The Simurgh—a mythical bird of the Middle East, often equated with the phoenix, represents the longevity and salience of the region’s cultural heritage. The Simurgh Initiative is a digital humanities project that intends to draw awareness to contemporary events and scholarship surrounding the preservation and destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East and North Africa. Specifically, The Simurgh Initiative addresses the preservation, destruction, and looting of artifacts in Egypt, Syria and Iraq. 

13th Century Ceramic Tile, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Islamic Art Collection

This website is a multimedia tool that streamlines research in the field, with essays and a resource database for scholars. A glossary of relevant terms and a timeline of the events addressed across these essays provide supplemental information to accommodate all levels of familiarity with these subjects. 

The Simurgh Initiative is the product of a 10-person, cross-departmental team of Susquehanna University students, under the direction of Assistant Professor of History and Adjunct Lecturer of Religious Studies, David Heayn-Menendez. 

Please complete our contact form if you are interested in contributing to The Simurgh Initiative.

Simurgh Staff

Director – David Heayn-Menendez

David Heayn-Menendez, Visiting Assistant Professor of History and Adjunct Lecturer of Religious Studies at Susquehanna University, is a Lewisburg Borough Councilman and Director of of Public Education at Al-Bustan: Seeds of Culture, a Philadelphia based non-profit focused on Middle Eastern culture, arts and language. Heayn-Menendez is also a campaign manager, pedagogy developer, speech writer, and foreign and domestic policy writer.

Heayn-Menendez attended Villanova University for his BA and MA in history and did his MPhil and PhD work at the CUNY Graduate Center. He focuses on the sociocultural and religious history of the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region, both Muslim and Christian, with particular emphasis on conflict and syncretic processes of interfaith and intercultural interaction during times of transformation and transition. This has led him to focus on riots, terrorism, spoliation, and cultural appropriation and assimilation in both the premodern and contemporary MENA region.

Managing Editor – Julianna Whalen

Julianna Whalen is a 2019 graduate of Susquehanna University with a BA in communications studies and minor in museum studies. Whalen has combined her studies with a passion for anthropology and cultural heritage through work with the Penn Museum, Reading Museum, and Pennsylvania History Harvest. Additionally, she co-curated over six exhibitions during her college career, including premiere exhibitions for local artists in Florence, Italy.

Assistant Editor – Emily Hopf

Emily Hopf will graduate from Susquehanna University in May 2020 with a BA in International Studies: Diplomacy, English: Publishing & Editing, with an Honors minor. Emily is Head Designer of the Susquehanna University Common Reading, and has been expanding her digital design experience with web-based projects such as The Simurgh Initiative and freelance graphic design.

Susquehanna University Student Writers  
Shelby Karpa
Christina Kleman
Darian Rahnis
Jane Seibert
Renika Weimer

Editorial Assistants
James Bair
Anna Lewis

Are you interested in contributing essays, photos, or ideas to The Simurgh Initiative? Please complete our contact form!