Our Team

Khalil Demir Executive Director

Khalil Demir also serves as a member of the Board of Directors from 2001 - Present.

Born in a remote village in South Eastern Turkey, Khalil Demir understood what poverty meant at a very young age. Raised by unschooled parents, young Khalil thirsted for knowledge and pieced together the scraps of literacy his parents could offer him, teaching himself to read at a young age.

Mr. Demir began his activist career as a student before leaving Turkey to pursue his education in Switzerland. There he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in sociology, and continued to the United States, where he obtained advanced degrees in history and non-profit management.

In 2001 Mr. Demir founded ZF with a group of Muslims driven to improve the lives of the poor worldwide. Since then he has overseen the establishment of schools, orphanages, vocational training programs, and health clinics around the world; the construction of water wells, mosques and community centers in Africa, U.S. cities and the Navajo reservation; the delivery of millions of dollars in emergency humanitarian aid to survivors of wars, natural disasters and other catastrophes including the Syrian conflict, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti among others.

Mr. Demir has represented ZF on television and radio, including National Public Radio. He has visited more than 25 countries and speaks six languages fluently. He lives in Illinois with his wife and four daughters.

Senior Staff

Kemal A. Birru Director of Programs

Mr. Birru currently serves as the Director of Programs at Zakat Foundation of America. He holds an MA degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies (Netherlands) and a post-graduate degree in Human Ecology from The Free University of Brussels (Belgium). He also has a BSc degree in Agricultural Economics from Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) and has completed various certificates in a number of humanitarian and development issues. Mr. Birru has over 20 years of experience in the development, appraisal, and management of programs/projects that have resulted in immediate, lasting impacts on impoverished communities. His professional experience spans both the governmental and non-governmental sectors, including organizations such as Save the Children USA, Save the Children International, and World Food Program. He has served as a socio-economist, an OVC policy advisor, Champion of Gender and HIV/AIDs mainstreaming, and Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) department head as well as director of local NGOs.

Board of Directors

All herein listed are both independent and voting members.

Dr. Hasan Arslan (2008 - Present) President

As a student, Dr. Hasan Arslan was an advocate for social issues in Turkey and his concern and interest in humanitarian efforts remained with him when he moved to the United States of America. Dr. Arslan completed his PhD in Computer Science at the University of Illinois in Chicago and during his studies, he dedicated his free time to helping Zakat Foundation of America with his skills and experience. He has been a board member since 2006 and was elected President in 2007. Dr. Arslan works as a Computer Programmer in California where he lives with his wife and two children.

Ziya Kirman (2009 - Present) Vice President

Ziya Kirman is an electrical engineer and has always had a deep interest in social justice. He has volunteered and served in different social humanitarian organizations and was a valuable volunteer with Zakat Foundation of America. After volunteering at ZF for many years Zia accepted to serve in the board. He lives with his wife and three children in Pennsylvania.

Aidah Abdallah (2012 - Present) Treasurer

Aidah Abdallah joined the board at Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) in 2011, after volunteering with the organization at the administrative level. Ms. Abdallah is currently pursuing her elementary teaching degree at Moraine Valley Community College and is a legal secretary for a firm in the downtown loop. She has also volunteered as a youth counselor at the Orland Park Prayer Center, and continues to be an active volunteer in the community. Aidah lives in Oak Forest, IL and has 3 nephews and 4 nieces.

Dr. Mehmet Tarhan (2012-Present) Board Member

Mehmet Tarhan, Ph.D. worked administratively with ZF's Istanbul office for over four consecutive years. Dr. Tarhan obtained his doctorate in Religious Studies from Temple University in 1996 where he based his research on religious education in Turkey. Dr. Tarhan and his family currently reside in Northern California, where he runs his own business.

Michelle Ramirez (Ex Officio - 2008) Board Member

Michelle Ramirez works as a radiographer. She also volunteers in Muslim and Latino communities in the Chicago land area. She is currently pursuing her business degree at Loyola University. Mrs. Ramirez joined the board in 2003 after volunteering for ZF in the administrative realm. She lives in Illinois with her husband and three children.