Our Team

As an international organization, our team represents over 15 nationalities. We are comprised of direct hires, secondees, non-resident fellows, expert consultants, outsourced professionals and interns.

H.E. Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi


In November 2019, H.E. Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi was appointed as a Member of the Federal National Council for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Dr. Al Nuaimi is a leading international expert on Extremism, Digital Communication, and Education.

He has more than thirty years of outstanding academic and professional achievements in Government, Non­Government, and Private sectors within the United Arab Emirates and abroad. As a pioneer of educational reform and policy in the UAE, Dr. Al Nuaimi served as the Chancellor of the United Arab Emirates University [UAEU] and the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge [ADEK] in his capacity as a Member of the Executive Council of the Government of Abu Dhabi.

As a prominent advocate of Global Peace, Tolerance, and Coexistence, Dr. Al Nuaimi is currently serving as the first Chairman of the International Steering Board of Hedayah, The International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism based in Abu Dhabi. He is also the Founder and Chairman of the World Council of Muslim Communities and the first Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Elders.

As a true believer of the significance of Digital Communication in the modern world, Dr. Al Nuaimi is the Founder and Chairman of Al-Majal Media that is a specialized media company for the development of digital media platforms and for launching strategic communication initiatives at the local, regional and international levels. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ain News Portal that is a comprehensive Arab news portal covering primarily Arab world news, as well as being the founder of the 7D News based in London covering news from the rest of the world.

H.E. Ahmed Al Qasimi

Executive Director

H.E. Ahmed Al Qasimi was nominated as the Executive Director of Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism.

He brings significant public sector experience to this position, including almost a decade of service in the U.A.E. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, where he worked in a variety of settings prior to joining Hedayah. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, H.E. Al Qasimi most recently served as the Deputy Director of International Security Cooperation from 2017 to 2019. He also served as an acting Council General in the UAE consulate in Houston Texas, and for several years at the UAE Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. In that capacity, he regularly engaged with the UN Security Council, and actively participated in debates related to UN Security Council as well as provide insights a key Security Council resolutions one of which was, Resolution 2178 on the flow of foreign terrorist fighters adopted at the Security Council by the President of the United States in 2014.

He was also heavily invested in discussions involving the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Counter Violent Extremism. Prior to this, Mr. Al Qasimi served as an analyst in the Ministry’s Policy Planning Department from 2010 to 2014, following peace and security issues regionally and globally. During his time in the Policy Planning department he led efforts with global stakeholders towards establishing the Syria Recovery Trust Fund, a multi-donor fund that was established to help rebuild Syria.

H.E. Al Qasimi’s current research interests include global violent extremism, terrorism, and strategies to prevent violent extremism in fragile states. He is particularly interested in understanding the threats and challenges posed by the online indoctrination of young people into violent extremist ideology.

He graduated from the American University of Sharjah with a B.A. in International Relations. He has a M.A. in Diplomacy and International Affairs from Zayed University in Abu Dhabi which he completed with Distinction, and has taken postgraduate courses at New York University’s College of Law in New York City, which he completed with honors. He was awarded a masters honors certificate from NYU's college of Law in New York. He is fluent in Arabic and English.

Ivo Veenkamp

Deputy Executive Director

Ivo Veenkamp has served as the co-founder and first Deputy Executive Director of Hedayah since January 2013. He is responsible for the day-to-day lead of the organization.

Ivo has more than twenty five years of experience at the crossroads of international, national and local strategy, policy and programming. He has been responsible for issues related to counterterrorism, countering violent extremism (CVE), social cohesion, and civic integration. Working in government, the private sector and a multilateral organization.

Prior to joining Hedayah, Ivo was the Dutch Director for Counterterrorism Policy and Strategy reporting directly to the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security for more than five years. In this capacity he was responsible for the development and implementation of the first National Counterterrorism strategy, Dutch counterterrorism- and CVE policy, and bilateral and multilateral cooperation (UN, EU, GCTF).

The past twelve years he frequently acted as an expert speaker, moderator and representative at international conferences and meetings on CT and CVE.

