Our Staff

Sarah Holewinski | Executive Director

Sarah Holewinski is executive director of Center for Civilians in Conflict and leads the organization’s advocacy efforts to make warring parties more responsible for civilian protection and harm. Holewinski is a frequent commentator on civilian protection issues in publications counting The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and Washington Post. Prior to joining the Center, Holewinski was a member of the White House AIDS Policy team and co-founded the firm, West Wing Writers. She also consulted for Human Rights Watch in New York and The Clinton Foundation in Rwanda. Holewinski holds a BA in Political Philosophy from Georgetown University and a MA in Security Policy from Columbia University. She is a Senior Fellow with Truman National Security Project, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and named in the top 100 Most Influential People in Armed Violence Reduction by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). For Sarah's full bio click here.


Marla Keenan is managing director at Center for Civilians in Conflict and is a subject matter expert on civilian harm mitigation, civilian casualty tracking mechanisms and consequence management of civilian casualties.  Marla has trained military officers at several advanced schools and staff colleges. In addition to her work with the military, Marla helps shape the Center’s programs in conflict zones and oversees operational aspects of the organization. Since joining the organization in October 2005, she has managed programs and research in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Lebanon, Mali, Israel, Jordan, Nepal, Georgia and the Central African Republic. Prior to joining the Center, Marla was an Edward Rawson Fellow at Citizens for Global Solutions, working in US global engagement on issues as varied as the conflict in Darfur to Avian Influenza. A former management consultant, Marla has held senior communications and marketing positions with a range of private sector organizations. She holds a Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management with a concentration in policy analysis and international policy from the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy & Management at Carnegie Mellon University and earned her Bachelors degree in Business Administration from the University of Arizona.

Sahr MuhammedAlly | senior legal and amends advisor

Sahr joined the Center as senior legal and amends advisor where she leads the programatic work on post-harm amends and assistance to conflict victims and provides legal advice on the organization's work. Sahr has worked for over a decade on issues of human rights, armed conflict, and counterterrorism. She has conducted fact-finding research in Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Syria and authored several reports. Prior to joining the Center, Sahr was a consultant with Human Rights Watch working on South Asia and Southeast Asia and was also awarded the Alan R. Finberg Fellowship in 2004. From 2007-2009 Sahr was a Senior Associate at Human Rights First and did research and advocacy on US counterterrorism practices and policies.Sahr practiced law in New York with Gibbons PC and was a consultant with the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights in China, and the International Rescue Committee. Sahr graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received her law degree cum laude from Brooklyn Law School.

LIZ LUCAS Baker | Chief Communications Officer

Liz joined our team as chief communications officer, bringing a strong humanitarian background to the team. She spent the previous six years with Oxfam America, leading the organization's media and communications work on disasters and conflicts as the humanitarian press officer. Frequently deployed to the field, Liz's work focused on humanitarian access and the protection of civilians in conflict zones including Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Prior to her role as press officer, she led Oxfam communications in Ethiopia, based in Addis Ababa. Liz holds a BA in English from Haverford College.


Valerie is the Center's development officer.  She spent the previous four years with Human Rights Watch, where she conducted advocacy with the U.S. government on a range of human rights issues and worked on research and reports focused on refugees and displaced persons.  Prior to this, Valerie worked for two years on women’s empowerment and community development projects while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.  She is proficient in Uzbek and speaks basic Russian, Tajik, and Spanish. Valerie holds a BA from Asbury College and did her masters studies at American University’s School of International Service, where she focused on ethics, peace, and global affairs.

EMILY ERFANI | Office Manager

Emily brings years of experience in non-profit administration. She supported CARE USA's Policy and Advocacy efforts, including a temporary assignment in Afghanistan to write a series of policy briefs focused on the health and legal rights of women and girls. Emily speaks French and holds a BA in Political Science from the University of the Pacific.


Dr. Silvia Chiarelli brings extensive experience in conducting research in conflict and post-conflict countries.  Silvia’s previous research focused on how countries with a Muslim tradition can transition to democracy and peace through improved security and governance, exploring the interaction of politics and religion.   She has both authored and edited diverse works on topics related to civilians in conflict and transition, including a case study on the women of Khartoum, Sudan and a collection of stories from the Italian community in Sudan, among other academic works.  Prior to joining the Center, Silvia was a researcher for the Italian Embassies in Sudan, Nigeria and Algeria, as well as the French Institute of Research in Zaria, Nigeria.  Silvia holds a B.A. and M.A. in Foreign Languages and Linguistics from the University of Verona and also studied at the University of Tours, Malta and at the Center for African Studies at the University of Bordeaux.  She earned her PhD in Political Studies from the University of Milan.  She is based in Bamako, Mali.

Nicolette Boehland | Harvard Law Fellow

Nicolette, a Harvard Law Fellow, will be at the Center from 2013 - 2014. Before attending Harvard Law, Nicolette was a political intern at the US Embassy in Belgium; a senior associate in the legal and policy division of Human Rights Watch; a Fulbright Fellow in Jordan, where she worked with CARE International on coordinating resources for Iraqi refugees; and a program manager for Save the Children in the West Bank and Gaza. While at Harvard Law, Nicolette documented the torture and mistreatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and researched civilian perspectives on involvement and distinction in Libya as a legal intern at the Center. As a member of Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic, she researched and co-authored reports on the ban against cluster munitions and on civilian harm from Qaddafi's abandoned weapons. She received her B.A. in international affairs and English literature from Lewis & Clark College and her law degree, cum laude, from Harvard Law School. 

Hadi Marifat |  Afghanistan Analyst

Hadi was born in Afghanistan and studied Politics and International Relations in the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in the UK. He did his Masters degree in Peace and Conflict Studies with the International Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, in The Netherlands. Hadi has worked as a director of the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization, researcher with Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Associate with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Regional Election Coordinator with the Afghanistan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) and advisor with the Save Children Alliance in Afghanistan.