Youstina Youssef

2018 to 2019
International Refugee Assistance Project
Placement Location:
New York City
Political Science with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice
Cairo, Egypt / Valencia, CA
Youstina is a proud member of the Coptic community, one of the oldest and most persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. Her childhood experiences in Cairo, Egypt, and subsequent resettlement in the U.S. instilled in her a passion for human rights advocacy and legal justice. At UC Berkeley, she was a piloting member of the Human Rights Open-Source Investigation Lab where she became the first undergraduate Team Manager, and later the Lab’s Lead Trainer. Youstina spent most of her time at UC Berkeley working closely with ICC investigators and prosecutors, open-source intelligence experts, and international human rights lawyers to verify and utilize open-source intelligence for legal accountability. She led and trained 80+ graduates and undergraduates who investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in more than 30 countries including Myanmar, Kenya, and Libya. She spent her second year extensively researching the Daesh-perpetrated Yazidi genocide in Iraq. Her work contributed to breaking news on Syria, Amnesty International Reports, and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and UNHRC investigations.  She was featured on PBS NewsHour and her team’s work was featured on abc7 NEWS and the SF Chronicle.
Youstina dedicated her summers to working on projects relating to empowering disadvantaged children with both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Small Projects Istanbul (SPI). In the summer of 2017, she was the only undergraduate to receive the Human Rights Center Fellowship which she used to design and implement a summer camp for Syrian and Iraqi refugee children in Istanbul. At HRW’s Children’s Rights Division, she led a comparative project on juvenile justice laws across the United States to support the Senate Bill 1052 relating to fair sentencing of youth.
She volunteered with the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) which represents the family of the departed American journalist Marie Colvin. Youstina recruited, led, and oversaw a team of Arabic-speaking volunteers to analyze hundreds of official government documents for Colvin v. Syria. She also volunteers with Advocates Abroad where she remotely interprets between Syrian and Iraqi refugees and their asylum attorneys in Greece and Germany. She collaborates with attorneys and psychologists in developing asylum narratives, translating Arabic government documents, and preparing refugees for asylum interviews. 
In recognition of her academic distinction in Political Science and leadership on campus, she received the prestigious Muir Leadership Award, the Jengyee Award, and the International Institute Merit Scholarship in 2018. She is graduating summa cum laude from Berkeley as a Phi Beta Kappa. 
As a Gardner Fellow, Youstina's placement will be at the International Refugee Assistance Project in New York City.