Expert Insights


Interviews and panel discussions with regional scholars and experts are published here to give insight into various government responses, with a focus on health policy issues, as well as some analysis of the underlying challenges – social, economic, and political – faced by states in the region and how they are addressing these.

Zahra R. Babar, “Migrant Workers Bear the Pandemic’s Brunt in the Gulf,” Current History (December 2020).

Expert Insight 7
Watch CIRS Associate Director Zahra Babar discuss and address some of social fractures and inequalities that shape the health of international labor migrants and have been heigthened due to the pandemic. In a panel discussion ttiled, Are single male labour migrants being neglected?, organized by UCL Center for Gender and Global Health, Zahra along with two other panelists explain how poor and crowded living and working conditions put labor migrants at higher risk of not only COVID-19, but a host of other health issues. This panel discussion is part of a webinar series titled, Borderings: Migration, Gender and Health.

Moderator: Kristine Onarheim, Research Fellow at UCL Center for Gender and Global Health.


Kolitha Wickramage, Global Migration Health Research and Epidemiology Coordinator, IOM Migration Health Division.

Zahra Babar, Associate Director for Research, Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University in Qatar.

Wafa Aftab, Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University. 

Kolitha Wickramage, heads IOM’s Global Health Research and Epidemiology unit responsible for providing technical guidance on advancing research and evidence generation across IOM’s three health programmatic areas: health assessments of migrants and refugees (medical examinations and pre-migration health interventions); health assistance for crisis-affected populations; and, and technical cooperation on migration health with Governments, UN, academic partners.

Zahra Babar,  is Associate Director for Research at CIRS, Georgetown University in Qatar. She previously worked for the United Nations Development Program and the International Labour Organization. She has published several articles and book chapters, most recently, “Labor Migration in the Persian Gulf”, in The Routledge Handbook of Persian Gulf Politics, Ed., Mehran Kamrava (Routledge, 2020); “Migrant labor and human rights in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries”, in Why Human Rights Still Matter in Contemporary Global Affairs, Ed., Mahmood Monshipouri, (Routledge, 2020); “Understanding Labour Migration Policies in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries” in Asianization of Migrant Workers in the Gulf Countries, eds. S. Irudaya Rajan and Ginu Zacharia Oommen, (Springer, 2020); and “Gender and Mobility: Qatar’s Highly Skilled Female Migrants in Context,” with M. Ewers and N. Khattab, Migration and Development, (2020)

Wafa Aftab, is a faculty member in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Pakistan where her teaching and research focuses on health policy and governance of health systems and intersectoral actions for health. In migrant health she is currently studying the policy environment in Pakistan and Qatar related to structural factors which influence the health of migrant labour workers from Pakistan working in Qatar. She is also a medical doctor with training in internal medicine.

Published on October 11, 2020.

Expert Insight 6
This panel discussion titled, Media Consumption and the Pandemic, features two regional experts in a conversation about digital media use during COVID-19. Banu Akdenizli and Joe F. Khalil speak about “mask diplomacy” and the challenges the pandemic has brought upon global media and content production.

Moderator: Suzi Mirgani, Assistant Director for Publications at CIRS.


Banu Akdenizli, Associate Professor of Communication at Northwestern University in Qatar.

Joe F. Khalil, Associate Professor of Global Media and Communication at Northwestern University in Qatar. 

Banu Akdenizli is an Associate Professor of Communications at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) where she teaches courses in digital and mobile media. Prior to joining NU-Q, Akdenizli was an associate professor in the School of Communication at Yeditepe University in Turkey. She has also worked as an analyst and index methodologist with the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington D.C. She received her Ph.D. in mass media and communication from Temple University and earned her MA (in translation and interpretation studies) and BA (in sociology) from Bogazic University in Istanbul, Turkey. Akdenizli is the 2016-2018 University of Southern California (USC) Center for Public Diplomacy Fellow. Her areas of interest and research include international communication, political communication, public diplomacy, media in the Middle East, and Turkey.

