Imagine that you were a state in which the unruly masses of an ethnic minority rebelled in one of your provinces. Would you crush it with your own security forces or would you set another minority under your control to do the job for you? Put another way, if you were a member of a long-marginalised ethnic minority living under an oppressive regime, would you take the opportunity to join an armed separatist movement or would you have hope in the government and stay to build it? These are some of the questions which confront you when reading Identity, Conflict and Politics in Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.
Identity has forever been a major factor in the causes and resolutions of conflict, and has been a defining force in shaping the policies of states, and even constitutions. This has been the case both for homogeneous and diverse countries, albeit in different ways. In an era where differences in ethnic and religious – and even political – identities are being intensified, this book outlines how the seemingly separate fields of politics and identity affect and, at times, depend on each other.
The twelve chapters are written by specialist authors. The topics include violence in the Middle East during the 1980s; how conflict is linked with and often caused by group identities; and how the three states in question deal with their separatist movements: Turkey’s and Iran’s Kurds, and Pakistan’s Balochis and political militias. It also touches upon radicalisation and religious communities within Britain.
It is a very academic book, with a lot of analysis and statistical evidence. For example, readers will learn how the shift in the ethnic demographics in the Balochistan region of Pakistan has affected the regional political situation with regard to the separatist militias.
This makes the book ideal for students of group identities and conflicts in the countries named, as well as their diasporas. The historical contexts upon which the conflicts are based are also looked at. It is not, however, a general book suited to someone wishing simply to learn more about the issues, covering as it does many different aspects of identity and how nation states deal with them.
I particularly found it interesting how governments sometimes monopolise the tensions between identifiably distinct communities. The support given to the Shia Azeris by the Iranian government against Sunni Kurds in Iran throughout 1979, for example, when the new regime of Ayatollah Khomeini manoeuvred its way around the Kurdish separatist rebellion through a mixture of diplomacy and divide-and-rule strategy.
Overall, the book provides a detailed and varied analysis of the link between identity, conflict and politics, through both empirical evidence and personal accounts. Its main drawback, I feel, is that it is targeted at an academic audience when the topics covered are issues which really ought to be taken to a much wider audience, as they have the potential to affect everyone in the region and, indeed, the rest of the world.