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 escalation of conflict in Darfur overshadowed all other developments in 2004. As in 1998, the country was described by the UN as the scene of the “world's worst humanitarian crisis”. Despite much international attention and diplomatic pressure, the security and humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate throughout the year. This dampened international delight over the success of peace negotiations between the Government of the Sudan (GoS) and the armed opposition in the south, the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), that helped to end the world's longest civil war. On the economic level, increasing oil production and high prices boosted revenue, and prospects for peace in the south helped raise the level of international investment. Western powers, however, made stronger engagement conditional on settlement of the Darfur crisis.


The year started with the country in a difficult situation. South Sudan had closed its oilfields early in 2012 and so Sudan was receiving no revenue from the transit fees of South Sudan’s oil across Sudan’s territory. Government finances were badly affected since the bulk of its oil revenue had come from South Sudan’s oil prior to that country’s secession in 2011. As a result, Sudan had had to introduce an austerity programme which was already deeply unpopular, and discontent only increased with time as inflation escalated. Meanwhile, in the areas of conflict – in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan – there were few signs of peace being any nearer, while the future of the dispute with South Sudan over the Abyei border also remained unresolved. The government’s response was twofold: throughout the year it was seeking to divide the opposition, especially by preventing a linking of the political parties and the fighters in the conflict areas, while also trying to give the impression of being willing to reform, but – as became ever clearer – on its own terms. Relations with South Sudan were a major feature of these problems, especially the restoration of rents from the oil pipelines, but it was far from clear whether these could be resolved before the situation in Sudan worsened still further. Other foreign relations were less urgent, but Sudan still found that it made little headway with its attempts at reconciliation with the West, leaving it largely dependent on Asia, especially China, and the Gulf.


The year turned out to bring an inconclusive continuation of the numerous problems long present in the country, but worsened by the economic crisis resulting from the dispute over revenues from the South Sudanese oil fields in 2012. The long-term problems included Sudan’s political leadership, the attitudes of political parties and the continuation of armed conflict in a number of outlying areas, most notably Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur. The significance of these problems, especially as they affected the central regions of the Nile Valley, had been managed in large part by the rapid oil-backed growth of the economy in the early 2000s. However this was curtailed first, to a limited extent, by the global financial crisis of 2008, and then, more directly, by the dispute over oil revenues with South Sudan shortly after the latter seceded from Sudan, which had resulted in the stoppage of oil flows for over a year. The government’s response had been to impose large-scale anti-austerity measures in 2013, which produced wide-scale demonstrations. The government had then put down the protests by force, and in 2014 the security crackdown continued, though with less visible resistance following the repression and resulting deaths of over 200 people in 2013. Politically, it sought to press ahead towards the elections due in April 2015, while trying to take opposition parties with it in a process labelled ‘National Dialogue’. For the opposition parties, the major issue was how far they would engage with the government before the elections (they had boycotted the 2010 elections at the last moment) and how far they could cooperate amongst themselves against the government. For some, there was also the possibility of showing support for the rebel groups, especially the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (spla-n) fighting in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Economically, austerity continued with the government regaining only a part of its earlier oil revenues following a deal with South Sudan, while also seeking to win international assistance in its precarious position. This entailed maintaining close relations with the Gulf countries, especially Qatar, and Asia, particularly China. The government also sought more understanding with the imf and the World Bank, although there were few signs of greater sympathy from the usa or Europe, where the hopes of democratic reform raised by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (cpa) of 2005 had been repeatedly dashed.


The main domestic political preoccupation centred around attempts to hold a National Dialogue – seen as a means of dealing with the political crisis since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which was expressed through civil war on the peripheries and anti-government demonstrations at the centre. The aim was to bring together the government, under the ruling National Congress Party (ncp), and both violent and non-violent opposition groups, in an inclusive process to discuss a common way forward. However, as the ncp regime, backed by the army and security services, reaffirmed its dominance in the country, inclusivity was progressively eroded. The opposition remained divided, marginalised and largely externalised, with key leaders exiled and meetings taking place abroad. The Sudanese government insisted that the long-planned National Dialogue should take place inside the country, with no external involvement, but failed to provide an enabling environment that would allow opposition and rebel groups to engage. The government was strengthened by rapprochement with the Gulf Arab states and their allies, in particular Saudi Arabia. Sudan was also part of the ‘Muslim Alliance’ against terrorism announced by Saudi Arabia in December. The quid pro quo for Sudan was both diplomatic and economic, with promises of agricultural investment. Sudan’s more comfortable position in the Middle East region was complemented by relatively good relations with its immediate neighbours in Africa – most importantly, South Sudan, despite ongoing sources of tension. With regional linkages secured, Sudan was in a better position to manage relationships with global powers, although ties with the usa remained fraught. Sudan’s economy continued to recover from the shock of South Sudanese secession. Monetary policy remained tight, but there were signs that fiscal discipline was slipping, and efforts at economic diversification and private sector development continued to flounder. The balance of payments also deteriorated sharply, causing further currency depreciation. Growth continued to be constrained by massive debt arrears, which limited options for new borrowing, and by us sanctions. Many of Sudan’s peripheries continued to suffer from conflict and instability, with negative implications for overall livelihoods.

