CSS Fellows

Mohamad Al-Ashmar

Mohamad Al-Ashmar is an International Relations Ph.D. student at the University of St Andrews . His research interests are focused on forced migration, diaspora, civil society, humanitarianism, and political economy.  He is a humanitarian practitioner with some 10 years of experience working in the international development sector and programmes related to the Syrian humanitarian crisis, civic spaces, migration, security, and peace issues in the region. He is also Research Assistant Fellow at the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, and Principal Consultant for several donors, NGOs, and international agencies in Syria and MENA region.

Sima Aldardari

Sima is an International Relations Ph.D. student at the University of St Andrews. She has eight years of research and civil society experience focused on conflict-driven migration, youth, development, and political economy in the Middle East. She is currently an Analyst for COAR Global Ltd. focusing on third-party monitoring analytics (TPM) in Syria. Prior to joining COAR, Sima worked as a research associate at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW), where she focused on political economy dynamics in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Previously, she served as a research assistant at Georgetown University, researching the relationship between aid workers and internally displaced people in Iraq, and at the American University of Beirut, where she explored resilience amongst Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Education: M.A., Arab Studies, Georgetown University. M.A., Conflict, Governance, and International Development, University of East Anglia. B.A., Sociology and Anthropology, American University of Beirut. 


Jinan Al-Habbal

Jinan Al-Habbal is a Research Officer in the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Principal Investigator of the research project entitled “Consociationalism and Civil Resistance in Lebanon.” She holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of St Andrews. Her research focuses on the impact of consociationalism on democratization as well as protest movements and non-violent civil resistance in postwar Lebanon and Iraq.


Talip Alkhayer

PhD Researcher

I graduated from Damascus Law School in 2011, came to the UK in 2013 and pursued two postgraduate degrees at the University of St Andrews, one in Management and one in International Relations. After which I worked in the City of London for various law firms and humanitarian NGOs. Nowadays I am a PhD Researcher in Political Science at the University of Bath. My research focuses on terrorist rhetoric from a Socio-Psychological angle.

Ferdinand Arslanian

Recent PhD Graduate

Ferdinand Arslanian has recently earned his PhD from the University of St Andrews, School of International Relations. His thesis attempts to explain the interaction of international and domestic factors that allowed the Syrian regime to cope with economic sanctions during the Syrian crisis. He has contributed to several chapters and articles of the Center’s publications where his work mainly focuses on the country’s political economy. Ferdinand also possesses professional experience in Syrian public policy analysis and advisory.

Current Project

Samer Bakkour

Lecturer in Middle Eastern Politics

I am currently a Lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Institute, University of Exeter.
As point of responsibility, I am the convenor and lead for two Modules one for MA students “State and Society in the Middle East”, and the other module for undergraduate students “Home Lands” to “Host States”: Migration, Displacement and Diaspora in the Middle East”. I am working now on two projects, the first one with Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies about the demographic changes in Syria, and the second one with St Andrews university about Sectarianization in Syria.

Francesco Belcastro

Lecturer in International Relations​

​Francesco Belcastro is a Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Derby and a Fellow at the Centre for Syrian Studies, University of St Andrews. His main areas of research are conflict and security, foreign policy and politics of the Levant (particularly Israel/Palestine and Syria). His current research looks at external actors’ involvement in civil wars. He is also interested in the politics of Israel and Palestine and is currently working on a project that deals with sport and politics in the region. His first monograph, published by Routledge, analyses the foreign policy of Syria during the years 1963-1989.

Michelle Burgis-Kasthala

Senior Lecturer in Public International Law, University of Edinburgh

Michelle works on a variety of aspects relating to international law across the Arab world. Her work on Syria explores the role of non-state actors pursuing international criminal accountability in relation to the Syrian conflict.

Researching secret spaces: A reflexive account on negotiating risk and academic integrity [PDF]

Leiden Journal of International Law, 2020. 

Entrepreneurial Justice: Syria, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability and the Renewal of International Criminal Justice [PDF]

European Journal of International Law, Volume 30, Issue 4, November 2019.​

Dawn Chatty

Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration at the University of Oxford

Dawn Chatty is Emeritus Professor in Anthropology and Forced Migration and former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. She was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2015. Her research interests include refugee youth in protracted refugee crises, conservation and development, pastoral society and forced settlement She is the author of Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East Cambridge University Press, 2010, From Camel to Truck, White Horse Press, 2013, and Syria: The Making and Unmaking of a Refuge State, Hurst Publishers, 2018. 2017).

Serene Dardari

Communication and Outreach Manager

Serene Dardari is a Humanitarian communication specialist and Art Director. She is Anera’s Lebanon communication manager and storyteller; a D.C based nonprofit organization. Her bachelor educational background is a combination of International Affairs and Communications Arts. She completed an MA in Conflictology from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Crisis Management.
Serene has been working with refugee communities, in both Syria and Lebanon, for the past 9 years. She founded Chams Network, an initiative-based nonprofit, and implemented a series of social action projects.
She is a certified grant writer and a proposal-writing trainer.
Serene is a TEDx speaker and a ‘Women Deliver’ fellow. In 2019, she received the “Exceptional Women of Excellence” award in New Delhi India, at the Women Economic Forum.

