My story is one of pain and joy, a journey of suffering and hope, that started even before I was  born. My parents and generations before them have had their share of trauma, and they tried their best to protect us children. They knew that trans-generational trauma can cause dysfunctional cycles that need to be broken.
I was born in Benghazi, Libya in 1973, the middle of twelve children. I lost one sibling when I was 3, he died shortly after birth. I did not get the chance to know him, but it must have been heartbreaking for my parents, the first of many wounds their hearts would sustain.
When I was 6, my 14-year-old sister went blind, and quickly died of brain cancer. She looked like an angel. I vividly remember her teachers bringing her report card home. She passed all her classes with an A. There was not a single dry eye in the room. My parents were devastated.
I made the decision that day to pursue medicine to become a source of healing.
Growing up the middle of these many siblings was a wonderful experience. I received lots of attention, affection, and guidance from both my parents and my brothers and sisters. Our collective trauma brought our family closer together. Trauma can make or break the family unit. I am grateful that we faced our loss and grief as a team. Although we struggled, we used our love for each other to keep us together and help us through difficult times.
Facing these troubles together made it a little easier to heal.
At age 11, I was nearly kidnapped on my way home from school. A man in his car called me over to ask for directions. I thought nothing of it and walked towards him. When I approached the car, I could see he was naked from the waist down. He grabbed my arm and tried to drag me into his car, but I was able to run away. The fear and anger I felt is something I will never forget, and as an adult it ignited my passion to protect children from trauma and violence.
The world can be unsafe, but we could and should always try to do our part in making every inter-personal space a place of safety for everyone we encounter.
I did extremely well in medical school, and wanted to become a brain surgeon, but surgery was not my cup of tea. Every time I entered the operating room, I ended up on the floor unconscious. I became an emergency room physician instead and really loved it. My heart, however, was always attracted to listening to people’s stories and trying to find the real source of their distress. I noticed that not all wounds are visible, and that it is the invisible wounds that are the most difficult to heal.
I might not be a heart surgeon, but mending broken hearts is my passion and true calling.
In 1998, while trying to visit a friend recovering from oral surgery, I found myself surrounded by 4 cars with 16 guns pointed at me. The country was restless in the nineties, and I almost lost my life for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I started to pay attention to the unspoken words, the tone of voice, and the body language of people living in fear. I was never drawn to politics, but that heavy energy was palpable all over the country.
A year after, my brother-in-law died of heart attack at age 45, leaving behind 5 beautiful children, the youngest was only 7.5-months-old. I was honored to help my sister care for them as I deeply loved my nieces and nephews, I worked with organizations caring for the orphans, but a few months later, my life was about to change dramatically and drastically forever.
In July of 1999, my father urged me to leave my home country immediately as I was about to be thrown in jail for engaging in humanitarian activities and taking care of the psychosocial needs of the widows and orphans. I found myself boarding a boat and crossing the Mediterranean Sea to start a life of a refugee. My application for seeking asylum in England was rejected because the immigration judge declared that he could see no visible scars on my body. He failed that day to see my invisible wounds. I was about to get deported when God intervened and I met my wife, a Libyan-American, and ended up in “The Land of Opportunity” only 5 short months after the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks.
Coming to America while she was recovering from her deep fresh wounds was a very difficult adjustment. Being a young, Arab, Muslim man, I faced similar Islamophobia, discrimination, and hate in the United States similar to what I have encountered earlier in the United Kingdom. I worked several odd jobs, and after passing my medical exams, I joined the psychiatry residency program at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. While there, I got accepted into the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma and started to become heavily involved in disaster relief and humanitarian work.
In 2009, immediately after relocating to Portland, Oregon, I was told that my newborn baby “will never make it”. It was a very difficult time for me and my wife before our baby pushed through and against all odds she survived. God is good.
I started to focus more on my small family, but again that was about to change.
The “Arab Spring” started in 2011. As the movement spread from Tunisia to Egypt, I knew it was only a matter of time before the fires would engulf Libya. I found myself going back and forth multiple times to Libya, Syria, and Burma, trying to comfort trauma survivors and show them that there is beauty despite the ugly circumstances, that there is light despite the darkness, and that it is because of their trauma they will gain resilience, perspective, strength, wisdom, growth, and beauty.
In 2014, I lost my nephew to an extremist group. I however refused to hate. I started to engage in the work of dialogue and restorative justice and started to write about the topic of combating hate.
Then my mom who was my best friend, died in 2016. I lost my voice the day I lost mom. Her heart could not take any more pain, she was heavily wounded, and my heart was shattered into a million pieces. I was lucky to be next to her when she died. I was heartbroken but needed to nurse my wounds and take care of myself because I have a wife and three daughters who needed me to be there, a safe father, who offers them an open door and unconditional love. They are growing up in a very dangerous world, they get called names because of the way they dress and get attacked because of the way they practice their religion. They have lived through a global pandemic, they are trying to navigate a confusing digital world and online schooling, and at the same time they are trying to build their social skills in a society that will not hesitate to mercilessly crush their souls.
It is my duty and absolute honor to be there for them, and to co-create with them a better world for all children.
I am considered a "global trauma expert", I have extensive experience and expertise working with survivors of all kinds of trauma with a soft spot in my heart for children and refugees.
I work on breaking family cycles of trauma through Untangled, a model of care that is used in many communities in the USA and abroad, and I am also an advocate for caring about the caregivers through my model of care The Wounded Healer.

Project Untangled | Breaking the cycle.

I am experienced in intra and inter-cultural and intra and inter-faith dialogue to combat hate, and have written chapters in the books (Islamophobia and Psychiatry) and (Antisemitism and Psychiatry).

I have lots of experience conducting play and art therapy with children, peacebuilding and non-violent communication, conflict resolution, reconciliation, and communal grief activities.
Camp Silah 2018

I help communities, organizations, and governments build trauma-informed systems, services, and resources.

I run camps and retreats for families, couples, youth, religious leaders, and frontline staff and caregivers through The Wounded Healer model.

I am the psychosocial consultant for the animated film Lamya’s Poem about the Syrian war.
Lamya's Poem - UPF (Unity Productions Foundation)

I am the creator of the card game Privilege, and the founder of the Daughter-Father Bonding YouTube channel and the Family Bonding Project.

And given my diverse background, I have had the pleasure of working on multiple projects globally and collaborating with the UN and WHO.