Our Story

Kawaakibi Foundation is an organisation which merges intellectual research with activism. The foundation was born out of the Arab Spring, and thus we envision and work towards a world free of tyranny and in which society trumps the state, extremism in all its forms have no appeal, and individual rights are sacrosanct.

We began work in 2013, as a two-man team - Iyad El-Baghdadi, from inside the MENA region, and Ahmed Gatnash, from the diaspora - observing the direction of the Arab Spring's movements for dignity, and the need for long-term planning and action to build a sustainable base for future democratization.

We faced a problem: most activism was geared towards the present, which is important, but not enough was towards the future. The processes that would take us to a better, sustainable, liberated future in the Middle East and North Africa.

Mission & Values

Kawaakibi Foundation's vision is to create a MENA region that is free, egalitarian, pluralistic, integrated, safe, and prosperous. Kawaakibi's approach is based on the belief that the MENA region has enormous untapped potential and that by mobilising civil society and engaging with the diaspora, the region can reclaim its rightful place and contribute positively to the global community. We seek to build a global movement for justice, peace, and equality that centres on the MENA but also reaches out to and cares about causes around the world. 

In pursuit of this mission, we conduct original research, bolster civil society, coordinate campaigns, and work towards healing and promote new models of activism.

The Team

Our Team Of Thinkers, Researchers, Designers And Artists.

Ahmed Gatnash

Executive Director
Ahmed Gatnash is the co-founder and Executive Director at Kawaakibi Foundation. He is also a Strategy Advisor at the Albert Einstein Institution, and is the co-author of Middle East Crisis Factory, a primer on systemic crises and a vision for a positive future for the MENA region.

Iyad El-Baghdadi

Iyad is co-founder and Chairman at Kawaakibi Foundation. A prominent Norwegian-Palestinian intellectual and Arab spring activist, he is a board member at Munathara, the Arab debate NGO, and is currently building PAACT, a new grantmaking organisation for MENA human rights work. He lives in Oslo, Norway, where he was granted political asylum after being forcibly exiled from his home in the UAE in 2014.

Razan Saffour

Head of Content & Communications
Razan Saffour is a British Syrian activist with over 10 years of experience in research, advocacy, communications, emergency response and project management. She holds a master's degree in history from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

Khalid Albaih

Co-Director of Arts
Khalid is an award-winning Sudanese political cartoonist, curator and activist. He is the author of the acclaimed Khartoon! series, and his work has been exhibited worldwide.

Ramy Essam

Co-Director of Arts
Ramy is an Egyptian rock musician famed for his performances in Tahrir square during the 2011 revolution. He lives in exile in Finland after being tortured for his art, and his songs are illegal in Egypt. 


Project Manager
A is the team's project manager, bringing over 2 decades of start-up experience in running lean and efficient teams across multiple projects.

Yousuf Zubair

Media Editor
Yousuf is the team's media editor, overseeing podcast and video production.

Isabelle Davodi

Shefa Program Associate
Isabelle Davodi is a social anthropologist and cultural interpreter. Her background includes humanitarian work with organizations such as Red Cross, Norwegian Refugee Council, and Médecins Sans Frontières. She has led youth centers and worked as an environmental therapist, empowering vulnerable individuals to achieve independence and overcome psychological barriers.

Marco Younes

Financial Freedom Officer
Marco is a Bitcoin educator based in Lebanon, where he founded Bitcoin du Liban, the country's largest Bitcoin education initiative.

Who was Kawaakibi?

Abdulrahman al-Kawaakibi (1855-1902)

Abdulrahman al-Kawaakibi (1855-1902), was a leading Syrian Muslim intellectual of the Arab renaissance of the 19th century. Born in Aleppo, Syria, he worked in publishing and local government before starting his own journal, which was shut down by the authorities.

He was a fierce advocate of liberty, constitutionalism and free speech, his outspoken criticism of the Ottoman government leading him to be harassed, intimidated and imprisoned. He left into exile, where he wrote his magnum opus “The Nature of Tyranny”, which continues to inspire over a century after it was published.

His eloquent writings demonstrate a connection to his Islamic heritage but also deep familiarity with the ideas of the world beyond, an openness to rational argument and human wisdom, and above all a burning concern for the suffering of his community.

The state of living under tyranny is unnatural and runs counter to God’s intent for humanity”
Tyranny of the majority is worse than the tyranny of the few, for it has a semblance of legitimacy”
Political reform always leads to religious reform, and religious reform always leads to political reform”