Our Team Members
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Alexandra Bauman is a junior studying History, Spanish and Arabic. Her concentration is in Social Change and Social Movements, specifically in the Middle East, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Alexandra grew up in Washington, DC and her passion for politics can be traced back to her upbringing in the city. After graduation, Alexandra hopes to pursue a career in law or public service.
At Yale, she is on the board of the Yale College Democrats and spends much of her time working with organizations in New Haven. She coordinates a soup kitchen on Friday nights, volunteers at a youth homeless shelter, and works on various political campaigns in the area. Alexandra is also a reporter for the Yale Daily News. She has participated in various Yale fellowships on the Middle East, such as the Peace and Dialogue Leadership Initiative and the Israel Education Fellowship. She has also studied abroad at the University of Jordan in Amman.
Alexandra hopes to use the skills and knowledge she acquires on her Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Fellowship to encourage interfaith political dialogue between the Jewish and Muslim communities on Yale’s campus.
CUNY Hunter College
Alexis is a third year student at the City University of New York, Hunter College majoring in Political Science and Human Rights with minors in Chinese and Asian American studies. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in international relations with a focus on Asia and the Middle East. She is particularly interested in conflict transformation in the Middle East, and in grasping how religious understanding can play a role in this process. Alexis is excited to have a first-hand experience in the region to gain more perspective.
She cares deeply about equity and the implementation of creative solutions and has worked on projects including amplifying the need for the Equal Rights Amendment to be passed in Congress, leading the student Campaign for Fair Food alongside farmworkers to guarantee that their basic human rights are respected, and engaging in a cross-cultural exchange project in Tainan, Taiwan, with Taiwanese university students.
Having grown up in South Florida, a place of great cultural diversity, in a non-denominational Christian church, one of her earliest passions is gaining understanding about different faiths and their traditions. Upon completing the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Fellowship, she intends to engage in interfaith work and collaboration in New York City, as she believes it is a tool to empower us to think more critically about the world that we live in.
Amir is a second-year student, double-majoring in Global Studies with a focus in the Middle East and Persian Language and Literature. Born in Tehran, but raised in Houston, Texas and Los Angeles, California, he has had the privilege of learning to adapt to his surroundings.
At Berkeley, he is the Executive Director of the Middle Eastern North African Recruitment and Retention Center, part of a larger multicultural coalition fostering representation and support for Middle Eastern students and communication with the larger campus community. He is also a programming intern for the SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) Initiative, a university-sponsored effort to provide additional cultural programming and institutional support to Middle Eastern students.
By merging his interest in supporting fruitful debate and academic scholarship of the Middle East, and his interest in supporting the institutional needs of an often-marginalized community within academia, Amir hopes to use his organizing skills to provide a more supportive spaces for Middle Eastern academics.
Amir sees his Ibrahim fellowship as a springboard to a potential career dedicated to dialogue and development in the Middle East. After graduation, Amir plans to attend law school to specialize in International Law. He hopes to spend time working with regional governments in the Middle East and supporting their infrastructural and business development plans.
CUNY Queens College
Anna is in her third year, pursuing a double major in Political Science and Comparative Literature. Although born in the United States, Anna spent a good part of her life on the island of Cyprus, which fueled her interest in politics, interfaith dialogue and conflict resolution. Anna is fluent in English, Greek and the Greek-Cypriot dialect. She also studies the Turkish language and culture independently. Anna’s double major has allowed her to engage in the analysis of literature, including literature that explores the significance of diplomacy within the international community. She is a member of the Golden Key Honor Society, is a Provost Scholar and has been the recipient of multiple merit scholarships, including the Chancellor’s Global Scholarship and the Freshman Honors Scholarship.
Anna is proud to be active on campus. As President of Model United Nations at Queens College, she works with delegates bi-weekly, educating them on international issues and the various tools the United Nations provides for resolving them. Her work includes hosting events with guest speakers from around the world, presenting on global issues and preparing delegates for conferences. Since joining the Queens College Model United Nations back in 2017, the team has consecutively won four Honorable Delegation awards at the national conferences. Anna also serves as Campus Outreach Manager of the Amnesty International chapter, where she organizes on-campus events in an effort to bring attention to pressing human rights concerns. Through her involvement and commitment to political on-campus clubs, Anna hopes to encourage fellow students to become active global citizens who are able to better understand and navigate political, social, religious and cultural differences.
