Officers and Executive Committee

(elected/re-elected at the B-YS AGM, 19 June 2020)

Chair: James Firebrace

James graduated from Cambridge University with an MA in Social and Political Science, and later gained an MSc with distinction at the London Business School.  His early career focused on the development challenges of the poorest countries of the Middle East and Sahelian Africa. He was Director of the CIIR (now Progressio) Programme in Yemen and Somalia from 1976 to 1980, and throughout the 1980s was War on Want Programme Director for the Middle East and the Sahel. A five year spell as Director General of Consumers International in the early 1990s was followed by a period as Senior Consultant at Gemini Consulting.  This led to extensive consulting and advisory work initially in the energy sector addressing its sustainability challenges, not least climate change. James set up James Firebrace Associates Ltd (JFA) in 1998, with a focus on the analysis and management of the interconnected strategic issues of water, economic revitalisation, sustainable livelihoods and conflict prevention. This has taken him back to Yemen where since 2005 JFA has been active in a number of capacities. These have included Senior Adviser on Social and Environmental Issues to YLNG during the construction and compensation phase, and with the UN designing a coastal livelihoods programme involving pilots on the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Most recently James has coordinated the UK-funded research programme assessing and proposing solutions for the future of the city of Taiz, facing extreme water scarcity, severe constraints on industrial investment and job creation, and conflict with its hinterland. This latter work raises issues fundamental to the future wellbeing of Yemen, and is summarised in Rebuilding Yemen: Political, Economic and Social Challenges (Gerlach, 2015).

Vice-Chair: Taher Ali Qassim MBE

Taher was born and grew up in Yemen and studied in Sweden and the UK. He is currently a full time Public Health Neighbourhood Manager with Liverpool Primary Care Trust and has been involved in community development locally, regionally and internationally over the last 25 years. Part of this work was in different countries in the Middle East and Africa. Taher was one of the founders of the Liverpool Arabic Centre and has been involved as a trustee since 1995. He is also the Chair of the Liverpool Black and other Racial Minorities (BRM) Network, Liverpool BRM Education sub-group, Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival (LAAF) and a Board member of the Bluecoat Arts Centre.



Secretary Louise Hosking

Louise Hosking graduated from the University of Durham with a BA in Modern Arabic in the late 1970s and subsequently obtained an MA in Arts Policy and Management from Birkbeck College.  She has had a long career working with organisations connected with the Arab and Muslim worlds and from 2006 until its closure in 2019 she was Executive Officer of the London Middle East Institute at SOAS, an institute established to support academic research on the Middle East and foster scholarly and public interest in the MENA region. While at LMEI she worked closely with the British Yemeni Society, for example on the delivery of its academic conference ‘Yemen: Challenges for the Future’ academic conference in 2013 and the publication in 2014 of ‘Why Yemen Matters’, edited by Helen Lackner.  Louise lived and worked in Oman in the mid 1990s and was a Trustee of the Anglo-Omani Society from 2013 to 2019.  She is currently a member of the Supervisory Board of the British-Egyptian Society. Contact:


Membership Secretary and Treasurer: Dr. Robert Wilson OBE

Robert’s first stay in Yemen began in 1972 when, as a student of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Cambridge, he took a year out from his university studies to teach English and learn spoken Arabic in the small mountain town of Hajjah. After finishing his BA, he started work on a PhD on the same area of north-west Yemen, and shortly thereafter secured a five-year contract position as assistant lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies. Between terms he made a number of extended visits to Yemen, travelling widely in the western mountains and central highlands on foot, by donkey, or on a motorbike. At the end of his teaching contract, he was offered a position in the Foreign Office’s Research Department, to work on Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. By the time he actually started his work there, things had moved on, and for much of his 32-year career with the FCO he was occupied mainly with Libya and Iraq (including postings in both countries). Other postings took him and his family to the UAE and Bahrain. Finally, in 2012, he was offered a posting to the British Embassy in Sanaʿa where he spent two years, until his retirement from the FCO in 2014. The fruits of his thesis and subsequent research were published in his Gazetteer of Historical North-West Yemen (Georg Olms, 1989). Robert served as chairman of the Society for a three-year term during 2015–18.

