Dr Naseef Naeem is a German lawyer and expert on state law and constitutional matters in the Middle East.

Dr Naseef Naeem
Dr Naseef Naeem

Naseef Naeem was born in Syria in 1974 where he completed his degree in law and practised as a lawyer for several years.


In 2002, he was awarded a doctoral scholarship to study in Germany and gained his PhD in 2007 with his thesis on the new federal system in Iraq.


As an expert in state and constitutional law, he then went on to work for several institutions, including the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law.


He lectured at the University of Göttingen and co-edits the Jahrbuch für Verfassung, Recht und Staat im islamischen Kontext [Yearbook for Constitution, Law and State in an Islamic Context].


Since 2014 he has been leading the zenithCouncil consultancy network, together with Middle East specialist Daniel Gerlach, where he offers insight into topics regarding the states and laws of the Arab world.

I.  Professional Experience

II.  Academic Positions

III.  Teaching Activities
Lectures, Seminars

IV.  Further Roles
Positions of Responsibility, Training for the Judiciary,

Consultancy Work

V.  Tertiary Education and Academic Qualifications
In Germany and Syria

I.    Professional Experience


Political consultant, freelancer and expert specialising in fragile states in the Middle East, external research director at the zenithCouncil (zC): Research and Consulting Department at the Deutscher Levante Verlag, Berlin, since 01/12/2017. Current fields of work:


  • Syria: Responsible for facilitating the affairs of the Council of the Syrian Charter and initiator of the Syrian Charter (since 2017); the Council’s Facebook page can be found here: www.facebook.com/Souria11
  • Iraq: Cofounder of the Bagdad Policy Club (January 2019), initiator and facilitator of the Iraqi national dialogue (since 2020)


Head of the Peace Support Programme for Yemen, German development agency (GIZ), 01/01/2016–30/11/2017

  • Supporting local peace initiatives.
  • Supporting academic research into peace.
  • Improving social awareness of peace.
  • Encouraging participation of women in the peace process.
  • Strengthening conflict-sensitive communication in traditional and social me-dia.

Head of the Transitional Support Programme for Yemen (TSP), German development agency (GIZ), 01/03–31/12/2015

  • Constitutional adviser.
  • Restructuring the Presidential Office.
  • Improving human rights through national human rights institutes, working with the prison administration, running a workshop for police officers on the topic of de-escalation within the framework of the right to demonstrate.

Adviser, Transitional Support Programme for Yemen (TSP), German development agency (GIZ), 01/11/13–28/02/2015

Independent lawyer, Homs, Syria, 1999–2002

II.    Academic Positions  
Visiting researcher at the Courant Research Center (Education and Religion), University of Göttingen, 04/06–15/08/2013

Senior Research Fellow (Ass. Professor) at the Seminar for Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Göttingen, financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG), 01/08/2009–28/02/2013

Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and In-ternational Law (Sudan Team), Heidelberg, 16/04/2009–31/07/2009

Junior Research Assistant at the Law Faculty, University of Damascus, department: Public Law, field of teaching: Constitutional Law and Political Systems, 2001–2002




III.    Teaching Activities

1.    Lectures at the University of Göttingen

31 May 2010 (repeated on 29 May 2012), Integration of Islamic norms into the consti-tutions of Iraq and Egypt

Winter semester 2009–2010, Methods for conducting internet searches in Arabic on topics concerning Arabic and Islamic studies as well as law

2.    Seminare

University of Göttingen, Seminar for Arabic and Islamic Studies

Winter semester 2011–2012, The legal situation in Arab States: development or stagna-tion after the Arab Spring? Topics included:

  • Yemen: a problematic situation and decentralisation as a possible solution?
  • The constitutional and political process in Tunisia after the resignation of Bin Ali.
  • The constitutional development in Egypt after Mubarak.
  • The Jordanian constitutional system after constitutional reform.
  • The new Syrian constitution.

Summer semester 2010, Iraq: a never-ending constitutional and political process? Topics included:

  • The political parties in Iraq between 2005 and 2010.
  • The work carried out by the commission for constitutional review of the Iraqi Parliament since 2006.
  • National unity in Iraq under the Maliki government.
  • Turkish-Iraqi political relations.
  • The new Iraqi constitution: discussions within the framework of constitu-tional law and constitutional policy.

Summer semester 2009, Religious aspects in the constitutions of the Arab states: defini-tion, analysis and influence. Topics included:

  • The Egyptian high administrative court’s decision on the niqab question: analysis on the basis of the freedom to choose one’s clothing.
  • Transsexuality in Egypt.
  • Does the decision taken by the Egyptian high administrative court regarding the administrative recognition of the right for Christians who have converted to Islam to revert to Christianity conform with the constitution?
  • The role of Islam in the constitutions of the Arab republics.
  • The right to choose one’s personal status as part of personal and family law according to Article 41 of the Iraqi constitution.


Freie Universität Berlin

Summer semester 2012, Islam and law in Germany: intercultural challenges. Topics included:

  • The dowry according to Islamic law and the German civil law.
  • Private divorce according to Islamic law in cases brought before German courts.
  • Testamentary disposition according to Islamic law and in German inheritance law.
  • Problems regarding dispute settlement through an Islamic “justice of the peace”.
  • Relevance of Middle Eastern concepts of marriage for the German penal code.
  • The right to refuse to testify for someone who was married in accordance with Islamic rite.

Summer semester 2011, Constitution, law and state in an Islamic context. Topics included:

  • Islamic leaders before an international tribunal: the case of Sudanese presi-dent Al-Bashir.
  • Constitutional change in Turkey.
  • Non-registered marriage in Arab states: social causes and legal consequences in Egypt.
  • The Libyan revolutionary leader facing an international tribunal: considera-tions according to Islamic and international law.

