Paving the Way for a Democratic Syria – Qutaiba Idlbi and Reza Afshar


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An RSAA lecture with Qutaiba Idlbi and Reza Afshar.

Qutaiba Idlbi is the representative of the Syrian Opposition Coalition to the United States. He is also a Syria fellow at the International Center for Transitional Justice researching the framework of political imprisonment in Syria, and a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute researching economic sanctions and forced displacement.

His past experience includes profiling refugee entrepreneurship in Turkey and Jordan with Building Markets, analyzing security policy in Turkey and Syria at the Global Policy Institute, and developing governance and security atmospheric reports for the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command with Pechter Polls and the USAID Office of Transitional Initiatives with Caerus Associates.

He is a 2013 Leaders for Democracy fellow with the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative at the U.S. Department of State, and a 2016 Peace Exchange fellow with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.Qutaiba currently serves as a board member of Paper Airplanes, Abjad Initiative for Education, and Tastakel Women Center, where he advances accelerated education, skills training, and women empowerment across refugee communities in the Middle East.

He received his Bachelor’s in political science from Columbia University.

Reza Afshar is the Executive Director of Independent Diplomat. He joined ID in December 2013, bringing extensive experience in international security and diplomatic policy to his role as Policy Director in ID’s New York office before being appointed Executive Director in June 2020.  Previously, Reza was head of the team responsible for Syria policy at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).  During his time at the FCO, Reza also served as head of the Middle East, Asia and Europe Team at the UK Mission to the United Nations (2009 to 2012).  He was awarded an OBE in 2012 for his work as lead negotiator on Libya in the UN Security Council.  This work culminated in authorization for NATO’s military action in 2011. Reza began his service to the UK Government in 2001, working both in Defence and Foreign Affairs.  After 9/11, he was sent to Afghanistan where he worked closely with the Northern Alliance.

Reza returned to Afghanistan in 2006 for two years where he was the UK Embassy’s First Secretary responsible for counter-narcotics. During his 13 years of service, Reza also worked on Iraq (2003-2004), Zimbabwe (leading the UK Foreign Office’s crisis team in 2008), and negotiated new arms control protocols relating to cluster munitions and landmines.