Brynjar Lia

Professor - Middle East Studies
Image of Brynjar Lia
Norwegian version of this page
Phone +47 22857191
Visiting address Niels Henrik Abels vei 36 P. A. Munchs hus 0371 Oslo
Postal address Postboks 1010 Blindern 0315 Oslo

Academic Interests

My educational background is interdisciplinary, comprising languages (Arabic and Russian), Middle East studies and modern history. In my early career (mid-1990s onwards) the three main areas of my research were (i) Islamist movements in pre-revolutionary Egypt, (ii) Palestinian state building (especially its post-Oslo police and security forces), and (iii) patterns of (non-state) political violence and terrorism. Since the early 2000s, my main research focus has been jihadism and militant Islamist movements, a subject I still follow closely. The impact or relevance of my research was highlighted by the UiO and UiB rectors in March 2017.

Over the past few years I have been studying the evolution of jihadi proto-states, which is also the topic of my ongoing book project. In late 2016 we (Dag Tuastad, Anne StenersenPinar Tank and myself) received funding from the Norwegian Research Council for a four-year research project on rebel governance in the Middle East. Recently, I have also developed an interest in renewable energy issues in the Middle East, and I am involved in a research initiative on energy transition in the Middle East (GreenMENA). 

I have been a contributing member of several research networks at the Department, including The New Middle East Project (NewME), a research group which was subsequently assessed by the Norwegian Research Council report "Evaluation of the Humanities in Norway" as one of seven "especially high-performing and world-leading groups" (p.35). I am also an adjunct research professor at the Norwegian Defense Research Est (FFI) where I collaborate with FFI's research group on jihadism.

Teaching and tutoring

In spring 2022 I taught MES4520, a MA-level course with the title: "Making Sense of ISIS: Jihadist insurgencies and proto-states in the contemporary MENA region", a course I also gave in 2020 and 2019. I also taught seminars at GreenMENA, an MA course dealing with climate change and environmental challenges in the Middle East. 

I have previously given various graduate and undergraduate courses in Middle East studies, including: 

I have supervised six PhD-dissertations until their successful defense, and currently I supervise two doctoral candidates (Gråtrud and Skretting).

Higher education and employment history

I joined the Department as an associate professor in Middle East studies in January 2014 and was promoted to full professor in early 2015.

I have a Cand.Philol.-degree in history and a Dr.Philos.(PhD) from the University of Oslo with a dissertation on the Palestinian Authority, subsequently published as two books. My Cand.Philol.-dissertation dealt with the early history of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, based on field work and extensive archival research in Cairo and supported by a two-year scholarship from the Research Council of Norway. The thesis was subsequently published as a book and in recent years, translated versions have appeared in Turkish and Persian. 

Between 1996 and 2013 I was a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Est. (FFI) where I established and developed an academic research programme on jihadism studies. Since 2014, I have been an adjunct research professor (professor II) at the FFI.

In 2001-2 I was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University. In 1999-2000 (and again in 2012-13) I worked as part time university lecturer in Middle East studies at the University of Oslo. 


Awards and Scholarships

  • FFI Publication Awards in 2005, 2011 and 2015. 
  • Fulbright Visiting Scholar Fellowship, 2001-2002.
  • Research Council of Norway summer and study scholarships for 1991, 1992, 1993-95.
  • Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship for 1993-95



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Tags: Middle East, Islamism, Jihadism, armed conflict, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, CIMS