James Denselow

James Denselow is a writer on Middle East politics and security issues. He completed his Masters at Kings College London (KCL) on International Boundary Studies and Middle Eastern Geopolitics and is finishing a PhD at KCL into Iraqi-Syrian state building. He has worked extensively in the Middle East, including research for the foreign policy think tank Chatham House, writing and reporting for several media publications and for communications and advocacy work with international NGOs. He is a contributing author to “An Iraq of Its Regions: Cornerstones of a Federal Democracy?” and “America and Iraq: Policy-making, Intervention and Regional Politics Since 1958”

Recent Publications

Jörg Michael Dostal

Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University, Korea

Jörg Michael Dostal holds degrees from NUI Galway, FU Berlin and the University of Bath and obtained his doctorate from the University of Oxford (St Antony’s College). He is the co-author of ‘Syria and the Euro-Mediterranean Relationship’, St Andrews Papers on Contemporary Syria (Lynne Rienner 2008) and of ‘Analyzing the Domestic and International Conflict in Syria: Are There Lessons from Political Science?’ (Syria Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2014). His research concerns comparative politics and comparative public policy with a focus on the interaction between international organizations and transition countries and has been published in journals such as ‘Global Social Policy’, ‘Journal of European Public Policy’, ‘Korean Journal of Policy Studies’ and ‘Social Policy and Administration’.

Haian Dukhan


Academic Biography

I completed my PhD in International Relations at the University of St Andrews in 2017. Based on my doctoral research, I published my first monograph in 2019 titled “State and Tribes in Syria: Informal Alliances and Conflict Patterns”, which investigated the relationship between the state and the tribes during the Syrian civil war offering new contributions to classical International Relations theories. Previously, I taught politics and international relations at the universities of St Andrews, Leicester, and Edinburgh. I also held research positions at the Central European University in Austria and Roskilde University in Denmark. My research interests revolve around the International Relations of the Middle East with particular focus on the role of non-state actors in armed conflicts.

Summary of Research Interests

I am a political scientist who focuses his research on micro local dynamics in the Middle East and works on relating these local patterns to the wider political system of which they are part. My main research interests are in Middle Eastern Politics, with a specific focus on issues related to tribalism, sectarianism, authoritarianism, and Islamism. I am currently involved in two research projects. The first one at the Central European University seeks to consider conditions arising in the unsteady and seemingly deadlocked condition of military and political stalemate that has emerged in the Middle East, specifically Syria and Iraq. The second project at the University of St Andrews focuses on the instrumentalization of sectarianism in Syria by the regime, opposition and by competitive interference of external powers, as well as the discourse in the trans-state traditional and new media frames in sectarian terms.


Dukhan, H. (2019) State and Tribes in Syria: Informal Alliances and Conflict Patterns, Abingdon: Routledge.

Co-editor of “Spoils of War in the Arab East: Reconditioning Society and Polity in Conflict (Bloomsbury, forthcoming, 2023).

Co-editor of “Routledge Research Handbook of the Levant” (Routledge, forthcoming, 2024).

Journal Articles/Book chapters

Dukhan, H. (2023) “From shame to pride: the politics of Shawi identity in contemporary Syria”,The Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Keywords in Contemporary Media, Culture and Politics: Syria, Forthcoming.

Dukhan, H. (2023) “Sectarianism in Eastern Syria: How Historical Sociology and Instrumentalism Explain the Extant Political Dynamics”, Routledge, edited volume on sectarianism in Syria by Professor Raymond Hinnebusch and Dr Morten Valbjørn, Forthcoming.

Dukhan, H. & Belcastro, F. (2023) “Tribes and proxy wars in the Middle East in the Routledge Handbook of Proxy Wars edited by Assaf Moghadam, Vladimi Ruta and Michal Wyss.”

Dukhan, H. (2022): Tribal Mobilisation Forces in Iraq: Subtleties of Formation and Consequential Power Dynamics, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/13530194.2022.2087599

Dukhan, H. (2022): Tribal mobilisation during the Syrian civil war: the case of al-Baqqer brigade. Small Wars and Insurgencies. https://doi.org/10.1080/09592318.2022.2069970

Dukhan, H. (2022): “The end of the dialectical symbiosis of national and tribal identities in Syria”, Nations and Nationalism, https://doi.org/10.1111/nana.12785

Dukhan, H. (2022) “Tribes at War: The Struggle for Syria”, chapter in “Actors and Dynamics in the Syrian Conflict’s Middle Phase Between Contentious Politics, Militarization and Regime Resilience” Edited By Jasmine K. Gani, Raymond Hinnebusch, London, Routledge.

Dukhan, H. (2021). The Politics of Tribalization in Syria. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 53(3), 502-506. doi:10.1017/S0020743821000817

Dukhan, H. (2021): The ISIS Massacre of the Sheitat Tribe in Der ez-Zor, August 2014, Journal of Genocide Research, DOI: 10.1080/14623528.2021.1979912

Dukhan, H. & Alkheder, M. (2017): “A Thematic Analysis of Vocal Hymns (Nasheeds) by the So-Called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)”, Journal for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies, Vol 11, No 1, pp.143-152.

