Our Founders

Daniel Gerlach

Daniel Gerlach holds an M.A. and a Licence degree in History and Middle Eastern studies from the universities of Hamburg and Paris IV Sorbonne. He is a journalist, writer and political analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a current research focus on Syria and Iraq. In addition to his work as CANDID’s executive director, he ist the editor-in-chief of the Middle East magazine zenith. Daniel has written and directed numerous documentary films on the Middle East and was recognized with the National German Television Award in 2013. He is frequently solicited by media outlets as an expert on Middle Eastern and North African affairs. Among his recent publications are a reference book on Germany and the Arab world and a biographical dictionary of the Middle East for the German Federal Agency of Civic Education (with C. H. Meier) and a book about the war for Syria (Herrschaft über Syrien, Hamburg 2015).

Asiem El Difraoui

Dr Asiem El Difraoui is a political scientist, economist and documentary film director. He is, currently, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Media and Communication Policy Berlin. From 2010 to October 2012 he was a Research Associate at the Middle East and Africa research division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. Previously, he was a lecturer at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques »Sciences Po« paris (from 2004 to 2010) where he obtained his doctorate. Until 2008 he also worked as editor in chief of IP Productions, a Paris-based television news agency specialized on the Middle East and Arab World. His dissertation »Al-Qaida par l’image – La prophétie du martyre« (The Jihad of Images – Al-Qaeda’s Prophecy of Martyrdom) became an acclaimed book and is currently being translated into English and German.  Asiem received his BA Honours degree in Economics and Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of London and had previously studied at the American University in Cairo. He received numerous international awards for his documentaries and reportages.  Asiem has extensively published on media and their role as a political infrastructure during the upheavals in the Arab region as well as on Jihadist propaganda, de-radicalisation and prevention. As a country analyst he is specialized on Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia the Gulf Emirates, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. Asiem's book »Ein Neues Ägypten? Eine Reise durch ein Land im Aufruhr - A New Egypt? A Journey Through a Country in Turmoil« was released by Edition Körber in November 2013.


Katja Brinkmann (1969-2017)

Katja Brinkmann studied Arabic and German language and literature at the Free University of Berlin and spent a year at Cairo University. In 1998, she graduated on the commentary of the Baghdadi Hanbali scholar Ibn al-Anbari on »Al-Mu’allaqa«-poem of the pre-Islamic poet ‘Antara bin Shaddad.
Working a decade as an experienced free-lanced guide and program development advisor in the field of academic tourism she stomped cities and countryside of most Eastern Arab countries. Today you can read her guidebook on Syria, published in March 2011 at Trescher, as an ode to a country in agony.
Since 2010, she worked on a research project on the patterns of argumentation and rhetorical devices of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 1350), a Hanbali jurist whose writings are quoted as a reference by modern Salafi and Jihadist ideologists. Her doctoral thesis was accepted cum laude by the Free University of Berlin in 2016. With Candid Foundation, she developed and supervised several new projects. On September 1st, Katja passed away and will be remembered as a dear friend, devoted colleague and fellow co-founder.


Marcel Mettelsiefen

Marcel Mettelsiefen is a photojournalist, documentary filmmaker and co-publisher of zenith Magazine. He has worked for international news agencies in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti. In 2004 he began studying medicine in Berlin. In 2009, he interrupted his studies to go to Afghanistan to work on several photo reportage projects. His photos from that time appear in a book about the controversial airstrike on Kunduz which killed over 100 civilians. Marcel has been covering the Arab spring and started going to Syria in April 2011. Since then he has returned to the war-torn country more than a dozen times. His reports from Syria have aired on ARD, ZDF, Channel4, CNN, Al Jazeera and Canal+.
His film »The agony of Aleppo’s children« was awarded TV News Story of the Year by the London Foreign Press Association in 2013 and nominated for the Rory Peck Award. He received the Hanns-Joachim-Friedrichs-Preis for outstanding journalism and the Cinema for Peace Award in 2014, as well as two International Emmy Awards and prizes from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). In 2017, Marcel's Syria documentary "Watani" was nominated for the Academy Awards (Oscars) in the category documentary short.


Moritz Behrendt

Moritz Behrendt works as a journalist for print and radio. He studied history and journalism in Hamburg, Dakar and Beirut. He was among the founders of zenith in 1999 and works for the magazine ever since. He writes for major german-language newspapers like Süddeutsche Zeitung and Neue Zürcher Zeitung and since 2006 he works frequently for the public-service radio stations Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandradio Kultur. One of his main points of interest is how collective and personal memory shape the way societies in the Middle East and in Africa look at the future. Without understanding the past, without deciphering the importance of memory there can be no solutions for todays problems. In this sense Moritz has also helped to launch the interdisciplinary project Muwajahat al-Madi – confronted past« in Egypt and Tunisia.

Christian Meier

Christian H. Meier is a German journalist and one of the founders of zenith Magazine, where he continued to work with Daniel Gerlach as editor-in-chief before he came the Middle East Desk editor of the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He holds a Magister Artium in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Hamburg. Among Christian’s main areas of specialisation are the development of Islamic thought, contemporary Egypt, and Christian communities in the Middle East. In his work, he aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Middle East’s complexities among the German public. As regards himself, he still grabbles with the question of why Mulukhiyah is so popular in Egyptian cuisine.

Belabbes Benkredda

Belabbes Benkredda is an award-winning social innovator, open debate advocate and the founder of the Munathara Initiative, a fledging online and television debate forum for Arab youth. He studied International Relations, Philosophy of Law and Middle East Politics, and his career took him to the German Foreign Office, the League of Arab States and the Council for Arab-British Understanding. Since moving to Dubai in 2005, he’s been a government consultant specialized on public diplomacy in the Arab world, a frequent television commentator, and op-ed columnist for the region’s largest English daily. Inspired by the communicative action theory he was taught as an undergraduate philosophy student in Frankfurt, Belabbes founded the Dubai Debates in January 2011 with the vision to crowd-source new opinion leaders online. After a crackdown on NGOs in 2012 he indefinitely suspended Dubai Debates and created the Munathara Initiative as a successor organization in Tunis. In 2013, he was recognized in Washington DC with the prestigious Democracy Award for his work in fostering citizen participation in the Arab public sphere. In 2016, Belabbes became a fellow of the Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program at the university of Yale.