  • Lia, Brynjar (2022). A Kurdish al-Qaida? Making Sense of the Ansar al-Islam Movement in Iraqi Kurdistan in the Early 2000s. Religions. ISSN 2077-1444. 13(3). doi: 10.3390/rel13030203.
  • Lia, Brynjar & Aarseth, Mathilde Becker (2022). Crusader Hirelings or Loyal Subjects? Evolving Jihadi Perspectives on Christian Minorities in the Middle East. Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. ISSN 0959-6410. 33(3), p. 255–280. doi: 10.1080/09596410.2022.2096761.
  • Ketchley, Neil; Brooke, Steven & Lia, Brynjar (2021). Who Supported the Early Muslim Brotherhood? Politics and Religion. ISSN 1755-0483. doi: 10.1017/S1755048321000298. Full text in Research Archive
  • Ketchley, Neil Frith; Brooke, Steven & Lia, Brynjar (2020). Who supported the early Muslim Brotherhood? Politics and Religion. ISSN 1755-0483. doi: 10.1017/S1755048321000298..
  • Lia, Brynjar (2019). Muhajirat-fenomenet: Hvordan ble kvinner fra Europa rekruttert til ISIL, og hva var deres rolle i Kalifatet? Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift. ISSN 0800-336X. 36(2), p. 100–114. doi: 10.18261/issn.1504-3053-2019-02-02.
  • Maktabi, Rania & Lia, Brynjar (2017). Middle Eastern Patriarchy in Transition. Die Welt des Islams. ISSN 0043-2539. 57(3-4), p. 265–277. doi: 10.1163/15700607-05734p01.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2017). The Jihādī Jihadi Movement and Rebel Governance: A Reassertion of a Patriarchal Order? Die Welt des Islams. ISSN 0043-2539. 57(3-4), p. 458–479. doi: 10.1163/15700607-05734p09. Full text in Research Archive
  • Lia, Brynjar (2016). Fanatismens seier? : jihadismens frammarsj i den arabiske verdenen. Babylon - Nordisk tidsskrift for Midtøstenstudier. ISSN 1503-5727. 14(2), p. 60–85. doi: 10.5617/ba.4345.
  • Nesser, Petter & Lia, Brynjar (2016). Jihadism in Norway: a Typology of Militant Networks in a Peripheral European Country. Perspectives on Terrorism (PT). ISSN 2334-3745. 10(6), p. 121–134. Full text in Research Archive
  • Lia, Brynjar (2016). En undersøgelse af islamistiske statsdannelsesforsøg. In Crone, Manni (Eds.), Splittelsen i Global Jihad. Kampen mellem IS og al-Qaeda. Dansk Institutt for Internationale Studier. ISSN 978-87-7605-828-9. p. 30–43.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2016). Jihadism in the Arab world after 2011: Explaining its expansion. Middle East Policy. ISSN 1061-1924. 23(4), p. 74–91. doi: 10.1111/mepo.12234. Full text in Research Archive
  • Lia, Brynjar (2015). "Autobiography or Fiction? Ḥasan al-Bannā’s Memoirs Revisited". Journal of Arabic and Islamic studies. ISSN 0806-198X. 15, p. 199–226. doi: 10.5617/jais.4647. Full text in Research Archive
  • Lia, Brynjar (2015). "Understanding Jihadi Proto-States". Perspectives on Terrorism (PT). ISSN 2334-3745. 9(4), p. 31–41.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2015). "Korsfarernes medløpere eller lydige undersåtter? Jihadistbevegelsens syn på kristne minoriteter i Midtøsten". In Thorbjørnsrud, Berit S (Eds.), De kristne i Midtøsten. Kampen for tilhørighet. Cappelen Damm Akademisk. ISSN 978-82-02-48897-0. p. 193–213.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2014). Jihadbevegelsen i den arabiske verdenen før og etter 2011 :. Babylon - Nordisk tidsskrift for Midtøstenstudier. ISSN 1503-5727. 12(2), p. 8–22. doi: 10.5617/ba.4172.
  • Lia, Brynjar & Nesser, Petter (2014). Norske muslimske fremmedkrigere. Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift. ISSN 0800-336X. p. 399–416.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2011). Jihadis divided between strategists and doctrinarians. In Moghadam, Assaf & Fishman, Brian (Ed.), Fault lines in Global Jihad: Organizational, strategic, and ideological fissures. Routledge. ISSN 978-0-415-58624-5. p. 69–87.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2009). Destructive doctrinians : Abu Musab al-Suri's critique of the Salafis in the jihadi current. In Meijer, Roel (Eds.), Global Salafism : Islam’s new religious movement. Hurst Publishers. ISSN 9781850659792. p. 249–268.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2008). Doctrines for jihadi terrorist training. Terrorism and Political Violence. ISSN 0954-6553. 20(4), p. 518–542. doi: 10.1080/09546550802257226.
  • Hegghammer, Thomas & Lia, Brynjar (2004). Jihadi Strategic Studies: The Alleged Al Qaida Policy Study Preceding the Madrid Bombings. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. ISSN 1057-610X. 27(5), p. 355–375.
  • Skjølberg, Katja & Lia, Brynjar (2004). Warum es zu Terrorismus kommt - Ein Überblick über Theorien und Hypothesen zu den Ursachen des Terrorismus. ?. 6(1), p. 121–163.
  • Lia, Brynjar & Skjølberg, Katja (2004). "Warum es zu Terrorismus kommt – Ein Überblick über Theorien und Hypothesen zu den Ursachen des Terrorismus". Journal für Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung. ISSN 1438-9444. 6(1), p. 121–163.
  • Lia, Brynjar & Kjøk, Åshild (2004). "Energy Supply as Terrorist Targets? Patterns of 'Petroleum Terrorism' 1968-1999" in Daniel Heradstveit & Helge Hveem (eds.) Oil in the Gulf: Obstacles to Democracy and Development. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2004. In Hveem, Helge & Heradstveit, Daniel (Ed.), Oil in the Gulf. Obstacles to Democracy and Development. Ashgate. ISSN 0-7546-3968-1. p. 100–124.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2000). "Mot nye og farlegare formar for terrorisme? Trendar og utviklingstrekk ved moderne terrorisme". Internasjonal Politikk. ISSN 0020-577X. 58(3), p. 357–383.
  • Lia, Brynjar (1999). "Security challenges in Europe's mediterranean periphery: perspectives and policy dilemmas". European Security. ISSN 0966-2839. 8(4), p. 27–56.
  • Lia, Brynjar (1999). "The establishment of a Palestinian police force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip". International Peacekeeping. ISSN 1353-3312. 6(4), p. 157–170.
  • Lia, Brynjar (1998). "Islamist perceptions of the United Nations and its peacekeeping missions: Some preliminary findings". International Peacekeeping. ISSN 1353-3312. 5(2), p. 38–63.