Dukhan, H. (2016): “From Reform to Revolt, Bashar al-Assad and the Arab Tribes in Syria”, Pastoralist Livelihoods in Asian Drylands: Environment, Governance and Risk, Ariell Ahearn and Troy Sternberg with Allison Hahn, Cambridge: White Horse Press.

Dukhan, H. (2014): “Tribes and Tribalism in the Syrian Uprising”, Syria Studies Journal, Vol 6, No 2, pp. 1-28.

Dukhan, H. (2014): “Development-Induced Displacement among Syria’s Bedouin”, Nomadic Peoples Journal, Vol 18, No 1, pp.61-79.

Policy Reports

Dukhan, H. Alhammad, A. & Shaar, K. (2021) “The Kin Who Count: Mapping Raqqa’s Tribal Topology” Middle East Institute.

Dukhan, H. (2020) “How the Islamic State Commandeers Syrian Tribal Networks: The Case Study of Saddam al-Jamal” Jamestown Foundation.

Dukhan, H. & Osann, T. (2020) “Local Approaches to IDP Return and Reintegration of Internally Displaced in Deir Ez-zur and al-Hasakah, Northeast Syria” Washington, D.C.: United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Dukhan, H., Kostrz, M., Neirat, O. (2017) “Political Economy of Value Chains in Southern Syria. Tribal & Armed Group Influence on Dairy, Cattle Feed and Olive Oil Value Chains” Washington, D.C.: United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Book Reviews

Dukhan, H. (2021): Review of “Social change in Syria Family, Village and Political Party, Contemporary Levant”, DOI: 10.1080/20581831.2021.1972553

Dukhan, H. (2020) Review of “Joking About Jihad: Comedy and Terror in the Arab World” LSE Middle East Blog.

Dukhan, H. (2020) Review of “Tribes and Global Jihadism” Middle East Monitor.

Selected articles for research centres and media outlets

Dukhan, H. (2021): America Withdrew from Afghanistan—Is Syria Next?, The Centre for National Interest, Washington, D.C.

Dukhan, H. (2021): Oil and water: what the ‘war on terror’ missed, 4 October 2021, Asia Times.

Chatty, D. and H. Dukhan (2020) “The civil war is threatening an ancient way of life in Syria” al-Jazeera English.

Dukhan, H. (2019) “Tribal Sponsorships Help Syrian Families Out of ISIS Camps, But Challenges Remain” Chatham House.

Dukhan, H. (2019) “Syria: attempts by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to co-opt Arab tribes will deepen the country’s divisions” The Conversation.

Dukhan, H. (2018) “Critical analysis of attempts to co-opt the tribes in Syria” Middle East Centre, London School of Economics.

Dukhan, H. (2017) “Who are the Tadamera? Modern Life Among the Ruins of Palmyra” Bergen University.

Dukhan, H. (2015) “The Islamic State: Balancing the Islamic and the Tribal Identity” Eye Magazine, 7, The International Academic Forum.

Dukhan, H. and S. Hawat (2014) “The Islamic State and the Arab Tribes in Eastern Syria” E-International Relations.

Dukhan, H. (2013) “Syria’s Security Implications for Israel: Advantage of a Stalemate” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Dukhan, H. (2013) “Syria and the Risk of Somalisation” Open Democracy.


Research Projects & External Funding

Striking from the Margins: From Disintegration to Reconstitution of State and Religion in the Middle East (Central European University): The Carnegie-funded research project seeks to consider conditions arising in the unsteady and seemingly deadlocked condition of military and political stalemate that has emerged in the Arab East, specifically Syria and Iraq. As part of this project, I am working on my individual research project titled “State Devolution in Syria and Iraq: Tribal Auxiliaries in the Margins”. I am also co-editing a book titled “Reconstitution of Power and Authority in the Arab Mashriq:  Questioning Post-Conflict Scenarios” with Professor Aziz al-Azmeh and Dr Harout Akdedian.

Variations in Sectarianization in Syria (University of St Andrews): Funded by a grant from the Danish Research Council, I am involved in a research project led by Professor Raymond Hinnebusch and Dr Morten Valbjørn at the University of St Andrews. The project focuses on the instrumentalization of sectarianism by regime and opposition and by competitive interference of external powers, as well as the discourse in the trans-state traditional and new media frames the Syrian uprising in Sectarian terms. An edited volume on the topic that comprises of in-depth case studies is being prepared.

Issam Eido

Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Senior Lecturer of Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Department of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University. His publications includes “Early Ḥadīth Scholars and their Criteria of Ḥadīth Criticism”, “On the Origins of Ḥadīth Terminology: the Dividing Line Between Early and Late Ḥadīth Scholars”, “The Rise of Syrian Salafism: From Denial to Recognition”, “Ḥadīth Studies in Syria: Reshaping Ḥadīth Criticism in the 20th Century”, “The Development of Uṣūl al-Ḥadīth During the Seljuk Era”, “The Sunnah” in The Encyclopedia of Islamic Bioethics. His research interests focus on Qur’ān, Ḥadīth, Tasawwuf and Ethics.

Alasdair Gordon-Gibson

Independent Researcher

Graduated with an Honours degree in Arabic and Islamic studies, then worked for twenty-five years in the field of humanitarian response with a focus on the Middle East. He holds the degrees of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of St Andrews, presenting research on humanitarian access and identity in conflicts and complex emergencies. Latest publication pending: Humanitarians on the Frontier. The political boundaries and the social bonds of voluntary service (Rowman and Littlefield).

