Types of ethnic conflict


Ethnic conflict is a conflict between two or more ethnic groups. While the origin of the conflict may be political, social, economic or religious. It is certain that individuals in conflicts fight openly for the preservation of their group in society. Ethnic conflict may or may not be violent. In multi-ethnic societies where freedom of expression is protected, we can see ethnic conflict every day..For example, conflict is primarily related to direct or symbolic distribution of resources with ethnic groups. In democratic countries, the Foundation runs these conflicts for its own purposes. But democratic countries can avoid violent ethnic conflict. Ethnic peace means the absence of violence, not the absence of conflict.

Types of ethnic conflicts:

There are two broad categories of ethnic conflicts:

  1. Violent
  2. Non violent

  1. Violent Conflict: Violent

Violent ethnic conflicts refer to actions that are motivated by ethnic hatred and ethnic conflicts. Violent ethnic conflicts are predominantly based on social and political inequality. Mostly they are used by leaders with full authority to change the status of the society. In this conflict, people take up arms, attack another hostile ethnic group and kill members of other ethnic groups. It is a dangerous type of ethnic conflict, with many people being killed or injured as a result of the violence.

Example: The 1971 war when eastern Pakistan separated from western Pakistan on an ethnic basis. Another example is the many ethnic conflicts in Karachi.

  1. Non violent conflict

In non-violent ethnic conflicts, people do not face direct attack from the other race with a weapon. This conflict is the term political and cultural conflict. Mostly this struggle began to achieve political offices based on race. The conflict begins on the basis of race because leaders want a position on the basis of ethnicity, but in this conflict there is minimal opportunity for victims and the destruction of the infrastructure.

Example: the fall of the dictator in Burkina Faso, the fall of the government due to corruption cases in Bulgaria (2014), the nonviolent resistance during the Ukrainian civil war before 2014.

Subtypes of ethnic conflicts:

Religious Conflicts: Religious

Some ethnic conflicts begin on the basis of religion. People have strict beliefs about religion and never show any flexibility in their beliefs. And if they realize any threat to their religion, they are ready to kill or die. And if a single religion sees any threat to its survival from people taking a stand for the security of religion, then ethnic conflict begins on the basis of religion. This conflict can be violent and non-violent.

Example: The Ethnic and Religious Crisis in Nigeria (2013), the Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648 between Catholic and Protestant Christians, and the Crusade of the 11th and 25th centuries, ISIS is another example of ethno-religious conflicts.

Bureaucratic conflict Bureaucratic Conflict :

Some scholars explain that ethnic conflict is the result of the bureaucracy of occupying bureaucratic offices and job positions. Every person wants hegemony in his region, so the intelligentsia begins to try to occupy positions under the shades of race, then the ethnic struggle begins to occupy offices. The less educated people start to struggle with the educated, and the main reason for this conflict is that educated people are fewer in number but rule all races, so the less educated people want to dominate, and for hegemony they start the conflict.

Example: Al-Tamil and Sinhali are an example of a bureaucratic ethnic conflict.

Ethno-cultural conflict: Cultural ethnic conflict

Some ethnic groups assume that the culture they adopt is preferable to other cultures. Other cultures perceive the threat because these people feel inferior, and then these people try to reduce their inferiority through conflict. These conflicts are mostly violent because no single culture exhibits flexibility in cultural beliefs. It is another reason for culture, everyone wants to spread their culture, and when the culture proliferates, the culture conflict occurs because everyone wants to promote their culture. Then begins ethnic conflict based on culture. Ethnic cleansing is the result of ethnic conflict on a cultural basis.

Nonviolent Ethnocultural Conflict : Cultural non violent ethnic conflict

This struggle arises for the freedom of cultural practice but also for the struggle of cultural values. In this conflict, different ethnic groups begin to struggle for survival and cultural belief practices. It is also a violent and non-violent conflict.

Example: Ethnic strife in Georgia, and CBBC in Canada.

Ethnic economic conflict Ethno economic conflict

Different ethnic groups want to promote their actions in other areas and when they try to occupy business dominance and create obstacles in the business of other ethnic groups. And also begins the struggle over the distribution of resources. If any group receives more resources than another, it creates hatred between groups.

Ethno-political conflict Ethno political conflict

Any different ethnic group increases their participation in politics in order to protect the rights of their ethnic group or race. Political leaders administer legislation and set policy on a discriminatory basis that leads to tension and frustration between different ethnic groups.

Example: The political competition between the Pakistan People’s Party and the Mutahida Qomi Movement.

Ethnic conflicts can also be divided into three other parts.

  1. Separatist
  2. Irredentist Unitarism
  3. Autonomist

These groups may be violent and non-violent.

Separatist movements:

In ethnic separatist conflicts, one ethnic group holds the majority in certain regions and demands the separation of its territories from the existing state. This conflict is mostly violent. Because the state did not agree to separate these ethnic groups.

Example: the Kurds in Iran, Iraq and Syria. The Khalistan Movement in India.

There are two types in ethnic separatist conflict:

1 – Non-violent: the struggle for secession by nonviolent means. Building a mind for separation and public opinion creation. Such is the separatist movement in Canada. This is the example of the separatist movement with nonviolence.

2 – Violent: However, some ethnic groups struggle for secession using violent political means, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and East Timor.

Unitary movements:

This type of conflict can be violent and non-violent. This problem is solved in the United Nations when another country claims on a historical basis (this is our territory in the past).

Example: Afghans claim that the Pakhtoon regions are part of Afghanistan in history. India claims that Kashmir was a part of India in the past.


When different groups struggle to create autonomy. This conflict is mostly non-violent but it can be violent. In this conflict, the majority and the minority want to rule all societies, but the large ethnic group often wins in this situation.


Ethnic conflict is a conflict that is fought on the basis of race. Ethnic conflicts have different types. In simple words, we can say this kind of ethnic conflict based on the cause of the ethnic conflict. As if the political cause of ethnic conflict is called ethno-political conflict. Ethnic conflict can be violent and non-violent. It is believed that some ethnic groups can achieve their own interests without using violent means, but some groups do not believe that they can achieve their own interest without violence. Violent ethnic conflict causes losses and destroys infrastructure as well as detrimental to international peace. Therefore, all ethnic groups should try to resolve their disputes by peaceful means.

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SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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