After graduating from Queens College, Anna hopes to pursue a Master of Arts degree in the field of Human Rights with a focus on peace studies and transitional justice in post-conflict societies. She is especially interested in research and political analysis which can help foster understanding in post-conflict communities. Anna’s career goals include possible work with non-governmental organizations, diplomatic work and/or academic research. Through her participation in the Ibrahim Fellowship, Anna hopes to explore a variety of perspectives within the Middle East while learning more about the region’s multiple faiths, cultures and political relationships. Anna eventually hopes to utilize her newly acquired knowledge to promote greater cultural understanding at Queens College.
Chezliah is a third-year student, pursuing a bachelor's degree in history. At the age of 17, she achieved three associate's degrees from Pasadena City College — serving as the youngest graduate in the class of 2019. Originally from New Jersey, Chezliah has spent her life traveling to different regions of the United States and immersing herself in various Muslim communities. Inter-faith work has always been central to her life as she believes sacred resistance and dialogue are fundamental for effective societal change.
Nevertheless, her interests expand beyond North America. Last summer, she took the initiative to study abroad in Cairo, Egypt with an intensive language program: Arabeya Arabic Language Institute. Visiting Egypt opened pathways for her to fully engage and navigate within the complexities of an Arabic-speaking and Islam-dominant society to experience where her family for so many generations has called home.
Currently, Chezliah engages in a variety of work on UC Berkeley's campus as the Program Chair of Womxn IGNITE where she provides relevant resources for women interested in the political sphere. She also writes for the Berkeley Political Review on topics relating to African and Middle Eastern politics, and is a researcher for the Center of African Studies investigating political disparities of women cabinet ministers in African governments.
With the resources provided by the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Fellowship, Chezliah will be given the space to continue endeavors within the Middle East on a personal and professional level. Chezliah focuses on building connections and supporting organizations that help to uplift women in this region and the African diaspora economically, academically, and socially.
Diana Chavez-Varela is a fourth-year undergraduate student, majoring in Political Economy with a concentration in International Development and a minor in Human Rights. During her time at the UC Berkeley, Diana has executed extensive casework, project management, and research in the non-profit sector including the International Rescue Committee, Amnesty International, the World Economic Forum, UNICEF, and the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley’s School of Law. Diana’s interest in the Middle East has been intensified by her direct involvement with refugee families at the International Rescue Committee and through her research at Boalt’s School of Law Human Rights Center.
At the Human Rights Center, Diana verified/analyzed more than 150+ records of human rights violations, managed a team of 30+ research apprentices, led 6+ research projects – most of which were focused on the Middle East – and supported operations across international research teams based at the University of Cambridge, Hong Kong University, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Toronto. At the Human Rights Center, Diana has actively looked for opportunities to focus on projects to the Middle East and was involved in Amnesty International’s collaborative investigation into war crimes by the US-led coalition against Raqqa, Syria. The investigation was performed by various universities and most recently, Diana and her co-worker had the honor of presenting UC Berkeley’s contribution to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.
Working at the intersection of human rights, technology, and management, Diana has also learned the ropes of advocacy in the digital era. Her involvement at the Human Rights Center led to the opportunity to collaborate with law school students by performing research with UNICEF Innovation, the World Economic Forum, and leading technology companies on the positive and negative effects of artificial Intelligence on children’s human rights. UNICEF Innovation most recently published their “Memorandum on Artificial Intelligence and Child Rights” as well as the full research project (UNICEF Innovation, 2019).
In addition to her involvement at the Human Rights Center, Diana worked at the International Rescue Committee as an Intensive Case Management and Community Engagement Intern where she assisted 35+ refugee families from the Middle East with high barriers to self-sufficiency, such as adults with serious medical conditions. She connected 50+ clients to needed treatment, resources, and psychosocial support in the larger Bay Area and provided IRC representation at 45+ appointments, including Alameda County Social Services and USCIS in Oakland, California.
