By Zeynep Memecan and Adam B. Kushner
All it took was a dispute in a toy factory to unleash riots this week in China's Xinjiang province that killed 156 and injured 1,100. Ethnic minorities like the Uighurs, and their more famous counterparts to the south in Tibet, often coexist badly with the majority—and it's not just a Chinese phenomenon. In many cases, the people crave a measure of autonomy, and some elements demand outright self-determination, agitating for it violently. While a few minorities, such as Rwanda's Tutsis, resolve to live with their antagonists even after ethnic conflict, others strive for an entirely separate state—citing religious, linguistic, or simply cultural divisions.
From the Balkans to Latin America, the quest to secede has elicited several of the world's worst conflicts. Some, like the Bengalis of East Pakistan, have succeeded in forming an independent state (Bangladesh); others, like Sri Lanka's Tamils, have been defeated. Most, though, coexist uneasily with the majority and nurse simmering resentments, much as the Uighurs have done. Click through for a primer.