New organization to expose government officials involved in abuses, identify harms of foreign actors, give voice to Middle East political exiles and experts in new publishing platform
(Washington D.C., September 29) – Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a non-profit organization based in Washington DC, today officially launched its organization, including its website, www.dawnmena.org. Jamal Khashoggi established the organization along with his friends several months before his murder by Saudi officials on October 2, 2018. Sarah Leah Whitson, formerly of Human Rights Watch, took over as Executive Director on April 1, 2020.
"When Saudi Arabia killed our founder, Jamal Khashoggi, they thought they were silencing forever an Arab political exile whose demands for reform they found so threatening," said Whitson. "On the second anniversary of Jamal's murder, we are launching an organization that will give voice to the thousands of political exiles like Jamal, who demand democracy and human rights as the only way to ensure peace, security and dignity for all of the people of the Middle East and North Africa."
DAWN's work will focus on a variety of programs, including investigative work, advocacy and a premier publication focusing on the Middle East and North Africa. As a US-based organization with heightened responsibility to address abuses of governments supported by the United States, DAWN will initially focus on US allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. The group will provide comprehensive documentation of prominent prosecutions in each of these countries that provide details of the inner workings of the apparatuses of prosecution, detention, and injustice.
The case files will serve as a resource for researchers, academics, activists and policymakers. They will also expose the identities of government officials in the shadows — the guards, the interrogators, the torturers, the prosecutors, the judges — who enable the abuses of their governments but are otherwise unknown to the international community.
(Learn more about DAWN here:
"Our 'Gallery of Culprits' will identify the bureaucrats who do the dirty and anonymous work of repression — terrorizing and silencing critics, jailing political opponents — shrouded in a thin veneer of legality," said Abdullah Alaoudh, DAWN Research Director for Saudi Arabia and the UAE. "They should face the consequences of their complicity, if not yet in a court of justice, then in the court of public opinion."
The organization will also create a new platform for opinions, ideas and analysis for a new vision for the Middle East and North Africa in its publication, "Democracy in Exile." The platform, publishing in English and Arabic, will bring the voices of political exiles from MENA to a global audience, engaging them in continued efforts to build democracy and respect for rights in the region. These exiles will exchange ideas with DAWN's own Non-Resident Fellows, a distinguished group of academics and practitioners, as well as MENA experts from around the world, committed to the struggle for democratic reform in the region.
"Since the start of the cataclysmic events of 2011's Arab Uprisings, and today through the ongoing protest movements throughout the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of people from the Arab world have been forced to flee the region's stubborn tyranny and terror,"" said Asim Ghafoor, DAWN board member. "DAWN will aim to become a leading thought center to marshal the dynamism, dedication and vision of experts and exiles whose personal commitment to democracy in the Middle East is unwavering."
Among DAWN's contributions will be a newly created index, called the "Khashoggi Index" after the group's founder. The index will measure the role of foreign governments throughout the region and the extent to which they promote — or undermine — human rights and democracy in each country. The organization will focus its advocacy primarily on exposing the role of foreign governments, businesses, and institutions in supporting despotic governments in the region and urging them to end their complicity in abuses.
"DAWN aims to focus attention on the particular ways in which governments — including our own — hinder democracy and undermine human rights in the Arab world, despite their often grandiose claims to the contrary," said Whitson. "DAWN will push for major reform of US foreign policy, focusing on military aid, troop deployments, diplomatic cover, and proliferating economic sanctions, that seeks to control the region's governments through ill-defined interests that harm both the people of the region and this country."
DAWN will publish its website in English and Arabic. DAWN's funding comes from the contributions of individuals and institutions. DAWN has received no government or government-linked funding.