Refugees International Welcomes Inaugural Cohort of Refugee Fellows

WASHINGTON—Refugees International is proud to welcome its first-ever cohort of six refugee fellows from around the world who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership qualities and capabilities in global advocacy and have lived experience of forced displacement. 

The inaugural cohort includes: 

Ana María Diez is the co-founder and President of Coalición por Venezuela, a coalition of Venezuelan civil society organizations, and represents Coalición por Venezuela on UNHCR’s Advisory Board of Organizations led by Displaced and Stateless People. A lawyer by training with a master’s degree in public management, Ana María practiced criminal and child protection law in Venezuela. She now lives in Spain.

Twitter @AnaMariaDiez

Alaa El-Gaile is an advocate for women’s rights and education and works as a trainer at St. Andrew’s Refugee Services, a refugee-led organization in Cairo, Egypt, with previous positions as policy and advocacy advisor and a senior teacher. She is committed to empowering refugees and promoting social justice. She is originally from Sudan. 

Qiyamud Din Ikram is a climate migration and youth climate advocate and has worked on World Bank and UNDP-funded projects focused on climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, climate mobility, and climate justice. Qiyamud Din Ikram is the climate change migration focal point at the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. He is originally from Afghanistan and now lives in Germany.

Twitter @Qiyam_ikram

Ali Johar is a refugee and statelessness activist. He co-founded the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative, a community-based support and campaign organization and founded the Rohingya Literacy Program (RLP) to help Rohingya children access formal education in India. He is originally from Rakhine State, Myanmar. 

Twitter @mtsjohar

Wafa Mustafa is a Syrian activist and advocate for people forcibly disappeared by the Syrian regime. She co-founded the Free Syria’s Disappeared coalition, which fights for freedom and safety for all of Syria’s disappeared through awareness-raising efforts and campaigns. As a journalist, Wafa has reported on Syria for various media outlets. She fled Syria after the forced disappearance of her father in 2013 and now lives in Germany. 

Twitter @WafaMustafa9

Farhad Shamo Roto is a survivor of the 2014 Ezidi genocide and the founder of Voice Of Ezidis, an organization that advocates for the rights of Ezidis. He also founded ICanHelp.Host, a solidarity platform that has provided free housing for more than 14,000 Ukrainian families fleeing war. He is pursuing a Ph.D. at the Centre d’Etudes Diplomatiques et Stratégiques and lives in France.

Twitter @ShRFarhad

The fellows program aims to deepen the expertise of refugee leaders in global advocacy through training, networking, and professional development opportunities. Fellows will collaborate closely with Refugees International staff members to co-design and execute an initiative to influence refugee policy and will help shape the institution’s global advocacy priorities and deepen organizational expertise.

“Elevating leaders with lived expertise of forced displacement is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. For years, these leaders have largely been denied a seat at the policy table. Refugees know best what their communities need. They are also the most effective messengers for change. We are honored and humbled to have the opportunity to partner with these extraordinary leaders over the next year and beyond,” said Hardin Lang, Refugees International’s vice president for programs and policy. 

“Refugees International is committed to ensuring that the voices and priorities of refugees and displaced people are at the center of our work. This new initiative takes that commitment to the next level. The response from refugee advocates has been overwhelming, and demonstrates the power and energy of investing in advocates among frontline, crisis-affected communities. We look forward to deepening this partnership model in the years to come,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, president of Refugees International.

Refugees International would like to thank the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for their generous support that has made this program possible.

For more information, contact Refugees International’s Vice President for Strategic Outreach Sarah Sheffer at

Cover Photo: A collage of headshots of Refugees International’s 2023 inaugural Refugee Fellows cohort.