WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Middle East Democracy Center (MEDC) announced the formation of the Advisory Group for its Democracy Matters Initiative. The group of eight prominent experts will play a critical role in guiding the Initiative’s efforts to build constituencies for democratic reform across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. 

In the current global landscape, democracy is facing unprecedented challenges, with authoritarian regimes gaining ground, especially in the MENA region. The ongoing war on Gaza has exacerbated these challenges, highlighting the urgent need for a multifaceted approach to defend democracy and human rights.  

“The establishment of this distinguished Advisory Group comes at a crucial time for the MENA region,” said Yasmin Omar, Director of the Democracy Matters Initiative at MEDC. “The Advisory Group members will ensure that our initiatives are not only grounded in the realities of the region but also driven by those who are at the forefront of the struggle against authoritarianism.”

The Advisory Group will direct the initiative’s activities, including virtual dialogues, public events, and publications. Their work will focus on three core themes: 1) Making the case for democracy and human rights, 2) Pushing back against anti-democratic actors, and 3) Developing strategies of communication and mobilization.

The members of the Advisory Group bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from various fields and countries within the MENA region:

  • Cathrine Abuamsha (Palestine): A licensed lawyer specializing in International Law and Human Rights, currently a legal and international advocacy officer at the BADIL Resource Center.
  • Mohammad Affan (Egypt): Director of Al Sharq Academia and a lecturer at Ibn Haldun University, with research interests in Islam and politics, democratization, and transnational politics.
  • Lina Alhathloul (Saudi Arabia): Head of Monitoring and Advocacy at ALQST for Human Rights, with extensive experience in international advocacy and legal advising.
  • Yasmina Benslimane (Morocco): An award-winning feminist activist and founder of Politics4Her, advocating for political participation and representation for young women.
  • Maged Mandour (Egypt): Political analyst and author, with regular contributions to Middle East Eye, Arab Digest, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • Alaa Sayeg (Lebanon): Social innovator and politician with extensive experience in implementing innovative socio-economic solutions.
  • Aymen Zaghdoudi (Tunisia): Senior Policy Counsel at Access Now, assistant professor, and expert in freedom of expression and media regulation.
  • Nareman Shehadeh Zoabi (Palestine/Israel): Human Rights Attorney at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, with a focus on civil and political rights.

“Making the case for democracy is more important than ever,” said Tess McEnery, MEDC’s Executive Director. “As authoritarians collaborate across borders to undermine freedom, pro-democracy activists and supporters must forge strong and diverse coalitions to advance the cause of democracy and human rights. The Democracy Matters Initiative Advisory Group aims to do just this.”

Advisory Group Members full Bios: https://mideastdc.org/democracy-matters/

For more information on the Democracy Matters Initiative, contact Yasmin Omar at Yasmin.Omar@MideastDC.org

To set up an interview with a member of the Advisory Group, contact April Brady at April.Brady@mideastdc.org or Kristen McTighe at Kristen.McTighe@mideastdc.org.

About the Democracy Matters Initiative:

The Democracy Matters Initiative is a one-year pilot program supported by the National Endowment for Democracy. The initiative aims to articulate and advance a bold vision for democracy in the MENA region by building constituencies for democratic reform and human rights, connecting pro-democracy actors, and developing compelling public narratives through research, policy, and advocacy.