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 saw a continuation of the strong contrast between the eu’s discourse of emphasising equal partnership with Africa, and its practice of launching unilateral initiatives towards Africa. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker devoted a substantial part of his annual State of the Union address on 12 September to “Europe’s twin continent”, asserting that “Africa does not need charity, it needs true and fair partnerships. And Europe needs this partnership just as much”. In the subsequent puzzling sentences, Juncker reported that he had consulted his “African friends”, in particular au chair Paul Kagame, and that they had all agreed that “donor-recipient relations are a thing of the past” and that “reciprocal commitments are the way forward”.


President João Lourenço confounded popular expectations by pursuing his vigorous reshuffling of the executive and the administration, and by allowing the opening of some high-profile corruption investigations into former prominent regime figures. On the international stage he multiplied overtures to old and new partners, leveraged Angola’s regional influence in neighbouring drc, and successfully redressed Angola’s image, which had been marred by grand corruption in the last years. Although these measures had great symbolic impact on foreign and domestic politics, in practice the dominance of the ruling party continued: changes to the political economy were ultimately more superficial than substantial, and there was little relief from economic hardship for a majority of the population.


As in previous years, politics remained focussed on president Patrice Talon’s activities. The president continued to push for economic reforms but postponed his ambitious plan to amend the constitution. Revisions of the political parties law and the electoral law caused public outcry and concerned domestic and international commentators about the country’s highly valued democratic standards. Underneath, the country further diversified its international ties, for example by favouring China in crucial infrastructure projects. The cotton industry continued to flourish, and the general economic outlook gave reason to be optimistic about the country’s development despite the heated political disputes.

In accordance with the constitution, president Mokgweetsi Masisi automatically succeeded president Ian Khama following the latter’s retirement in March. There were no drastic measures or changes made in areas of priority following the transfer of leadership, save for emphasis in certain areas. Soon after Khama’s retirement, media reports suggested that there was a rift between him and President Masisi. Their rift developed into a public spat that tore the ruling party apart, with the two leaders openly disparaging each other. Masisi visited neighbouring countries to pledge his commitment to international relations. Domestically, he declared his commitment to tackling socioeconomic barriers, particularly youth unemployment.


For the third year in a row, insecurity in Burkina Faso worsened due to attacks by armed jihadi groups and growing criminal activity, particularly in the northern and eastern regions. A terrorist attack simultaneously targeted the French embassy and the headquarters of the national military in downtown Ouagadougou leaving 16 dead and dozens wounded. However, the most significant disruption to Burkinabe daily life came from small-scale attacks targeting schools, security authorities, and other public officials, as well as civilians in the Sahel and East regions, where, by the end of the year, thousands of people had been displaced from their homes. In response, the government placed 14 of 45 provinces under a state of emergency and aggressively implemented a transnational strategy for combatting terrorism and weakening organised criminal networks in the region that significantly shaped the country’s foreign affairs. Despite this instability, strong economic growth continued throughout the year, largely due to strong performance in the gold sector. Still, the government faced several strikes throughout the year related to economic grievances among workers.


Developments in Burundi during the year confirmed the trend that had set in during the previous year. Navigating both domestic and external pressures related to the aftermath of the 2015 crisis, the ruling ‘Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie’ (cndd-fdd) managed to further consolidate its domination and control over the domestic political field. President Pierre Nkurunziza and his party offensively started preparing the field of play for the 2020 elections, and the party displayed its capacity to mobilise and contain dissent in the run-up to the year’s most important event, the constitutional referendum in May. Other political parties and actors also started manoeuvring in view of approaching elections but were forced to adapt to the rules set out by the government and the cndd-fdd. While in general, Burundi remained relatively stable, several violent incidents continued to occur, and there were frequent reports of human rights abuses and political intimidation by ruling party activists. These reports remained a source of tension in Bujumbura’s relations with the un and major international partners, and whereas the domestic political situation was under control, the economy and international relations were fields that remained fraught with challenges and tensions.


The Status of Forces Agreement (sofa) with the United States and a law on the creation of administrative regions were controversial issues both inside and outside the National Assembly. Both were eventually adopted thanks to the support of the parliamentary majority enjoyed by the ruling ‘Movimento para a Democracia’ (MpD). The ailing state-owned tacv Cabo Verde Airlines struggled with serious financial, organisational, and logistical problems. However, at the end of the year, Loftleidir-Icelandic submitted a proposal to acquire a majority share in the airline. Tourism continued to grow both in terms of new investment and the number of tourists.


Held in October, the presidential election was, unsurprisingly, won by the incumbent president Paul Biya, in power since 1982, though the outcome of the election did give rise to tensions. Very few voters from the country’s two English-speaking regions, the Southwest and the Northwest, were able to vote due to the intensification of the war between the security forces and armed groups, the number of which rose steadily throughout the year. This unprecedented war led to a rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the area and had significant negative repercussions for the country’s economy, albeit without undermining the government.


The dramatic downturn in global crude oil prices in 2014 was seemingly reversed during the year (without prices reaching pre-2014 levels), but the oil-exporting economies of the region, all of them autocracies, were only to a limited degree able to absorb the shock even after four years. This had repercussions on the scope of action of underfunded sub-regional organisations, but also on the leverage of individual countries in foreign affairs: the presidents of Equatorial Guinea, Congo, and Gabon clearly were not as powerful as they were before; Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, unpopular at home and facing street protests against austerity measures, managed to remain in position only with a military geo-strategy that maintained the position of main Western allies in the entire Sahel. Cameroon, though able to weather the economic storm better based on a relatively diversified economy, was increasingly embroiled in an armed confrontation between official security forces and Anglophone secessionists, while the car and the drc barely managed to keep decentralised violence at bay. In the latter case, outgoing president Joseph Kabila even fueled some conflicts. Only the tiny island republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, although economically far from successful and increasingly indebted, was ruled differently and once again was labelled a democracy.


Both the domestic and international support base of the government appeared volatile. President Faustin-Archange Touadéra tried to extend his power base by creating his own political party, thereby sidelining former allies. A visible extension of Russian influence met with distrust by more traditional external partners of the country. Violence and insecurity haunted not only the inhabitants of Bangui but also a majority of prefectures, particularly in the first half of the year and again towards the end. Some of the major armed groups managed to consolidate their power bases, including by fixing zones of influence. Taxing the cattle trade became a major source of income for armed groups, adding to the benefits of smuggling natural resources.