About me

Karam Shaar house in Aleppo

Photo of our house in Aelppo by my brother, Al-Hakam

I'm an Economist, with a BA from the University of Aleppo, an MSc from University Putra Malaysia, and a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington. I currently work as an independent consultant on Syria. I'm also a Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute. Prior to that, I worked as the Syria Program Manager at the Observatory of Economic and Political Networks, the Research Director of the Operations and Policy Center, a Senior Analyst at the New Zealand Treasury, and a Senior Lecturer on Middle East Politics at Massey University.

​I'm particularly drawn to understanding how we depart from rationality in our thinking and decision-making, and how this drift affects policy design. My favourite books are Nudge by Richard Thaler and Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

I've never felt like a stranger in my new home in New Zealand, where I sought asylum in 2016. I'm lucky to have two countries I can wholeheartedly call home—one in the Middle East and the other in Middle Earth.

Before coming to New Zealand, I lived in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. I grew up in a gorgeous house from the Ottoman era in Aleppo, Syria. As the uprising began in 2011, I took an active role in the civil movement against the Assad regime. Years later, our family home was destroyed, my family and I fled to five different countries, while al-Assad remains in business. Yet, I can't be more optimistic about Syria's future—change is inevitable. Perhaps that’s why Cast Away is, by far, my favourite film. ​

We see the world through the lens of our experiences​. I invite you to take a look through mine.