Alia Malek, who will be speaking in Orange County and Los Angeles this week, was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, though she also spent time in her parents’ native Damascus, Syria. She received a BA from the Johns Hopkins University and a Graduate Diploma from its School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Bologna, Italy.
After working in Milan, Italy, she returned to the U.S. to study law at Georgetown University. During her first summer in law school, she worked for an American NGO in the West Bank. Upon graduating from law school and after taking the bar, she returned to the West Bank to briefly volunteer with the British-run Negotiations Support Unit. There she witnessed the outbreak of the Second Intifada. She returned to begin her tenure as an Honors Attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in the pivotal month of October 2000. Though she had been hired the fall before under the Clinton/Reno administration, her two and a half year tenure at Justice was under Bush/Ashcroft.
On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, she resigned her post and moved to Beirut, Lebanon. There she assisted a Lebanese NGO set up a free legal aid office for asylum-seeking refugees coming through Lebanon from Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia. She also designed and taught Introduction to Human Rights at the Lebanese American University. In addition, she was asked to contribute regularly to the Daily Star, the English language daily that is published in conjunction with the Herald Tribune in the Middle East. She returned to the U.S. for the critical 2004 U.S. presidential elections, working for Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, where she ran the Election Protection campaigns in Georgia and most of Florida. She then returned to the West Bank with the Carter Center as part of the advance team for the observer mission to the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
She finally made her way to New York City in the fall of 2005 to pursue a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University, where she remained the following year on fellowship at the Columbia Journalism Review. She is now a freelance writer based in New York. A Country Called Amreeka (Free Press 2009) is her first book.