A creative, reliable and flexible expert unit

ZENITH COUNCIL is a non-state expert and consulting unit specializing in Middle East affairs. We propose ideas on international politics, state institutions and legal aspects of the state, as well as designing creative approaches in dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution in the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab World.

ZENITH COUNCIL’s founders and directors are the German Middle East expert Daniel Gerlach and the legal scholar Dr. Naseef Naeem. Depending on the respective mission or assignment, other experts from the fields of law, international relations, security, cultural and regional studies can be incorporated in ZENITH COUNCIL’s work.
We engage in mediation, dialogue, and peaceful conflict resolution or advise organizations who implement projects of this sort.

Occasionally, we provide custom tailored research and monitoring or evaluation services to international organizations in the field of cooperation and humanitarian aid.

zenithCouncil is coordinated and supervised by Daniel Gerlach and Dr. Naseef Naeem.

The name ZENITH COUNCIL is reminiscent of the fact that Gerlach and Naeem met through the networks of zenith and are both frequent contributors to the magazine. The unit’s work is however independent and not institutionally integrated with the magazine or the latter’s umbrella organization.

Dr. Naseef Naeem
(research director)

Dr. Naseef Naeem is a Syrian-born German legal scholar on state and constitutional law in the Arab world. He studied law in Aleppo and Damascus and practiced as an attorney at law for several years before he came to Germany to write his inaugural dissertation on the Federal Constitution of Iraq with which he graduated in 2007. Subsequently, Naeem taught as an Assistant Professor at the University of Göttingen and as lecturer at the University of Berlin (FU), and was a board member of the German Society for Arab and Islamic Law. Intermittently, Naeem worked as a legal consultant for the Max Planck Institute for International Law. He previously served as the head of peace-building programme of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) for Yemen. In 2019, his comparative study on the ‘Foundations of the State in the Arab Republics’ was published in Germany. For more information, please visit: www.naseefnaeem.com

Abdallah Al-Ghdawi
(research associate)

Abdullah Al-Ghdawi is a Syrian writer and journalist, born in Kuwait in 1976. He pursued higher education in political science and media at Damascus University, graduating in 2005. Following his graduation, he commenced his career as a writer in political affairs for many Syrian newspapers before joining the Syrian News Agency, SANA, in the year 2006. Subsequently, Mr. Al-Ghdawi joined the Saudi Okaz newspaper in 2008, where he is serving in the political section until now. He has also been appointed as the director of Okaz's office in Turkey, where he is entrusted with the Syrian case in the newspaper. Over the years, he has been working on several matters as investigative journalist, such as Islamic groups in Syria, as well as the Kurds in northeastern Syria and Iraq. Mr. Al-Ghdawi has an extensive writing portfolio where he covers issues on civil-military relations and terrorism for reputable institutions such as the Newlines Institute and the Middle East Institute. Additionally, he founded the Syriafiles website, which specializes in military issues and hosts numerous articles on the Islamic State and the Syrian army.

Daniel Gerlach
(executive director)

Daniel Gerlach holds a Licence and a Magister Artium degree in history and Middle Eastern Studies from the universities of Paris IV Sorbonne and Hamburg, respectively. Following his studies, he worked as a journalist, documentary film-maker and publisher specializing in the Arab and Muslim world. Gerlach is a co-founder and director of the Candid Foundation and co-founder and editor in chief of the Middle East magazine zenith. In this capacity, international TV news broadcasters frequently solicit his expertise on the MENA region. He has given briefings, presentations or training courses at various academic and public institutions, such as the universities of Yale, Princeton, Oxford, King’s College (ICFR), Algiers III, the German Federal Foreign Office, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European External Action Service. In 2018, Gerlach was a Poynter Fellow of Yale University.