New at Brill in Open Access: Encyclopædia Iranica Online


Encyclopaedia Iranica is the most renowned reference work in the field of Iran studies. Founded by the late Professor Ehsan Yarshater and edited at the Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University, this monumental international project brings together the scholarship about Iran of thousands of authors around the world.




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Encyclopædia Iranica Online Now Freely Accessible at Brill

The Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University, New York, and Brill are delighted to announce that the Encyclopædia Iranica Online is now freely accessible at Brill’s Reference Works Platform. Encyclopædia Iranica is the comprehensive academic reference work dedicated to the study of Iranian civilization in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.

Ancient Iran Series Added to Brill’s Publishing Portfolio

As part of their growing portfolio in Middle East and Islamic Studies, Brill has signed an agreement for the take-over of the book series Ancient Iran Series. With its coverage of ancient, pre-, and early-Islamic Iran, this book series complements other book series with a more modern focus on this geographical area, as well as the various other journals and encyclopaedias Brill publishes in this field.

Read an interview with Geert Jan van Gelder

The longstanding series Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1: The Near and Middle East recently reached its 150th volume by publishing the special Prominent Murder Victims of the Pre- and Early Islamic Periods Including the Names of Murdered Poets. We caught up with Geert Jan van Gelder, editor and translator of the volume.


Acquisitions Editors


Maurits van den Boogert

Nicolette van der Hoek

Abdurraouf Oueslati

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Jehona Kicaj

Middle East and Islamic Studies


With a population of about 72 million people and a relatively strong state, Ethiopia remains one of Africa's most important countries. Its position, however, continued to be weak due to chronic food insecurity, massive poverty, lack of productive capacity beyond agriculture, an ambiguous democratisation process and unresolved issues as to national identity and policy. There was also continued internal dissent, partly emerging from politicised ethnic differences, with opposition parties and civil society organisations struggling to gain a voice in national politics dominated by a ruling party that came to power through force of arms in 1991. Scattered rebel groups and occasional revolts necessitated a close watch on the security situation. There was also a growing challenge from religious revivalism and several instances of radicalisation among some Muslim youth groups.


Ethiopia maintained strong economic growth and received increased foreign investment, but remained one of the most authoritarian and repressive regimes in Africa, with government control extended over the economy, political life and cyber-space, and the containment of private business and overall human development. Political pluralism was officially tolerated but denied in practice. Media freedom was strongly curtailed and human rights problems remained serious. A new opposition party, the Semayawi (or Blue) Party, consisting mainly of young people, was closely monitored and disrupted at strategic moments. Mass Muslim protests against “state interference in religious life” continued on a regular basis, but were repressed. Muslim grievances were not addressed and no dialogue was held.

Politically, the year was marked by preparations for the fifth general elections, scheduled for May 2015. So-called ‘right-wing multinational’ groups failed to create a broad coalition to counter the ruling eprdf and appeared weakened by internal struggles (doubtless exploited by the eprdf) in the run-up to the elections. A four-party front of ethnic and multinational parties nevertheless maintained its candidacy and thus represented the first coalition to contest two successive general elections. The young Blue Party, created in January 2012, was to take part in its first election.


The main political events of the year were the May national parliamentary elections and the massive Oromo revolt against the Addis Ababa Masterplan, which had aimed to incorporate Oromo farmlands. The elections were won, as expected, by the ruling eprdf, with none of the 547 seats conceded to the opposition. It was a lacklustre and subdued event, with little international press coverage, and was regarded with deep scepticism and scorn by Ethiopian opposition parties, independent observers and most of the international community. The Oromo revolt led to major upheaval, with some 400 people killed and the government’s land policy at risk.


All the year’s events were overshadowed by persistent demonstrations and protests by, mainly rural, people against political repression and perceived inequalities in land allocation and against dispossession. The lives of hundreds of people were lost in violent repression, and there were also tens of thousands of arrests. Bloodshed and anger dominated the country for months, and demonstrations and pockets of armed resistance persisted even after the declaration of a ‘state of emergency’ in October and the instalment of a new ruling body, the ‘Command Post’, which took extrajudicial authority to “restore public order” and suppress activism. The overall situation was one of political stalemate, disarray and distrust.


The one-party regime of the eprdf (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front) remained in place but appeared increasingly shaky, with country-wide contestation and political insecurity ongoing. Important ruling-party meetings were held toward the end of the year to deal with the crises. Ethiopia’s economy continued to grow, although foreign investment and tourism did not recover to the level of before the 2016 crisis. Clashes between ethnic groups also continued, with a major new crisis erupting on the Oromo-Somali regional border, leading to hundreds of people being killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.