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  • Lia, Brynjar (2013). Müslüman Kardeşlerin doğuşu 1928-1942. ["The Society of the Muslim Brothers"] (Translated by İhsan Toker). Ekin Yayınları. ISBN 9789758507818.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2009). (جمعیت اخوان المسلمین مصر : ظهور یک جنبش توده ای اسلامی (۱۹۲۸-۱۹۴۲. Pizhūhishkadah-i Tārīkh-i Iṣlām / Research Center for Islamic History. ISBN 9789640443965. 372 p.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2007). Architect of Global Jihad: the life of al-Qaida strategist Abu Mus'ab al-Suri. C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85065-856-6.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2007). Building Arafat's police : the politics of international police assistance in the Palestinian territories after the Oslo agreement. Ithaca Press. ISBN 978-0-86372-305-6.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2006). A Police Force Without a State: A History of the Palestinian Security Forces in the West Bank and Gaza. Ithaca Press. ISBN 978-0-86372-304-9. 477 p.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2005). Globalisation and the Future of Terrorism: Patterns and Predictions. Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-5261-X. 259 p.
  • Lia, Brynjar (1998). The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement, 1928-1942. Ithaca Press. ISBN 978-0-86372-314-8. 328 p.

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  • Lia, Brynjar (2018). Islamistisk ekstremisme - en innføring. In Reiss, Ellen Christine & Noor, Linda (Ed.), Radikalisering: fenomen og forebygging. Minotenk / Frekk forlag. ISSN 978-82-93097-48-8. p. 93–103.
  • Nickelsen, Trine & Lia, Brynjar (2018). Jihadistene setter ungdommen til å styre. Apollon : Forskningsmagasin for Universitetet i Oslo. ISSN 0803-6926. p. 28–31.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2015). "'Islamsk stat' – vanlegare enn du trur", Apollon, 4/2015, s.51-53. [Business/trade/industry journal]. Apollon.
  • Trine, Nickelsen & Lia, Brynjar (2014). "Fire år etter den arabiske våren: Hva nå, Midtøsten?", Forskningsmagasinet Apollon, 4/2014, s.16-21. [Business/trade/industry journal]. Forskningsmagasinet Apollon.
  • Hegghammer, Thomas & Lia, Brynjar (2009). Truer verden med terrorangrep. Dagsavisen. ISSN 1503-2892.
  • Lia, Brynjar (2008). Al-Qaida's appeal: understanding its unique selling points. Perspectives on Terrorism (PT). ISSN 2334-3745. 2(8), p. 23–28.
  • Skjølberg, Katja & Lia, Brynjar (2007). FACTS AND FICTION IN THEORIES OF TERRORISM - An Expanded and Updated Review of the Literature on Causes of Terrorism.
  • Skjølberg, Katja & Lia, Brynjar (2003). Facts and Fiction in Theories of Terrorism - A Review of Research Literature on Causes of Terrorism.
  • Nesser, Petter & Lia, Brynjar (2010). Lessons Learned from the July 2010 Norwegian Terrorist Plot. West Point .
  • Lia, Brynjar (2010). Doctrinairians vs Strategists: Fissures in the Jihadi Current. Combating Terrorism Center.
  • Hegghammer, Thomas; Bokhari, Laila; Lia, Brynjar; Nesser, Petter & Tønnessen, Truls (2006). Paths to Global Jihad: Radicalisation and Recruitment to Terror Networks. Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt. ISSN 82-464-1000-8.
  • Nesser, Petter & Lia, Brynjar (2005). Terror mot jarnvegar - eit oversyn over typiske terroraksjonar mot togpassasjertransport. Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt.
  • Lia, Brynjar & Skjølberg, Katja (2005). Causes of Terrorism: An Expanded and Updated Review of the Literature. ISSN 8246409492.
  • Nesser, Petter & Lia, Brynjar (2003). Terror mot drikkevann - en oversikt over terrorgruppers interesse for å ramme offentlig vannforsyning. Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt.
  • Lia, Brynjar; Hegghammer, Thomas; Andresen, Rolf-Inge Vogt; kjøk, åshild & Bokhari, Laila (2002). Atommateriale, gass og mikrober som terrorvåpen? En undersøkelse av terrorgruppers interesse for og bruk av ikke-konvensjonelle våpen. Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt.
  • Lia, Brynjar & Skjølberg, Katja (2000). Why Terrorism Occurs - A Survey of Theories and Hypothesis on the Causes of Terrorism. Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt. ISSN 8246404172.

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Published Jan. 8, 2014 2:28 PM - Last modified Sep. 28, 2022 4:22 PM