Doctoral Thesis; Humanitarians on the frontier : identity and access in the socio-political space of voluntary service

Mohammad Habash

أستاذ الفقه الإسلامي في جامعة أبو ظبي
تخرجت من جامعة دمشق ليسانس وماستر وعملت محاضراً في جامعة دمشق كلية الشريعة ثم التحقت بجامعة القرآن الكريم للدكتوراة، ثم عينت أستاذاً في كلية الدعوة الإسلامية في دمشق، ثم انتخبت عصواً في البرلمان السوري 9 سنوات، ثم غادرت سوريا.
التحقت بجامعة أبو ظبي أستاذ مشارك للفقه الإسلامي كأستاذ متفرغ 2012، ثم انتظمت في جامعة الشارقة كلية الشريعة والدراسات الإسلامية، ومركز الدوحة لحوار الأديان وكذلك عضو في مجلس امناء الجامعة الإسلامية العالمية في إسلام آباد، وعضو في عدة هيئات جامعية.
صدر لي نحو 65 كتاباً مطبوعاً أبرزها: الإسلام والدبلوماسية، النبي الديمقراطي، إخاء الأديان، أبطال السلام في الإسلام، إسلام بلا عنف، أشواق داغستان، سيرة رسول الله، نظام الحكم في الإسلام (مقرر في جامعة أبو ظبي)

I graduated from Damascus University with a BA and MA and worked as a lecturer at Damascus University, College of Sharia, then joined the Holy Quran University for a Ph.D., then I was appointed a professor at the College of Islamic Call in Damascus, then I was elected as a member of the Syrian Parliament for 9 years, then I left Syria. She joined Abu Dhabi University as Associate Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence as a full-time professor in 2012, then she joined the University of Sharjah, College of Sharia and Islamic Studies, and the Doha Center for Interfaith Dialogue, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, and a member of several university bodies. About 65 printed books have been published for me, the most prominent of which are: Islam and diplomacy, the democratic prophet, brotherhood of religions, champions of peace in Islam, Islam without violence, longing for Dagestan, biography of the Messenger of God, and the system of government in Islam (course at Abu Dhabi University)

Bassam Haddad

Director of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Program, George Mason Unieversity

Bassam Haddad is Director of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Program and Associate Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. He is the author of Business Networks in Syria: The Political Economy of Authoritarian Resilience (Stanford University Press, 2011) and co-editor of A Critical Political Economy of the Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2021). Bassam is Co-Founder/Editor of Jadaliyya Ezine and Executive Director of the Arab Studies Institute. He serves as Founding Editor of the Arab Studies Journal and the Knowledge Production Project. He is co-producer/director of the award-winning documentary film, About Baghdad, and director of the acclaimed series Arabs and Terrorism. Bassam serves on the Board of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences and is Executive Producer of Status Audio Magazine and Director of the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI). He received MESA’s Jere L. Bacharach Service Award in 2017 for his service to the profession. Currently, Bassam is working on his second Syria book titled Understanding The Syrian Tragedy: Regime, Opposition, Outsiders (forthcoming, Stanford University Press).

Steven Heydemann

Janet W. Ketcham Professor of Middle East Studies, Smith College

Steven Heydemann holds the Janet Wright Ketcham 1953 Chair in Middle East Studies at Smith College, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government. He is also a nonresident senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy of the Brookings Institution. From 2007–15 he held a number of leadership positions at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., including vice president of applied research on conflict and senior adviser for the Middle East.

Natosha Hoduski

PhD Candidate

​Natosha is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews studying hydropolitics of conflict in Syria and holds an MSc from the University of Edinburgh in International Relations of the Middle East with Arabic. She currently works as a Research Assistant at the Fund for Peace where she is working on the Fragile State Index and authoring a Resilience Report on Iraq for the Islamic Development Bank. Previously, she was a Research Associate at LLNL’s Center for Global Security Research where she researched conflict trends in Syria and Iraq through the lens of water governance and climate change.

Omar Imady

Author & Historian

Omar Imady is the author, co-author and editor of several books on Syria, including The Rise and Fall of Muslim Civil Society; The Syrian Uprising: Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory; Syria at War: Five Years On; Syria at War: Eight Years On; and Historical Dictionary of Syria. Imady is also the author of several articles and chapters on specialised subjects, including rural poverty, Islamist organizations, reconstruction, reconciliation, and SufismIn addition to his scholarly activity, Imady is also a poet and a novelist; his novels have been translated into several languages.


Current Projects:

The Unauthorised Biography of a Damascene Reformer. PEN & SWORD BOOKS LIMITED, 2021.

When Her Hand Moves. Villa Magna Publishing, 2021.


Murhaf Jouejati

Class of 1955 Distinguished Chair in Global and Middle East Studies, US Naval Academy

My past research focused on security issues surrounding Syria. I am currently working on a book documenting the evolution of authoritarianism in Syria

Rashad Kattan

Global Financial Crime Compliance – HSBC

Rashad Kattan is a multi-lingual political economist and financial crime compliance specialist. Rashad has advised various public and private stakeholders, including multinational corporations, on how to navigate complex geopolitical, security, compliance and business environments. Rashad holds MSc in Security Studies from University College London (UCL), and a BA in Business Administration from Kingston University in London. Rashad was a fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, and an Executive Board member of MENA Regional Council at the US Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).