Robert deals with membership enquiries and applications. Contact:

Events SecretaryIbrahim Zanta

Ordinary Members

Julian Lush

Cambridge Law degree. Joined Shell Group in 1958; studied Arabic at MECAS in Lebanon. Posted to Sudan, then to Shell’s new oil exploration venture in Oman as desert Liaison Representative for 3 years 1961–63. Back in Shell London joined the embryonic natural gas trading organisation; inducted into the gas business in southern USA; posted to New Zealand to sell Maui offshore gas; then 3 years as Shell’s Natural Gas Representative in Japan where Shell LNG from Brunei was being imported by public utilities. Returning to Arabia, negotiated Shell involvement in a natural gas liquids joint venture in Abu Dhabi; then appointed Shell Representative in Abu Dhabi for 5 years 1981–86. Back in London, looked after Shell business in countries in francophone Africa. Finally appointed Shell Representative in Sana’a, YAR. Retired from Shell in 1990. Post retirement, worked with archaeologists in the UAE, was secretary of the London Beekeepers Association and became involved in setting up the British–Yemeni Society in 1992–93 as its first secretary.

Dr. Noel Brehony CMG

Honorary B-YS Vie President Noel Brehony is a former diplomat. He is one of the longest-serving chairmen of the British–Yemeni Society, having spent two terms in the post of BYS chairman for a total of six years. Currently he is chair of the trustees of the International Association for the Study of Arabia (IASA). He is also chairman of Menas Associates and the author of a book on the politics and history of South Yemen entitled Yemen Divided: The Story of a Failed State in South Arabia (I.B. Tauris, 2011 & 2013). Noel was a Research Associate at the London Middle East Institute at SOAS from 2008 to 2011 and a member of its Advisory Council until 2019. He is also past President of the British Society for Middle East Studies and past chairman of the Middle East Association and the Council for British Research in the Levant. He has edited a volume on Hadhramaut under the title: Hadhramaut and its Diaspora: Yemeni Politics, Identity and Migration (I.B. Tauris, 2017) and co-edited British-Egyptian Relations from Suez to the Present Day (Saqi & LMEI, 2007) and Rebuilding Yemen: Political, Economic and Social Challenges (Gerlach, 2015). 

Dirhem Abdo Saeed

Honorary B-YS Vice President Mr. Dirhem Abdo Saeed has over 30 years’ commercial experience. He is currently the Vice Chairman of Hayel Saeed Anam Group, Managing Director of Longulf Trading (UK) Ltd, the Chairman of Cepac Ltd, and a Board member of the Tadhamon International Islamic Bank. He was previously General Manager of the Yemen Company for Industry & Commerce, and General Manager of the National Food & Dairy Industry. Mr. Dirhem Saeed holds an MBA from Oklahoma City University, USA and a Finance & Accounting degree from Cairo University, Egypt.


Marwa Baabbad

Marwa Baabbad is the Project Manager for Yemen with ORG’s Strategic Peacebuilding Programme. She is a Gender, Peace and Security and youth political inclusion expert.She has previously worked as a development professional with Saferworld in Yemen. During that time, she led on WPS and youth projects in Yemen, Egypt, and Libya. Baabbad was also a member of the Youth Consultative Group for the UNDP’s 2016 Arab Human Development Report. Her current research focuses on the role of women and youth in conflict, peacebuilding, and recovery within communities in Yemen.




Dr. Sarah Clowry

Dr. Sarah Clowry is a Fellow at the Institute of Political Science, Tuebingen University. Her research explores international peacemaking in Yemen and Syria. She was awarded her PhD at the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University, in 2021 where she was funded by an Economic and Social Research Council studentship. Prior to her PhD, Sarah worked in the field of international affairs, spending two years based in Nablus, Palestine before returning to the UK to manage global grants programmes for the British Council. She also holds a First Class BA (Hons.) from the University of Oxford and an MA with Distinction from Durham University. 



