Born in Damascus to a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother, Moustafa and his family moved to Arkansas when he was twelve. He would attend high school in Hot Springs, become an American citizen and excel in soccer, which he says is “all I cared about” during his early college years. His Twitter handle today is @SoccerMouaz.
After college, he worked as an intern on the Hill for Arkansas Democrat Rep. Vic Snyder and later as a staffer for former Arkansas Democrat Sen. Blanche Lincoln. When Lincoln was defeated in the 2010 tea party wave, he briefly went into freelance journalism. But when the Arab Spring erupted in 2011, he found his calling.
Moustafa first worked for a group that supported the Egyptian Revolution and then as executive director of the Libyan Council of North America, which supported the Libyan Revolution. In that role, he says, he met with White House National Security Council staff, briefed congressmen and advised the Libyan ambassador to the United States when he defected.
But the revolutionary dominoes in the Middle East continued to topple — until they finally reached Syria in March 2011.
“When Syria began, it was scary, because it was much more home for me,” Moustafa said.
The Syrian Emergency Task Force is one of several organizations pushing America toward greater intervention in Syria (Moustafa himself is actually the political director of another.) As executive director of SETF, Moustafa says he leads a staff of eight in Washington and roughly an equal amount in field offices in Syria.
In the small office where TheDC met Moustafa, an American flag was leaning to the side, its base tipped over a bundle of open boxes. A Syrian rebel flag with the words “Freedom” hung on the wall, along with a map of the country. Above Moustafa’s desk was a framed document marking an alliance between the Syrian-American community and the Cuban-American community. Both communities, he said, understand the perils of “facing a dictatorship.”
Testifying to the gravity of the issues he deals with, Moustafa’s desk was littered with defense journals, like “Jane’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense 2010-2011” and “Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance 2010-2011.”
While advocating for greater intervention in Syria, Moustafa says he has gone to Tampa to meet with Central Command, to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and to the White House “every couple of months” to meet with staff of the National Security Council.
And if you are wondering who is sorting through the Syrian morass to find groups that are suitable for American aid — in other words, not members of al-Qaida — Moustafa says it’s a task his group performs as well.
“What we try to do is make sure is that the aid is going from the State Department is going to the right people,” he said.