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MEDC Launch Celebration

On June 13, 2024, we held an intimate evening of drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and insightful discussions to celebrate the launch of the Middle East Democracy Center (MEDC), a merger of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the Freedom Initiative.

We gathered with human rights defenders, democracy advocates, policymakers, and other friends to mark this significant milestone.

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MEDC Launch Celebration

June 13, 2024
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Eaton DC Hotel
Washington, DC

The time is now to make the case that democracy and human rights and freedom are not options, they are not nice to have, and they’re not luxuries. They are the driving force for peace and security in the MENA and across the world. 

The time is now to discard rhetoric that has never been true: That the people of the Middle East are not ready for democracy. That they have tried already and they have failed. And that authoritarianism is preferable because it’s stable and reliable. 

The time is now to live by the truism borrowed from the disability rights movement, nothing about us without us, centering the people of the Middle East in our own solidarity and advocacy.

And the time is now to boldly and bravely face this scary inflection point of rising authoritarianism, and war, and oppression — and to issue a clarion call that democracy and human rights WILL prevail, it MUST prevail.

— Tess McEnery
Executive Director, MEDC

Watch the full event.

Watch opening remarks from MEDC Executive Director Tess McEnery.

Watch “Making the Case for Democracy,” a conversation with Areej al-Sadhan, Dr. Thaer Ahmad, and Yasmin Omar.

Watch “Advocating for Change,” a conversation with Hala Rharrit and Tess McEnery.

Featured Speakers

FORMER AMERICAN DIPLOMAT

Hala Rharrit


Hala Rharrit is a former American diplomat who most recently served as Arabic Language Spokesperson for the State Department. She joined the Foreign Service in 2006, and began her career as a political officer and human rights officer in Yemen. Some of her other tours include Hong Kong, Qatar, and South Africa, where she served as Political/Economic Chief at the U.S. Consulate in Durban. In April, she became the first U.S. diplomat to resign over the administration’s position on the war in Gaza.

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER

Areej al-Sadhan


Areej al-Sadhan is a Saudi-American human rights defender and the sister of jailed humanitarian aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, who was forcibly disappeared in 2018 during a mass crackdown on critics and rights activists in Saudi Arabia. In 2021, her brother was sentenced to 20 years in jail followed by a 20 year travel ban in a secret sham trial over satirical tweets. Since then, Areej has fought tirelessly for her brother’s freedom and the freedom of all political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIANS

Dr. Thaer Ahmad, MD


Dr. Thaer Ahmad, MD, is a board certified emergency medicine physician and a board member for MedGlobal, a medical humanitarian NGO that works at building healthcare capacity and reducing health inequities. He has traveled to Gaza on several medical missions and recently spent three weeks volunteering at El Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. Since returning, he has spoken out about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the need for humanitarian aid and services to reach the people.

MEDC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Tess McEnery

Tess McEnery is MEDC’s Executive Director. She previously served as Executive Director for the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), leading its merger with the Freedom Initiative. In her 15 years with the U.S. government, Ms. McEnery was twice Director for Democracy and Human Rights at the White House National Security Council and served in senior positions at the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

MEDC MANAGING DIRECTOR

Arwa Shobaki

Arwa Shobaki is MEDC’s Managing Director. She joined the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) in 2013 and helped lead POMED’s programmatic growth and development prior to its merger with the Freedom Initiative.  She has spent her career dedicated to the nonprofit sector, helping to manage, design, and lead Middle East and North Africa rights-based initiatives. Shobaki has worked with the International Organization for Migration, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Club of Madrid, and the International Commission of Jurists.

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER

Yasmin Omar

Yasmin Omar is the director of the Democracy Matters Initiative at MEDC. She is an international human rights lawyer with a dedicated career focused on defending victims of human rights violations. Before joining MEDC, Omar practiced law in Egypt for a decade, served as a consultant with the UN Team of Experts on Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, and held positions as the UN and Regional Mechanisms Manager at the Committee for Justice and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

ENTREPRENEUR AND INVESTOR

Anas Aljumaily


Anas Aljumaily is MEDC’s Board Chairperson. He is an entrepreneur and investor in media, entertainment, and technology, and is the co-founder of Gently, a disruptive logistics company operating in the United States. Previously, he co-founded the data science analysis company OneFour Inc. and served as CEO at Fuel Consulting LLC, a media consultancy that worked with clients in the Middle East. Aljumaily has been an early investor in six unicorns, including Form Energy, Discord, and Skillz.

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