Dr. Hamdan Dammag

Hamdan DammagDr Hamdan Dammag is a prize-winning novelist, poet and researcher, with several publications. In 2005 he received his PhD in computer science from the University of Reading, and since then he worked as an academic, researcher, journalist, translator, human rights activist and political analyst. He has a diverse research and writing interests, ranging from the design of safety controlled systems to Arabic literature and criticism. He worked as a managing editor of Yemen Times newspaper (2005 to 2007) and in 2008 he was appointed as a Vice President of the Yemeni Center for Studies and Research (YCSR) in Sana’a. He is also the editor-in-chief of Ghaiman literature journal, the executive director of Tamadon for Media and Cultural Development (UK), and the Vice President of the International League for Peace and Human Rights (ILPHR) – Geneva. Born in Ibb, he is the son of renowned Yemeni novelist Zayd Mutee Dammaj. His recent books include: “The Agony of Silence: A Collection from al-Baradouni's Poems” (Al Owais Cultural Foundation publications, Dubai, UAE, September 2018), “The Gemstone of Attakkar Mountain” (a prize-winning novel, Arab Creativity Prize, Sharja, UAE, 2015) and “No One Was But Me!”(a poetry collection, Arwiqah for Studies and Publication, Cairo, Egypt, 2013).

Martin Jerrett

Martin Jerrett was United Nations senior political affairs officer for two years, advising both Jamal Benomar and later, his successor, Ismail Ould Chaikh Ahmed, on southern Yemen. He has had an interest in Yemen since 2008, when he was involved in a tribal mapping project. Later he worked for the Danish Demining Group, focused on the conflict areas of Abyan and Lahij. Martin worked for five years as an adviser with the Ministry of Defence, based initially in Baghdad from 2003 before moving to CentCom in Qatar. He learned his Arabic at Birzeit University in Palestine where he visits regularly to indulge his interests in archaeology and hill walking.



James Spencer

James read Arabic with Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at university, spending his year abroad in Yemen. He was lucky enough to work across the Middle East during his career, but there's always been something fascinating about Yemen...

Nawal Al-Maghafi

Award winning BBC Special Correspondent Nawal Al-Maghafi has been reporting on the Middle East since 2012. Over the past six years, she has been one of the few journalists conducting firsthand reporting of the ongoing conflict in Yemen; travelling extensively throughout the country. Her investigation into a 2015 attack on a Yemeni funeral — the deadliest of the conflict so far — provided key evidence in the case against weapons sales to Saudi Arabia by the US and UK. Her most recent documentary, Iraq’s Secret Sex Trade is nominated for two Emmy’s this year, the film investigates Shia clerics at some of Iraq's holiest shrines, Nawal reveals the exploitation of vulnerable girls and young women, tricked into 'pleasure marriage’, a practice in which clerics make money from helping men who want sex with very young girls. Secret filming in the film reveals a cleric conducting a 'pleasure marriage' with a girl he believed to be only 13. She has also travelled across the Middle East to investigate how Mass Surveillance technology sold by BAE systems was being used by repressive Gulf states to monitor and stifle dissent by local human rights activists, and recently returned from Yemen where she has been filming the impact Covid 19 has had on a country already battling the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Thanos Petouris

Thanos Thanos Petouris has been researching the nationalist, anti-colonial movement in South Arabia and the subsequent decolonisation process from British rule in the years 1937-67. His focus is to explain the emergence of national identities during periods of decolonisation, by using South Yemen as the case study. What makes this paradigm particularly relevant, is the ways in which South Yemeni identity is being employed in current Yemeni affairs as a way of politicising the grievances of the Southern Movement.

Thanos has been providing advice to the FCO and DfID on Yemen since 2010, and used to be a regular contributor to the Yemen Forum at Chatham House. He comments on Yemen reguralry in the media (BBC TV & Radio, Al Jazeera, Monocle etc). He has given lectures at the Universities of London (SOAS & Birkbeck), Harvard, Athens, and Exeter, and was the convenor of the “Yemen: Challenges for the Future” conference at SOAS in 2013. 

Thanos has been visiting Yemen regularly since 2005, conditions on the ground permitting. He has lived in Yemen for almost three years, and apart from doing academic research, he has worked as an English teacher, and NGO volunteer in Aden. This allowed him to travel to almost every part of the country. 


Honorary Vice-Presidents

Dr. Abullah Abdul Wali Nasher

Dirhem Abdo Saeed

Dr. Noel Brehony CMG

Honorary Journal Editor

Thanos Petouris


Honorary Members

Dr. Abdulaziz Ali al-Qu'aiti

Robin Heber Percy