Current Projects

Filiz Katman

Director, Energy Politics and Markets Research Centre, Istanbul Aydin University

Assistant Professor Dr. Filiz Katman holds a BA in Economics (in English) from Istanbul University, an MA in Political Science and International Relations (in English) from Marmara University, a PhD in International Security and Terrorism from National Defence University, certificates from Harvard University Humanitarian Assistance in Conflict and Disaster Program, Oxford University Pembroke College Changing Character of War Programme, Yale University Program on War, Conflict and Order, NATO International School, and NATO Centre of Excellence on Defence Against Terrorism. Currently, Dr. Katman is Executive Board President at the Energy Politics and Markets Research Centre (EPPAM) since 2010 (founder of the first research centre on energy politics in Turkey), Editor-in-Chief at EPPAM Policy Brief, and Erasmus Coordinator of Department of Political Science and International Relations (in English) at Istanbul Aydin University. She is the MC (country representative) of COST Project CA18228-Global Atrocity Justice Constellations and researcher at CA16232-Energy Poverty Agenda Co-Creation and Knowledge Innovation (working group 1-2-4), CA17135-Constitution Making and Deliberative Democracy (working group 2-3),and CA18236-Multi-Disciplinary Innovation for Social Change. She is recipient of several awards and scholarships in both the domestic and international arenas, and has published several articles and books on terrorism, security, political violence, cyber threats, energy policy, energy security, Kurdish politics, Syria, Eurasia and NATO. She is regularly consulted by BBC World News due to her expertise, and is Editor for National Security and Physical Geography at Editorial Advisory Group of Cambridge Scholars Publishing, a Member of TUBITAK Academic Research Funds as Observatory Panellist, TOBB(The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey) Istanbul Women Entrepreneurs Council, Executive Board of Energy Business Council at Foreign Economic Relations Board-DEIK and Honorary Advisory Board Member at Foreign Energy Investors Council.

Current Projects

Rana Khalaf

PhD researcher / Freelance consultant

Rana Khalaf is a published Syrian scholar and activist who works on civil society and local governance issues in (post)-revolutionary contexts in the MENA region. She is a PhD candidate at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. She is also a fellow with the Centre for Syrian Studies at the University of St. Andrews. Rana’s thesis tackles local governance at the intersection of peace and state formation, with a focus on areas of limited statehood in northern Syria.

Rana’s research is complemented by her work with civil society and by her consultancy work. Rana has evaluated projects and provided research and policy advice to key stakeholders including: the European Commission, Chatham House, UNESCWA, INGOs like the Asfari Foundation, Democracy Reporting International and Syrian organizations like the Syrian Female Journalist Network.

Line Khatib

Associate Professor

Line Khatib has a PhD from McGill university. She is associate professor of political science. Her publications include Islamic Revivalism in Syria: the Rise and Fall of Bathist Secularism, and Syria, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar: the ‘Sectarianization’ of the Syrian Conflict and the Undermining of Democratization in the region, and many other journal articles and edited volume chapters. Her research interests focus on comparative politics in ‘Islamism’, secularism, authoritarianism, democratization and liberalization, and liberalism in the Arab World.

Current Projects

Joshua Landis

Mackey Chair of Middle East Studies

Joshua Landis is Sandra Mackey Chair and Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and the Farzaneh Family Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Oklahoma in the Boren College of International Studies.

He writes and manages “SyriaComment.com,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 50,000 page-reads a month.

Dr. Landis publishes frequently in policy journals such as Foreign Affairs, Middle East Policy and Foreign Policy. His book: Syria at Independence, Nationalism, Leadership, and Failure of Republicanism will be published by the Arab Center for research and Policy studies this coming year. He is a frequent analyst on TV, radio, and in print and is a regular on NPR and the BBC.

He has received three Fulbright Grants, a SSRC Grant and other support for his research and won numerous prizes for his teaching. He is past President of the Syrian Studies Association.

He has lived 15 years in the Middle East and 4 in Syria. He spent most summers in Syria before the uprising on 2011.

He was educated at Swarthmore (BA), Harvard (MA), and Princeton (PhD).

Current Projects

Fred H. Lawson

Professor of Government Emeritus of Mills College and Visiting Professor of International Relations, Emirates Diplomatic Academy

My published research on Syria analyzes domestic sources of Syrian foreign policy, shifts in Syria’s relations with Iran and Turkey, the sectarianization of the 2010-11 civil war, the impact of that war on surrounding countries and the history of the People’s Party. Forthcoming work will untangle the overlapping dynamics of post-conflict state formation in Syria and Iraq.

