As the second anniversary of the Saudi government’s horrific October 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi approaches and as Saudi Arabia prepares to host the G20 Summit in November, the world’s eyes will once again be on the kingdom’s controversial day-to-day ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The crown prince has cultivated an image as a modernizer and reformer, and his controversial tenure has included some economic and social reforms but also shocking levels of repression and impunity at home and reckless actions abroad. His missteps and abuses have raised questions about the kingdom’s long-term stability and suitability as an international partner of the United States. Please join POMED and an outstanding lineup of experts for a critical look at Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia.


Or, watch the event on Facebook here.


Panel 1: 9:00 am – 10:30 am EST
Repression Under the Crown Prince: Surveillance, Abductions, and Hit Squads


Hala Aldosari
Women’s rights activist and scholar from Saudi Arabia;
Washington Post‘s inaugural Jamal Khashoggi Fellow

Yahya Assiri
Human rights defender from Saudi Arabia;
Founder, ALQST;
Former member of the Saudi Royal Air Force

Iyad el-Baghdadi
Writer, entrepreneur, human rights activist;
President, Kawaakibi Foundation


Stephen McInerney
Executive Director, POMED


Featuring remarks from:

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA)

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA)

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ)

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)

Rep. David Trone (D-MD)


Watch the trailer for Kingdom of Silence here.

Panel 2: 10:30 am – 11:30 am EST
Inside the Kingdom: Examining Social, Economic, and Religious Reforms


Ben Hubbard
Beirut Bureau Chief, New York Times;
Author of MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman

Madawi Al-Rasheed
Visiting Professor, Middle East Center,
London School of Economics and Political Science;
Fellow of the British Academy

Karen E. Young
Resident Scholar,
American Enterprise Institute


Amy Hawthorne
Deputy Director for Research, POMED

Panel 3: 11:30 am – 12:30 pm EST
The Crown Prince’s Foreign Policy: Assessing Saudi Arabia’s Shifting Role Abroad


Yasmine Farouk
Visiting Fellow, Middle East Program,
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Ambassador Robert W. Jordan
U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia 2001–2003;
Diplomat in Residence & adjunct professor of political science,
Southern Methodist University

Ali Soufan
Author and former FBI Special Agent;
Chairman & CEO, The Soufan Group


Jackie Northam
International Affairs Correspondent, NPR


Speaker Bios

Panel 1

Hala Aldosari is an award-winning activist and scholar from Saudi Arabia. Dr. Aldosari participated in protests against the women’s driving ban and has done important work to counter Saudi Arabia’s restrictive male guardianship laws. She has served as a board member for Human Rights Watch and the Gulf Center for Human Rights and as a scholar-in-residence at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. Dr. Aldosari was the Washington Post‘s inaugural Jamal Khashoggi Fellow and received POMED’s 2019 Leaders for Democracy award.

Yahya Assiri, a former member of the Saudi Royal Air Force, is a Saudi human rights activist and the head of the independent organization ALQST, which promotes human rights in the kingdom. Mr. Assiri has assisted several human rights organizations and participated in numerous courses and seminars relating to human rights. He has a Masters degree in Human Rights and Political Communications from Kingston University, London.


Iyad el-Baghdadi is an internationally recognized activist for Arab democracy and expert on authoritarianism. He is the President of Kawaakibi Foundation and Editor-in-Chief of the Arab Tyrant Manual. A former career entrepreneur and startup consultant, in 2014 Mr. el-Baghdadi was summarily arrested and forcibly exiled from his home in the United Arab Emirates after gaining prominence during the 2011 Arab uprisings. He now resides in Norway, where he has been granted political asylum. He is co-author of the forthcoming book The Middle East Crisis Factory: Tyranny, Resilience and Resistance.

Stephen McInerney (moderator) is POMED’s Executive Director. Prior to joining POMED in 2007, he had spent six years living, working, and studying in the Middle East and North Africa. He spent two years in a master’s degree program in the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut, one year on a fellowship at the Center for Arab Study Abroad (CASA) at the American University in Cairo, and three years teaching at Cairo American College and the American School of Doha. He received a Master’s degree from Stanford University and is fluent in Arabic.


