The deliberate de-development of democracy and the erosion of human rights in the Arab world are detrimental to its peoples, economies, and future prospects for peace and prosperity. Since the brief flowering of the Arab Spring in 2011, the region has seen a harsh crackdown against democratic dissent and youth activism. Many tens of thousands have been forced into exile. Many more have been killed, jailed, and silenced at home. Repressive governments – often with powerful United States backing – have joined forces to block the democratic aspirations of their peoples.
But history’s pendulum is bound to swing back. The seeds of change have already been planted. National governments are more brittle than they appear, while domestic populations are younger and more connected to the world than ever before. Broad support for political and social reform keeps growing, as demonstrated by the new wave of protests in Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon, and Iraq, demanding good governance and respect for human rights. The authoritarian narrative that dominated elitist think tanks and academic circles about the Middle East has never been more fragile in the face of the counter-narrative of the bright activists who support democracy. Moreover, short-sighted American policies are not set in stone; they can be influenced through effective advocacy and education.
This was the optimistic vision that led Jamal Kashoggi to create DAWN. He insisted that promoting democracy and human rights in the Arab world is not only an ethical imperative, but a winning long-term strategy. He recognized that changing policies in Washington, DC is critical to changing policies in the region. He was convinced that enabling open dialogue between diverse democracy promoters inside and outside the Arab world is key to achieving non-violent solutions to the growing conflicts in the region. He envisioned a strategic alliance of dedicated Arab democracy exiles like himself and like-minded civil society groups, think tanks, media, and political actors joining forces to counter the alliance between the U.S. government and authoritarian regimes in the region.
DAWN is built on this vision of change. We are committed to honoring and advancing Jamal’s legacy by pursuing his dream of democracy and human rights in the Arab world.