SIPRI Policy Report: Post-conflict Reconstruction in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq

Post-conflict Reconstruction in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq: Agriculture, Cultural Practices and Social Cohesion

Authors: Amal Bourhrous, Shivan Fazil and Dylan O’Driscoll (SIPRI)

November, 2022

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute


The atrocities committed by the Islamic State (IS) between 2014 and 2017 left deep scars on the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq. IS deliberately targeted ethnic and religious communities with the aim of erasing the traces of diversity, pluralism and coexistence that have long characterized the region. To prevent people from living as Assyrians, Chaldeans, Kaka’i, Shabaks, Syriacs, Turkmen and Yazidis, IS destroyed sites of cultural and religious significance to these communities and devastated their livelihoods, including their crop and livestock farming activities.

Using a people-centered approach, this SIPRI Research Policy Report stresses the need for a holistic approach to post-conflict reconstruction in the Nineveh Plains that not only focuses on rebuilding the physical environment and economic structures but also pays adequate attention to restoring the ability of communities to engage in cultural and religious practices, and to mending social and intercommunity relations. The report highlights the interconnectedness of physical environments, economic structures, cultural practices and social dynamics. It stresses the need to address the impacts of the IS occupation while taking into account other pressing challenges such as climate change and water scarcity.

New article on Predicting Groundwater Footprints in Iran With Machine Learning

Using machine learning to determine acceptable levels of groundwater consumption in Iran

Authors: Ronny Berndtsson (Lund University), Sami Ghordoyee Milan (University of Tehran), Zahra Kayhomayoon (Payame Noor University), Naser Arya Azar (University of Tabriz), Mohammad Reza Ramezani (Griffith University), and Hamid Kardan Moghaddam (Water Research Institute Iran).

November, 2022

Journal Sustainable Production and Consumption


Groundwater footprint index (GFI) is an essential indicator to assess the sustainability of groundwater aquifers. Prediction of future GFI can significantly help managers and decision-makers of groundwater supply to better plan for future resilient consumption of surface and groundwater. In this context, artificial intelligence and machine learning models can aid to predict GFI in view of lacking or uncertain data. We used this technique to predict GFI for 178 Iranian aquifers. To our knowledge, this is the first time that GFI was predicted using machine learning models. Four models, i.e., adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference system, least-squares support vector regression, random forest, and gene expression programming, were used to predict GFI. Systematic combinations of eight variables, including precipitation, recharge, return water, infiltration from the river to the aquifer, groundwater exploitation, aquifer area, evaporation, and river drainage from the aquifer were used in the form of nine input scenarios for GFI prediction. The results showed that inclusion of all input variables gave the best results for predicting the GFI. Predicted GFIs were generally between 0.5 and 8 with an average of 1.9. A value above 1 indicates that groundwater consumption is not resilient that can adversely affect available groundwater resources in the future. Over-use of groundwater can lead to land subsidence. Especially, aquifers located in Qom, Qazvin, Varamin, and Hamedan provinces of Iran may be affected due to large over-use. Among the four models, least-squares support vector regression resulted in the highest prediction performance. Due to the poor performance of adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference system, the novel Harris hawks optimization algorithm was used to improve the performance of adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference system. The Harris hawks optimization – adaptive neuro-fuzzy inference system hybrid model improved the GFI prediction performance. Machine learning methods improve prediction of GFI for aquifers and thus, can be used to better manage groundwater in areas with less reliable data.

New article on landscape composition modeling in Iran

Analysis of Landscape Composition and Configuration Based on LULC Change Modeling

Authors: Hossein Hashemi (Lund University) Masoomeh Yaghoobi (Shahid Beheshti University), Alireza Vafaeinejad (Shahid Beheshti University), and Hamidreza Moradi (Tarbiat Modares University).

