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


On 4 February, the president of Sierra Leone officially dismantled the National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR). This marked the official closure of a five-year programme that reintegrated 72,490 ex-combatants, including 6,845 ex-child combatants. These fighters had taken part in the decade-long Sierra Leonean conflict (March 1991–February 2002).


Following victory in the previous year’s elections, incumbent President Koroma started the year with the inauguration of his new cabinet. The first year of his second term brought some exceptional GDP growth figures – among the highest in Africa – which were expected to remain so for the rest of his five-year term. This was mainly due to the ever expanding mineral extraction industry, which saw large injections of FDI. However, the challenge to turn this into poverty alleviation for the broad population remained. In September, the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone upheld the 50-year prison sentence imposed on Charles Taylor. The following month, he started serving his sentence in the UK. This brought to an end – after 11 years – one of the central elements of Sierra Leone’s post-war transitional justice process.


According to all estimates, Sierra Leone had been expected to finish the year with impressive financial growth. Instead, due to the Ebola epidemic, 2014 turned out to be one of the worst years since the civil war ended in 2002. Following the first Ebola death in late May, the virus spread uncontrolled and by the end of the year the country had 10,000 reported cases. The death toll for the Mano River Union countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, was put at nearly 8,000. The crisis eventually triggered a huge international response, but prior to the international intervention the country suffered from months of inaction, which proved to be disastrous and costly. By the end of the year, the epidemic had still not peaked. It was expected that it would be well into 2015 before the country could be declared Ebola free. The human loss would be in the thousands and the economic loss in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The Ebola crisis and its consequences thus clearly dominated developments in Sierra Leone in 2014.


For the second year in a row, life in Sierra Leone was dominated by the Ebola epidemic. Although the disease peaked in the last months of 2014, the beginning of 2015 still saw hundreds of new cases reported each month. Gradually, these numbers declined and the last case was reported in September, allowing President Koroma to declare Sierra Leone ‘Ebola free’ in November, although vigilance continued to be required. Economically, the country was hit by the epidemic and the collapse in world market prices for iron ore. gdp contracted by more than 20%, although expectations were that the country would bounce back sooner rather than later. On the political front, little happened. The main event was Koroma’s dismissal of Vice President Sam-Sumana. There were no indications that the president would not complete his second term, with elections scheduled for late 2017.


With President Koroma halfway through his second and final five-year term, the country slowly started to prepare for the next presidential elections. A population census, critical for voter registration, published its findings in April and provoked protests by the main opposition party. The census itself and also the elections had been postponed several times due to the Ebola Virus Disease crisis of 2014–15. Sierra Leone declared itself Ebola free – for the second time – in March. The health crisis resulted in about 4,000 Sierra Leonean deaths and had a major impact on the economy. This, combined with a fall in world prices for iron ore, led to a major contraction of the economy. Nevertheless, growth rates were positive for the first time since 2014.


Preparations started to take place ahead of the March 2018 elections. These included registration of voters, a visit by an ecowas delegation and, most importantly, the selection of presidential candidates by the various political parties. The two main parties nominated their candidates in November. Economically, the country continued to perform reasonably well, with a gdp growth figure of around 5.5%. Two exceptionally large diamonds were discovered, both in the Kono district. In August, Freetown was struck by a natural disaster, when the side of one of its hills collapsed following relentless rains, and as a many as 500 people were killed in the mudslide. Deforestation and the uncontrolled construction of dwellings were to blame.


Sierra Leoneans voted for a new president, members of parliament, and local council representatives. The presidential elections were, following a run-off, eventually won by the Sierra Leone People’s Party (slpp) candidate, Julius Maada Bio. This brought to an end more than ten years of rule by President Koroma of the All People’s Congress (apc) party. However, the apc received a significant majority in parliament, making life somewhat difficult for the incoming president. Following the March elections, new ministerial positions were confirmed in May, replacing all the old apc ministers. The elections were overwhelmingly conducted in a fair and peaceful manner. Economically, the country continued to suffer from a slump in iron-ore prices, one of its key export commodities. Inflation remained stubbornly high at around 18%, while gdp growth was just below 4%.


President Bio reshuffled his cabinet twice this year, but, so far, the government seemed to be on track in delivering on its economic and social development agenda. A Commission of Inquiry, with a mandate to look into possible corrupt practices by the former regime, was initiated and made some headway, despite several rounds of protests by All People’s Congress supporters. Both the imf and the World Bank were generally supportive of the economic and fiscal measures taken by the government, freeing up a series of grants and loans. gdp increased by close to 4% while inflation, although still stubbornly high, was slowly coming down. A number of initiatives took place to support rural areas, ranging from improving roads to access to electricity and support for farmers.


Up to the end of March, Sierra Leone was on track for another year of solid economic growth, but then the Covid-19 pandemic struck, making the economic forecasts less rosy. Fortunately, the country experienced just one, and a rather minor, Covid ‘wave’, taking place during the second quarter of the year. The country recorded around 80 Covid deaths for the whole year. Swift action and decisive planning – partly informed by the country’s experiences when confronted with an Ebola epidemic just a few years ago – were instrumental to achieving this relatively positive outcome. Nevertheless, the impact on the economy required the country to apply for emergency aid funds and grants. On the political front, few events or changes took place, with President Julius Maada Bio approaching the halfway point of his five-year term by year’s end.


Despite a short lockdown right at the start of the year, this year was very much back to normality and focused on the socioeconomic recovery from last year’s Covid-19-dominated year. Economic growth became positive again, supported by a number of significant loans and grants. Politically, no major events happened, but some cabinet reshuffles did take place over the course of the year. In March, a huge fire in one of Freetown’s slums made more than 7,000 people homeless, although fortunately nobody died. Six months later, in November, the capital was struck by another disaster. Following a collision with a truck, a tanker exploded in eastern Freetown and killed over 130 people who had gathered to collect the leaking fuel. President Maada Bio subsequently announced three days of national mourning.