Distinguished human rights advocate Abdullah Alaoudh takes on key leadership role 

March 13, 2023 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Prominent Saudi scholar and human rights defender Abdullah Alaoudh is joining the Freedom Initiative as the organization’s first Saudi Director, Executive Director Andrea Prasow announced today. Alaoudh will take on the new leadership role amid the organization’s continued growth and expansion. 

“I am thrilled to welcome Abdullah to the Freedom Initiative, where he’ll lead all aspects of our Saudi work as our inaugural Saudi Director,” said Prasow. “Abdullah brings with him a wealth of knowledge and dedication to fighting for human rights and freedom for the wrongfully detained in Saudi Arabia. His leadership will help the Freedom Initiative solidify its role as the leading human rights organization in the US working to free the wrongfully detained and will help reunite more families.”

Alaoudh joins the Freedom Initiative, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates for the wrongfully detained in the Middle East and North Africa, from Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), where he served as the Research Director for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since 2020. Alaoudh has written extensively on Saudi Arabia and is a frequent commentator on human rights in the kingdom. His work has appeared in leading media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Foreign Policy. 

From 2018 to 2020, Alaoudh served as the Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian understanding at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and prior to that was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale Law School. He is also the co-founder and the Secretary General of the National Assembly Party (NAAS), Saudi Arabia’s first openly declared political party that pushes for democratic change in the kingdom.  

Alaoudh is also the son of Salman al-Odah, a reformist scholar of Islamic law who has been wrongfully detained in Saudi Arabia since September 2017. 

The creation of the new role and Alaoudh’s appointment reflects the Freedom Initiative’s dedication to expanding its work on Saudi Arabia at a critical juncture in U.S.-Saudi relations. Following President Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia last summer, Saudi authorities have intensified their crackdown on human rights, issuing decades-long prison sentences against a number of human rights activists. At least two U.S. citizens remain wrongfully detained in the country. In recent days, media reported that Saudi Arabia is seeking security guarantees from the U.S., including fewer restrictions on arms sales, in return for normalizing relations with Israel. 

With the organization’s unique focus on and direct contact with individuals and families impacted by wrongful detention, Alaoudh is uniquely qualified to lead the organization’s Saudi expansion.   

“I am beyond excited to join the Freedom Initiative and help spearhead the organization’s Saudi expansion,” said Alaoudh. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Freedom Initiative to raise awareness of my own father’s case in the past and I’ve seen first-hand the vital work the organization does to help families of the wrongfully detained.  

At this pivotal moment in U.S.-Saudi relations, it is even more important than ever to push policymakers to insist on tangible human rights progress from Saudi Arabia and demand the release of political prisoners. I look forward to getting to work doing so and freeing more political prisoners, Alaoudh said. 

For more information or to set up an interview with Abdullah Alaoudh, contact kristen@thefreedomi.org. 

The Freedom Initiative is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates for the wrongfully detained in the Middle East and North Africa. 

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