About the Project

2011 War in SwAaNA: A Primary Sources Repository

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], and shorter cries such as, degage, irhal, game over, down with the regime, ghur, etc… became widespread.

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.

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 complexities of the 2011 wars compel researchers to be creative in building the body of evidence that would allow for accurate and complete accounts. Drawing on knowledge outside a single academic discipline enables 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.

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

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

Scholars and students interested in contributing to this research and archiving project are invited to reach out.

This is a collaborative project involving faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduate students with research and teaching interest in modern Islamic societies and southwest Asia and north Africa.

A timeline of key events:

Major events of the Arab Spring

July 31, 2018

Syrian Arab Army and allies clear south Syria of armed groups

With areas in the south under government control again, only territories under US-backed SDF (northeast) and Turkish-backed  FSA and HTS (North Aleppo and Idlib) are now outside the control of the government.

May 21, 2018

Syrian Arab Army Regains Control of Damascus and Its Countryside

After capturing an enclave in southern Damascus from Islamic State, Syria’s military declares the entire capital and its countryside (Rif Dimashq) under full government control for the first time since the war began in 2011. The Syrian government manages to regain control of all lost territories except the northeast (controlled by US and Kurdish fighters (SDF)), Idlib (controlled by Nusra and related groups),  northern Aleppo and Afrin (controlled by Turkey and its allies from the FSA), and south regions near Jordan.

July 17, 2017

Iraqi Government Regains Control of Mosul

Please Login to view this content. (Not a member? Join Today!)
September 30, 2015

Russia’s Intervention in Syria


Russia “[supports] the Syrian government in its fight against terrorism” by sending military forces to Syria.

October 9, 2014

U.S. Intervention in Syria and Return to Iraq

Please Login to view this content. (Not a member? Join Today!)
August 31, 2014

Stopping ISIL from Capturing Baghdad and Irbil

The Iraqi military, assisted by the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and local fighters, brakes the siege of Amirli, a town imposed by ISIL since June 2014, and begins its slow and long battle against ISIL.

June 29, 2014


The al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, which expanded its reach to become the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), conquers the most populous city in Iraq at the time, Mosul, and declares the caliphate re-established-removing the geographic reference from the name of the group to become simply the “Islamic State”. The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, (Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai) elevates himself to a caliph and a commander of the believers (Amir al-Mu’minin).

June 13, 2014

Origins and History of Hashd Forces in Iraq

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issues a religious edict (Fatwa) calling on all Iraqis to mobilize against ISIL. Tens of thousands of volunteers join the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The Fatwa also helped Shia militias, Sunni tribal men,  Christians, and Yezidi armed groups to be regulated under one umbrella of paramilitary forces called the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, Hashd).

June 4, 2014

The Fall of Mosul

Please Login to view this content. (Not a member? Join Today!)
December 23, 2011

The Origins and Evolution of al-Qaeda in Syria

Please Login to view this content. (Not a member? Join Today!)