The Use of Violence by Ethnopolitical Organizations

Project Details


This project focuses on the identification of those factors that motivate some members of ethnic minorities to become radicalized, to form activist organizations, and to move from conventional means of politics and protest into violence and terrorism. Focusing initially on the Middle East, the Minorities at Risk (MAR) and the Minorities at Risk Organizational Behavior (MAROB) projects provide information on the characteristics of those ethnopolitical groups and organizations most likely to employ violence and terrorism to address their perceived grievances with local, national, or international authority structures.

Primary Findings:

Analyses of organizational-level characteristics demonstrate distinct changes over the past three decades in the behavior and ideologies of organizations that represent the interests of ethnopolitical groups in the Middle East. A smaller percentage of these organizations use violence now as compared to past periods, while a larger proportion than before engages in electoral politics or protests. One of the largest changes related to ethnopolitical organizations in the Middle East across this period has been in their ideological motivation. While the number of organizations on a traditional left-right political continuum has remained fairly stable, the number of organizations motivated by religion, nationalism, and democracy has risen dramatically. The number of Middle East organizations that seek to incorporate religion into public life has risen from only two in 1980 to 23 in 2004. Some theorists expect that this religious orientation should be associated with a rise in violence and terrorism. Our preliminary findings show only moderate support for this relationship. Organizations with the following characteristics are more likely to engage in terrorism:

  • Separatist Agenda
  • Rhetoric Justifying Violence
  • Foreign Support
  • Experiences State Repression

Organizations that do not have a democratic ideology and have all the factors above have an 89% likelihood of engaging in terrorism.


The Minorities at Risk Organizational Behavior (MAROB) project has collected data on 150 variables for the period 1980-2004. These variables fall in the following general categories: 1. Organizational Characteristics (e.g. ideology, leadership, grievances) 2. Organization-State Relations (e.g. repression, negotiations) 3. External Support (e.g. foreign state, diaspora) 4. Organizational Behavior (e.g. types of violence, targets of violence, location of violence) Data have been collected on 112 ethnic organizations representing 29 ethnic groups in the Middle East and North Africa as identified by the Minorities at Risk project. These time-series data were then analyzed using a variety of logistical regression techniques. The MAROB Middle East codebook and data are available online from START.


Project Period:

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