Our Mission

The Kawaakibi Foundation is an accelerator for thinkers and doers, with a focus on the future of freedom in the Middle East and North Africa.

We envision a world free from tyranny, terrorism, and foreign intervention; one in which society trumps the state, extremism and dogmatism have no appeal, and individual rights are sacrosanct.

What we do

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Build media platforms

We build media platforms to elevate the voices of those who need to be heard. We have two main platforms; The Arab Tyrant Manual studies global authoritarianism and the struggle for liberty, with a special focus on the Arab region. The upcoming Islam & Liberty deals with the clash between authoritarianism and liberty within Islam.

Work towards healing

We work towards healing. Trauma is a tragic and debilitating but extremely common outcome of human rights activism - or of just being being born in the MENA region. We're studying groundbreaking approaches to PTSD recovery such as psychedelic-assisted therapy, which could enable those suffering to come back stronger.

Carry out original research

We carry out original research on topics related to the future of liberty in Arab and Muslim communities. This includes activism, social movements, the Arab public sphere, democratization, governance, and reform. We also provide consultancy, research and training for several partners.

Unite our movement

Unite our movement. As a fellow Arab activist once said, there’s an army of Arab and Muslim voices for liberty and human rights, but they are isolated from each other and scattered around the world. Kawaakibi Foundation will work on uniting our movement through collaborations and events, and through working with partners from beyond the Arab region.

Organize activism campaigns

We organize activism campaigns. We are proud of our political analysis, but we’re activists at heart. Our team contributed to the #StopFII campaign which embarrassingly sank Mohammad bin Salman’s “Davos in the Desert”. We will only escalate from here on, with two major projects set to launch in 2019.

Support at-risk civil society

We support at-risk civil society activists. We are constantly identifying, monitoring, and reaching out to at-risk civil society activists to share our expertise, network, and resources. We want to scale this up and start to provide breakthrough financial support to key activists and groups.


We collaborate on projects that further the causes of liberty and human rights all over the world, with a special focus on Arab and Muslim communities.

Some collaborations happen in public, and some secretly for the security of those involved. We are always eager to partner with activists and organisations who share our goals.

Please get in touch with us directly if you can help us, if you need our help, or both.

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.

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.

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. He was exiled for his fierce advocacy of liberty, constitutionalism and free speech. His influential book “The Nature of Tyranny” continues to inspire over a century after it was published.

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”