Diana’s work experience, as well as her courses on international affairs, global studies, and political economy, addressed not only the discourse on inequality between the United States regions such as Latin America but also the bilateral and complex relationship that has existed between the United States and the Middle East. The cultural exchanges she experienced while working at the International Rescue Committee and the Human Rights Center, as well as through works of literature she has engaged with, inspired her to expand her knowledge of the Middle East. Diana is particularly drawn to participate in the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Middle East Program, not only due to its outstanding curriculum, but also to gain on-the-ground experience with dialogue efforts in the Middle East, receive cross-cultural exposure to ongoing debates, and gain a nuanced understanding of the greater complexities of this vital region. By taking a look at regional practices to reduce the institutional framework behind inequality and the socio-political mobilizations that seek to transform these structures, Diana aspires to become a more informed policy-maker and human rights advocate, since policy should be reflective of the reality on the ground.
CUNY Queens College
Hindy is a sophomore at Queens College, majoring in neuroscience with plans to attend medical school and become a surgeon. Her passion for the importance of cultural diversity and interracial understanding stems from her childhood upbringing in Brooklyn, NY, where she witnessed firsthand the large barriers that stand between certain religious and/or cultural communities, and the myriad benefits that arise from bridging the divide.
Hindy plans to use the knowledge and skills she gains from the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue fellowship to start a club on campus centering on interfaith dialogue, in the hopes of promoting understanding between different religions, starting specifically with Islam and Judaism. She also intends to host events in the community with similar goals in mind.
After medical school, Hindy plans to use the experience from the Ibrahim fellowship, as well as other fellowships she aims to complete as an undergrad, in her quest to help ensure that all individuals have access to the same high quality medical care. This undertaking will be twofold — one focus will be on guaranteeing that all patients are treated equally regardless of their culture or religion, and the other will be on patients having access to doctors that are either from their same background or have the understanding of their background necessary to facilitate the highest level of care possible.
CUNY City Tech
Born and raised in a tiny village in the poorest country in the Middle East, Yemen, Husam moved to New York City in 2011, shortly after participating in the Arab Spring revolution which eventually toppled the president. Husam visited Yemen in 2014 as the Houthi rebels were carrying out a coup against the transitional government. A year later due to civil war, Husam’s mother became a refugee in Malaysia and has not been able to join him in the States due to Trump’s travel ban. These circumstances, amongst others, drove Husam to become an advocate committed to raising awareness about the situation in Yemen, and elevating the level of Yemeni-American participation in politics in hopes of making a change.
As a freshman in college, in 2016, Husam, launched an online campaign, HandInHandForYemen from his college’s Muslim Student Association, and raised over $50,000, which was used to purchase food baskets distributed during Ramadan through a Yemeni non-profit organization, Pure Hands. He has volunteered for various organizations since. In 2018, Husam acquired an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts & Science from CUNY New York City College of Technology. Subsequently, he took a semester off to visit his mother in Malaysia. Upon arriving back at the States, Husam helped found Humanity for Relief and Development, a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to Yemen, most significantly known for their Mercy Bakery project. He also worked for the Yemeni American Merchants Association and registered 1,000 people to vote.
Husam is currently pursuing two bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and International Studies. On campus, he serves as the vice president of the Students for Justice in Palestine club, is involved in the Muslim Student Organization, and is a tutor of Arabic.
Joshua "Yoni" Nirenberg
Long Island University
Yoni is a third year student majoring in Pharmacy, minoring in Biology and Chemistry, and working on a few other degrees at once. He plans to concentrate in public health and international humanitarian aid in the Middle East and at the United Nations. Yoni grew up travelling around the world and his passion stems from his Zionist roots from home. When his older brother was serving in the army, Yoni helped raise $70,000 for fleece outerwear to keep his brother's unit warm. His activism led him to work with various organizations including: StandWithUs, ICC, ZOA, Yavneh On Campus, AIPAC, and the Israeli Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis.
At LIU-Brooklyn, Yoni is part of various honor’s societies and humanitarian organizations. He
helps by representing his grade as Junior Governor on the University’s Student Government. As
a member of the Jewish community on campus, Yoni assists in running various events and
fundraisers as the Israel Engagement Chair on campus.
Using the knowledge and skills he will gain on the upcoming Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue
Fellowship, Yoni intends to make change by having intercultural events and dialogue between
different Middle Eastern communities on his campus and in his community.