Reinoud Leenders

Reader International Politics and Middle East Studies

Dr Reinoud Leenders is a Reader in International Relations and Middle East Studies in the War Studies Department at King’s College London. He obtained his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies from London University. His research interests and teaching focus on Middle East politics generally and Syria, Lebanon and Iraq in particular. His work deals with the political economy of corruption, authoritarian governance, refugee issues, and conflict. Reinoud authored several articles in academic journals and edited volumes and Spoils of Truce: Corruption and State Building in Post-War Lebanon (Cornell University Press 2012) and formerly worked for the International Crisis Group based in Beirut, and for the University of Amsterdam. He regularly gives advice on matters related to Syria and Lebanon to foreign policymakers, international NGOs, private companies and law firms.

Current Projects

David W. Lesch

Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of Middle East History

David W. Lesch is the Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of History at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, USA. He is the author or editor of 16 books, including: “Syria: A Modern History” (Polity Press); “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History” (Oxford University Press); “Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad” (Yale University Press); and “The Middle East and the United States” (6th edition, Rutledge). His next book (out in 2022) is entitled, “The History of the Middle East: From the Prophet Muhammad to the Present” (Oxford University Press). He frequently consults with the US government, the UN, and other entities on Middle East issues, has appeared in over 15 documentaries on Middle East topics, and is on the board of numerous NGOs and other organizations that deal with the Middle East.

Aron Lund

Middle East researcher, FOI

Aron Lund is a Swedish specialist in Syrian and Middle Eastern politics. Since 2020, he researches Middle Eastern and Mediterranean security at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI). He is also a fellow at The Century Foundation. Lund previously worked with the Carnegie Endowment, the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI), and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). In 2018–2020, he headed the TCF project “Insurgent Fragmentation and State Attachment in the Syrian Civil War” with support from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. He has an M.A. from Uppsala University and studied Arabic in Damascus, Algiers, Cairo, and Amman.

Rania Maktabi

Associate professor, Østfold University College, Norway

Rania is a political scientist (University of Oslo, 1992). Her research focuses on citizenship and the relationship between religion, law and politics. She has done fieldworks in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Kuwait and Qatar. Her publications include “Gender, family law and citizenship in Syria” (Citizenship Studies, 2010); “Female citizenship in Syria: Framing the 2009 controversy over personal status law” in Syria from Reform to Revolt (2015); ” Female Citizenship under Authoritarian Rule: Baʿthist Syria and Beyond” (Bustan, 2018); and «Patriarchal Nationality laws in the Middle East ” in Routledge Handbook on Citizenship in the Middle East (2021).


Sami Moubayed

Founding Chair of The Damascus History Foundation

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian historian specialized in pre-Baath Syria. He has written many books in Arabic and English, the most recent of which is The Makers of Modern Syria: The rise and fall of Syrian Democracy 1918-1958 (Bloomsbury Press 2018). His previous book Under the Black Flag (IB Tauris, 2015) was a bestseller that was translated into Swedish, Spanish, Slovenian, Korean, and Japanese. Previously he had worked as a researcher at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center. He was also a university professor in Syria during the years 2005-2012.

Dr Yasmine Nahlawi

Legal Consultant

Dr Yasmine Nahlawi is a legal consultant with research focus on the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine and the Syrian conflict. She is also a guest lecturer at various British and American universities and delivers international law training to non-governmental and civil society organisations. Dr Nahlawi has published widely on Syria and appears regularly on television and radio forums to comment upon recent developments within the country. Her recent book is ‘The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law’ (Routledge 2019). Dr Nahlawi received her PhD in Public International Law from Newcastle University in 2016.

Current Projects

Thomas Pierret

Senior Researcher at CNRS-IREMAM

Thomas Pierret is a Senior Researcher at CNRS-IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence, France. He holds a PhD in Political science from Sciences Po Paris and the University of Louvain. He was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh (2011-2017) and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University. He is the author of Religion and State in Syria. The Sunni Ulama from Coup to Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and Islam in Post-Ottoman Syria (Oxford Bibliographies, 2016). His current research interests include political Islam, Islamic militancy, and rebel politics in Syria.

Recent publications:

Syria’s “Sunni Question” is Here to Stay (Berkley Forum, 2021);

Sunni Islamists: From Syria to the Umma, and Back (Syria: Borders, Boundaries, and the State, Matthieu Cimino ed., Springer, 2020);

Syrian Arab Republic (Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa, 9th edition, Sean Yom ed., Routledge, 2019).

Neil Quilliam

Associate Fellow

Neil is a foreign affairs specialist with extensive experience consulting to government officials and corporate clients on geopolitics and energy in the Middle East. His previous positions include CEO of Castlereagh Associates and senior Energy Adviser to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is currently writing a report with Chatham House colleague Sanam Vakil on Stepping Stones: How to Manage Iran, the JCPOA and
Regional Security in the Middle East and working on a research project: Rising Regional Influencers: An Examination of Emirati-Israeli Smart Power in the Middle East.

Current Projects

Naomí Ramírez Díaz

Independent researcher

I hold a PhD on Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Autónoma University of Madrid and have published several papers and a book on the history and evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. In addition, my research has focused on the dynamics of the Syrian revolution and I am currently focusing on narrative and memory in the Syrian context.


Ola Rifai

Ola Rifai is the Deputy Director at the Centre for Syrian Studies (CSS) at St. Andrews University and holds MPhil degree in International Relations (2014) from the same institution, and MA degree in International Politics (2011) from City University London. Her research interests include the international politics of the Middle East, identity politics, nationalism and ethnic conflict. She is a regular contributor at CSS blog and published articles and book chapters on Syria politics. Ola is based in New York where she works as a freelance political consultant.

