The 2011 War in South West Asia and North Africa [SWAANA]

Research Project Title: Documenting and Investigating the 2011 War in SWAaNA, a Primary Sources for Research and Teaching
Research Project Short Description and Scope: The aim of this research project is threefold:

1. Build a comprehensive archive of digital materials (primary sources) documenting the events of the 2011 War in South West Asia and North Africa [SWAaNA].
2. Build a database cataloging the primary sources
3. Publish original scholarly works and research notes explaining the events associated with and connected to the 2011 War in SWAaNA.
General Description & Background:

On December 17, a Tunisian fruit seller ignited an uprising that caused the fall of the authoritarian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.  By the middle of January 2011, protest movements were launched in a number of other Arab countries starting the so-called Arab Spring. The slogan “The People Want the Fall of the Regime [al-sha`b yurid isqat al-nizam]. Shorter cries such as, degage, irhal, game over, down with the regime, ghur, etc… became widespread. These pages  attempt to document some of these historic moments.

Undoubtedly, the first two decades of this millennium will be recorded as the Arab Spring era. The first sixty days of the Arab Spring unleashed a wave of social protest that removed two powerful, Western-favored, authoritarian rulers, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak of Tunisia and Egypt, respectively. Almost all other Arab countries were affected as well. Libya fell into a bloody civil war that resulted in the brutal killing of Muammar Qaddafi. Yemen was paralyzed by peaceful protest that continued until President Ali Abduallah Saleh was forced out. Bahraini rulers accused protesters of being agents of a sectarian foreign country and invited the Saudi army into their country to crush a peaceful protest movement. Jordan and Morocco amended their constitutions to partially meet some of the protesters’ demands. Low-intensity protest movements appeared in Qatar, Oman, Mauritania, Algeria, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia. Iraq continued to struggle after being destabilized by the U.S. invasion that killed thousands of people and amplified sectarian and ethnic tension. Syria became a battle ground for a destructive proxy war that divided the entire world community into pro- and anti-Assad factions.

In the context of this disarray, the widespread availability of new forms of communication technology has empowered the various actors to write often-competing narratives justifying their actions. Some analysts went as far as to blame (or credit) the occurrence of the Arab Spring on (or to) the existence of Twitter and Facebook. Similarly, some Islamist groups who capitalized on these resources and their ability to mobilize public support attempted to take credit for the success of some of these revolutions.

Providing an accurate account of these events—some of which are still underway—is a daunting task that requires focused persistence, deliberate approaches, and good grasp of the facts.  The complexity of the 2011 Wars compel researchers to be creative in building the body of evidence that would allow for accurate and compete accounts. Drawing on knowledge outside a single academic discipline enable us to achieve some of these goals–hence the Integrated Knowledge Research and Teaching as a new approach applied in this project and in the field of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies in general.

In the first part of this project, we will attempt to quantify and qualify the slant of media outlets in their coverage of events of the Arab Spring. To that end, we rely on a longitudinal study of global media. The data collected will span at least ten years, from 2011 onward. From these data, we then determine how stories are selected and edited by various media outlets, and how those editorial choices alter public perception of events. Ultimately, this research project will provide an accurate portrayal of the functions of the media, religion, and politics in modern Islamic societies and explain how these institutions are employed to shape and document critical events.


This collection is an essential resource for understanding the events of the 2011 and beyond.

Conflicts such as the war in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and the tense relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as are the military interventions carried out by regional and foreign powers like the United States and Russia.

Utilizing the significant collection of videos, NGO reports, media reporting, students, journalists, and researchers can explore a decade shaped by hope and conflict.

Scholars and students interested in contributing to this research and archiving project are invited to reach out. Participation can take the form of contributing essays, articles, images, videos, data analysis, proposing book projects, sharing of resources, providing comments and suggestions.


Website and contact information: The 2011 War in SWAANA Primary Sources Repository



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