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M. Yaser Tabbara is a principal of Zarzour, Khalil, & Tabbara LLC.
Tabbara was born in Chicago but grew up in Damascus, Syria. He moved to the United States in 1993 where he completed his undergraduate studies in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. During his undergraduate years, Tabbara produced a full length feature film titled Adrift in the Heartland. This independent production dealt with the struggles of an Arab-American woman who migrates to the United States from her homeland of Palestine. It premiered at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Tabbara then went on to finish his Juris Doctor degree from the DePaul University College of Law.
While in law school, Tabbara was the research assistant to Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, International Law Scholar and Noble Peace Prize Nominee. As a research assistant, he wrote and edited several pieces on international human rights law and international criminal law in Arabic and English. He then went on to intern for the Chicago office of the public defender and then the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC) where, upon his graduation, he initiated the Post 9/11 Immigrant Legal Rights Project where he provided legal representation, outreach and education on immigration law and civil liberties to the Chicago land Muslim and Arab communities.
Upon his departure from MIHRC, Tabbara spent the next year traveling throughout Central America, Europe and the Middle East where he attended several conferences on international law and human rights and lived in several places with the purpose of attaining an international perspective on civil and human rights as well as Islam-West relations.
Tabbara then coordinated the Legal Education Reform Project in Iraq where he worked with three main Iraqi universities on updating legal curriculums, rebuilding college of law facilities, and introducing legal clinical education.
Upon his return to the US Tabbara was appalled by the growing prejudice and hatred against Muslims in the years since 9/11. Motivated by the drive to do things differently, Tabbara joined forces with long-time friend, and Chicago Writer, Activist, Ahmed Rehab with a resolve to implement a precise vision for “a different kind of organization.” Together, they helped launch a new era for a Chicago office of CAIR which had been struggling for the two years since its incorporation in 2002. Under their stewardship and in a little over a year, the one-man franchise blossomed into a vibrant full-blown institution that continues to foster cutting-edge professional activism. Tabbara served as the executive director of CAIR Chicago until stepping down and deciding to relocate to Damascus, Syria.
Again, with the profound interest in bridging the divide between his two seemingly contradicting identities, Tabbara accepted a teaching position at the University of Kalamoon in Damascus, Syria throughout the following year where he taught subjects related to International Law and International Relations at the college of International Relations and Diplomacy.
A writer and lecturer on contemporary social issues including civil rights, media relations, and Islam-West relations, Tabbara has lectured at various University campuses.
Tabbara comments as a guest on various local TV and cable news programs, as well as on radio stations. He has been interviewed numerous times by news publications.
Tabbara serves as board member of the Arab-American Bar Association, CAIR Chicago, and the Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America. Previously, he served as president of the Syrian-American Relations Council, and on the boards of the Muslim Bar Association and the Arab-American Advisory Council to the Mayor of the City of Chicago. He was also a Saturday night host for a local Radio Program on Chicago’s AM dial (1450AM, 6-7pm).
Tabbara has received several awards for his academic excellence and community service, among which is a State of Illinois Proclamation presented by Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter. He was recently named a Next Generation fellow at Columbia University’s American Assembly.
Tabbara is an avid Oud player; his hobbies include yoga, international music, swimming, and backpacking. He resides in Chicago, IL.