Board of Directors and General Assembly

Board of Directors

Mohamed Ikoubaân – Chairman of the Board

Mohamed Ikoubaân is the founder and director of the Moussem Nomadic Arts Centre in Brussels. His responsibilities include creating a programme of collaborative activities and research projects for artists and partners.


Rana Yazaji – Deputy Chair

Rana Yazaji has managed several projects, programmes and organizations in the cultural field in the Arab world. In 2011, she collaborated with other independent cultural activists to establish Ettijahat – Independent Culture. Between 2014 and 2017, Yazaji held the position of Executive Director of Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy), a regional cultural organization focused on developing and supporting the independent art scene and cultural actors in the Arab world. Beyond her work in cultural management, Yazaji is engaged in research on cultural policies, with many of her studies and works published widely in various Syrian and Arab newspapers.

Mary Ann DeVlieg – Treasurer

Mary Ann DeVlieg is an internationally experienced consultant, facilitator and trainer with a background in the arts, arts mobility and policy. She evaluates international cultural collaboration projects for the European Commission and charitable foundations. She has been working to protect and defend the rights of Artists at Risk since 2010.

DeVlieg founded the EU working group Arts-Rights-Justice, co-founded Artsfex, and advises and trains artists and art and cultural organisations on protection and defence. A three-dimensional (2013 – 2015), she led a strategic organisational development project, and currently steers the Arts-Rights-Justice Academy at the University of Hildesheim. She is a case consultant for at-risk artists and a frequent conference speaker and moderator.

Kinan Azmeh – Secretary

Hailed as an “intensely soulful” musician and a “virtuoso” by The New York Times, and “spellbinding” by The New Yorker, clarinet player and composer Kinan Azmeh has gained international recognition for what the CBC has called his “incredibly rich sound” and his distinctive compositional voice across diverse musical genres. He is the winner of the OpusKlassik award in 2019. Azmeh has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Seattle Symphony, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Qatar Philharmonic and the Syrian Symphony Orchestra among others, and has shared the stage with musical luminaries such as Yo-Yo Ma, Marcel Khalife, Aynur, Daniel Barenboim and Jivan Gasparian.

Hanane Hajj Ali – Member

Hanane Hajj Ali is an actress, researcher, cultural activist and one of the most prominent contemporary figures in the Arab art and culture scene. She began her artistic career in 1978 when she co-founded Al-Hakawati Theatre. She has also taken part in theatre shows at prestigious festivals and renown locations and gone on several regional and international tours.


General Assembly

Darius Polok

Darius Polok is the Managing Director at the International Alumni Center. The iac Berlin supports impact-driven networks and coordinates the Bosch Alumni Network, a community of alumni, partners and staff members of the Robert Bosch Stiftung. Until August 2016, Polok was Managing Director of MitOst (, a Berlin-based NGO active in the fields of cultural exchange, active citizenship, sustainable urban development and cohesion in Europe and neighbouring regions.

Salam Kawakibi

Salam Kawakibi is the Director of the Paris branch of the Arab Centre for Research and Policy. He is a researcher in political science and international affairs and worked as Deputy Director of the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) until 2017 where he developed, coordinated and followed up on a number of research projects. Kawakibi holds several graduate degrees in economics, international affairs and political science. He is also an associate researcher in several French and European research centres. He held the position of Director of the Institut Français du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Aleppo from 2000 to 2006.

Alia Malek

Alia Malek is a journalist and former civil rights lawyer. She has authored two books: The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria (2017) and A Country Called Amreeka: U.S History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives (2009). She also served as editor of “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post 9/11 Injustices” and has collaborated with the Magnum Foundation in the US and the Spanish cultural organization Al-liquindoi on editing and co-designing the book EUROPA أوروپا: An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees which was published in 2016 and distributed free of charge.

Lies Lauwers

Lies Lauwers is a Belgian-British researcher specialized in Arab Studies and the politics of the Middle East. Throughout her career, Lauwers has worked in diverse positions in the public and private sectors in Syria, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Brussels and London. She has also engaged in volunteer work in the field of education by collaborating with a number of partners to roll-out initiatives targeting vulnerable groups. Lauwers has extensive experience in resource mobilization, programme and partnership management, and developmental media.

Lauwers kickstarted her career as a diplomat in Libya, then the UK, Jordan and Brussels. She later worked for BBC Media Action where she was assigned to programmes related to the Middle East and Afghanistan. She supported the UNRWA Education Director in Jordan and worked with UNESCO in Lebanon. Lauwers currently works as a consultant for non-profits in the Arab world and elsewhere, employing her know-how in education, promoting Arab arts and culture, conflict resolution and peace.

Liwaa Yazji

Liwaa Yazji is a filmmaker, poet, playwright, screenwriter and translator. She published her first play Here in the Park in 2012, her poetry book In Peace, we leave Home in 2014, and her translation of Edward Bond’s Saved into Arabic in 2014. She worked as a script doctor for several production companies and wrote the script for the series The Brothers which has been broadcasted on several Arab channels since 2014.

Her first documentary Haunted, released in 2014, premiered at FID Marseilles where it got the Special Mention in the First Film Competition and has since been commissioned for other festivals and screenings. It also recently received the Al-Waha Bronze award at GIGAF festival, Tunis. Yazji was selected to sit as a jury member for the feature documentary competition at the 2016 Freistadt International Film Festival. She is now co-writing HEIM, a TV series produced in Germany.

Nizar Saghieh

Nizar Saghieh is a Lebanese lawyer and researcher who co-founded the Legal Agenda and has been its executive director since 2011. He is also a member of the editorial team of The Legal Agenda in Lebanon and Tunisia. Nizar is a pioneer of the use of strategic litigation in Lebanon to advocate and defend causes related to civil, economic, and social rights and liberties. He is also a pioneer of social policymaking, especially in relation to judicial independence, public property, the environment, marginalized groups, and public and union freedoms. Saghieh has published research and helped draft bills on topics including judicial independence, the disappeared of the Lebanese civil war, drug abuse, harassment inside and outside the workplace and workers’ rights.

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