Maha Yahya

Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center

Yahya is director of the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, where her research focuses on citizenship, pluralism, and social justice in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings.

Maha Yahya is director of the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, where her work focuses broadly on political violence and identity politics, pluralism, development and social justice after the Arab uprisings, the challenges of citizenship, and the political and socio-economic implications of the migration/refugee crisis.

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.

Yahya  is the author of numerous publications, including most recently Unheard Voices: What Syrian Refugees Need to Return Home (April 2018); The Summer of Our Discontent: Sects and Citizens in Lebanon and Iraq (June 2017); Great Expectations in Tunisia (March 2016); Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder (November 2015); 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). 


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  • The War After the War
    • September 14, 2018

    The War After the War

    Post-conflict reconstruction is inherently political, involving a struggle for power and influence.

  • The Politics of Dispossession
    • May 09, 2018

    The Politics of Dispossession

    Syria’s regime is changing the country’s urban planning laws to punish its foes and reward loyalists.

  • The Perils of Side Arrangements
    • August 23, 2017

    The Perils of Side Arrangements

    Efforts to circumvent Geneva and Astana undermine a durable solution in Syria and work against the welfare of refugees.

  • Blaming the Victims
    • July 31, 2017

    Blaming the Victims

    Syrian refugees in Lebanon are increasingly being manipulated to satisfy geopolitical agendas.

  • Photo Essay: A Syrian City in Jordan
    • May 08, 2017

    Photo Essay: A Syrian City in Jordan

    The Zaatari Camp is taking on characteristics of permanence, raising doubts about a refugee return.

  • What Kind of Endgame?
    • April 10, 2017

    What Kind of Endgame?

    Maha Yahya interviews Sultan Barakat about the uncertain future of Syria.

  • Broken Peaces
    • March 31, 2017

    Broken Peaces

    Why Local Agreements Are Not the Solution for Ensuring Syrian Refugee Repatriation.

  • Unmagical Mountain
    • March 06, 2017

    Unmagical Mountain

    Iraq’s Yezidis are trapped amidst the rivalries all around them.

  • The Arab Predicament
    • January 27, 2017

    The Arab Predicament

    Carnegie Middle East announces the release of a major new report on the state of the Arab world.

  • Looking Beyond Mosul
    • December 08, 2016

    Looking Beyond Mosul

    Once the Islamic State is defeated, Iraq will have to mend a divided society.


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

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