Featured Q & A

Sahar Aziz is Professor of Law, Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar, and Middle East and Legal Studies Scholar at Rutgers University Law School. She is the founding director of the interdisciplinary Rutgers Center for Security, Race, and Rights. Professor Aziz is an editor for the Arab Law Quarterly and the International Journal of Middle East Studies. Her forthcoming book The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom examines how religious bigotry racializes immigrant Muslims through a historical and comparative approach.

Rick Rowley is an Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning director. His films have won Television Academy Honors, a News and Doc Emmy, the DuPont-Columbia Award and a Peabody Nomination, and have been honored at festivals around the world. Rowley’s Oscar-nominated feature Dirty Wars (2013) was the culmination of ten years as a war reporter in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the lesser known battlegrounds of America’s “War on Terror.” Since then, Rowley has turned his lens on our domestic racial nightmare. His 2019 feature for SHOWTIME, 16 SHOTS, won Television Academy Honors, a News and Doc Emmy and a Peabody nomination for its unflinching look at the police murder of Laquan McDonald and the coverup that followed. His Emmy-winning series Documenting Hate (2018) unmasked an underground neo-Nazi fight club and a terrorist cell. The series received a DuPont Award and prompted an FBI investigation that led to dozens of arrests.


Panel 2

Ben Hubbard is the Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times and the author of MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman. A fluent Arabic speaker with more than a decade of reporting experience in the Middle East, he has covered coups, civil wars, protests, jihadist groups, rotten fish as cuisine, and religion and pop culture from more than a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and Yemen.


Madawi Al-Rasheed is Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science Middle East Centre and Fellow of the British Academy. Al-Rasheed was previously Professor of Anthropology of Religion at King’s College London and Research Fellow at the Open Society Foundation. A prolific author, her latest book, The Son King: Reform and Repression in Saudi Arabia, will be published in 2021.


Karen E. Young is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where she studies the political economy of the Middle East with a focus on the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Previously, Dr. Young was a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute of Washington, a research and visiting fellow at the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and an assistant professor of political science at the American University of Sharjah. She is the author of The Political Economy of Energy, Finance and Security in the United Arab Emirates: Between the Majilis and the Market.

Amy Hawthorne (moderator) is POMED’s Deputy Director for Research and an expert on Middle East politics and U.S. policy. Before joining POMED five years ago, Ms. Hawthorne was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Egypt Coordinator at the Department of State during the Arab Uprisings. Her previous positions include executive director of the Hollings Center for International Dialogue, fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and senior program officer for the Middle East at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. Amy studied at Yale University and the University of Michigan and has lived and traveled extensively in the Arab world and Turkey.


Panel 3

Yasmine Farouk is a visiting fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she focuses on Saudi Arabia and regional foreign relations. Dr. Farouk obtained her BA at Cairo University, her PhD at Sciences Po Paris, and was a Fulbright Fellow at Yale University. Her previous research and publications have covered Egyptian and Saudi foreign policy, international relations in the Arab world, and social participation in policy and constitution making.

Ambassador Robert W. Jordan is Diplomat in Residence and adjunct professor of political science in the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003 and as partner in the international law firm Baker Botts L.L.P. for many years where he headed the Middle East practice in Dubai. Ambassador Jordan is the author of Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11.

Ali Soufan is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Soufan Group. A leading national security and counterterrorism expert, he plays a significant advisory role in global intelligence issues. As an FBI Supervisory Special Agent, Mr. Soufan investigated and supervised complex international terrorism cases, including the events surrounding 9/11. He serves as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Mr. Soufan is the author of Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State and New York Times best-seller The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda.

Jackie Northam (moderator) is NPR’s International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, politics, and life across the globe – from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic. Northam has received multiple journalism awards, including Associated Press awards and regional Edward R. Murrow awards, and was part of an NPR team of journalists who won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for “The DNA Files,” a series about the science of genetics.


Photo credit: Ron Przysucha/State Department