Ethiopia went through one of its most momentous years in recent decades. The ruling party effectively split and named a surprise new prime minister in April, after intense meetings meant to address a national crisis of ongoing mass protests and civil disobedience, as well as economic problems. The political climate notably opened up due to the liberalisation policies of the new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed – a member of the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation (opdo), one of the four constituent parties of the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (eprdf) – and waves of hope engulfed the nation.


Ethiopia went through a highly eventful and difficult year, with multiple humanitarian challenges, violent incidents, and bizarre episodes of ‘ethnic’ politics, but also saw continued democratisation and legal reform efforts under the committed reformist prime minister Abiy Ahmed, who went ahead at full speed with the restructuring of governance, institutions, and laws and gave the country a new impetus and more status in Africa. He led the transformation of the former ruling-party coalition the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (eprdf) and renamed it the Ethiopian Prosperity Party (pp). He received international acclaim for his efforts, including the Nobel Peace Prize for his initiative to end the state of war with Eritrea and for domestic reform efforts. The economy, while growing, did not do spectacularly well, with lower export performance and a decline in (foreign) investments, partly due to security issues, a growing debt burden, and global volatility. Violent ‘ethnic’ clashes continued in various parts of the country. Large numbers of people still needed humanitarian assistance, because of uneven agrarian production, local droughts, malnutrition, and violence-induced displacements, although tens of thousands of people displaced in previous years returned to their places of origin. Tensions in and between Ethiopia’s regional states, vying for more autonomy, remained, and a new regional state (Sidama) emerged after a referendum on autonomy from Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region was held there in November.


Ethiopia continued to be marked by a volatile political situation, interethnic unrest and an uncertain ‘reform agenda’ trajectory under prime minister Abiy Ahmed and the reigning Prosperity Party. Some of the political actors invited back into Ethiopia in 2018 reverted to armed struggle, and certain political murders and ethnic-based killings disturbed the country. The global Covid-19 pandemic reached Ethiopia in March, leading to socioeconomic damage and the declaration of a ‘state of emergency’ for five months. Economic growth continued, although at a more reduced rate, and many new urban and infrastructural projects were started. The agrarian sector did well due to a favourable rainy season. Expansion was also seen in the mining and industrial sectors, despite a decline in foreign investment. The external debt burden became a prominent issue. The controversy with Sudan and notably with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (gerd) continued, with no negotiated settlement in sight. In November, a serious armed confrontation unfolded in Tigray after an unprovoked attack by the Tigray armed forces on the federal army camps and military infrastructure in the region, producing a massive and highly disruptive conflict, with incomplete media reporting and social media disinformation having a nefarious impact. This conflict also led to a decline in the international reputation of Ethiopia and its prime minister and to economic stress. Insecurity in areas in western Ethiopia was evident in the many killings and the property destruction by insurgent groups with no clear agenda. National parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2020 were first delayed to 29 August, then postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Ethiopia went through a dramatic year of serious armed conflicts, both in the north, with an intensification of hostilities through the expansion of campaigns by the insurgent Tigray People’s Liberation Front (tplf) into northern Amara and Afar Regions, and in the west, where the Oromo Liberation Army (ola) and Gumuz insurgents were active, mostly in ethnic-based killing campaigns and expulsions of civilians. Humanitarian misery and economic hardship followed in the wake of these insurgencies. Negotiated solutions were not in sight, despite international (un, au, and Western donor country) pressure on the warring parties. The June parliamentary elections were a victory for the ruling party, the Prosperity Party (pp) of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Significantly, opposition party members were also elected and some were included in the new national cabinet as (vice-) ministers as well as in regional administrations. The political reform agenda slowed down due to a deteriorating security situation across large parts of the country. The national economy received major hits but continued to grow modestly, and export earnings in various sectors increased (e.g., mineral exports revenue doubled). The agrarian economy outside the conflict areas maintained production and showed growth in output. Industrial development continued, with one new industrial parked opened, and showed resilience, but towards the end of the year it was threatened by a decline in fdi and the announced suspension from the USA’s African Growth and Opportunity Act scheme (which gives preferential market access to the US market). Ethiopian diaspora remittances through official channels grew significantly. Environmental challenges remained, and towards the end of the year there were signs of an impending drought in eastern and southern parts of the country.