CUNY Queens College
Lauren Snow is a junior studying biology and psychology with a minor in computer science. Upon graduation, Lauren plans to attend law school with the goal of working in the intersection of science and policy. She is particularly interested in issues of public health, such as food and drug law. Lauren has a deep interest for politics and policy in general, and feels a connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through her Jewish background and passion for social justice. As an orthodox Jew, she has been exposed to Israel from a young age, and since learning more about the conflict in greater detail, has become interested in many of the issues surrounding it.
Lauren is strongly connected to her Jewish background. She was an intern in her Hillel this past year, where she organized programming for students interested in in-depth text study. She is passionate about raising and addressing issues within the Jewish community. In addition, Lauren enjoys participating in CERRU (Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding) events and interacting with students of various faiths and backgrounds. This past summer, Lauren participated in a fellowship at the Hartman Institute to address aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by listening to lectures, and meeting with politicians and activists.
During the semester, Lauren works in a neuroscience lab at Rockefeller University, studying the inner ear and hearing. She is fascinated by issues of science, particularly those with public health implications. She is also a mentor for the College Now program at Queens College, helping high school students who are taking college classes. Lauren loves learning new things and meeting new people. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, reading memoirs, and cooking. She is excited to participate in the Ibrahim Program, and looks forward to learning as much as she can. Lauren hopes to bring back what she learns to her Jewish community, to encourage more critical thinking and acknowledgement of different narratives. She is interested in becoming involved with interfaith work and using her experiences from the trip to be more culturally understanding and sensitive.
Leo is a third year student, triple majoring in History, Near Eastern Civilizations, and Arabic. Within those majors, he plans to concentrate on Late Modern Europe and Islamic Civilization, respectively. In 2019, Leo won the Leslie Lipson Essay Prize for a short original thinkpiece on humanistic values. This year, Leo is one of the Associate Editors for Clio’s Scroll, the Berkeley Undergraduate History Journal. Classically trained as a pianist for 15 years, Leo spends a great deal of time practicing and has volunteered for a variety of organizations that focus on making musical education programs available to younger students.
Outside of the academic sphere, Leo enjoys playing basketball and volleyball. He is also passionate about computer science, particularly with regards to artificial intelligence and the interactions between advances in technology and the sociocultural impact of these advances in different contexts. He is the co-founder and CEO of Delphai, Inc., a startup that develops proprietary machine learning platforms for a number of applications, financial and otherwise. He is the co-inventor of the Algorithmic Relational Odds Nexus (US Patent Pending US62788539). After graduation, Leo plans to fully invest his efforts into his startup, but is also considering law or graduate school as possible alternatives.
Leo plans to use the experiences and knowledge gained as a result of his participation in the Ibrahim Program to found a student-led community organization on campus that will be committed to the discussion and proliferation of ideas across cultural, religious, and political lines with the twin aims of heightening mutual interfaith understanding and promoting a path to the preservation of liberalism in an information-centric future.
CUNY Hunter College
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Maimuna is an honors student majoring in Sociology with minors in Human Rights and Asian-American Studies. She is a member of the Thomas Hunter Honors Program, a St. George’s Society scholar, an Eva Kastan Grove scholar, and an Andrew W. Mellon Arts fellow. Her interdisciplinary academic background has allowed for her to visit Nepal in the summer of 2019 to study human rights and international relations with regards to human trafficking and women, children, immigrant, and labor rights—just a few of the many topics that pique her interest. She is an active member of Hunter’s Muslim Student Association, and volunteers for many religious and culturally enriching organizations during her free time.
Maimuna’s interest in the Middle East not only stems from her academic tutelage—to learn more about the culture, politics, governance, law, religion, coexistence, and complexity of the transcontinental region, but also from her own experience as a Muslim who grew up in the West. She hopes to learn more about the juxtaposition of religion and society in the Middle East, in comparison to the Eurocentric perspective that is traditionally taught in the States. She plans to bring back the tools and knowledge for furthering the dialogue between the Middle East and the West and implementing those ideas learned to the youth and greater communities of New York City.