Before this, Ivo was the Program Director for Modernizing Civic Integration Policy and the Project Director for the preparation of the Constitutional Reform of the Netherlands Antilles at the Ministry of Security and Justice. He was also the Head and Deputy Head of the Urban Policy Division and the Secretary of the Government Committee on Oversight/Inspection at the Ministry of the Interior. He started his career as a Management Consultant at the Government and Non-Profit group of KPMG Consulting. One of his last assignments was interim Chairman and Director of the Foundation for Youth Work of the city of Amsterdam.

Ivo was selected for the two-year Leadership Development Program of the Senior Executive Service of the Dutch government and joined the Senior Executive Service shortly after. When he started at Hedayah he had been a member of the Dutch Senior Executive Service for more than eight years.

Until summer 2018 he was an Associate Fellow for Counterterrorism and Extremism of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). Until mid-2019 he was also a member of the Steering Committee of the RESOLVE Network (Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism), a global consortium of researchers and research organizations on CVE.

Ivo has master degrees in both Political Science and Psychology (cum laude) from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Abeer Makki

Executive Affairs Manager

Abeer Makki has served as the Executive Affairs Manager at the Executive Office of Hedayah since June 2019. In her current role, she is responsible for providing executive support to the senior leadership, liaise and coordinate with strategic stakeholders, and manage the Executive Office.

Prior to joining Hedayah, Makki served in a variety of top professional settings with a decade of successful experience in several high level executive roles that include Senior Specialist in Chairman's Office of the Department of Education and Knowledge in Abu Dhabi and Chairman's Office Manager at the Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi. Furthermore, Makki worked for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia [UN-ESCWA] in a variety of settings that include but not limited to Research Assistant and Team Assistant in the Economic Development Issues and Policies Division in ESCWA.

Jessie Francescon

Director of Dialogue and Communications

Jessie joined Hedayah as the U.S. secondee. She comes with years of international development, strategic communications, brand awareness and media relations experience. Jessie has developed communications and marketing strategies in collaboration with a diverse range of clients including governments, private sector businesses, NGOs, trade associations, nonprofits and donor community across Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central and Southeast Asia.

Most recently, Jessie served as CNFA’s Director of Communications, an international development NGO focused on economic growth initiatives. She managed the communication activities, media relationships, digital presence, special events and branding for CNFA Corporate, CNFA Europe and CNFA Programs with a portfolio valued at +200 million. She frequently traveled to deliver training in branding, mass media campaigns and social media as well as develop programmatic intervention communication strategies, produce program videos and engage with local media. She also served as the Communications Committee Co-Chair for the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba and a member of the Public Affairs and Communications Committee for the International Fertilization Industry Association. Prior to her time at CNFA, Jessie was the Communications Manager for the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), a trade association representing 80% of North America’s steel industry.

Jessie holds a Master of Arts in Political Communication with a concentration in Public Diplomacy from The George Washington University and two Bachelor of Arts in Diplomacy & Foreign Affairs and Organizational Communications from Miami University. She also serves on the Board of Advisors for The Women’s Partnership Market - a social enterprise focused on accelerating avenues for income, skills, and dignity for female artisans worldwide.

Murat Uzunparmak

Director of Research and Analysis

Murat joined Hedayah as a secondee from the Government of Turkey. Prior to Hedayah, he worked as a District Governor and a Deputy Governor at the Turkish Ministry of Interior. Murat has governed seven different districts in Turkey and has fourteen years of professional experience.

He holds a Bachelors degree in Law from Ankara University and a Masters degree in Public Administration from the University of Van and is currently completing his thesis for a PhD in Public Administration from the University of Çanakkale.

Sara Sadaka

Director of Administration and Finance

Sara is currently the Director of the Department of Administration and Finance. She is a Human Resource (HR) professional with experience in both Lebanon and the U.A.E. Prior to joining Hedayah, Sara worked as a HR Manager in a local holding company in Abu Dhabi; where she was responsible of starting up a new department of HR. Her experience covered all aspects of the HR function such as HR Administration, Recruitment, Policies and Procedures, Talent Management, Counseling, Employee Relations, Organizational Development. Alongside her primary HR duties, she was responsible of operational and logistics duties in support to the Chairman.

