Journalists Ayman Mohyeldin, Solafa Magdy Awarded DAWN Integrity Awards
(Washington DC, October 5, 2023): Over 170 leading journalists, civil society leaders, and elected officials commemorated the life and legacy of Jamal Khashoggi at a dinner organized by Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the organization he founded before his murder by the Saudi government in 2018, said DAWN today.
The organization recognized journalists Ayman Mohyeldin and Solafa Magdy with their inaugural DAWN Integrity Award, celebrating voices who best exemplify Khashoggi's commitment to securing freedom and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.
"Khashoggi recognized the outsized role that Washington plays in the region's affairs, and so we have made it our mission to fight for reforms that will end our government's support and protection for abusive regimes there," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director of DAWN, in her remarks at the National Press Club. "We are giving voice to all those from the Arab world advocating for freedom and democracy, because as Jamal reminded us, it is the only way to achieve lasting peace, security and dignity for its people.The Saudi government and other tyrannies in the region must surely understand that though they may have killed you, they have not silenced your message."
Keynote speakers at the dinner included Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kai Bird. The tribute to Khashoggi included a musical performance by world-renowned artist Walid Ben Selim, accompanied by harpist Nadia Pesso.
"When the U.S. says it will forgo human rights certification and transfer billions of dollars to oppressive military regimes in the Middle East, it is in fact emboldening authoritarians right here at home."
- Ayman Mohyeldin
"We are here to commemorate Jamal's life and legacy because we share the values that he stood for: freedom, democracy, human rights. We are here to collectively remind the world that his killing was an abhorrent crime and that we will continue to fight for justice," Karman told the audience at the National Press Club. "The reality is that if there is no justice for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, none of us – not activists, not journalists, not even Nobel Peace laureates – are safe."
"When we talk about the murder of my friend, we want accountability," said Lawrence Wright. "The danger of the reforming king is that incremental changes are not enough. Inevitably people will demand the ultimate reform: democracy."
Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), along with Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), contributed videos commemorating Khashoggi. DAWN's board members Sahar Aziz and Nihad Awad also delivered remarks.
DAWN recognized Ayman Mohyeldin for his remarkable contributions to journalism, his relentless pursuit of truth, and his dedication to holding those in power accountable.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to stand with DAWN as you carry out his mission through the organization that he founded," Senator Van Hollen said. "As Jamal intended, your work over the years has contributed significantly to our shared goal of promoting democracy and protecting human rights and civil liberties in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond."
"We as a nation must stand strong for journalists, activists, and others around the world who risk their lives to find the truth no matter how great the danger," Representative Schiff said. "That is why I am introducing legislation in honor of Jamal Khashoggi's legacy of seeking truth in the face of powerful repression. My bill will aim to better protect activists, perceived dissidents and journalists across the world by increasing the consequences for perpetrators of these kinds of crimes, including by codifying the Khashoggi ban visa restrictions."
"On this solemn anniversary, I'm honored to announce the introduction of a resolution marking the five years since Jamal Khashoggi was murdered," Representative Connolly said. "It will call upon the United States government to address Saudi Arabia's global intimidation campaign, it's crackdown on dissidents inside Saudi Arabia, and the targeting of US persons in Saudi Arabia as well."
DAWN recognized Ayman Mohyeldin for his remarkable contributions to journalism, his relentless pursuit of truth, and his dedication to holding those in power accountable. His coverage has provided a voice to the voiceless and has inspired countless individuals in the United States and the Arab world and beyond to speak out against oppression and injustice, exemplifying the values that DAWN seeks to uphold.
Journalist Leila Fadel of NPR introduced Mohyeldin, noting, "Ayman understands that when a powerful government applies intense pressure to change the narrative, you don't buckle, you keep going. As journalists, our jobs are to advocate for the truth and for the public's right to hear that truth even when it is terrifying, and Ayman personifies that."
Mohyeldin's remarks focused on the dangers of American support for abusive regimes in the Middle East:
"When the U.S. says it will forgo human rights certification and transfer billions of dollars to oppressive military regimes in the Middle East, it is in fact emboldening authoritarians right here at home. When America says freedom is a God-given right for Europeans resisting occupation but denies that right to those who for decades have lived under an occupation supported and bankrolled by our tax dollars, we undermine freedom right here at home," said Mohyeldin. "Both Western and Arab leaders have presented a false binary choice…. either accept authoritarian governments that oppress and rule with an iron fist or you will get chaos and extremism that will destabilize the region and engulf your own countries."
"Accepting this award from DAWN, I want to devote it not to my journey but to all brave journalists risking their lives for the truth. I honor the memory of those who paid the ultimate price for their commitment to journalism, especially our late colleague Jamal Khashoggi."
- Solafa Magdy
The organization also awarded Solafa Magdy for her activism on human rights and courageous reporting, which has informed countless people about Egypt's realities with a perspective that has long been lacking in local and Middle Eastern media outlets. Magdy's work has even cost her her freedom, as she was imprisoned for nearly two years in Egypt from 2019 to 2021. For that, Magdy, too, has kept alive Khashoggi's legacy of speaking the truth, no matter how difficult it may sometimes be.
Kai Bird introduced Magdy, noting that she had "faced threats, harassment, and detention simply for reporting the truth and holding the powerful to account in Egypt."
"Accepting this award from DAWN, I want to devote it not to my journey but to all brave journalists risking their lives for the truth," said Magdy. "I honor the memory of those who paid the ultimate price for their commitment to journalism, especially our late colleague Jamal Khashoggi."
Sponsors for the dinner whose journalists and staff attended the event include the Washington Post, the New York Times, MSNBC, the Council on American Islamic Relations, Emgage, Libertas, the Sethi and Mazaheri LLC, the National Interest Foundation, Arab Center Washington D.C., Grossman Young & Hammond, and Emgage Action.