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Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship
Our Team

Dr. Dina El Khawaga - Director 

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Dr. El Khawaga’s areas of research include the dynamics of knowledge production in the Arab region, and higher education policies more broadly. . Dina’s academic work is focusing on new social movements, law and society and sociology of activism. She has acted as advisor to governmental and non-governmental institutions on civil society, the media industry, right to information, and higher education. Before joining AUB, she served as the programs director at the Arab Reform Initiative for four years. Prior to that, she worked at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris. Earlier, she was the Director of the Arab Regional Office of the Open Society Foundations (2011-12) in Amman and the Higher Education Program Officer at the Cairo Office of the Ford Foundation (2005-11).
Dr. El Khawaga received her BA in political science from Cairo University, her MA in Sociology of Development from the Sorbonne in Paris, and her doctorate from the Institut d'études politiques, also in Paris.
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Hala Yanni - Financial Management Officer

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Before joining the Asfari Team, Hala worked as a Financial Analyst at the Office of Financial Planning (2013-2014) and as an Executive Officer at the Vice President for Facilities at the American University of Beirut (2012-2013). Previously, she worked as an Internal Auditor at BLOM Bank (2009-2012), as an Administrative Officer at the Auxiliary Services at the American University of Beirut (2004-2008) and as an External Auditor at KPMG (2002-2004). Hala is experienced in budgeting, financial reporting, strategic planning, drafting policies and procedures and managing contracts and payments to consultants/suppliers. Hala holds an MBA (Internal Audit emphasis) from the Lebanese American University (2010).
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Dr. Elizabeth Saleh - Program Director

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Elizabeth Saleh works in the fields of political and economic anthropology, with a special focus on labor, gender, resistance and social transformation. She obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her doctoral research examined the entrepreneurial strategies of members of the wine industry as they converged in the Kefraya region of the West Bekaa. In 2015, Elizabeth commenced a new ethnographic study examining the reconfiguration of Syrian labor at the interface between Beirut's formal and informal economies. Most of her fieldwork takes place at a scrapyard in a working class neighborhood in Beirut, where she explores the effects of the Syrian conflict and the policies of the Lebanese state toward migration, labor and waste management in relation to the prosperity of the scrap metal industry. Elizabeth has held posts at the Orient Institute in Beirut, the London School of Economic and Goldsmiths. She received an MA in Anthropology and Cultural Politics at Goldsmiths in 2004 and obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in the Management of Education and Learning from the same university in 2014.
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Dr. Hassan Abbas - Program Director

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Dr. Abbas is a Research Associate, and Program Director of the "Culture As Resistance" program at the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at American University of Beirut. He holds a Ph.D. in literature and literary criticism from the New Sorbonne University-Paris III. Prior to joining the Asfari Institute, Dr. Abbas was the founder and president of the Syrian league for Citizenship where he established and managed associations focusing on culture, human rights, and political representation. He has also worked as a professor and researcher at the Institut français du Proche-Orient in Damascus, and has published studies and books in the fields of culture, citizenship, and civil society.
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Habiba Mohsen

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Habiba is the Asfari Institute's Program Coordinator. She has previously published research regarding social movements and their associated political parties, public policy, and local governance in Egypt. She spent time as a: Projects Manager at Global Partners Governance; Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Political and International Studies in Lausanne University, Switzerland; Program Officer at the Anna Lindh Euro Mediterranean Foundation in Alexandria, Egypt; Researcher at the Arab Forum for Alternatives in Cairo, Egypt.
Habiba holds a M.A. in Political Science from the Saint-Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon.
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Rana Hassan

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Rana Hassan is a researcher, urban planner and activist currently pursuing her PhD in Sustainability and Urban Regeneration in the Universidad Po litécnica de Madrid. Her thesis studies the current situation of urban grassroots initiatives in Lebanon and their potential to foster a transformation in the role played by civil society in the production of urban space. Her research interests include the informal development of urban suburbs and Palestinian Camps in Lebanon; the community participation in urban processes; and the grassroots urban activism. She has worked, with UNRWA and the Nahr el Bared Reconstruction Commission, in the reconstruction project of Nahr el Bared refugee camp. She holds an MSc in Urban Planning and Policy from the American University of Beirut, with a thesis entitled: Bypassing Exclusionary Laws:    The Case of the Informal Development of Nahr El Bared Camp's Extension.


Mary Jirmanus Saba

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Mary Jirmanus Saba is a geographer and filmmaker.  Her work explores agrarian and labor movements in the Middle East and Latin America, the militant cinema of both regions, and their contemporary relevance.  Her debut feature film A Feeling Greater Than Love premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival Forum where it received  the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize. The film returns to a moment in Lebanon where a social revolution might have been – represented by two major popular uprisings – but thwarted by the civil war. As an Asfari Institute Fellow, she is transforming her ethnographic research for the film on the Gandour factory strike and Nabatiye Tobacco farmer strike into a series of publications exploring gender and sectarianism in the decline of the Lebanese Labor Movement.  She holds an M.A. in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard College, and was a participant in Ashkal Alwan's Home Workspace Program.



Saly El Wazze - Intern

Saly is a Master's student in sociology at the American University of Beirut. She received her B.B.A. with an emphasis on marketing and management from the same institution. Saly has spent many years volunteering for the Lebanese Red Cross where she became passionate about dedicating her time to the advancement of civil society. She has worked in a variety of other roles as a business development intern, an account executive intern, and a research analyst intern for companies in the retail, real estate, and healthcare industries. She enjoys music, arts & crafts, and petting cats.



Omar Mattar - Intern

Omar received his B.S. in finance with a minor in history from Indiana University in May 2017. Omar is interested in the changing sociopolitical atmosphere of the Arab world, and what factors are leading to those changes. He has experience working in the Fortune 500, a Middle Eastern internet payment services provider, a student-led consulting firm, and a small microfinance institution in Western Uganda. Omar enjoys reading literature, attending concerts, and exploring the world.



Sukaina Nizam - Intern

Sukaina is a senior undergraduate student at the American University of Beirut studying two Bachelor of Arts degrees in sociology and anthropology, with a minor in human rights and transitional justice. Sukaina has volunteered with the Syrian Red Crescent and Bader Organization where she nurtured a passion for community involvement. She enjoys reading, biking, and swimming.



Julian Vierlinger - Intern

Julian is an exchange student at the American University of Beirut. He is an undergraduate student from the Menton campus of SciencesPo Paris in political science & Middle Eastern studies, and will return to the institution for his Master's degree. His research interests focus on political theory, and state-society relations in Europe and the Middle East. He has experience from political, cultural, and sociological organizations in France, Austria, and Palestine. Julian enjoys playing rugby, performing music, and carries a passion for cooking.


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