She holds a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut, Lebanon.

Thomson Hunter

Director of Capacity Building Programs

Thomson has been seconded to Hedayah from the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office since October 2016. His CVE-relevant experience includes working for the UK Home Office (Ministry of the Interior) on police community cohesion activities following inter-communal riots in the UK; helping share good practice amongst UK police forces as part of a joint civilian/police unit; and studying CVE academically (his Master’s is in Terrorism Studies, from the University of St. Andrews).

Thomson's CT experience, since 2003, is mainly in the protective security area - people, places, events, civil aviation - in the UK and abroad. He operated regionally from India for almost four years, and then from Singapore for more than three years, providing advice, and planning and leading capacity development activities in many Asian and Asia-Pacific countries. In 2012 he relocated to London, managing the small network of aviation security experts across Africa, Asia and Middle East and he led on the design and delivery of capacity development activities (training courses, mentoring, workshops, seminars and conferences) in those regions. During that period he was personally deployed in many countries, including: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, India, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, and the UAE.

Cristina Mattei

Program Manager, Capacity Building Programs

Cristina is a Program Manager within the Capacity Building Programs Department. Throughout her time in the organization, she has been working on the development and delivery of the Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters Program in coordination with the Government of Tunisia among other related activities. She has expertise in youth radicalization and Families and CVE and since 2015 has been working on rehabilitation and reintegration practices. As part of the Capacity Building Programs team, Cristina is primarily involved in training curriculum development and has developed the internal Monitoring, Measurement & Evaluation framework in coordination with the Research & Analysis Department. Cristina is managing the CVE & Education Program and is actively researching to develop a curriculum for social workers, psychologists and educators.

Prior to joining Hedayah, Cristina worked in Brussels in a number of organizations to include Friends of Europe and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She also worked in international security and defence and has been engaged in project management, advocacy and communication. Cristina has a Master’s degree in International and European studies from LUISS University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Tuscia University.

Irene Belmonte

Program Manager, EU STRIVE Global Program

Irene is a Cooperation for Development professional with over ten years experience working on the ground with NGOs in several countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Prior to joining Hedayah, she worked in Sudan with Sudanese Red Crescent as Spanish Red Cross Delegate. She has extensive experience in program and project management, and managing public funds, in different thematic areas, such as women economic and political rights, rural development, education, health, gender violence prevention and gender mainstreaming.

Irene holds a B.Sc. in Sociology, a postgraduate Advanced Study Diploma in International Relations, a Diploma in Cooperation for Development, a Diploma in Conflict Prevention and Risk Management from Complutense University of Madrid and a Master’s degree in Human Resources Strategic Management from EOI Business School in Madrid, Spain.

Sara Zeiger

Program Manager, Research and Analysis

Sara joined the team in August 2012 and currently leads Hedayah’s portfolio on CVE and education. Sara is also currently a Non-Resident Fellow in International Relations and Counter-Terrorism for TRENDS Research & Advisory.

At Hedayah, Sara supports the Director in providing oversight for the Department’s programs, including the Counter-Narrative Library, non-resident Fellowship Program and annual International CVE Research Conference. Sara is currently leading the development of an App for Monitoring, Measurement and Evaluation for CVE projects titled MASAR as well as the development of a collection of counter-narratives for the East and Horn of Africa region. Sara is also the Co-Director of a NATO SPS Advanced Research Workshop grant on the role of women in CVE.

Sara was Hedayah’s liaison with the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) to support the development and drafting their framework document, the Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and CVE and follow-up Action Plan. Her recent publications include Violent Radicalisation and Far-Right Violent Extremism in Europe; Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in Africa: The Role of the Mining Sector, and two How-To guides on Undermining Violent Extremist Narratives (South East Asia & Middle East and North Africa).

Prior to joining Hedayah, Sara worked as a Research Assistant at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. She also served as a Head Teaching Fellow for the Harvard Extension School and was a Graduate Assistant at Boston University, conducting research on politics and society in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Sara holds an M.A. in International Relations and Religion (concentrations: Security Studies and Islam) from Boston University, and graduated as valedictorian with a B.A. in Psychology and Religion from Ohio Northern University.

