Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) is a nonprofit organization that promotes democracy, the rule of law, and human rights for all of the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). We believe that peace, security, dignity, and prosperity in the region can only be achieved by democratically elected governments that respect human rights and abide by the rule of law.
To fulfill our mission, DAWN seeks to highlight and celebrate democratic reforms in the Arab world, while also shining a light on human rights violations and arbitrary and abusive practices.
As a US-based organization, DAWN focuses its research and advocacy on MENA governments with close ties to the United States and the military, diplomatic, and economic support that the US provides these governments, as that is where we have the greatest responsibility.
We believe that we can have the most impact by convincing the US government and other international entities, including businesses, to uphold their human rights obligations by ending support for abusive and undemocratic governments in the region.
In performing our mission, DAWN will serve as a resource and a database for comprehensive information about human rights violations, focusing on particularly egregious cases of detention. We will also endeavor to expose and hold accountable government officials responsible for abuses, be they judges, prison guards, interrogators, agents, security officials, or the rulers of their countries, as well as foreign governments aiding and abetting abusive governments in the region. We will seek to develop policy recommendations for reform of abusive governments and reform of US and other international foreign policies that support abusive governments.
Finally, DAWN strives to create a platform and cultivate a community for MENA democracy exiles, as well as MENA experts, to share their ideas and help shape a democratic, rights-respecting future of the region.
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) is the brainchild of Saudi Arabian journalist and dissident activist Jamal Kashoggi.
He saw the need for a new organization to focus and amplify disparate efforts to promote democracy and human rights in MENA. His goal was to influence policy in Washington, DC, and by extension regional capitals and international organizations, by linking the local knowledge and political commitment of Arab democracy exiles, with the research and advocacy of U.S. civil society groups and think tanks, combining regional credibility, political authenticity, and advocacy expertise.
In early 2018, just months before his brutal murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Jamal took the first steps to put his vision into reality by founding DAWN. Friends, colleagues, and supporters are now carrying on his legacy – establishing DAWN with the mission of advancing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in member nations of the Arab League through an integrated program of monitoring and research, advocacy and publicity, publications, and broad-based coalition-building.
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.