Joining RSN in November 2020, Benil Mostafa plays a leading role in RSN’s fundraising activities and relations with donors and partners in the fields of international human rights, humanitarian assistance, migration, refugees, asylum and international development. Benil comes with over six years of experience in grant-making, program development, network management, event planning, advocacy, research, monitoring and evaluation, and inter-agency coordination across North America, Europe, MENAT and Africa. Her academic and professional work was extensively on refugee rights, particularly focusing on how to achieve attitude and policy-practice change.
She supported the development and publication of human rights reports, research papers, and advocacy briefs, focusing on humanitarian contexts, and worked as a consultant for many organizations in various capacities, including prior experience with Human Rights Watch, FHI 360, Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, and International Rescue Committee. Prior to joining RSN, Benil worked at Porticus, an international philanthropic foundation, as a Research Analyst, providing grant-making and technical support for three global portfolios. As part of her responsibilities, she led the cultivation, management, and coordination of external partnerships and networks.
As an INEE consultant, she’s developed, launched and implemented a communications strategy plan for the 2019 High-level Political Forum at the UN that highlighted how critical is to focus on crisis-affected children to achieve the SDGs. She has previously conducted “know your rights” workshops with refugees and asylum-seekers in New York. Since early 2017, she has been the regional co-representative for New York and co-chair of the Convention on the Rights of the Child Advocacy Working Group at Human Rights Educators USA (HRE USA). She spearheaded the CRC campaign in the US, and under her leadership, several municipalities in the US have endorsed the CRC and/or expressed interest in becoming a Child Friendly City/Community.
Benil received her M.A. in Human Rights with specialization in Forced Displacement and Children’s Rights from Columbia University in 2018, and a B.A. in International Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2015 with two academic awards. She is a dual citizen of Turkey and the United States and is based in New York.
Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Manager
Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Manager
Kevin holds a B.A. in German and Spanish from DePaul University in Chicago and a joint Masters in Social Sciences from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey and Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.
He comes to RSN with academic experience gained in Turkey as the recipient of the Turkish Fulbright Commission’s 65thAnniversary Study Grant, as well as with expertise in project management, monitoring and evaluation gained during previous work for a foreign mission in the United States.
Kevin is excited to apply his passion for harnessing the power of data to tell stories and inform decision-making in order to help further RSN’s mission and commitment to transparency around the globe.
Leila joins RSN with a background in law, migration and policy. A former RSN Board Member, she has worked vigorously on refugee protection and legal matters with UNHCR in the Middle East, Washington, D.C., and in New York. Leila helped prepare appeals of refugee status determination rejections in Istanbul with the Helsinki Citizens Assembly. She investigated and wrote about international country conditions for refugees in the World Refugee Survey for USCRI. Leila worked on U.S. immigration matters domestically in both the private sector at a Manhattan law firm, and in the public sector for the largest property service workers’ labor union in the U.S.
Displacement has been closely woven into Leila’s family story and her passion for understanding the legal underpinnings of migration led her to law school. Leila earned her Juris Doctor on full scholarship from the City University of New York. In law school, Leila conducted immigration research as a graduate fellow; she was also a judicial intern assisting a New York Immigration Court judge in drafting complex asylum decisions; and she conducted international legal trainings in Haiti for various local community organizations with her law school’s human rights clinic. Leila received her Master’s in International Affairs from Sciences Po in Paris, France, with part of her graduate studies at Columbia University in New York; and she earned her Political Science Bachelor’s from McGill University in Montreal.
Most recently, Leila has been a legal fellow with the global human rights organization, WITNESS. There, she investigated how video evidence of immigration enforcement abuses may be used to support immigrants in deportation cases in U.S. Immigration Court. She has conducted a training around this research for the New York-based public defenders’ organization, The Bronx Defenders; and her findings will soon be released in a guide for lawyers and community members.
For the past seven years, Leila’s legal and policy backgrounds have converged with her interest in documenting human stories through new mediums in art, especially film and photography. Her projects have exhibited at the Institute for Peace and Justice in San Diego, the McCord Museum in Montreal, and most recently, she developed a multi-series short film campaign on resettled refugees for UNHCR Canada.
Leila is thrilled to continue working to advance refugee legal rights through RSN’s unique approach, priorities, and partnership model.
