Executive Director, Co-Founder
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!.
Patricia holds a B.A in Counseling Psychology from the University of Aleppo in Syria, and a Masters in Social Services from Fordham University in New York.
She comes to RSN with dedicated experience from her background in social services and non-profit organizations in both Syria and New York. Patricia has demonstrated contributions to the field of international social work education and received the PIE Award’s from the CSWE’s Commission on Global Social Work Education. She had also been selected as the student of the year from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-NYC Chapter).
During her undergraduate studies, Patricia volunteered extensively both as a Girl Scout leader and as counselor with the Jesuit Refugee Services in Aleppo, Syria. In New York, she was heavily involved with UN NGO Committees, such as the Committee on Migration and the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Patricia is passionate about humanitarian matters and has been invited to speak at the UN in different forums on human rights, migration, and Syrian women’s issues. Her recent educational experiences have equipped her with a global perspective which allow her to provide creative solutions for addressing issues that face refugees.
Patricia is inspired by RSN’s mission and commitment to transparency, and she hopes her career will be defined by raising awareness of 21st century humanitarian crises.
Global Policy & Advocacy Manager
Alex brings a decade of international human rights research and advocacy experience to the team, with a demonstrated commitment to refugee issues. She holds a dual B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.
Alex has worked with a refugee-rights grassroots organization in South Africa, a democracy-building organization in Rwanda, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ankara, Turkey, and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Washington D.C. During law school, Alex engaged in international human rights research as a student in the Global Justice Clinic and with the Clinic on Policy Advocacy in Latin America in Buenos Aires. Since graduating from law school, Alex worked as the Masiyiwa-Bernstein Fellow with the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of law, then as a human rights fellow at the Vance Center for International Justice. She has published on the issues of women in transitional justice, intergroup contact theory in post-conflict societies, mental health and human rights, and national security and human rights.
Alex is excited to be part of RSN, and looks forward to using her research and advocacy skills to further RSN’s mission around the globe.
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.
Board of Directors
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Tazreena Sajjad
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.
Prof. Susan Akram
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.
If you would like to join our team, please view the below for more information, including how to apply.
RSN has an exciting opportunity for anyone interested in pursuing a career in international human rights, international relations, humanitarian aid and development assistance, or refugee law.