President al-Bashir kept himself and the hegemonic National Congress Party at the top of the regime. They were not challenged by other political movements, as 75% of the parliament was made up of al-Bashir’s supporters after the 2015 elections, and the emergence of other political and civic movements was suppressed. However, two calls for civil disobedience at the end of the year revived discontent with a government that had led the Islamist regime since 1989. 2016 was also marked by ongoing violent conflict in parts of Darfur and South Kordofan, although the government asserted that these conflicts had ended. At the regional level, relations remained tense with Egypt, pragmatic towards Ethiopia, and confrontational towards South Sudan. Collaboration with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf regimes was strengthened, notably in the war in Yemen. Diplomatic relations with Iran were severed and Shiite schools in Sudan were closed. The lifting of us sanctions was still under negotiation, while al-Bashir continued to face charges of war crimes and genocide at the icc. The economy continued to be affected by us sanctions, weak oil production and El Niño. The balance of trade remained negative, and inflation suddenly worsened in October following the government decision to end subsidies on basic commodities. The government benefitted from loans from the uae, but the national currency remained weak and affected by a strong black market.

Sudanese internal politics remained tense, both within the regime and in its relations with many sectors of society. Within the regime, President Omar al-Bashir announced the formation of a new government emerging from the ‘National Dialogue’. But the composition of and participants in this Government of National Accord (or Consensus) were far from representing a solid basis for peaceful political competition. Tensions also remained very high within many segments of society, particularly student movements and (armed) groups in peripheral regions. Hundreds of political prisoners remained in jail.

Sudan continued to sink into a deep political and economic crisis during the year. Two devaluations of the Sudanese pound (sdg) contributed to major inflation (72%) and cash shortages. Fuel and diesel shortages also hit the country throughout the year. The economic crisis worsened the existing political crisis, reaching its peak from 19 December, as important popular mobilisations started, asking for the abdication of the regime and the organisation of a transitional period. International sanctions from the icc were maintained against individuals related to crimes committed in Darfur, including president Omar al-Bashir. At the regional and international level, Sudan continued its policy of normalisation with foreign actors, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, the uae, Qatar, and Turkey. Russia developed military and energy-related projects in Sudan. The eu remained an important partner in the framework of its migratory policies (eu-Emergency Trust Fund for Africa).

Massive protests continued against the Sudanese regime in early 2019 in many cities, and after four months of popular demonstrations, protesters started a large sit-in around the Ministry of Defence in the capital, Khartoum, on 6 April. On 11 April, a coup d’état eventually overthrew President Omar al-Bashir, who was replaced by a Transitional Military Council (tmc) briefly led by General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf (for a couple of days, 11–12 April 2019) and from then on by General Abdel Fatteh al-Burhan. Negotiations between civilian representatives and the tmc were laborious until the latter decided to violently dismantle the sit-in on 3 June. The population of the capital and of the main cities remained strongly mobilised, and negotiations, under the auspice of the African Union and the Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed, finally led to the signing of a ‘Constitutional Declaration’ between the military leaders and the civilians in August. This agreement officially marked the end of the Inqaz regime (1989–2019) and the beginning of a transition period led by two executive bodies: a Supreme Council (military-civilian), and a civilian government led by Prime Minister Dr Abdallah Hamdok. Omar al-Bashir and former National Congress Party (ncp) members remained in prison in Sudan, and al-Bashir was not delivered to the icc. In December, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for embezzling public funds. Challenges remained huge, including in reforming the administration and building structures to prepare for democratic transition but also on economic terms: the new civilian government could not reverse the collapse of the currency, inflation, and fuel/diesel shortages.

This was a difficult year for the political transition in Sudan, but it was also marked by decisive steps forward. The institutions of transition remained divided between civilians (government) and the military (half of the Sovereign Council). This fragmentation did not facilitate the implementation of important reforms: the Legislative Council, one of the key institutions provided for by the Constitutional Declaration, was not formed. In October, the political scene was further shaken by the historical agreement signed in Juba between the transitional institutions and armed groups of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front. But this agreement did not include the most influential armed groups, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North led by Abdul Aziz al Helou (splm-n al Helou) and the Sudanese Liberation Movement led by Abdel Wahid Nur (slm-aw), and the costs of the implementation were not secured.

Sudan’s political transition came to an abrupt stop in late 2021 with the breakdown of the precarious civilian–military alliance formed in 2019. In the first half of the year, the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, with the integration of rebel leaders into the transitional government, contributed to a shift in the power balance at the head of the state away from the civilian forces. This became apparent between March and October, as rebel leaders expressed vocal criticisms of the major civilian coalition, the Forces of Freedom and Change, and increasingly aligned with the security apparatus. Dissension within civilian forces and between civilian and military factions turned into open conflict and came to a head when the military launched a coup on 25 October. This opened a period of political uncertainty and deep institutional crisis that was left unresolved by the end of the year. The coup also interrupted the process of diplomatic normalisation launched by the authorities in 2019, despite a high point in May with the organisation of the Paris Conference by the French presidency. Funding collected on this occasion and over the year had enabled Sudan to pay its arrears to the imf and to become eligible for foreign debt relief under the hipc initiative. However, the coup drew almost unanimous condemnation by the international community and led to the suspension of most bilateral and international financial assistance. Sudan’s economy continued to deteriorate in 2021, despite liberalisation policies aimed at alleviating the crisis. Inflation, food, and fuel prices continued to rise, affecting the living conditions of millions of Sudanese. Food insecurity among idps and refugees was a growing concern, and though humanitarian aid was not impacted by international reactions to the coup, the suspension of most long-term financial support from Western donors put the socioeconomic situation further at risk as the year ended.