IDENTITY-CONFLICT RELATIONS: A CASE-STUDY OF THE FERGHANA VALLEY CONFLICTS
Yasar Sari, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of International Relations, Abant Izzet Baysal University (Bolu, Turkey), and Department of International Relations, Kyrgyzstan-Turkey Manas University (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
This study aims to describe and explain the relations between identity and conflict by drawing on different theoretical approaches in political science. It examines the questions of whether collective identity, either on a national, civilizational, religious, or social level, is an important variable in trying to understand current conflicts, as well as the prospects for formulating identity-based approaches to conflict. In other words, is it even possible to think about collective identity and conflict simultaneously? This gives rise to another question: Why is collective identity an important factor for explaining the conflict in the Ferghana Valley?
The Ferghana Valley has played a role both in establishing stability in Central Asia and in becoming the starting point of violent conflict throughout the history of the region. The valley became administrationally and ethnically divided into several parts during the Soviet and post-Soviet era. Currently, the tension among the different ethnic, social, and political groups is high because of overpopulation, the increasing scarcity of water and arable land, and the economic hardships and social differentiation that occurred during the political, economic, and social transformation after the Soviet Union collapsed. The Ferghana Valley, at the heart of Central Asia, has become one of the most conflict-prone areas in Central Asia. For these reasons, the valley is a good area for testing the explanatory power of different approaches of political science to explain identity-conflict relations.
Ethnic issues are still extremely important for understanding much of the tension arising in the valley. Not only is there division among the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik people, the issue is further complicated by the hostility between different identity-groups and minorities in the region. Additional pressure is arising due to the fact that not only does this tension exist inside each state, it could also escalate to the interstate level.
Keywords: Central Asia, identity, Ferghana Valley, ethnic relations, conflict.