New York University
Nour Abdelwahab, 20, was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt but immigrated to the United States around the rise of the Arab spring. She currently resides in New Jersey and is pursuing a bachelor’s in the intersection of Politics, Persuasion, and Sociology. At NYU she is actively engaged within the interfaith space, specifically with student clubs like Bridges: Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue at NYU and Mosaic: The Interfaith Students of Color Coalition. Prior to starting college, she was a recipient of the National Security Language Initiative scholarship, where she spent three months in Morocco intensively studying Arabic, residing with a host family, and investigating the link between language and national security.
She is proud of her cultural heritage and holds great interest in the histories and societies of the MENA region, especially in terms of heritage preservation, establishing national memories, and understanding how such narratives are transnationally portrayed. Previously, she dedicated time to helping Syrian refugees resettle in New Jersey through her ongoing involvement with the nonprofit organization, IHSAN Charity. As a member of the executive committee, she recruited and organized fifty volunteers largely drawn from universities and local religious institutions and held two successful fundraisers attended by approximately 350-450 people to welcome new-coming Syrian refugees. Through her experience in this fellowship, she hopes she is able to put together a similar project at a larger scale. She thrives off the adrenaline of trying new things, meeting new people and going to new places. In her free time you can find her picking up a new hobby like skateboarding and learning piano, or revisiting old ones like painting and video editing
CUNY Queens College
Safa Javid is a senior studying Computer Science and Political Science, with a concentration in International Relations. She is the president of NISA Student Association, an organization that aims to support and empower young Muslim women by creating a safe space that fosters healthy discourse, learning, and overall growth. By focusing on real issues that are affecting the community, Safa has created events such as healing circles, health events, self-defense classes, and career opportunity workshops for the women in her campus.
Safa is a Pedagogy-Engagement Advisor for “There is a Portal,” an Immigrant Social Engagement through Theater project. The piece aims to move towards a radical transfiguration of consciousness when it comes to understanding immigrants in the United States. Safa, through NISA, is also one of the organizers for a 36-hour all-women hackathon developed by Tech Together New York, that hosted one of their biggest hackathons in the North East this past October. In her free time, Safa enjoys working with many charities such as Islamic Relief that work to provide essential items for people at the brink of destitution due to famine and war.
At Queens College, Safa is a research assistant for the class History 255: A History of the Palestinian Israeli Conflict through the Visual Arts. From a very young age Safa has been passionate about this conflict and is currently working to aid students on campus to understand the conflict in detail. Safa believes the best way to find a solution for this conflict is through creating spaces where people have empathy for each side. Safa believes that through the performing arts and other media of dialogue, we will move closer to finding a feasible solution for this conflict. Safa plans to pursue a master’s in fine arts in film, specifically in documentary making, once she graduates.
Being a first generation American, Safa has always been drawn to her south-Asian heritage. A dangerous prevalent trend that Safa notes, in that region, is how few children from rural parts of the country go to school. Safa’s dream is to one day open a school in Pakistan so
that there are more opportunities for children from the region.
Sahil Lauji is a junior pursuing an honors major in Government and a minor in Islamic Studies. He is on an international relations track focusing on the Middle East. In his Islamic Studies courses, he seeks to break hegemonic views of Islam by taking courses on Islamic art (visual and oral), Sufism, and Shiism. He has been fascinated by spiritual cultivation practices in Islam and hopes to educate others on the internal aspects of faith. He has completed academic excursions in Morocco and Turkey, where he has explored their history, practice of Islam, and modern-day politics. Sahil hopes to grow his knowledge about politics, culture, and Islam in the Middle East through the Ibrahim Fellowship.
Sahil grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and comes from a multi-ethnic (African American and Indian) and multi-religious (Islam and Christianity) background. His background allows him to understand and empathize with people from all walks of life. He seeks to overcome this “battle of ignorance” between the East & West by creating bridges of understanding and commonality between people with opposing viewpoints.
At Harvard, he has been involved as a researcher for Institute of Politics, social chair for cultural organizations, led first-generation student groups, and is founding the Harvard Undergraduate Foreign Policy Initiative (HUFPI) which seeks to expose undergraduates to careers in American foreign policy and diplomacy through top speakers and policy projects. Using his knowledge and experience from the Ibrahim Fellowship, he plans to bring in guest speakers and host intercultural dialogue to enrich his campus community with a nuanced understanding of the Middle East.