Shehzeen holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Masters in Public Administration from Pace University.
Her passion for human rights and humanitarian issues led her to work for the most marginalized in society. During her tenure at the International Center for Transitional Justice, she focused primarily on Gender Justice and Reparative Justice issues in Kenya, Uganda, Lebanon and Tunisia. Shehzeen arranged and presented at numerous conferences and workshops in the Africa and MENA Region to help guide their transition to a new government. These workshops and conferences addressed topics such as: Gender, Reparations, Documentation and establishing a Truth Commission.
Nationally, Shehzeen volunteered with the Florida Refugee Committee where she helped integrate 30 refugee families into the West Palm Beach Area. She also volunteered with another International NGO, where she was part of a fundraising initiative to provide access to clean water in remote villages in Africa.
Shehzeen is thrilled to be on the RSN team and looks forward to being part of the advancements that RSN is making in the field of human rights.
A member of a family split up by the largest migration of modern history (The 1947 Partition of India), Zaid has always maintained a keen interest in human mobility. Zaid received a B.A. in History and Government from the University of Texas at Austin, and a law degree from Fordham University School of Law in New York, where he was a Stein Scholar for Public Interest and active in the Community Economic Development Clinic and International Human Rights Clinic (Leitner Clinic). Internationally, he has worked on prisoners’ rights issues in Malawi and on the human rights of deported Cambodian-Americans. Domestically he has worked on civil rights and employment discrimination, government misconduct, and corporate accountability.
As a recipient of a 2010 James Tolan Human Rights Fellowship, Zaid served as a legal adviser with Turkey’s primary refugee legal aid NGO. From 2011 until 2014 he continued to contribute to legal assistance for refugees in Turkey, with a focus on UNHCR status determination procedures and policies. He also contributed to know-your-rights training for refugee communities and non-refoulement litigation using regional instruments.
Zaid co-founded RSN and became the Executive Director in August 2014. Zaid is licensed to practice law in New York State, and contributes to pro bono legal work before the BIA and with CUNY Citizenship Now! He continues to be involved in activities and events at Fordham Law, most recently as an adjunct professor teaching International Refugee Law & Policy.
Aysu Kirac has over 10 years of experience in the nonprofit and NGO sectors. She currently works with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Office of Emergency Programmes in New York where she monitors humanitarian crises, political events and security-related incidents around the world to ensure the safety of staff and provide both field offices and senior decision-makers with critical information related to humanitarian emergencies. Previously, Aysu managed a refugee center for the Turkish NGO, Hayata Destek (Support to Life (STL)) in Istanbul, Turkey. The center provided protection-based programmes and services for newly arriving Syrian and Iraqi refugees. During her tenure with STL, she implemented and published a vulnerability needs assessment on refugee urban settlements in Turkey which provided programme and policy recommendations for local organizations. Aysu also has experience working with organizations focused on social justice and gender-based violence and has worked with a number of New York City-based nonprofits. Aysu has a Master of Science in Urban Policy from the New School University in New York City and a Bachelor of Arts in Gender and Near East History from the University of Seattle, Washington. Aysu is Turkish-American-Canadian.
Deniz is currently working as a humanitarian affairs officer for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. She has extensive experience in the field of humanitarian aid and migration. She previously interned with the Helsinki Citizens Assembly – Refugee Advocacy and Support Program based in Istanbul and with the Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l’Homme, a human rights NGO based in Kinshasa, DRC. Deniz also previously worked as International Programs Assistant for Global Initiative for Sexuality and Human Rights at the Heartland Alliance, based in Chicago, focusing on projects regarding LGBTI rights, gender-based violence, asylum and refugee rights in Turkey and the Middle East. From 2013-2015 she worked for the International Catholic Migration Commission , which runs the U.S. State Department funded Regional Resettlement Support Center in Turkey and the Middle East in Istanbul, Turkey, participating in missions to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Deniz holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, and a Masters in Public Health with a Certificate in Public Health and Humanitarian Assistance from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
Diana Sidakis is a public defender at the Legal Aid Society in New York City. She received her B.A. from New York University in English and Anthropology and her M.Sc. in Law and Anthropology from the London School of Economics. Her dissertation, “Private Military Companies and State Sovereignty: Regulating Transnational Flows of Violence and Capital” was published in 2009. She received her J.D. from Columbia University in 2011.
