About us


The Syrian Institute for Progress (SIP) was founded in Southern California in May 2012 as a tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)(3) organization (tax ID 45-5593363).  We are dedicated to supporting, advancing, and protecting the civil and human rights of all people in Syria by recognizing the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all persons now living or previously residing within the borders of Syria, so that in law and practice, every life is valued and human integrity and development at every level is advanced.

Through education, communication and understanding, SIP is committed to liaise understanding and a common direction and interest between Syrian and American societies and their various economic, civil, educational, and social establishments. SIP aspires to be respected as a forefront establishment which promotes international respect and cooperation to establish democracy and justice in Syria.

Executive Board

Saed Moujtahed
Susan Baaj
Sherry Cooper
Outreach Chair
Dr. Zeid Kayali
Government Relations Director
Lawrence Hoodack
Hollie McKay
Director of Media and Outreach

Executive Board Bios

Saed Moujtahed, President
Saed Moujtahed is an electrical engineer, and founder of Apex Consulting, an engineering consulting firm.

He is also an activist who has put the Arab-American community on the American political map by volunteering his time to empower Arab-Americans to exercise and protect their rights in the U.S. and to have a strong political voice. He has worked tirelessly with Congress to defend the rights of the Arab and Muslim American communities against stereotypes and labeling. He successfully campaigned for Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney for her 2004 election, which she won.

Saed Moujtahed has been a Syrian-American activist from the beginning of the Syrian revolution. He established and chaired the Government Relations Committee for the Syrian American Council (SAC) for nearly a year. During the last five years, he spent most of his time lobbying our Administration to support the Syrian people in attaining their struggle for freedom. He traveled to many cities throughout the U.S. to rally the Syrian-American community’s support and to motivate them to overcome the psychological fear that most Syrians inherited from this barbaric regime for over 48 years.

Currently, he is President of the Syrian Institute for Progress (SIP), an organization that focuses on addressing and supporting the needs of Syrian refugees, he launched a successful program, Burnt Children Relief Foundation (BCRF) bringing Syrian burnt children to the U.S. for treatments. In addition to continuing to provide information and advice to our Administration on the dynamic changes of the Syrian revolution and the opposition in order to help find the most suitable and lasting solution to the crisis.

Susan Baaj, Chair
Susan Baaj grew up in Damascus, Syria, and studied at the University of Damascus. She is the CEO of Isra Couture which designs apparel for the confident conservative woman who wants to enhance her personal style and is currently the chairwoman of the Syrian Institute for Progress (SIP). SIP is an organization that focuses on addressing and supporting the needs of Syrian refugees, in addition to providing information to the Administration on the dynamic changes of the Syrian revolution in order to help find the most suitable and lasting solution to the crisis.
In 2014, SIP had formed Burnt Children Relief Foundation (BCRF) to bring burnt victims from Syria, and Susan has been dedicated her time and efforts to help these kids.
She established the Syrian American Council, Los Angeles chapter, (2011-2012), and has worked on raising awareness about the current crisis in Syria by volunteering her time to empower Syrian-American Women to organize community and provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.

She has been the advocate and a voice to many humanitarian forums.

Sherry Cooper, Outreach Chair
Sherry Cooper has over 25 years of experience in the Diplomatic Corps in Washington, DC working for Foreign Governments. Her area of expertise is the Middle East and Africa.

She currently serves as an Advisor to the National Council on US-Arab Relations and as a member of the Strategic Advisory Solutions International (SASI-DC) experts group in Washington, DC.

Prior to that, from January 2000 to November 2015 she served as Personal Assistant and Scheduler to three consecutive Saudi Arabian Ambassadors to the United States, namely: HRH Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal, and H.E. Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.

While at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia she performed her duties at the highest level of confidence, running the Ambassador’s private office, scheduling the Ambassador’s appointments, coordinating his travel, liaising with the White House, State Department, US Congress, and other US Government offices on a variety of issues. She also coordinated high-level visits of two Saudi Kings, four Crown Princes, one Deputy Crown Prince, numerous cabinet ministers, and also supported the late Foreign Minister HRH Prince Saud Al-Faisal and current Foreign Minister H.E. Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir annually at the UNGA and on other officials visits to the USA.