November, 2022

Journal Sustainability


Land cover changes threaten biodiversity by impacting the natural habitats and require careful and continuous assessment. The standard approach for assessing these changes is land cover modeling. The present study investigated the spatio-temporal changes in Land Use Land Cover (LULC) in the Gorgan River Basin (GRB) during the 1990–2020 period and predicted the changes by 2040. First, a change analysis employing satellite imagery from 1990 to 2020 was carried out. Then, the Multi-Layer Perceptron (MLP) technique was used to predict the transition potential. The accuracy rate, training RMS, and testing RMS of the artificial neural network, MLP, and the transition potential modeling were computed in order to evaluate the results. Utilizing projections for 2020, the prediction of land cover change was made. By contrasting the anticipated land cover map of 2020 with the actual land cover map of 2020, the accuracy of the model was evaluated. The LULC conditions in the future were predicted under two scenarios of the current change trend (scenario 1) and the ecological capability of the land (scenario 2) by 2040. Seven landscape metrics were considered, including Number of Patches, Patch Density, the Largest Patch Index, Edge Density, Landscape Shape Index, Patch Area, and Area-Weighted Mean Shape Index. Based on the Cramer coefficient, the most critical factors affecting LULC change were elevation, distance from forest, and experimental probability of change. For the 1990–2020 period, the LULC change was shown to be influenced by deforestation, reduced rangeland, and expansion of agricultural and residential areas. Based on scenario 1, the area of forest, agriculture, and rangeland would face −0.8, 0.5, and 0.1% changes in the total area, respectively. In scenario 2, the area of forest, agriculture, and rangeland would change by 0.1, −1.3, and 1.3% of the total area, respectively. Landscape metrics results indicated the destructive trend of the landscape during the 1990–2020 period. For improving the natural condition of the GRB, it is suggested to prioritize different areas in need of regeneration due to inappropriate LULC changes and take preventive and protective measures where changes in LULC were predicted in the future, taking into account land management conditions (scenario 2).

New article on landfill site selection for solid waste in Iran

Optimal Landfill Site Selection for Solid Waste of Three Municipalities Based on Boolean and Fuzzy Methods: A Case Study in Kermanshah Province, Iran

Authors: Seyed Amir Naghibi (Lund University), Seyed Mohsen Mousavi (Shahid Beheshti University), Golnaz Darvishi (Shahid Beheshti University), and Naghmeh Mobarghaee Dinan (Shahid Beheshti University).

October, 2022

Journal land


In recent decades, population increase and urban development have led to catastrophic environmental consequences. One of the principal objectives to achieve “sustainable development” is to find suitable landfills. Due to their physical characteristics, which have led to a lack of landfill sites and closeness to water bodies, agricultural fields, and residential areas, the cities of Javanrood, Paveh, and Ravansar were chosen as the necessary research regions. On the other hand, these landfills are unable to accommodate the growing urban population. Therefore, this study attempts to develop a framework for spotting the most suitable sites for landfill construction with these three cities as case studies. For this, 10 important driving factors (9 factors and 1 constraint) in landfill site selection were generated. Second, for the fuzzy membership function, the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) method was employed for the standardization of criteria and determining the weight of the driving factors. Then, the Boolean, weighted linear combination (WLC) and ordered weighted average (OWA) methods were utilized to spot optimal sites for landfills. Finally, two suitable sites were found for landfills: site (a) was obtained from the WLC, and site (b) was obtained from OWA-low risk some trade-off (LRST) methods. Our results proved the high efficiency of multi-criteria decision-making methodology for landfill site selection.

New article on the use of sewage sludge in sustainable Tunisian agriculture

How Can Sewage Sludge Use in Sustainable Tunisian Agriculture Be Increased?

Authors: Ronny Berndtsson (Lund University CMES), Nidhal Marzougui, Nadia Ounalli, Sonia Sabbahi, Tarek Fezzani, Farah Abidi, Walid Oueslati, Sourour Melki, Sihem Jebari

October, 2022

MDPI Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute


In recent years, farmers in Beja, an agricultural governorate in northwestern Tunisia, have expressed their willingness to use urban sewage sludge as agricultural fertilizer, especially with the unavailability of chemical fertilizers and the soil type of the region that is poor in organic matter. However, there is an imbalance between the important farmers’ demand versus the limited quantity of sludge produced by the Beja wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In the face of this, this study aims to identify the problems related to the agricultural reuse of sludge in Beja and propose solutions to solve them. The quality of the sludge produced by the five Beja WWTPs was assessed based on physicochemical and microbiological parameters. The data were collected using the Delphi method, with 15 experts representing different positions on the issue treated. The SWOT-AHP methodology was used to define the strategies promoting the sustainable use and management of urban sewage sludge for sustainable agricultural development in Beja. Results showed that there were no problems with compliance with the Tunisian standards NT 106.20 for the sludge produced. A set of twelve practical conclusions was identified, constituting the strategies of Strengths–Opportunities, Strengths–Threats, Weaknesses–Opportunities, and Weaknesses–Threats deduced from the SWOT-AHP.

