chapter  5
Network establishment, network activation and violence specialists
Pages 23

This chapter identifies the dynamics which shaped the eruption of civil war in Tajikistan. It argues that the mechanisms of network establishment and network activation by the elites, together with the establishment of local militias and their involvement in the war through the activation of violence specialists, were important factors in bringing about the eruption of violence. The existence of these mechanisms in Tajikistan, and their absence in Uzbekistan, led to different outcomes in the two countries in terms of civil war. This chapter shows what mechanisms led Tajikistan into civil war, how networks were activated from the top down, how mobilization was achieved at the micro level in the villages. It stresses both macro-and micro-level mechanisms and argues that there is a connection between the two-a look at both is necessary to understand the dynamics of the war (Tunçer-Kılavuz 2009a). The civil war in Tajikistan shows us that in conflicts it is possible to connect

the masses with the elites at local and national levels through networks. The activation of these networks makes a top-down mobilization possible. Elites activated their networks by contacting their connections; at the village level their connections mobilized people in a very organized way. The first part of the chapter will discuss the role of a mediator, Turajonzoda,

who established links between formerly unrelated opposition groups. In so doing, he turned the opposition into a strong force, united against the government. This contributed to the emergence of violent conflict in Tajikistan. The second part of the chapter will discuss the network activations of

political elites during the demonstrations in Dushanbe between March and May 1992, when elites on both sides brought their supporters to the capital for support. By “network activation” I mean the use which elites made of their previously established relationships and connections, which they invoked in order to secure support and protect their own interests. Political elites in Tajikistan activated their relationships with people with whom they had previous connections. This mechanism mobilized people in different regions, and significantly contributed to the eruption of civil war. Another related mechanism was the activation of violence specialists by political elites. Their establishment of contact with illegal groups and mobilizing them for support helped ignite the civil war in Tajikistan. These mechanisms were absent in

Uzbekistan. Although similar loyalties and network relations existed in Uzbekistan, the elite did not activate them. Finally, I explore some questions raised in the literature on violent conflict

and the civil war in Tajikistan, such as the role of regional identities in the onset of the war and the motivations of ordinary people. Through such a micro-level analysis, this study attempts to answer the question of how ordinary people get involved in war and why they follow the elites. This study suggests that, rather than the reason for the war, the polarization among regional identities can be a result of the war. Motivations for people to join the war were very complex and in many cases people were forced to join. Revenge was an important motivation to join armed groups. Some people joined to avenge relatives and friends who were killed in the war. This study benefits from theories of network analysis in exploring the

mechanisms which ignite violent conflict. The network approach explains certain behaviors and processes through social connectivity (Emirbayer and Goodwin 1994, p.1419). It maintains that “the structure of relations among actors and the location of individual actors in the network have important behavioral, perceptual, and attitudinal consequences both for the individual units and for the system as a whole” (Knoke and Kuklinski 1982, p.13). The webs of relationships which link actors with each other play crucial roles in conflicts. Actors activate their network relations when they need them. In Tajikistan civil war, pro-communist and opposition groups made use of

various networks and discourses available to them-based on Islam, ethnicity, regionalism, or democracy-according to the circumstances. Although the war was neither Islamic, nor ethnic, nor regional, all of these factors played a role in the war as mobilizing tools. However, the rural structure of the republic embodied within the kolkhoz system, together with the regionally based organization of elite networks, ensured that the regions would become a significant mobilization tool in the war. Regional identities were strong both for the public and for political elites. Networks were organized according to regional origin, and regional loyalties were used by the political and armed entrepreneurs for mobilization purposes. In the course of the war, these regional allegiances became more important. Depiction of the Tajikistan civil war as having been caused by regional

rivalries, with Khujandis and Kulyabis on one side, and Garmis and GornoBadakhshanis on the other, seems like an exaggeration, especially for the onset of the war (see: Jawad and Tadjbakhsh 1995). Parties to the war were not as homogeneous as a region-based explanation would suggest. Not all people from the same region were on the same side, and both sides of the conflict contained people from every region. Some people from the so-called “pro-opposition” regions supported the government. Likewise, some people from “pro-government” regions supported the opposition. However, the war made regional identity an important factor. It was not regional antagonisms among people from different regions that started the war. Mobilization in the villages was based on regional networks. Regional loyalties became a tool for

attracting support and mobilizing people for the war effort. The communists and opposition forces used regional loyalties for their own aims, during the demonstrations and for the war effort. One supporter of the status quo, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Safarali Kenjaev, from Hissar, turned to his regional connections, while, among challenger elites, Internal Minister Mahmadayoz Navjuvanov, a Pamiri, and IRP leader Abdullo Nuri, from Garm, did the same. Government and opposition leaders activated other available networks as well. Kenjaev used his connections in the “Kulyabi mafia” and, based on Islamic discourse of the IRP, Nuri had many supporters among Kulyabis and Khujandis as well. This study also argues that, in the Tajikistan civil war, politics was not

local. While sub-national developments are important, in the final analysis the war was fought for the sake of gaining power at the republic level. The accounts of many elite informants confirmed this. Many stated that the goal was to gain, or keep, hokimiyat (power). This study argues that the war did not start as a result of intensified competition and conflicts among people in the various regions, or as a result of resentments by or competition among the local elites. The conflict started in Dushanbe as a struggle among elites at the republic level and then spread to other regions through the activity of militias. This was a top-down mobilization. The activation of networks by the elites and their decision to work with illegal groups for the support of their cause were especially important for the beginning of the civil war and its spread to other regions of the country.