Staff


 
 
Director of Community and Partner Relations
Suzanne Meriden

Suzanne Meriden is the Director of Community and Partner Relations of the Syrian American Council. In her role, Suzanne advocates the U.S. government to drive U.S.-Syria policy and support those on the ground in Syria, as well as works with members of the international community. Suzanne maintains near-constant communication with Syrians inside Syria to bring their stories to U.S. and international government representatives, as well as the general public.

In addition to her government and policy work, Suzanne sees one of her principal functions as connecting people to one another. She travels around the country, meeting with Syrian American communities nationwide, listening to them and their concerns, as well as updating the community on the Syrian American Council’s work and ongoing advocacy, and the situation on the ground. She believes it is her duty to instill in community members their responsibility for civic engagement.

Prior to her work at the Syrian American Council, Suzanne held multiple corporate operations management positions with reputable U.S. retail companies, but after the start of the Syrian Revolution, she left that career to work on the Syrian cause. She is fluent in Arabic, English, and French and near-fluent in Turkish. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International Business from California State University.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Director of Operations
Alaa Kamnaksh Alzayat

 

Alaa Kamnaksh is the Director of Operations at the Syrian American Council and the American Coalition for Syria where she oversees day-to-day operations, including grassroots engagement strategies and programs. Alaa previously supported SAC's development and outreach activities as an operations management specialist.

Prior to that, Alaa was a research scientist in the field of blast-induced traumatic brain injury for close to a decade. She received her MBA from Georgetown University with a certificate in non-market strategy and holds an MS in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. Alaa is Syrian American and a native Arabic speaker.







Government Relations Officer
Chad Brand

 

Chad is government relations officer at SAC where he assists the government relations team in tracking political developments on Capitol Hill and engages in advocacy on U.S.-Syria policy with members of Congress and congressional committee staff. Chad has over two decades of experience monitoring Congress as Congressional Operations Manager for GalleryWatch, and covered and tracked political trends in Congress that addressed issues involving defense, homeland security and U.S. foreign policy as a staff writer for CQ Roll Call. He holds an M.A in International Affairs from American University, and a B.A. in Political Science from Hartwick College. 

 

 

 

 

Policy Chief 
Mohammed Alaa Ghanem 

 

Alaa Ghanem is a Syrian academic, human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner, and a former editor at the digital platform that issued the original call for peaceful protests in Syria. An early pioneer of organized Syrian American political advocacy, he currently serves as the policy chief for the American Coalition for Syria (ACS), an umbrella group of eight specialized, multi-faith, regional and US-based organizations. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN among many others. A native of Damascus, he is a former assistant professor at the University of Damascus and an alum of Harvard and Columbia universities. 

Organizational Development Consultant
Yisser Bittar

 

Yisser Bittar is a Syrian American non-profit professional with over ten years of experience working on the Syrian cause. She has worked with mission-driven organizations focusing on political advocacy, humanitarian aid, and development programming. In each of her roles, she led teams building departments, processes, and strategies to create more efficient and impactful organizations. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and holds a Master of Public Administration from Arizona State University. Currently, her favorite (and most time-consuming role) is being a Mama to her two girls, Emissa  (4) and Melia (2).

Government Relations Associate
Alberto Hernandez

 

Alberto Hernandez is a skilled government relations professional with a focus on advocacy and policy development. As a Government Relations Associate at the Syrian American Council (SAC), he effectively communicates the concerns of the Syrian American community to members of Congress and the Executive Branch. Alberto's expertise includes monitoring Arabic-language media, producing insightful reports, and maintaining strong relationships with federal government partners. His Harvard Kennedy School training and fluency in Arabic enable him to navigate complex political landscapes and provide valuable analysis of the US Government's policy priorities in relation to SAC's goals. With a background in data engineering and physics degree from MIT, Alberto also brings a unique analytical and data-driven perspective. His dedication, communication skills, and ability to engage with community members make him a valuable asset in advancing effective legislation and good policy.