Faisal is an Iraqi-born award-winning counter extremism advocate, satirist, and speaker. He is an advocate for Universal Human Rights, enlightenment values and the free market of ideas, and is enthusiastic about the intersection of technology and advocacy. He is also the founder of multiple online platforms that together have more than 400,000 subscribers and millions of visitors. He previously worked as a program manager for the Middle East and North Africa to assist dissidents in closed societies worldwide. In 2015, Faisal received the “President’s Volunteer Service Award” from President Barack Obama for his special commitment to education.
He has been invited to speak at venues such as Aspen Ideas Festival, Harvard University, Stanford University, Columbia University and many others to share his experiences and knowledge about living under and countering extremist organizations and dictatorships in the Middle East.
Dr. Heidi Ellis studies refugee youth mental health, with a particular emphasis on understanding trauma exposure, violence, and how the social context impacts developmental trajectories. For more than a decade she has built a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) program with Somali refugees. Through this research program she has investigated the role of discrimination in refugee youth mental health, and developed and evaluated a school-based mental health intervention for Somali refugee youth. In response to national concerns that a small number of Somali refugee youth have travelled overseas to join violent extremist organizations, Dr. Ellis has also investigated how experiences post-resettlement may lead some youth to be more vulnerable to violent extremist ideology. Through a Research Faculty Development pilot grant she identified that trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder and social marginalization place youth at risk for greater openness to violent extremism. Building on this preliminary data, Dr. Ellis received funding from the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense Minerva Research Initiative, and currently is conducting a multi-site, international longitudinal study examining the role of trauma, mental health and social bonds in diverse developmental trajectories of young Somalis, including violent extremism, gang-involvement, criminality, and positive civic engagement. She received additional funding to further conduct comparative analyses of processes leading to gang involvement vs. support for violent extremism.
Brad Galloway is a research and intervention specialist with the Organization for Prevention of Violence (OPV) which is based in Edmonton, Alberta. Brad has worked as a research assistant at many Canadian universities, where he research's key topics relating to violent extremism, and criminology. Recently Brad has joined with Parallel Networks and Light Upon Light, to work on various initiatives to counter hate and violent extremism in the United States. Brad bridges his unique lived experiences in the RWE movement, with his research efforts, to educate communities around North America and abroad.
James S. Gordon, MD , a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, is internationally recognized for using self-awareness, self-care, and group support to heal population-wide psychological trauma. He is founder and executive director of the nonprofit Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., a clinical professor at Georgetown Medical School, and was chairman (under Presidents Clinton and GW Bush) of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy.
Nafees Hamid is an Associate Fellow at ICCT, a research fellow at Artis International, and a Frederick Bonnart-Braunthal Trust Ph.D. candidate in the Security and Crime Science department at the University College London. His research includes ethnographic interviews, survey studies, social network analysis, and psychology and neuroscience experiments with mostly European members of jihadi organizations, their friends and family, supporters of such networks, and the general communities from where they originate.
Dr. John Horgan's research focuses on psychological issues in terrorism and political violence. He is especially interested in understanding the processes through which people become involved in (and disengage from) terrorism, as well as the psychological mechanisms through which people transfer guilt and conceal disillusionment as coping mechanisms for sustained commitment to violent extremist groups. He is the editor of the journal Terrorism and Political Violence, and serves on the Research Working Group of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
Elizabeth (Liz) Hume is the Vice President at the Alliance for Peacebuilding. She is a conflict expert and has more than 20 years of experience in senior leadership positions in bilateral, multilateral institutions and NGOs. She has extensive experience in policy and advocacy and overseeing sizeable and complex peacebuilding programs in conflict-affected and fragile states in Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. From 1997-2001, Liz was seconded by the US Department of State to the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo as the Chief Legal Counsel and Head of the Election Commission Secretariats. In these positions, she was responsible for developing the legal framework and policies in support of the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords and UN Resolution 1244. After 9/11, Liz worked for the International Rescue Committee in Pakistan and Afghanistan where she established and managed the Protection Department for Afghan refugees and returning IDPs.
Gulalai Ismail and Saba Ismail are Pashtun human rights activists from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. They are chairs of Aware Girls and the Seeds of Peace Network (not to be confused with the Seeds of Peace organization that works with youth in 27 countries, including Pakistan). They both speak on the subject of promoting peace and women's empowerment at conferences internationally. Gulalai is the recipient of the International Humanist of the Year Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and of the Foundation Chirac Peace Prize for the Prevention of Conflict. She is an activist in the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) campaigning for Pashtun human rights, and is a board member of Humanists International.
For several years, Saba has resided safely in the United States. In September 2019, Gulalai escaped from Pakistan and reached the United States, after fearing for her life for speaking out against sexual assaults and disappearances allegedly carried out by the Pakistani military.