Suha Shalabieh

Finance and Grants Manager, Administration and Finance

Suha carries more than 15 years of experience in Finance, Administration; and Grants Management. Before joining Hedayah; Suha worked at several international NGOs on projects funded by the USAID, DRL , MEPI and the Dutch Embassy.

Suha holds a bachelor’s degree and High Diploma of Banking and Financial Sciences, specializing in both finance and accounting, from Yarmouk University in Jordan.

Joseph Gyte

Senior Program Associate, Capacity Building Programs

Prior to joining Hedayah, Joseph worked as a Terrorism Prevention Consultant at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. He has also worked in the Office of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, in Brussels, and as a human rights researcher on the rehabilitation of torture victims, in the southern border provinces of Thailand.

He has experience working on full program cycles, including the design, implementation and analysis of capacity building activities and projects, at both the policy and frontline levels. Joseph’s educational background includes a Master’s degree in Terrorism Studies from St. Andrews University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Cardiff University.

Carlotta Nanni

Grant and Administration Officer, EU STRIVE Global Program

Carlotta is a development professional with over eight years of experience working in the field in several countries in Asia and Africa. Prior to joining Hedayah, she worked in Sudan as a project manager with the Italian Cooperation, coordinating a project on primary health care, funded by the European Union in the Red Sea State. Due to her experience in working with multiple NGOs in different thematic areas such as child protection, education and vocational training, she gained valuable expertise in project management and monitoring and evaluation. She played several lead roles over the years in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Cambodia, where she interfaced and dealt with state and non-state actors in many aspects of project implementation.

Carlotta holds a Master of Science degree in Development Evaluation and Management from the University of Antwerp, Belgium; a Diploma in Cooperation for Development and Management Instruments from the University of Roma “Roma Tre”; and Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Bologna and Mulhouse. She is credited with two masters’ dissertations that focused: 1) on the genocide of Rwanda and, 2) the push and pull factors which lead to radicalization and recruitment into violent extremism (specifically in developing countries).

Lilah El Sayed

Program Associate, Dialogue and Communications

Lilah joined Hedayah in February 2013 and has been supporting the Executive Director Office since then in addition to all the translation work for the Center in her capacity as an Arabic-English legal translator - certified by the U.A.E Ministry of Justice.

Prior to joining Hedayah, Lilah served as a military field interpreter providing optimal interpretation and translation support to the Military personnel especially female soldiers of U.A.E Armed Forces & Presidential Guard Command. Lilah conducted language training programs in Arabic and English at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit #3, American University and U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and was contracted by the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA.

Lilah graduated with a Masters degree in “International Law, Diplomacy and International Relations” from Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi in 2016.

Farangiz Atamuradova

Research Associate, Research and Analysis

Farangiz joined Hedayah in February 2018. Prior to Hedayah, Farangiz worked at Delma Institute as a political analyst covering various regional issues. Her internship experiences include the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Royal United Services Institute.

Farangiz holds a Master of Letters in Terrorism Studies from the University of St. Andrews and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics with International Studies from the University of Warwick. The title of her Master’s dissertation was, Tajikistan: The Case of Religious Fundamentalism & Empowerment of Women as a Method to Counter Violent Religious Extremism and Radicalism.

Elaine Ayson

Events and Administrative Coordinator, Administration and Finance

Elaine is an experienced administrative management professional with over 12 years of experience. She joined Hedayah as an Administrative Assistant to then become the Events and Administrative Coordinator. She manages all event logistics and operational administration, from planning to execution, such as conferences and workshops both held local and abroad, and high-level meetings hosted at Hedayah Center. She also supports the Deputy Executive Director of Hedayah.

Prior to Hedayah, she was a Team Administrator for Good Harbor Consulting, a Security Risk Management firm based in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She has also assisted the Go live MRO project management implementation of Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technology (ADAT) as an ERP Administrator. In 2009, her role expanded by joining a Renewable Energy firm, International Power GDF Suez as an Executive Assistant to the Regional Manager that includes project coordination through programs of the Renewable Energy Fund (REF).