He plans to pursue a joint law degree and master’s in international relations. Sahil aims to bring his insights to a career in diplomacy and public service
Sam is a junior double majoring in Cognitive Science and Statistics and Data Science. He is interested in studying the experiences of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East, and he has studied this topic at Washington State University (while he was a high school student), Yale, and in Paris (focusing primarily on immigrant communities from the Arab Maghreb) through the CUPA program. This is a topic of personal significance to Sam as his parents immigrated to Canada after the Iranian Revolution.
In high school, Sam founded a start-up committed to hiring previously gang-affiliated youth in Toronto. His goal was to provide an alternative for his peers, besides drugs and crime. Since graduating from high school, Sam has continued his involvement with social entrepreneurship at Yale. On campus, Sam is involved in several entrepreneurial and social enterprise organizations such as YES (Yale Entrepreneurial Society), the Hult Prize, and Origami Innovations. Sam also connects refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to employment opportunities in New Haven.
Sam would like to share the deeper understanding of the Middle East he will gain from participating in the Ibrahim Student Leadership and Dialogue Program with communities he is involved in at Yale. Sam will use what he learns to better serve the refugees he works with, and also to help organize events dedicated to fostering a dialogue between New Haven residents and refugees who have recently come to the city. Additionally, Sam would like to introduce the social enterprises he encounters during the program to the social entrepreneurship groups he is involved with at Yale, specifically, the Hult Prize and the Yale-LUCY exchange program. Sam hopes that through the events he organizes, the social entrepreneurs in his community can share new approaches for the social enterprises in the Middle East to consider, while learning from how those of the Middle East have approached some of society’s greatest problems.
Shakiba is a transfer student from MiraCosta Community College and is currently enrolled as a senior at the University of California, Berkeley. At the university, she has immersed herself in two diverse fields of study, namely, Global Studies and Philosophy. Within the Global Studies department, Shakiba focuses on the Middle East and North African region with a concentration in Peace and Conflict studies.
To some, the fields of Global Studies and Philosophy are deeply interwoven, while to others, they appear disconnected. What specifically anchors Shakiba in these two fields is her upbringing. She was born in Tehran, Iran and was raised in the country for about half her life, and has spent the past decade in California pursuing her academic and professional career. Informed by this dual upbringing, she has chased the field of Global Studies, which allows her to critically engage and gain a deeper understanding about the country, and region, that has deeply contributed to her experiences and worldview. As an Iranian immigrant in the U.S. with a difficult socioeconomic upbringing, she was actively faced with the pressures of assimilation. These encounters have brought her closer to questions surrounding identity, political status, and how to maintain close ties to her homeland from a pragmatic and philosophic point of view.
This background has driven Shakiba to contribute, pioneer, and integrate into her academic career several different disciplines in the past few years. To both maintain and further develop her ties to both Iran and the Middle East at large, she has joined the Arabic program at the university, learning formal Arabic for the past five semesters. Arabic, in addition to her language skills in Farsi and English, has allowed her to engage with the Middle East in a more meaningful and fuller sense by learning about the region in many of the countries’ official language of Arabic. While involved in this endeavour, Shakiba has also sought ways to work on projects related to the region by contributing to and managing several diverse projects within the Human Rights Investigations Lab at Boalt Law School, a few of which involved a large and collaborative investigation by several universities into war crimes by the US-led coalition against Raqqa, Syria conducted by Amnesty International and Airwars. She has had the honor and privilege of presenting UC, Berkeley’s contribution to this project to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross. She has also led a project investigating airstrikes in Libya against civilians and infrastructure under the guidance of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Team.
Shakiba’s deep gratitude for the chance to participate in this fellowship is matched by her genuine commitment to learning from the students, people, communities, and leaders of the countries the program travels to. An important part of this learning experience lies in listening to and respecting the different faiths, beliefs, positions, and ultimately, worldviews present in these historic countries. Her involvement in this fellowship is rooted in an understanding that her studies and theoretical approach to countries in the Middle East and North African region are incomplete unless informed by those who live and are involved in the history-making process of these places. Upon completion of her travels, she aims to partner with the Human Rights Center at Boalt Law School to delegate a photo exhibit that will further interfaith, cultural, and societal exchanges between the various countries. This exhibit will be largely based on bringing forth and introducing aspects of society, culture, and religion that is not often discussed or presented to the American public in ordinary newsrooms.
