As the Forum’s Assistant Vice President of Field and Constituencies, Oula A. Alrifai plays a critical role in supporting the Vice President in developing and implementing the strategies, campaigns, programming, and initiatives of the Field & Constituencies team that advance the Forum’s mission and vision. Alrifai also supports the Vice President in managing the team, executing tasks, and supervising staff in work product management and processes.
Prior to joining the Forum, she was a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy working on critical Middle East-related topics on the U.S. foreign policy agenda.
Alrifai holds a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University. Her master’s thesis “The self-flagellation of a nation: Assad, Iran, and regime survival in Syria,” is available at Harvard Library. The thesis is focused on the development of the Iranian-Syrian relationship in the 1970s and 1980s through the lens of religio-political dynamics. While studying at Harvard, she worked at the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Alrifai was a political asylee from Damascus, Syria, in 2005 and received her American citizenship in 2016. In 2011, she received her B.A. with honors from the University of Maryland in government and politics and Middle Eastern studies, where she was awarded the full-tuition Academic Excellence Scholarship. While at Maryland, Alrifai worked at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C.
Following her graduation she co-founded the independent NGO Syrian-American Network for Aid and Development (SANAD) to help provide education and support for Syrian refugees. Professionally, she has worked at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, New York Times Magazine, and Navanti Group, among others. She also has written articles in a variety of publications, including Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, CNN, the National Interest, CTC Sentinel, HuffPost, the Hill, among others. She is a native Arabic speaker and at an advanced level in Persian.
Alrifai is the executive producer of the award-winning documentary Tomorrow’s Children, which explores Syrian refugees forced into child labor in Turkey. Her documentary is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Her additional publications include:
“What We Ignore, We Empower: Five Decades of Despair Under the Assad Regime,” Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy, Harvard University, Spring 2021
“The Not Lost Generation,” The Harvard Gazette, October 18, 2017
“This Program Is Changing the Syrian Narrative One Classroom at a Time,” Huffington Post, September 2, 2016
“This Syrian Refugee From Aleppo Will Do Whatever It Takes to Get an Education,” Huffington Post, May 4, 2016