Yasmin Kayali

Co-founder Syrian refugee NGO

Region(s): Middle East
Country of focus: Lebanon, Syria


Current Occupation: Co-founder Syrian refugee NGO
Organization/Institution: Basmeh & Zeitooneh
Language: English, Arabic

Yasmin Kayali Sabra (@KayaliYasmin) is a co-founder of Basmeh & Zeitooneh (@basmehzeitooneh), a Lebanon-based NGO that provides aid as well as educational, therapeutic, and vocational services for Syrian refugees and their host communities. Now one of the largest refugee-led organizations in the world, Basmeh & Zeitooneh provides services in Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

A Syrian woman by origin, Yasmin brings her experience in philanthropy, communication, advocacy, and non-profit management to humanitarian work in support of displaced and refugee populations. 

Yasmin’s background in marketing and business administration served the operational functioning of Basmeh & Zeitooneh. Her fundraising efforts for the organization secured programmatic support from international donors. Her advocacy work engaged major governmental and non-governmental actors to bring attention to vulnerable Syrian refugee populations, with a particular focus on women and at-risk youths. Yasmin also served as Director for The Studio, a partner organization of Basmeh & Zeitooneh that trains refugee women in artisanal craft work and supports their development as independent entrepreneurs.

She stepped away from daily operations to study at the Harvard Kennedy School, graduating with a Master in Public Administration (MPA) in Spring, 2023.  In addition to being an Emirates Leadership Initiative fellow at the Center for Public Leadership she was president of the Harvard Arab Students Association, served on the leadership teams for a Women in Power Conference and Arab Conference at Harvard, spoke at the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference, and headed a Harvard Kennedy School student delegation to the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Yasmin served as a rapporteur at the 2020 and 2021 Brussels Conferences on Syria, representing Lebanese civil society actors in the ministerial meetings and delivering statements on their behalf. She was selected as a judge for the 2020 Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award. She won the 2020 Women Refugee Commission’s Voices of Courage Award and received the 2022 Leaders for Peace Award in recognition for her work.

Prior to founding Basmeh & Zeitooneh, Yasmin worked in marketing and was the founder of Jasmine Marketing Services, an Aleppo-based company that provided localized services to major international consumer goods companies.

Yasmin holds a BA in Political Science and Public Administration and an MBA with a marketing emphasis from the American University of Beirut. 

In Arabic “basmeh,” means smile and “zeitooneh,” means olive, a symbol of peace and nourishment.