Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Department of Political Science


Bernd Kaussler

Kay Knickrehm

Martin Cohen


The issue of sectarian violence is widespread in today’s world of intra-state conflict. Though it appears that religion and ethnicity fuel these civil wars, insurgencies, and terrorist acts, there are in fact many more factors that contribute to sectarian violence. In this article, three case studies of Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey are examined to determine what causes sectarianism to break into violent conflict in some cases rather than others. Through analysis of four independent variables—disparities, grievances, foreign intervention, and regime strength—it can be determined that the true drivers of sectarian violence are much more complex than simple religious and ethnic divides. Since the relationships between the independent variables are highly interrelated, it is ultimately impossible to isolate a single variable as being the sole spark that incites a sectarian disagreement to turn violent. The final conclusion is that foreign intervention and regime strength play a more significant role in stirring up violence than disparities and grievances, however a more empirical study will need to be carried out to arrive at a more definitive answer.



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