Rifai, Ola ‘The paradoxical role of media; a tool for sectarian polarisation and for reconciliation?’, Asian Politics and Policy  Volume 6 #Issue 03,  2014 .

Rifai, Ola ‘The Kurdish identity from banishment to empowerment’ Syria Studies   VOL 8 NO 2 2016.

Ola Rifai and Raymond Hinnebusch “Syria identity, state formation and citizenship” in N Butenschon and R. Meijer, ed The Crisis of Citizenship in the Arab World (2017) Brill; Boston .

Ola Rifai “The Sunni/Alawite identity clashes during the Syrian Uprising” in R, Hinnebusch and O. Imady The Syrian Uprising; Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory (2018)’;Routledge London .

Yezid Sayigh

Senior Fellow, Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center

Yezid Sayigh leads the program on Civil-Military Relations in Arab States (CMRAS) at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. His work focuses on the comparative political and economic roles of Arab armed forces and nonstate actors, the impact of war on states and societies, and the politics of postconflict reconstruction and security sector transformation in Arab transitions, and authoritarian resurgence.

Current Projects

Linda Schatkowski Schilcher

Retired Professor, currently researcher, translator and editor

Born in Philadelphia. Graduated with BA from Indiana University as a student of P.J. Vatikiotis and Ilya Harik; MA from AUB as a student of Malcolm Kerr and Samir Khalaf; then completed DPhil as a student of Albert Hourani and Roger Owen at St.Antony’s College of Oxford University. Thanks to support of Fritz Steppat I was employed as VW Foundation research scholar in Germany at the University of Mainz and the Institute for European History under the direction of Karl Otmar von Aretin. I then worked to become a tenured professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia, where I founded the Syrian Studies Association. The shift to the University of Arkansas proved less fortunate.
My scholarly interests continue to focus on Syria prior to WWII; have published on the history of the city of Damascus (“Families in Politics” also available in Arabic translation), Syria’s agriculture and grain trade, and the conflicts in the Hauran during the Ottoman era. Have donated an extensive film archive of late Ottoman Sijlat to the German Orient Institute in Beirut, where it is available in digitalised format, thanks to the support its director, Birgit Schaebler. Presently semi-retired, I translate German works on the Middle East, and edit other publishable works. Now a German citizen, mother and grandmother, I enjoy nature, gardening, hiking and music.

Aurora Sottimano

Lecturer, Università Studi Internazionali (UNINT) Rome, Italy. Visiting researcher, Centro Estudos Internacionais, CEI ISCTE-IUL Lisbon, Portugal.

Aurora Sottimano specializes in Middle East politics and regional relations, with a focus on Syria. Her interests include authoritarian governance; political and economic reform; local administration, and migration. She is a lecturer at the International Studies University in Rome (UNINT, Italy) and visiting researcher in the Centre for International Studies (CEI ISCTE-IUL, Portugal). Previously she held research and lecturer positions at Leiden University (Netherlands), the British University in Egypt, the Orient Institut Beirut (Lebanon), and Amsterdam University (Netherlands). Her publications include “Syria in the resistance axis” in L. Matar and A. Kadri (eds.) Syria: from National Independence to Proxy war, Palgrave 2018.

Current Projects

Anders Strindberg

Senior Researcher, Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), Stockholm, Sweden

Senior Faculty, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, Anders Strindberg is Senior Researcher at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) in Stockholm, Sweden, and also Senior Faculty at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California. His research interests centre on the intersection of norms, identity formation, and political violence. He is currently working on a manuscript on the political history of the Damascus-based ”rejectionist” trend within the Palestinian National Movement. Anders holds an MA and PhD in International Relations from St Andrews University and an MA in Theology from St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY.

Will Todman

Fellow, Middle East Program, CSIS

Will Todman is a fellow in the Middle East Program at CSIS. His research focuses on humanitarian issues, displacement, and conflict in the Middle East, with an emphasis on the Levant. His analysis on siege warfare in Syria has been published in peer-reviewed journals, by think tanks, and humanitarian organizations. Will holds a B.A. in Arabic and modern Hebrew from Oxford University and an M.A. in Arab studies from Georgetown University, where he studied Persian intensively.

Özlem Tür


I am a Professor of International Relations at Middle East Technical University in Ankara. I have been working on the role of outside powers, both state and violent non-state/hybrid actors in Syria, focusing on Turkey and Hizballah respectively.  My current research focuses on Northern Syria and Turkey’s role in the region.

​Current Projects

Stéphane Valter

Professor at Lyon 2 University (France)

Previous Appointments:

“Agrégation” in Arabic; PhD in political science (Paris); administrative/scientific secretary at IFEAD (Damascus, 1992-1997);

Researcher at CEDEJ in Cairo (2016-2017); specialty: Syria, Egypt, sectarianism, Arab armies;


Norm and Dissidence: Egyptian Shi‘a between Security Approaches and Geopolitical Stakes, Occasional Paper series, Georgetown University in Qatar (Center for International and Regional Studies, CIRS), Nov. 2019

Fatwâs et politique. Les sociétés musulmanes contemporaines aux prismes de la religion et de l’idéologie, Paris, Éditions du CNRS, mars 2020.

