapters are deep thought study to know about identity, politics, and divides in these three countries.
Murtaza Kaleem an educator, freelance writer, movie-watcher, melodious music listener and an avid reader about International Relations and World Politics with a decade long experience of education and teaching to students of different sociological and economic backgrounds. My social links are;