Prior to joining the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, she served from April 1989 to January 2000 as Personal Assistant and Legislative Aide to the Counselor: Political at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington, DC, where she ran the Office of the Counselor: Political, scheduled his meetings with officials from the US Administration, State Department and US Congress and also tracked US legislation pertaining to South Africa.

Sherry served under four South African Ambassadors, namely Ambassador Piet Kornhoff, Ambassador Harry Schwarz, Ambassador Franklin Sonn, and Ambassador Sheila Sisulu. She was also responsible for coordinating State visits for three South African Presidents and numerous other high rankings South African dignitaries.

Zeid Kayali, MD, MBA, Government Relations Director
Dr. Zeid Kayali born in Aleppo, Syria to a well-known and large family in Syria. He is the medical director of the Inland Empire Liver Foundation? He is an associate professor of medicine and the Program Director of the Gastroenterology and Hepatology fellowship at the University of California Riverside. He is a UNOS certified liver transplantation hepatologist.

He is triple board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology/Hepatology, and Liver Transplantation. He earned his Master in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, Graziadio School of Business, Malibu, California in 2008-2010. He started his academic career in 2005 at Loma Linda University in California as an Assistant Professor of medicine and took the challenge early in his career to become the Medical Director of Liver Transplantation at Loma Linda in 2006-2011. He served as a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) regional board and American Association for The Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) committees.

He is a member of multiple medical journal reviewer panels. He established Inland Empire Liver Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to serve and help underserved populations who need liver disease and liver transplantation care and to increase liver disease awareness in these communities. He authorized and published multiple studies and articles in peer-reviewed medical journals. He received multiple research grants and has an active clinical trial center for Hepatology, gastroenterology, obesity, and metabolic syndrome in Rialto, California.

Dr. Kayali came from a family that has deep roots in Syria politics since independence. He is a board member of the Syrian Institute for Progress (SIP) and Americans for Free Syria (AFS). He is also a member of a consortium of big donors who are supporting the majority of Syrian American Organizations in the United States. His major political focus is to free Syria from dictatorship and to promote prosperous and peaceful Middle East. He played a major active role in passing the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act in 2019 and in expanding the Free Syria Caucus in the US Congress. He is working currently on establishing a Syrian National Front that comprises activists, politicians, academicians, government employees, intellectuals, and Syrian Experts from all over the world and inside Syria. The goal of this front is to represent a large sector of independent Syrians and community leaders in any forthcoming political resolution in Syria.

Dr. Kayali is married to Diana Ashouri and lives in Pasadena, California since 2001 and his hobby includes hiking, reading, and soccer. Dr. Kayali is an active and key figure in the American Syrian community.

Hollie McKay, Director of Media and Outreach

Hollie McKay is a writer, human rights and foreign policy expert, and war crimes, investigator. She was an investigative and conflict journalist for Fox Digital for over fourteen years where she focused on warfare, terrorism, and crimes against humanity.

Hollie has worked on the frontlines of several major war zones and covered humanitarian and diplomatic crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Russia, Africa, Latin America, and other areas.

Her globally-spanned coverage, in the form of thousands of print articles and essays, has included exclusive and detailed interviews with numerous captured terrorists, as well as high-ranking government, military, and intelligence officials and leaders from all sides.

She has spent considerable time embedded with the US and foreign troops, conducted extensive interviews with survivors of torture, sex slavery, and forced child jihadist training, refugees, and internally displaced people to communicate the complexities of such catastrophes and war crimes on local populations.

Hollie’s columns are regularly referenced in mainstream publications and academic journals. Hollie is broadly acclaimed by her peers as one of the most diligent reporters in her field and author of the nonfiction military and human rights historical “Only Cry for the Living: Memos from the ISIS Battlefield.” (Jocko Publishing, March 2011). She has been the recipient of numerous foreign press and humanitarian awards.