Elaine graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from the Holy Angel University and has been a member of Junior Chamber International (Jaycees) since 2003. She is also pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice and Forensic Science at the California Coast University.

Iman Badwan

Senior Communications Officer, Dialogue and Communications

Iman initially joined the team as a Communications Intern in 2014 and was hired full time in 2015. Since then, she has managed the corporate communications initiatives and their implementation, which include Hedayah’s new website, social media outreach, and branding. As the in-house graphic designer, she also worked on creating the design and layouts of key Hedayah publications such as 'Undermining Violent Extremist Narratives: A How-To Guide' series and 'A Man’s World? Exploring the Role of Women in Countering Terrorism and CVE'. Iman also supports initiatives related to strategic communications and youth.

Prior to Hedayah, Iman worked as a Public Information intern with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and has communications experiences from various internships held at international organizations in Abu Dhabi, Florence, and New York.

She is currently pursuing an M.P.S in PR and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University and holds a B.A. in Psychology and Visual Arts (double major) from New York University Abu Dhabi as part of its inaugural class.

Fadi Hamad

IT Administrator, Administration and Finance

Fadi has worked as an IT Administrator in several companies in the Middle East, including Aramex and RTS prior to joining Hedayah. Fadi has over ten years of experience and has worked in areas that include Networking, Microsoft Platforms, Servers, IP Networks, and other IT Infrastructures.

Fadi received a B.E degree in computer engineering from Near East University, Cyprus, in 2007.

Masabo Djailani

Logistics Coordinator, Administration and Finance

Masabo is responsible for managing day-to-day logistics within Hedayah, in addition to coordinating logistical operations and administration during Hedayah activities and conference.

In 2009, Masabo began working at ARTE CASA, located in Dubai-UAE as a procurement executive. He worked closely on all Procurement jobs, including placing orders and overseeing logistics. Since joining ARTE CASA he has gradually handled most of the procurement tasks and have gained experience in contacting suppliers while inquiring and placing the orders.

Masabo spent ten years completing his education in Al-Azhar Al-Sharif in Egypt. While at Al-Azhar, Masabo completed Arabic, Islamic studies and social studies graduating with a B.A. in the Department of Social Work and Community Development.

Julien Domergue

Junior Program Associate, Capacity Building Programs

Julien joined Hedayah in January 2020. Prior to Hedayah, Julien worked as an intern on women, peace and security issues at UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Thailand. He also worked as a field researcher on the role of civil society in the democratization process in Malaysia.

Julien has experience working on the design, implementation and evaluation of capacity building projects on CVE, combatting human trafficking and improving women’s access to justice.

Julien’s educational background includes a Master’s degree in International Relations and International Security from Sciences Po Lille as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Political Sciences and Modern Languages from Sciences Po Lille and the University of Southampton

Jaikishan Agarwal

Capacity Building Programs (STRIVE Global) Intern

Jaikishan is a Masters Candidate in International Security at SciencesPo in Paris, France. His primary fields of interest are the intersection of tech and counter-terrorism. In his master's degree, he focuses on Global Risks and Europe, while building his skills in project management, data analysis, and policy assessment.

Denita Pious

Research and Analysis Intern

Denita is a final year student at New York University Abu Dhabi pursuing a degree in Social Research and Public Policy with minors in Film and Political Science. She is currently serving as the President of the Society of International Affairs student interest group founded at NYU Abu Dhabi as well as the NYU Abu Dhabi representative of the International Student Affairs Committee in NYU New York.

Her previous work experiences include serving as a legal consultant and research intern at the University of Cape Town Refugee Rights Law Clinic, an online content editor at Thaki (an NGO based in Lebanon); and an event coordinator and research intern at a national public policy firm located in Washington D.C.

She joins the Research and Analysis team with the aim to comprehend the intricacies of countering terrorism and violent extremism.



With our expertise, we tackle the threat of violent extremism on all levels from supporting governments in developing their national CVE strategies to engaging with CVE actors on the ground.

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Through its four main departments, Hedayah develops and delivers a series of interrelated programs that help accomplish its mission.

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We are always keen on collaborating with various partners around the world who can complement our initiatives and aid with the challenges of countering violent extremism.

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