Bassam Haddad DJs a house dance session
Category: Fall 2020 Newsmagazine, Featured News, News

Title: MAAS Alums Respond to the Pandemic

MAAS alums have been responding to the COVID-19 crisis in a variety of ways—from emergency response and humanitarian work, to fundraising for organizations in critical need, to contributing to the knowledge production surrounding the pandemic. We have gathered just a few examples below.



Pandemic in Prison: The San Quentin Outbreak, Al Jazeera Fault Lines

Dena Takruri filming a documentary about COVID at San Quentin PrisonDena Takruri (MAAS ‘08), Senior Presenter and Producer at AJ+, was a correspondent on Al Jazeera’s investigative short film about the catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak at California’s San Quentin prison.

Babel Podcast

Bebel podcast logoWill Todman (MAAS ‘16), Middle East Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), is cohost of the podcast Babel and has produced several episodes dealing with the pandemic:
Economic Implication of Covid-19 in the Middle East
COVID-19 in Iran
Changing Gulf Economies During Covid-19
Disinformation During Covid-19
Jordan’s Economy During Covid-19


Egypt’s Economy During and After COVID-19
The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, April 14, 2020
By Timothy Kaldas (MAAS ‘08)

The Future of the Hirak Movement in Algeria
Interview with journalist Selma Kasmi on the future of the movement in light of COVID
MERIP, April 27, 2020
By Muriam Davis (MAAS ‘06)

The Pandemic Should Spur New Reforms in Egypt
Bloomberg, May 6, 2020
By Timothy Kaldas (MAAS ‘08)

Cross-border Aid, Covid-19, and U.S. Decisions in Syria
Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 8, 2020
By Will Todman (MAAS ’16)

Assad Attempts to Weaponize COVID-19 in Syria
The Hill, May 27, 2020
By Will Todman (MAAS ’16)

Moving forward, falling back: What’s in store in the new normal?, June 5, 2020
By Abrar Alshammari (MAAS ‘19)



Bassam Haddad (MAAS ’94) Bassam Haddad DJs a house dance session
Associate Professor at George Mason University and professional DJ
In the early weeks of the pandemic, Dr. Haddad launched “In My House,” an innovative effort to support vulnerable communities while also making home-quarantine a little more fun. In My House is a bi-weekly live-streamed dance music and sessions hosted by Haddad that offers those who tune in a different musical experience each week—from 80s Arabic dance music to dabkeh to techno. The proceeds from each session are donated to organizations supporting those suffering from the impact of the pandemic, and listeners are encouraged to support those organizations as they are able. In My House has raised over $72,000 for Martha’s Table, ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid), Los Angeles Food Bank, The Lebanese Red Cross, ACLU’s LGBTQ’s Rights Project, United Palestinian Appeal, MLB (Movement for Black Lives), Doctors of the World-Iraq, and multiple other organizations. Visit to donate, watch past house sessions, or learn more.

Abbie Taylor (MAAS ‘12)
Program and Business Development Manager,
Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) Foundation
“Given SAMS’ experience as a provider of medical relief and education in Syria and other countries, we have been heavily involved in preparedness and response to COVID since it first emerged. I support development and management of programs, which has included establishing hospital-based isolation units in northwest Syria, procurement and distribution of PPE, provision of remote and in-person trainings for health workers on various topics related to COVID (ventilation management, infection prevention and control, etc.), community health education, and psychosocial support.”

Sacha Robehmed (MAAS ’15)
Digital Engagement Consultant,
International Rescue Committee
“I’ve been working with IRC’s Airbel Middle East Hub to test the use of a Whatsapp chatbot for the delivery of services remotely during COVID-19 and beyond. We’re learning about the best ways to deliver needed information to clients, leverage social networks to share information, and reach vulnerable communities. I adapted job search and legal information about employment rights under Jordan’s Defense Orders during lockdown into plain language, emojis, and graphics, so that clients can choose to learn more about their right to wages, their rights if their contract was terminated, and other useful information tailored to their circumstances.”

Click here to learn how MAAS alums Ghazi Bin Hamed (MAS ’16), consultant with the West Asia North Africa Institute in Jordan; Dickie Fischer (MAAS ‘16), program officer with Jesuit Refugee Services, and Kari Jorgenson Diener (MAAS ‘03), the Jordan Country Director for MercyCorps, are responding to the crisis through their work with international development and humanitarian organizations.