New article on Techno-Orientalism, Gender, and Saudi Politics in Global Media Discourse

Good Tidings for Saudi Women? Techno-Orientalism, Gender, and Saudi Politics in Global Media Discourse

Author: Joel W. Abdelmoez (Lund University)

September, 2022

CyberOrient Journal of the Virtual Middle East and Islamic World


Gender equality in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still a contentious and hotly debated issue, both within the country and in global news media as well as social media. Not least has the government app “Absher” drawn attention and criticism, due to features that allow male guardians to track their female dependants, issue or withdraw travel permits, and file for divorce at the click of a button. This study aims to explore the campaigns and debates around the app, and how it has been represented in global media. Focusing mainly on social media campaigning by journalists, activists, as well as the Saudi government, I hope to shed light on the different sides of the debate, and what the representation of Saudi Vision 2030, the reforms and the app, particularly in European and American media discourse, tell us about popular imaginations of Islam, technology, and gender.

UI Brief on Environmental colonialism in the Maghreb

Environmental colonialism in the Maghreb? Harnessing green energy on indigenous peoples’ land

Author: Leonora Haag (UI)

June, 2022

The Swedish Institute of International Affairs

The EU has been investing increasing amounts in North Africa’s renewable energy sector over the past decade in order to strengthen the union’s energy security and comply with climate agreement targets. To a large extent, this energy infrastructure has been developed in peripheral regions primarily inhabited by indigenous people. This policy brief looks at if, and how, the local population was consulted, compensated, and allowed to participate in the decision-making process surrounding the development of the solar energy complex Noor Ouarzazate.

New book on Middle Eastern Diasporas

Routledge Handbook on Middle Eastern Diasporas

Edited by Dalia Abdelhady and Ramy Aly (CMES Lund University, and American University in Cairo)

August, 2022

Routledge Taylor & Francis Group


Bringing together different strands of research on Middle Eastern diasporas, the Routledge Handbook on Middle Eastern Diasporas sheds light on diverse approaches to investigating diaspora groups in different national contexts.

Asking how diasporans forge connections and means of belonging, the analyses provided turn the reader’s gaze to the multiple forms of belonging to both peoples and places. Rather than seeing diasporans as marginalized groups of people longing to return to a homeland, analyses in this volume demonstrate that Middle East diasporans, like other diasporas and citizens alike, are people who respond to major social change and transformations. Those we count as Middle Eastern diasporans, both in the region and beyond, contribute to transnational social spaces, and new forms of cultural expressions. Chapters included cover how diasporas have been formed, the ways that diasporans make and remake homes, the expressive terrains where diasporas are contested, how class, livelihoods, and mobility inflect diasporic practices, the emergence of diasporic sensibilities, and, finally, scholarship that draws our attention to the plurilocality of Middle Eastern diasporas.

Offering a rich compilation of case studies, this book will appeal to students of Middle Eastern Studies, International Relations, and Sociology, as well as being of interest to policymakers, government departments, and NGOs.

New book on the Muslim Brotherhood in exile

Surviving repression – The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood after the 2013 coup

Author: Lucia Ardovini (UI & Lancaster University)
March, 2022

Manchester University Press


Surviving repression tells the story of the Muslim Brotherhood following the 2013 coup d’état in Egypt. The Brotherhood gained legal recognition and quickly rose to power after the 2011 Arab uprisings, but its subsequent removal from office marked the beginning of the harshest repression of its troubled history. Forced into exile, the Brotherhood and its members are now faced with a monumental task as they rebuild this fragmented organisation.

Drawing on extensive fieldwork and interviews with current and former members of the Brotherhood, the book explores this new era in the movement’s history, emphasising first-hand experiences, perspectives and emotions to better understand how individual responses to repression are affecting the movement as a whole.

Surviving repression offers a unique insight into the main strategic, ideological and organizational debates dividing the Brotherhood.