Joe F. Khalil is an Associate Professor of Global Media and Communication at Northwestern University in Qatar. He is the author and co-author of Arab Television Industries (Palgrave, 2009), Arab Satellite Entertainment Television and Public Diplomacy (Smith Richardson, 2009), and the forthcoming The Digital Turn. He is also the co-editor of Culture, Time, and Publics in the Arab World (I.B. Tauris, 2018) and the forthcoming Handbook of Media and Culture in the Middle East. As an expert on Arab television production and programming, Joe Khalil has more than fifteen years of professional experience as a director, executive producer, and consultant with major Arab satellite channels (Orbit, MBC, MTV, CNBC Arabiya) and has conducted workshops on behalf of USAID, IREX, USIP, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has extensive academic and professional experience in television entertainment and news development and production. Khalil’s scholarly interests revolve specifically around Arab youth, alternative media, and global media industries.

Published on June 7, 2020.

Expert Insight 5
Watch the CIRS webcast on Impact of COVID-19 on Sports in the GCC. Professor Simon Chadwick talks about the overall effect of the pandemic on sports and sporting events worldwide and what implications it may have on sports in the GCC. He highlights the impact on sports investments, airline sponsorships, and event hosting strategies of the GCC countries.

Moderator: Suzi Mirgani, Assistant Director for Publications at CIRS.

Speaker: Professor Simon Chadwick, Director of Eurasian Sport, Professor of the Eurasian Sport Industry and Director of the Centre for the Eurasian Sport Industry, at Emlyon Business School. 

Simon Chadwick is Director of Eurasian Sport, Professor of the Eurasian Sport Industry and Director of the Centre for the Eurasian Sport Industry, at Emlyon Business School, based in Paris and Shanghai. He is also Senior Fellow of the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, where he is Founding Director of the China Soccer Observatory. He previously worked as Director of Research for the Josoor Institute in Qatar, which is part of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the institute organizing the 2022 World Cup. Chadwick has been part of two CIRS research projects; Sports, Society, and Politics in the Middle East and Football in the Middle East.

Published on May 18, 2020.

Expert Insight 4
This CIRS webcast titled, Current Healthcare Systems and Vulnerable Populations in the Gulf looks at the overall impact on other aspects of healthcare as the national health system re-orients to focus almost entirely on the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Cheema emphasizes the importance of being able to care for the vulnerable populations – low-wage workers, elderly – considering that the majority of non-COVID health care is being provided online and these populations have difficulty engaging with digital platforms and/or do not have access to the internet. 

Moderator: Elizabeth Wanucha, Operations Manager at CIRS.

Speaker: Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Director of the Institute for Population Health (IPH) and Assistant Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q).

Dr. Sohaila Cheema is the Director of the Institute for Population Health (IPH) and Assistant Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q). She actively participates in oversight and implementation of IPH education, research, and community programs. Dr. Cheema co-directs and teaches the pre-medical course, Health and Disease: A Global Perspective. Additionally, she teaches senior medical students in the Health Care and Public Health Clerkship for which she also serves as the Associate Director. Furthermore, she presents seminars to community medicine residents at Hamad Medical Corporation on topics of public health interest.

Published on May 17, 2020.

Expert Insight 3
This CIRS webcast on Preventive Medicine and Lifestyle Health in the Context of COVID-19, highlights some of the key impacts of the pandemic on lifestyle and health. Dr. Mamtani addresses these issues from a preventive medicine perspective and provides guidelines to counter some of the negative impacts that this infectious disease has had on healthy lifestyles. 

Moderator:  Mehran Kamrava, CIRS Director, and GUQ Professor.

Speaker: Dr. Ravinder Mamtani, Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research, Vice Dean for Student Affairs, Population Health, and Lifestyle Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar.

Dr. Ravinder Mamtani is professor of healthcare policy and research, and Vice Dean for Student Affairs-Admissions, Population Health, and Lifestyle Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar. He is a specialist in occupational and general preventive medicine, public health, and integrative medicine. Dr. Mamtani has also been involved in a CIRS project that looks at healthcare policy and politics in the Gulf States and has co-edited the book publication titled Critical Issues in Healthcare Policy and Politics in the Gulf Cooperation Council States.