Summer semester 2010, The current constitutional problems of Islamic states. Topics included:

  • Successive political and constitutional crises in Kuwait since 2006.
  • A legal perspective on the issue of the Kurds in Turkey: is there any relevant legal basis for a solution according to the current constitution?
  • The legal status of the Coptic minority in Egypt: is a peaceful coexistence possible on the basis of the current constitution?
  • The permanent conflict between northern and southern Yemen: is there any possibility for a constitutional solution?
  • Pakistan and the implementation of Islamic law in some regions on the bor-der with Afghanistan: a farewell to the liberal constitutional state?

Winter semester 2009–2010, The relevance of Sharia in western countries. Topics included:

  • Tackling the issue of headscarves in western states looking at case studies in Germany, France and Switzerland.
  • Dealing with so called “honour killing” in western states.
  • Discussion concerning laicism in France under special consideration of Islam based on the banning of headscarves at state schools.
  • Discussion about a greater recognition of Sharia law: a comparison between England and Germany.
  • The institutionalisation of Islam in Austria – a role model for Germany.

Summer semester 2009, The system of fundamental rights in the constitutions of Islamic countries. Topics included:

  • The understanding of fundamental rights in Egypt with regard to religious minorities, e.g. the controversy concerning the issuing of personal documents for Baha’i.
  • Dealing with transsexuality in Egypt: free will versus state limitation.
  • Charged relationships in the Afghan constitution: an analysis of the for-mation process.
  • The Egyptian administrative court’s ruling on apostasy against Islam in 2008.
  • Dealing with transsexuality in Iran: free will versus state limitation. 
  • The possibility of establishing civil marriage in Lebanon.
  • Charged relationships between state, religion and freedom in the Afghan constitution.
  • The question of headscarves in Turkey’s public system.

Winter semester 2008–2009, The organisation of the state in Islamic countries: more democracy for more stability in the Middle East? Topics included:

  • The democratic federal constitution of Iraq: a successful balance of different social interests?
  • The state system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: is there any possibility for reform?
  • The Sudanese transitional constitution from 2005 – a guarantee for future peace in multiethnic Sudan.
  • The 2007 constitutional changes in Egypt: stability versus democracy?
  • Procedures to forbid the Turkish AKP: could the basis of the procedures be found in constitutional law or is this a constitutional reckoning?
  • The Doha agreement: could a solution to the Lebanese constitutional crisis lie in a revision of the constitutional state?


3.    Supervised Works

The fundamental rights in the Association Agreement between the EU and Syria

Classification of three Iraqi NGOs in different civil society concepts according to their websites

Egyptian bloggers’ political ideas about a new Egypt after Mubarak

Revolt or revolution? An analysis of developments in Egypt – from the national uprising to the enactment of the transitional constitution




IV.    Further Roles

1.    Positions of Responsibility

Fellow at the Candid Foundation, since 2020

Managing board member of the Association for Arabic and Islamic Law (GAIR), Leipzig, Germany, responsible for the secretariat, first elected October 2011–2015

Founding member of the Berlin Judiciary Working Group for State and Islam in Germany (BASID), 2010–2013

2.    Training for the Judiciary

Judicial training for judges in Germany, topic: Judiciary and Islam, judicial examination offices of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, 17 December 2012

Training session for prison officers, topic: Intercultural competence: how to treat Mus-lim inmates, 28 February 2012

3.    Consultancy Work


Consultant for the German development agency (GIZ), topic: Legal principles guiding the work of Islamic charity organisations: analysis of donor organisations from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and the multilateral Organisations IsDB, OFID, AMF and AGFUND, June 2020

Court expert in Germany on the law in Arab states:

  • Iraqi inheritance law, 2018
  • Right of custody, contact and access (to children) in the sheikdom of Sharjah (United Arab Emirates), 2011–2012

Expert briefing at the Office of the Federal Chancellor, topic: The situation in Syria, October 2017

Invited to attend the British and French Foreign Ministries on multiple occasions to consult and offer expert opinion on the situation in Syria, since 2015 (ongoing)

Expert for the European Center for Kurdish Studies (EZKS), topic: Decentralised ad-ministration in Syria, Berlin, March–June 2013

“The hot seat”, German Islam Conference for Young People, Federal Ministry of the Interior, 9 March 2013

Hearing at the Berlin House of Representatives (commission for labour, migration), top-ic: Islamic peace arbitrator (with a written statement in German), 31 May 2012,



V.    Tertiary Education and Academic Qualifications

1.    In Germany

Postdoctoral project, Law Faculty, University of Göttingen, topic: Main features of the state design of Arab Republics in comparison: contextualisation of modern constitution-al development, 2009–2013

PhD degree, Law Faculty, University of Hannover, 2002–2007, topic: The new federal system in Iraq: legal comparative research, certificate: Doctor of Laws, degree: cum laude (Good), 20 June 2007

2.    In Syria

Training as a lawyer at the Syrian law society, Homs, 1997–1999, final examination: admission to practise law

Diploma of financial and administrative sciences & master’s degree in public law, Law Faculty, University of Damascus, degree: Very Good, 1998–1999, topic: Inheritance tax in Syria
Diploma in public law, Law Faculty, University of Damascus, degree: Good, 1996–1998, topic: The basis of administrative law: a comparison between the French origin and the socialist modernity

Bachelor of law, Law Faculty, University of Aleppo, degree: Good, 1992–1996