October 25, 2023
10:00 am - 11:30 am


Middle East Institute
1763 N St NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20036 (Map)

Syria’s multifaceted crisis is in its 12th year and shows no sign of resolution. Yet despite more than a decade of debilitating violence and regime brutality, the original ideals of the peaceful uprising that erupted in 2011 also persist, as protesters in Suwayda and other regions demonstrate on a daily basis. This and many other realities underline the unique nature of Syria’s crisis — fueled or shaped as it is by the regime, overlapping and hostile ideological currents, external geopolitical interests, and a wide array of sub-state actors. As former political prisoner and Syrian intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh argues, it is only by acknowledging the uniqueness or secularity of Syria’s crisis that Syrians and the world at large might determine how best to resolve it and place the country on a more stable and prosperous path.

Join MEI’s Syria Program and partners at the Newlines Institute, on Oct. 25, for a unique discussion with famed Syrian thinker Yassin al-Haj Saleh and a panel of other Syria experts.


Yassin al-Haj Saleh
Syrian writer, intellectual and former political prisoner

Andrew J. Tabler
Martin J. Gross Senior Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Mona Yacoubian
Vice President, Middle East and North Africa Center, United States Institute of Peace

Charles Lister, moderator
Senior Fellow, Director of Syria and Countering Terrorism & Extremism Programs, Middle East Institute

Detailed Speaker Biographies

Yassin al-Haj Saleh
Yassin al-Haj Saleh is a Syrian writer, intellectual and former political prisoner. In 1980, while studying medicine at Aleppo University, 19-year-old Yassin was arrested by Hafez al-Assad’s regime because of his membership of the Syrian Communist Party. He remained in prison until 1996 and since then, turned to writing on political, social and cultural subjects relating to Syria and the Arab world. He is a regular contributor to al-Hayat and al-Quds al-Arabi newspapers, and the Syrian online periodical, al-Jumhuriya. Yassin has also authored and edited five books about Syria and co-founded “Hamisch,” a Syrian Cultural House in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2012, Yassin was awarded the Prince Claus Award, a prize supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that recognizes intellectuals who make extraordinary impacts upon their societies. He was unable to collect the prize, as he was living in hiding in Damascus. Yassin is married to Samira al-Khalil, who was kidnapped by an armed Islamist group in Douma in December 2013. He now lives in Berlin.

Andrew J. Tabler
Andrew J. Tabler is a Senior Fellow at The Washington Institute, specializing in Syria, the Levant, and U.S. Middle East Policy. He has a background in Middle East affairs and has held advisory positions within the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council. Before joining The Washington Institute, he lived and worked extensively in the Middle East, contributing to publications and media outlets on Middle East issues. Mr. Tabler is also the author of the book In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria.

Mona Yacoubian
Mona Yacoubian is vice president of the Middle East and North Africa center at USIP. She brings more than 30 years of experience working on the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has centered on conflict analysis, governance and stabilization challenges, and conflict prevention. Since returning to USIP as a senior advisor in 2017, her work has focused on Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Additional research interests include Russia’s role in the Middle East and violent extremism. In 2019, she served as executive director of the Congressionally-appointed Syria Study Group, which USIP was mandated to facilitate. Yacoubian joined the U.S. Institute of Peace after serving as deputy assistant administrator in the Middle East Bureau at USAID from 2014 to 2017, where she had responsibility for Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Prior to joining USAID, Yacoubian was a senior advisor at the Stimson Center focusing on the Arab uprisings with an emphasis on Syria. Prior to joining the Stimson Center, she served as a special advisor on the Middle East at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where her work focused on Lebanon and Syria as well as broader issues related to democratization in the Arab world. From 1990 to 1998, Yacoubian served as the North Africa analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

Charles Lister, moderator
Charles Lister is a senior fellow and the director of the Syria and Countering Terrorism & Extremism programs at the Middle East Institute. His work focuses primarily on all-things Syria and on issues of terrorism and insurgency across the Levant. Prior to joining MEI, he was a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Qatar and a senior consultant to the multinationally backed Syria Track II Dialogue Initiative. He has previously held other positions at the Brookings Institution and at IHS Jane’s in London, U.K. He is a consultant to the United Nations’ International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for Syria and a regular consultant and expert witness in counter-terrorism prosecutions and with law enforcement bodies in the United States, Europe, and Australia.