Previously, Diana was a legal intern with the Refugee Advocacy Support Program of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly in Istanbul. She also served as a federal law clerk to the Hon. Julian A. Cook Jr. in Detroit, Michigan.
Laura Garr is an attorney at White & Case LLP in the firm’s Disputes practice group. She received her B.A. from Fordham University with a double major of Philosophy and International Political Economy. She worked for several years in New York City providing case management assistance to persons experiencing homelessness. She thereafter obtained her law degree from Fordham University School of Law with a focus on International Human Rights, Public Interest, and Social Justice. She has lived and worked in Ecuador on poverty alleviation at El Centro del Muchacho Trabajador and on environmental and human rights law for indigenous peoples impacted by extractive industry practices in the Amazon rainforest. With the Walter Leitner Human Rights Clinic Laura traveled to India working on sex-worker rights and most recently to South Africa, with a focus on economic and social barriers to LGBT refugees. She has co-authored several policy reports on international law and human rights, with a focus on refugees and indigenous rights.
Lauren was born in Costa Rica to an American mother and a Costa Rican-Spanish father, and grew up in Honduras and Ecuador. She received her B.A. in English Language & Literature from the University of Chicago. During her time as an undergraduate, Lauren was certified as an Illinois State Legal, Medical and Crisis Counselor for Survivors of Sexual Assault, which allowed her to volunteer as a rape victim advocate at 17 Chicago area emergency rooms. An additional certification in Sexual Assault Prevention and Education allowed her to participate in the creation of curricula that were used to educate high school and college students about sexual assault in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Lauren received her M.A. in Public Service Management from the School of Public Service at DePaul University. As a student, she participated in a refugee services management course held in Jordan, where she was able to meet with organizations such as UNHCR, IOM, and ICRC, expanding her knowledge of the refugee resettlement process from a non U.S.-based perspective. Her M.A. thesis research was conducted at two Chicago non-profit organizations and focused on determining best practices for internship programs in refugee resettlement.
From 2008 to 2012, Lauren worked for Heartland Alliance’s Refugee & Immigrant Community Services (RICS) in Chicago, an organization that resettles 250-300 refugees per year. At RICS she held several positions, focusing on refugee resettlement and human trafficking, especially in the areas of quality management and assurance; case management; internship program creation, implementation and evaluation; curriculum and module creation for staff competency trainings in confidentiality, cultural competency, human rights, emergency preparedness, and risk management; and curriculum creation in the areas of job development and English as a Foreign Language for refugee program participants. She also provided Spanish interpretation and case management for survivors of torture and victims of trafficking for Heartland Alliance’s Northern-Tier Anti-Trafficking Coalition. From 2010 to 2012, she acted as the Chicago-area refugee services liaison for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program, an ARRA-funded initiative that provided over $35 million in funds to help Chicago families find new homes or stay in their current homes.
Prior to becoming a board member, Lauren provided consulting services to RSN from late 2013 to early 2014. She currently lives in Istanbul, where she is an active volunteer providing medical and social counseling to refugees at a drop-in center.
Miriam has a diverse range of operational and humanitarian experience spanning nearly two decades. She is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Berkshires Direct, a sustainability-focused farm goods delivery platform.
She received a B.A. in Political Science and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from Indiana University. She then spent a year teaching in France, and two years living in Syria, where she studied at the French Institute of the Near East and worked at the UN World Food Programme assisting the administration of bi-monthly food distribution to the Iraqi refugee population in Syria. Upon return, she earned a Master’s in Near Eastern Studies from New York University.
Miriam has previously worked as the Research and Project Coordinator at the Yale Program on Governance and Local Development, where she organized the Local Governance Project, which, through research and survey data, explored the state of local governance and planning in the Arab region after the Arab uprisings of 2011, with particular focus on countries and cities in transition such as Tunisia and Libya. She was also the Social Media Editor of Al-Monitor. Most recently, she served as Head of Operations at Obviously, a startup influencer marketing agency, where she led team, product, and client growth throughout her nearly five years there. Miriam currently volunteers at Prospect Park Alliance and City Harvest.
