Maha Yahya

Senior Associate
Middle East Center
Yahya is a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center, where her research focuses on citizenship, pluralism, and social justice in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings.


PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
PhD, Architectural Association School of Architecture


Arabic; English

Contact Information


Maha Yahya is a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center, where her research focuses on citizenship, pluralism, and social justice in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings.

Prior to joining Carnegie, Yahya led work on Participatory Development and Social Justice at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA). She was previously regional adviser on social and urban policies at UN-ESCWA and spearheaded strategic and inter-sectoral initiatives and policies in the Office of the Executive Secretary which addressed the challenges of democratic transitions in the Arab world. Yahya has also worked with the United Nations Development Program in Lebanon, where she was the director and principal author of The National Human Development Report 2008–2009: Toward a Citizen’s State. She was also the founder and editor of the MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies

Yahya has worked with international organizations and in the private sector as a consultant on projects related to socioeconomic policy analysis, development policies, cultural heritage, poverty reduction, housing and community development, and postconflict reconstruction in various countries including Lebanon, Pakistan, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. She has served on a number of advisory boards including the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.

Among other publications, Yahya is the author of Towards Integrated Social Development Policies: A Conceptual Analysis (UN-ESCWA, 2004), co-editor of Secular Publicities: Visual practices and the Transformation of National Publics in the Middle East and South Asia (University of Michigan Press, 2010) and co-author of Promises of Spring: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in Democratic Transitions (UN-ESCWA, 2013). 


  • Paper November 9, 2015
    Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder

    The refugee tragedy is a symptom of a wider political crisis. Finding adequate solutions for the refugees and internally displaced populations is primarily a political imperative, but it is also a development challenge that is essential for political stabilization, societal reconciliation, and peace building.

  • Op-Ed Al-Hayat October 25, 2015 عربي
    Tunisia’s Nobel Prize: A Brilliant Victory, However…

    For Tunisians, winning the Nobel Prize evoked a great sense of pride, but it also stirred up profound concerns about the fate of their budding political transition.

  • Refugees
    Q&A October 1, 2015 عربي
    The Roots of Europe’s Refugee Crisis

    The refugee crisis is impacting political stability in the Middle East and Europe. How should leaders respond to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II?

  • Setting the Scene for Future Conflicts
    Op-Ed Huffington Post September 23, 2015 عربي
    Setting the Scene for Future Conflicts

    Despite its promise to leave no one behind, the new U.N. 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is silent on the biggest crisis of the contemporary world: refugees.

  • Syria in Crisis August 25, 2015
    Taking Out the Trash: Lebanon’s Garbage Politics

    Ostensibly about Lebanon’s garbage crisis, the Beirut protests represent a rejection of Lebanon’s sectarianism, political elite, and its lack of a civil state.

  • Op-Ed Project Syndicate July 1, 2015 Français عربي 中文
    The Escalating Arab Wars

    In order to put an end to current hostilities in the Arab world, a national, regional, and international consensus is required.

  • Op-Ed RealClearWorld June 11, 2015 عربي
    The Dark Side of Tunisia's Success Story

    Tunisia may be the exemplar for democratic transition in the Arab world. But if longstanding grievances continue to go unaddressed, worsening societal fractures will derail the country's fragile political transition.

  • Op-Ed National Interest May 11, 2015 عربي
    Three Big Trends That Will Shape the Arab World

    The negative consequences of current trends will continue until Arab governments and elites identify ways to rebuild their relationships with citizens.

  • Columbia Global Centers | Middle East March 4, 2015
    The Significance of Discontent: Arab Faces and Perceptions of Injustice

    Four years after the start of the Arab revolutions, fundamental issues like polarization identities and economic inequities continue to destabilize the region.

  • Syria in Crisis January 15, 2015
    What Does the Charlie Hebdo Attack Mean for Europe?

    The horrific attacks in France bring back to the fore the question of what it means to be a citizen in Europe today and how such citizenship intersects with the burning questions of class and multiple cultural identities.

  • ABC News September 8, 2015
    Why Are So Many Asylum Seekers Making the Run for Europe Now?

    Syria and the Middle East have been war-torn for the past four years, yet the European migrant crisis has only reached breaking point in recent months.

  • CBC Radio June 26, 2015
    On the Tunisia Attack

    Tunisia is reeling from a brutal terrorist attack on one of its popular beach resorts that has left 37 people dead.

  • KCRW’s To the Point April 9, 2015
    ISIS: Is the Caliphate Cracking?

    There are signs of internal dissension within the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But even if it is in partial retreat, it is a likely threat in the Middle East—and to Western interests—for years to come.

  • Al Jazeera’s Inside Story January 30, 2015
    Has Egyptian President Sisi’s Approach in Sinai Failed?

    The heavy crackdown in Sinai is being questioned after repeated attacks by armed groups in the peninsula.

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