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


The year proved something of a roller coaster. There were initial hopes for an economic recovery when agreement with Sudan allowed the re-opening of the vital oil pipelines to the Red Sea, which South Sudan had closed in 2012. However, simultaneously there was a political deterioration at the top of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which led to the year ending in confusion and conflict, with hundreds killed in a wave of ethnic violence that threatened the survival of the state just two years after its independence from Sudan. And with the violence came uncertainty about the security of existing and future oil exports, on which the economy was almost entirely dependent.


The year started in the worst possible circumstances following an eruption of violence in Juba on 15 December 2013 within the presidential guard that appeared to reflect ethnic tensions between Dinka and Nuer soldiers: fighting spread rapidly across the country, especially along the length of the Nile valley from Juba in the south to Malakal in the north. It was to leave a trail of devastation during the course of the year that laid waste to the main towns and saw inter-tribal fighting in many areas. As well as thousands of dead, the widespread fighting left hundreds of idps and many refugees fleeing into Sudan to the north and Ethiopia to the east. The spark that produced the devastation was caused by the crisis in national politics, which had worsened steadily in 2013. It had centred on the growing rift between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer (the Dinka and the Nuer being the two largest tribal groups), which had led to Kiir sacking Machar, to which the latter had responded by announcing his intention to challenge Kiir in the presidential election scheduled for 2015. The international community, horrified by the apparent collapse of the world’s newest state, then only two years old, responded with humanitarian relief led by the un Mission in South Sudan and military engagement in the form of Uganda’s controversial intervention in support of Kiir. In addition, there were repeated efforts, led by the regional igad, to bring about talks between the political leaders, but although a number of ceasefires were announced, they were repeatedly broken.


The year started with an escalation in South Sudan’s civil war and, despite an agreement signed in August to stop the fighting, ended with formal peace but ongoing conflict. The August agreement officially created peace between the two main warring parties, but fighting and political struggle continued amidst a deteriorating humanitarian situation, a crisis in food production and the widening of low-level inter-communal conflict. Already hit by conflict, the oil industry further suffered from low international prices amidst severe economic crisis.


The year began with efforts to form a transitional government under the terms of the August 2015 peace agreement. Riek Machar, former vice president turned rebel leader, returned to Juba in April, accompanied by a protection force, to be sworn in as first vice president of South Sudan’s so-called Transitional Government of National Unity. This was short-lived. In July, government forces attacked and drove Machar and his forces out of Juba. Machar was replaced by Taban Deng Gai in a reshuffled Transitional Government of National Unity. Conflict spread, with devastating humanitarian consequences and an exodus of South Sudanese refugees to neighbouring countries. By the end of the year, as the conflict entered its fourth year following the eruption of violence in December 2013, the context in South Sudan was much changed from when the peace agreement had been signed in August 2015: the conflict had expanded, the opposition was fragmented, the economic crisis was severe, famine loomed and ethnic hate speech ran at alarming levels. The launch of a National Dialogue in December by President Kiir appeared highly unlikely to address such issues. Instead, the government seemed intent on pursuing a military solution amidst a widening war. While the August 2015 peace agreement continued to be formally in place, in practice it had collapsed.


Conflict continued and deepened in South Sudan during the year. The government combined official declarations of a ceasefire with ongoing military campaigns and an abortive, controversial National Dialogue initiative. As new rebel groups formed, armed opposition remained fragmented, despite some efforts to achieve greater unity. Declarations of famine in two parts of Unity State in February highlighted the consequences of the fighting and the impact of the deliberate counter-insurgency government policy. South Sudan continued to experience a deteriorating economic situation, not helped much by slightly improving oil fortunes. High numbers of idps and refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries continued to be registered, inseparable from the fighting patterns. Despite a new igad-led initiative aimed at revitalising the peace process, the conflict entered its fifth year in December with very little prospect of any real, lasting resolution in sight.


Conflict and attempts to advance peace negotiations dominated the first part of the year, leading to the government and armed opposition groups agreeing to a breakthrough deal in Khartoum in June. This led to the headline event of the year, the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan in September in Addis Ababa by many, but not all, of the warring parties. This latest agreement raised some cautious hope, but doubts about the prospects for its successful implementation had already deepened by the end of the year. The headlines about the Revitalized Agreement upstaged the reality of continuing conflict, economic difficulty, and immense humanitarian challenges. With the fifth anniversary of civil war in South Sudan passing on 15 December, the prospects for the latest deal did not appear to be particularly good.


Fighting between South Sudan’s two main warring parties declined in 2019 following the September 2018 ‘revitalised’ peace agreement signed by many, but not all, of the warring parties. However, fighting continued between government forces and rebel groups not part of the agreement, which meant that the humanitarian situation continued to be dire. National politics was dominated over the year by delays in the implementation of the peace agreement, with protracted deadlock over security arrangements, political boundaries, and the forming of a ‘Transitional Government of National Unity’. In November, amid the fallout of political change in Sudan, an agreement was signed to delay forming such a unity government until February 2020.


Any hope generated by the official formation of a new transitional government in February dissipated in the face of political disagreement between and within the main government and opposition political groupings and limited implementation of the peace agreement amid prevailing insecurity, impunity, severe flooding, and economic dire straits. Falling global crude oil prices had political repercussions in terms of power struggles and, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, badly affected an already struggling economy. With no budget agreed, and international agencies providing humanitarian services, the government struggled to pay civil servants and to manage debt and the economy. The Covid-19 pandemic provided an easy official explanation for the atrophy of the peace agreement, and hindered many aspects, but non-implementation was in reality a consequence of intractable political disagreements.


Concern about the slow implementation of South Sudan’s 2018 peace agreement was prominent in a year when limited, formal advances were accompanied by underlying power struggles and conflict, in which the splintering of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (splm/a-io) was a significant development. In contrast to igad’s diminished role, the government of South Sudan engaged in regional political ‘mediation’ and its relations with Sudan continued to have outsized significance. Oil continued to bankroll the state. International finance, notably from the imf, helped to bridge public finance funding gaps amid economic hardship but did not meaningfully change the retreat of the state from providing wages, services, and security. The Covid-19 pandemic, while present, did not dominate in the face of other challenges – flooding and further displacement compounding the suffering caused by fighting – that exacerbated the already severe humanitarian situation.


The headline political event of the year was the August agreement between President Kiir and First Vice-President Machar that extended the 2018 peace agreement by two years until February 2025. It came after further divisions between the two main signatories to the 2018 peace agreement. The new agreement, praised by its signatories but widely criticised due to the continuing lack of political will to implement the original 2018 agreement, set out a new ‘road-map’ for the agreement, including elections rescheduled for late 2024, but was also a mark of how much of the original agreement has not been implemented. Later in August, after the violent split of a Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (splm-io) faction in Upper Nile, the delayed unification of national forces was officially commemorated in Juba. The UN Mission in South Sudan (unmiss) adapted to the new road-map amid questions concerning its future and challenging geopolitical trends in the aftermath of Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine. In terms of foreign affairs, border security was a leading theme in regional relations, including with Uganda and Ethiopia, and with Sudan over the contested region of Abyei. In the context of a tougher approach by the us, the most striking trend concerned Juba’s concerted efforts to enhance ties with Gulf states. In terms of socioeconomic developments, the new August road-map agreement was overlaid onto a combination of established challenges, notably conflicts in many parts of the country, prevailing insecurity, and economic dire straits. Drought and a fourth year of serious flooding compounded the suffering of the South Sudanese.