Mohamed Mansour is an international banker, having completed two-to-three year work assignments in Dubai, Athens, Istanbul, and currently New York. He received a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance from McGill University in Montreal (having completed a year-long exchange program with Sciences Po in Paris) and subsequently completed his MBA degree at IE Business School in Madrid (during which he completed exchanges with Dartmouth College and Insper in Sao Paolo). Before joining the bank, Mo worked for a micro-finance organization in Alexandria, Egypt where he prepared and presented research reports to measure the impact assessment of Micro Finance Institutions on the users of these micro-loans and their families. More recently he achieved certification in Climate and Renewable Energy Finance from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and has written a peer-reviewed research article for Global Policy Journal on the topic of Financing Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Projects in Egypt. He has a strong interest in refugee advocacy, particularly in the space of climate refugees and environmental migrants.
Dr. Kelsey Norman is a Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and Director of the Women’s Rights, Human Rights, and Refugees program. She also teaches courses and supervises students in the Master of Global Affairs program at Rice University. Her research and teaching interests include global migration, refugees and displacement, governance, international institutions, and the politics of the Middle East. Her work has been published in academic journals including the European Journal of International Relations, International Studies Review, International Migration Review, the Journal of North African Studies, and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, as well as popular media outlets including The Washington Post and The Atlantic.
Her book, Reluctant Reception: Refugees, Migration and Governance in the Middle East and North Africa, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. It is based on more than three years of research in Egypt, Morocco and Turkey involving more than 130 interviews with government officials, international organizations, local NGOs, and individual migrants and refugees. It aims to provide a better understanding of when a migration or refugee receiving country comes to conceive of itself as a host state, and what factors—security-related, economic, diplomatic, or societal—cause host state policy toward migrants and refugees to change over time.
Dr. Tazreena Sajjad currently serves as Senior Professorial Lecturer in the Global Governance, Politics and Security (GGPS) Program in the School of International Service (SIS) at American University in Washington D.C. Her areas of specialization include transitional justice, refugees and forced displacement, DDR, post-conflict governance, gender and conflict, and violent and non-violent mobilizations in South Asia. Her current research project examines the global phenomenon of building fortifications against irregular migration in an era of criminalization and securitization of migration. Dr. Sajjad’s recent publications include ‘What’s in a name? ‘Refugees’, ‘Migrants’ and the Politics of Labelling,’ in the Journal of Race and Class (2018), ‘Refugees Welcome? The Politics of Repatriation and Return in a Global Era of Security: The Rohingyas in Bangladesh’ in Displacement: Global Conversations on Refuge’ (forthcoming) and ‘In Search of Imperfect Justice: Genocidal Rape and the Legacy of Nuremberg and Tokyo’ in The Nuremberg War Crime Trial and its Policy Consequences Today (forthcoming).
Prior to joining SIS, Dr. Sajjad worked in the Afghanistan program at Global Rights in Afghanistan, and in the South Asia program at the National Democratic Institute (NDI). She has also served as a research consultant at the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) in Kabul, Afghanistan, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Washington D.C. and the Berghof Foundation in Berlin, Germany. Her first book, Transitional Justice in South Asia: A Study of Afghanistan and Nepal was published in 2013.
Professor Susan Akram directs Boston University School of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic, in which she supervises students engaged in international advocacy in domestic, international, regional, and UN fora. Her research and publications focus on immigration, asylum, refugee, forced migration, and human and civil rights issues, with an interest in the Middle East, the Arab, and Muslim world.
Akram’s distinguished research was recognized with a Fulbright Senior Scholar Teaching and Research Award for the 1999–2000 academic year. She has lectured on Palestinian refugees to general audiences around the world as well as to committees of the United Nations (including the High Commission for Refugees and the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), the European Union, and representatives of European and Canadian government ministries and parliaments. She has presented widely on immigration-related laws and policies as well as on her work challenging standard interpretations of women’s asylum claims from the Arab/Muslim world.
With her clinic students as well as in collaboration with other legal organizations, Akram has been co-counsel on a number of high profile cases, including the 20+-year litigation of a case of first impression on the interpretation of one of the exclusion bars to asylum, In Re A-H-. She regularly teaches in the summer institute on forced migration at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University, and in various venues in the Middle East on refugee law.
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