IRIS Team

Christine van den Toorn is Director of IRIS. She also serves as the Executive Director of External Relations and Policy for AUIS. She has fifteen years of academic and professional experience in the Middle East, nine of which have been spent in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). She has conducted fieldwork all over the KRI, with a particular focus on disputed territories in Ninewa, Diyala and Salahddin, and has published articles and reports in leading outlets like Washington Post, Carnegie’s Sada, Foreign Policy, War on the Rocks, Iraq Oil Report, Inside Iraqi Politics, Daily Beast and Niqash as well as delivered talks on her research.  Van den Toorn is a member of the Atlantic Council Task Force on the Future of Iraq. She has also conducted baseline reports and social impact assessments for international oil companies operating in the KRI and disputed territories, working with teams of student researchers from AUIS. She served in the United States Peace Corps in Morocco and holds an MA in Middle East History from the University of Virginia, and taught the subject at AUIS for 4 years. Ms. van den Toorn speaks Arabic, which she studied at Middlebury College, Georgetown University, the University of Damascus in Syria and the French Institute for Near East Studies in Damascus. For a list of her publications, please click here. Recent publications include:

 
Mac Skelton is Director of Research & Policy at IRIS, where he has previously served as a Research Fellow. Skelton is an anthropologist and Middle East analyst with field research and programmatic experience in Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq. Prior to IRIS, Skelton served as Senior Fellow with the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), where his portfolio included Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, and the UAE. Earlier in his career he led a number of dialogue and education programs, including a DAAD-funded exchange initiative in Sana’a, Yemen. Broadly, Skelton's research in Iraq and the KRG has focused on the impact of conflict on healthcare access as well as issues of displacement and migration. He has published for The Lancet and the Journal of Global Oncology, and has presented papers at the Middle East Studies Association and the American Anthropological Association. Skelton is a contributor to Brown University's Costs of War Project and a board member of the Yemen Cultural Institute for Heritage & the Arts. He holds an MA in Anthropology from the American University of Beirut and has recently completed all requirements for a PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University (conferral Fall 2018). Skelton's doctoral research in Iraq and Lebanon was funded through fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq. Click here for a list of publications. 
 

Zainab Hamid Mera is Program Coordinator at IRIS. She joined IRIS in September 2017, prior to which she worked with IRIS as a Program Assistant for the 2017 Sulaimani Forum and the post-ISIS security project. She graduated from AUIS in 2017 with a B.A in Information Technology. She is interested in regional politics and technology's role in the future of politics. She speaks native Arabic and fluent English.  

Emily Burlinghaus is Research Associate at IRIS. She joined IRIS in September 2017, prior to which she worked as a research assistant at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C. Before moving to Iraq, she spent a year abroad in the United Arab Emirates and conducted research at think tanks in D.C., including Hudson Institute and the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She graduated from New York University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in 2015, where she studied Persian and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Through its affiliation with the University, IRIS also draws from a pool of highly qualified student interns and research assistants with unique access to their respective areas of origin. The student-body is comprised of Iraqi-Kurds and Iraqi-Arabs from across the KRI, disputed territories, Baghdad and the Iraqi provinces. In addition to their diverse geographic backgrounds, students have research experience and varying subject matter expertise on topics including Kurdish and Iraqi politics, social and religious issues, and security. All our students speak, read and write English and Arabic or Kurdish, and are fluent in all three in some cases. Our interns for the 2018-2019 academic year are the following:

Abdulrahman Jamal Azeez, Information Technology

Abdullah Imad, Energy Engineering

Hawar Shafeq, Energy Engineering

Mera Jasm Bakr, International Studies

Mohammed Mohammed, International Studies

Rebaz Majeed, International Studies