Current Projects

Erwin van Veen

Senior research fellow at Clingendael

At Clingendael’s Conflict Research Unit I leads a team that analyses the political economy of conflict in the Middle East. My own work examines the political use of armed groups in processes of state development and geopolitical conflict. In Syria, I focus mostly on the Kurdish YPG, Iran-linked ‘resistance groups’, European policy and the role of Syrian diaspora civil society.

Current Projects\



Vorobyeva, Daria

Daria Vorobyeva specializes in migration and refugee studies, especially on topics of repatriation and (re)integration; government politics towards ethno-religious minorities; migration and social identity change. Her second area of specialization is Russian foreign policy towards the Middle East and post-Soviet states. Recently, she has been publishing and presenting in medica on Russian domestic policies as well. Currently, Daria is undertaking a research project in Kyrgyzstan on the re-integration of ISIS returnees to the country. She is also lecturing at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek.

Daria graduated from Moscow State University, Institute for Asian and African Studies. She then received her PhD from the University of St Andrews, School of International Relations on the topic “Forced Migration and Host Country Integration: A Case Study of Syrian Armenians in Armenia and Lebanon (2011-2016).” Afterwards Daria completed a research project, funded by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), on the role and functions of minority political parties in Lebanon in the socio-economic and political life of the country, primarily focusing on the Armenian political parties.

Recent publications:

Vorobyeva, Daria (2020). “Armenian Political Parties in Lebanon: Functions and Survival Strategies.” In Cavatorta, F., Storm, L. and Resta, V. Routledge Handbook on Political Parties in the Middle East and North Africa. Routledge, 282-294.

Vorobyeva, Daria (2020). “Political, Economic and Socio-cultural Change in Russia: the Influence of the Pandemic. Forum of EthnoPolitics (8:2): 191-202.

Josepha Ivanka (Joshka) Wessels

Senior Lecturer

Visual Anthropologist and Human Geographer (PhD), a Senior Lecturer in Communication for Development at the School of Arts and Communication, Faculty of Culture and Society at Malmö University, Sweden. She lived and worked in Aleppo between 1997 and 2002, and is carrying out several Swedish funded research projects with Syrian refugees. She is in the final stages of an ethnographic film project, with support from the Crafoord Foundation, documenting life histories of Syrian refugees over a period of 20 years. In 2019, she published a landmark book on the history of Syrian Documentary cinema and video activism with IB Tauris/Bloomsbury.

Current Projects

Dr. Carsten Wieland

Senior Middle East Advisor for the Green Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag

Carsten Wieland is a diplomat, senior UN consultant, Middle East and mediation expert. He has served as a senior advisor with three UN Special Envoys for Syria and as senior Middle East advisor for the Green Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag. He is lecturer at NYU Berlin, guest professor at the University Rosario in Bogotá, Associate Fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and previously at the Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University. He studied history, political science and philosophy in Germany, in the US and India. His publications include Syria and the Neutrality Trap (2021).

Khaled Yacoub Oweis

Jordan Correspondent, The National

Khaled has been a journalist for 26 years, covering Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and oil markets from London, mostly for Reuters. He was for 3 1/2 years Visiting Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, writing research on Syria. In 2019 he became Chief Foreign Writer at The National newspaper in the UAE. Khaled is currently is the paper’s Jordan Correspondent.

Current Projects

Takaoka Yutaka

Independent researcher of Syria

He received Ph.D. in Area Studies from Sophia University (Tokyo, Japan) in 2011, and B.A. from Waseda University (Tokyo, Japan) in 1998.
Previously, he served as Chief Research Fellow, the Middle East Research Institute of Japan in 2018-2019, and as Political attaché, Embassy of Japan in Syria in 2000-2003.

Current Projects

Özden Zeynep Oktav

Professor at İstanbul Medeniyet University

Özden Zeynep Oktav is a Professor at İstanbul Medeniyet University. She is the author of the books entitled Turkey in the 21st Century Quest for a New Foreign Policy, Routledge, 2011 Limits of Relations with the West: Turkey Syria and Iran, Beta, Istanbul, 2008 and The Changing Dynamics of the Arab Gulf and Saudi Arabia-US-Iran Relations, Beta, Istanbul, 2011 co-editor of the book: Violent Non-State Actors and Syrian Civil War The ISIS and YPG Cases, (Springer, 2018), GCC-Turkey Relations: Dawn of a New Era, (GRC Press in Cambridge, 2015), She was a visiting Researcher at Cambridge University, UK and St. Andrews University, Scotland, UK in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

Tina Zintl

Senior Researcher, German Development Institute

Tina’s research focuses on the political economy and state-society relations in the Middle East, especially labour markets, digitalization, social cohesion, and the renegotiation of social contracts. She holds a PhD from the University of St Andrews (Scotland) and previously worked at the University of Tübingen (Germany). Her publications include “The social contract as a tool of analysis” (World Development, with M. Loewe, A. Houdret), “Community effects of cash-for-work programmes in Jordan” (DIE study, with M. Loewe et al) and “Syria from reform to revolt” (2015, with R. Hinnebusch). Tina also provides policy advice in development cooperation.

Current Projects