Published on May 14, 2020.

Expert Insight 2
The panel discussion titled, Science, Bioethics, and the Pandemic features an informal conversation at the intersection of Islamic bioethics and infectious diseases. The discussion looks into what experts in bioethics and infectious diseases have to tell us about the foreseeable future of the pandemic.

Moderator: Mehran Kamrava, CIRS Director, and GUQ Professor.


Daniel R. Lucey, Senior Scholar with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and adjunct Professor of Medicine-Infectious Diseases at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Ayman Shabana, Associate Research Professor at GUQ.

Daniel R. Lucey is a Senior Scholar with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. He is also an adjunct Professor of Medicine-Infectious Diseases at Georgetown University Medical Center. He has taught at Georgetown for 17 years focusing on Outbreaks, Pan-Epidemics, and Pandemics. Since 2001 he has been involved on the ground with anthrax, smallpox vaccination, SARS (China, Canada), H5N1 avian flu (Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Egypt), Pandemic Flu (USA, Egypt), MERS (Middle East, Korea), Ebola (Sierra Leone, Liberia with MSF at ELWA-3), Zika (Brazil, USA), Yellow Fever (Kinshasa, Beijing), Chikungunya (Karachi, Islamabad), H7N9 (China), and Plague (Madagascar). He has been a research associate in Anthropology at the Museum since 2017. His infectious disease training and MPH were at Harvard 1985-88 after medical residency at UCSF & San Francisco General Hospitals during the recognition of the AIDS pandemic 1982-85, and after Medical School and College at Dartmouth. He served as an Attending Physician in Infectious Diseases in San Antonio, Texas and at the National Institutes of Health, and as ID Chief at the 900-bed Washington Hospital Center in DC 1998-2002 during 9/11 and anthrax. It is also worth noting that he made a 3-week trip to China and to Cairo in February 2020 to learn about Covid-19 in its early stages before it was declared a pandemic.

Ayman Shabana is Associate Research Professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, his MA from Leiden University in the Netherlands, and his BA from al-Azhar University in Egypt. His teaching and research interests include Islamic legal and intellectual history, Islamic law and ethics, human rights, and bioethics. He is the director of the Islamic Bioethics Project, which has been supported by three consecutive grants from Qatar National Research Fund’s National Priorities Research Program. In 2012 he received the Research Excellence Award at the Qatar Annual Research Forum and during the academic year 2013-2014 he was a visiting research fellow at the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School. He is the author of Custom in Islamic Law and Legal Theory in addition to several academic journal articles, which appeared in Islamic Law and Society, Oxford Journal of Islamic Studies, Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Hawwa: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World, Religion Compass, and Medicine Health Care and Philosophy.

Published on May 11, 2020.

Expert Insight 1
Watch the CIRS webcast on COVID-19 and its impact on Mental Health in Gulf Societies. In this webcast, Dr. Suhaila Ghuloum addresses some of the key issues and effects of the current pandemic on mental health and how societies in the Gulf are dealing with these. Dr. Ghuloum also highlights some of the measures taken to provide people with the necessary help and ensure the continuation of mental health services during this pandemic. 

Moderator: Elizabeth Wanucha, Operations Manager at CIRS.

Speaker: Dr. Suhaila Ghuloum, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar.

Dr. Suhaila Ghuloum is a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar. Dr. Ghuloum’s research interests are primarily in Schizophrenia and Psychiatric epidemiology. Dr. Ghuloum has served as Qatar’s representative to the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, and the GCC council for mental health. She is involved with several planning projects for the enhancement of mental health services in Qatar, including the Academic Health System, Neurosciences Institute, and Metabolic Disease Institute. She was directly involved in the Qatar National Mental Health Strategy and Implementation and was a key member in drafting the strategy as well as the first Mental Health Law in Qatar.

Published on May 7, 2020.