Dr. Aleksandra Nešic is a sociocultural Conflict Psychologist Researcher-Trainer who grew up in the former Yugoslavia Republic near the Serbia-Kosovo border with prominent family on both sides of the Muslim-Orthodox Christian divide. As a teenager in the 1990s, she watched in horror as the great amalgamation of intercultural identity, best represented by the capital of Sarajevo, collapsed violently into its most basic constituent parts. She watched as friends turned enemies overnight, killing the people they married.
Dr. Nešic speaks Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, and possesses a working understanding and literacy of several other Slavic languages including Russian and Bulgarian. Her most recent/current field research is in eastern European conflict communities facing Russian hybrid psychological warfare, and in war refugee camps in East and West Europe, as well as MENA region preventing/countering radicalization and extremism of youth.
Mike Niconchuk is a collaborator with the Peace and Conflict Neuroscience Lab at the Annenberg School for Communication and a Senior Researcher with Beyond Conflict's Innovation Lab for Neuroscience and Social Conflict. Niconchuk is a graduate of Tufts University and University College London and holds degrees in International Relations and Social Cognition. His current research focuses on the embodied implications of forced displacement and migration, exploring issues of stress, trauma, and social inclusion through the lens of neurobiology and neuroscience. Niconchuk has spent seven years working with at-risk and displaced youth in Latin America and the Middle East, particularly with youth at risk of violence and conflict with the law. From 2012-2015, Niconchuk was the Emergency Response Coordinator at Questscope in Amman, Jordan, where he led the design and coordination the organization’s refugee response, particularly focusing on youth violence prevention, youth participation, and community organizing in Za’atri Refugee Camp. Since completing his master’s degree, Niconchuk has served as a consultant to several international organizations in the Middle East and Europe, working to integrate insights from behavioral science into programs with youth, including countering violent extremism interventions, mental health and psychosocial support work, and youth empowerment projects.
Ken previously functioned as Task Force 134’s Psychological Subject Matter Expert in Camp Bucca before completing his PhD. His thesis sought to explore how select British Muslims (those deemed at risk of radicalization), became non-violent and non-extremist humanitarians in Middle Eastern conflict zones instead of Jihadists. He concluded that radicalization may occur benevolently or malevolently and that the former may, for some at least, function to prevent the latter. The Terrorism Research Initiative saw enough merit in his work to award it “Best Thesis in Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Studies” (2018). Ken is currently investigating the extent to which relevant non-violent/extremist identities and behaviors (such as humanitarianism) may function as a preventative off-ramp for aspiring Jihadists and is a Fellow at the German Institute for Radicalization and De-Radicalization Studies. His thesis is available online (see below) and he can be contacted on Twitter @kenpatrickreidy.
Curt Rhodes has spent over 30 years working with, and on behalf of, marginalized communities and young people across the Middle East.
As the recipient of the 2014 Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Dr. Rhodes was recognized by Tufts University for his demonstrated compassion and tenacity in creating a highly effective and determined organization dedicated to the survival and nurturing of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised.
In recognition of his work through Questscope with marginalized youth in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and in the region, Dr. Rhodes was awarded 2011 Social Entrepreneur of the Year for the Middle East and North Africa by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
Dr. Rhodes began his career in the Middle East in the early Eighties, as Assistant Dean in the School of Public Health at the American University of Beirut. During the 1982 invasion of (west) Beirut, he volunteered in a community-based clinic alongside students and friends, doing around-the-clock triage for wounded and ill civilians. That was when the seed idea for Questscope began to take shape. Living and working with people in great suffering compelled him to find a way that he and others in the Middle East could assist the most vulnerable: participating with the voiceless ones in invisible communities.
In 1988, Questscope was founded with the goal of putting the last, first. From the beginning, Questscope worked closely with local communities, identifying their aspirations and together addressing their greatest needs.
Dr. Sumaiya Shaikh is an Australian Neuroscientist with a PhD in Medicine (Neurophysiology) from Sydney and currently holds a post-doctoral fellowship in Sweden. She has also conducted teaching for year 1-2 MBBS at Western Sydney University for over 5 years.
Dr. Jessica Stern’s main focus is on perpetrators of violence and the possible connections between trauma and terror. She has written on terrorist groups across religions and ideologies, among them neo-Nazis, Islamists, anarchists, and white supremacists. She has also written about counter-radicalization programs for both neo-Nazi and Islamist terrorists. She has been working with a team at the Harvard School of Public Health to evaluate countering violent extremism (CVE) programs in Colorado, Canada, Sweden and Macedonia, a project funded by NATO and the Department of Homeland Security. She is also working on a project researching prison deradicalization funded by the National Institute of Justice. Her forthcoming book, My War Criminal: Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide, is a study of Radovan Karadzic, indicted for war crimes in Bosnia.