Talya is a fourth year student at UC Berkeley, studying statistics with an emphasis in linguistics and economics. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society and a recipient of the Quantedge Award for Academic Excellence. As the daughter of an immigrant and an American, she grew up fairly bilingual and hyper-vigilant to international affairs, particularly in the Middle East and Europe. Her passion for linguistics and her mixed cultural background also extended to a passion for traveling and understanding other cultures. Within the Jewish community at Berkeley, she has worked with Kahal Abroad to connect students to international Jewish communities, to improve campus dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to foster a diverse and inclusive Jewish space at the Jewish cooperative residence there. She has a quantitative mind as well as a passion for the humanities, and hopes to apply her analytical skills to non-profit work after graduation. She hopes to learn more about areas of the Middle East with which she is less familiar, to broaden her horizons and understanding of the region, and to bring back with her new knowledge and skills to bridge divides and add nuance to discussions of Middle Eastern politics and development on Berkeley campus.
CUNY Hunter College
Timothy grew up in Philadelphia, PA and moved to New York to pursue his academic and professional endeavors. A third year student, he juggles an internship at Merrill Lynch with an intense course load meant to prepare him for PhD admissions in economics. Timothy looks to complete a 4-year combined bachelors/masters degree in economics with minors in mathematics and political science in the spring of 2021. Within economics, he primarily focuses on the fields of economic development and policy.
Though Timothy enters the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Program with limited exposure to the Middle East, he heads into the program with an open mind and an incredible amount to learn. Timothy looks to be a participatory and involved student this winter: aiming to utilize the knowledge obtained from coursework in urban, international, developmental and labor economics electives. These courses, in conjunction with more uniform courses in micro and macro economics, have built a foundation that Timothy hopes will provide insight concerning the issues and policies relevant in both Oman and the United Arab Emirates. He hopes to use this new foundation in part as he works to complete his master’s thesis, in which he plans to explore the idea that conflict creates a trap that cyclically stifles growth. Building on the work of Paul Collier, who authored the book “The Bottom Billion,” Timothy hopes to further examine the theory that civil wars in developing countries are driven not by oppression or civil unrest, but instead by the prospect of profits.
Though the Ibrahim program is like nothing he has ever experienced before, Timothy is certain of his determination to grow, to learn and to connect in the Middle East. A worldy context will be obtained that will benefit him throughout his academic and professional career. This, in conjunction with the personal connections he makes with his peers and the individuals he meets in Oman and the UAE, will grant him access to a mindset and background inconceivable without the program.
University of Pennsylvania
Zahraa is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in Health and Societies with a concentration in Global Health and minored in Bioethics. She is returning as a post-baccalaureate student to resume her studies in hopes of pursuing the medical sciences. Zahraa intends to promote global, accessible healthcare to all underserved populations, specifically the Middle Eastern refugee populations. As an Iraqi refugee herself who resettled in Philadelphia, Zahraa empathizes strongly with those impacted by conflicts and undergoing the resettlement process. As a future medical practitioner, she aspires to alleviate the physical, mental, and emotional stresses inflicted upon refugees when seeking asylum.
At Penn, Zahraa is the previous President of the Muslim Students Association where she helped facilitate interfaith and intra-faith dialogue through community and educational events. She also represented the Muslim Students Association at University Council meetings, advocating for Muslim students’ rights and needs before Penn’s administration. Moreover, Zahraa served as the Programming Chair of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Week group, during which she helped foster mutual understanding between different cultures as to what it means to be “Asian,” thereby making Asian spaces more inclusive and diverse.
Using the experiences gained during her Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Fellowship, Zahraa intends to continue her work within the religious community on campus. She will further work towards making the Muslim Students Association a space that is more inclusive of minority sects, and she will organize additional interfaith events centered around dialogue to continue building a collected, united community. She also plans to further advocate for refugees by creating regular programming for newly-resettled Middle Eastern refugees in the Philadelphia area, in hopes of enhancing their experiences as they integrate into a new environment.