The Arab Tyrant Manual is an independent online publishing platform focused on freedom, human rights and the fight against all forms of authoritarianism globally –social, political or religious. We try to deeply understand authoritarianism, the logic and incentives behind it, and the strategies and tactics that authoritarians use, in order to understand why what’s in the news is happening, and to better equip ourselves to resist.
We aim to provide a hub for analysts, researchers, writers and activists to share notes and compare the experiences of different struggles, and how tyranny can be fought. We endeavour to be rigorous and objective in our analysis, but will never be neutral in the face of injustice.
In the last 3 years the world’s most stable liberal democracy elected a right-wing extremist who campaigned and won on an openly illiberal agenda. Since then it has been replicated in Europe, Latin America and even Asia. Democracy is in retreat on every continent, and global freedom has been falling for over a decade.
Trump’s has energized and normalized illiberalism worldwide – both of the same strand that he represents (figures like Putin and the European far-right), or the opposite extreme (religious extremists, many of whom welcomed his victory). Under him, US foreign policy has been even more transactional and dictator-friendly than usual, adding more fuel to the Middle East’s many fires.
As we see this happening, our team can’t help but occasionally think “we told you so”. In truth, many people saw this coming, and for people who have experience of the Arab world (or indeed many other parts of the world) tyranny, systematic injustice and institutionalised bigotry – even governmental gaslighting – are absolutely nothing new. The liberal world order is failing, and it started failing first in the Middle East. But the lessons weren’t heeded.
Our founding team, a diverse group with an intimate, first-hand experience of authoritarianism and corruption in the Arab world, insists that marginalised voices have something to contribute to the global debate today. Some of the greatest liberal voices of the 20th century grew up under tyranny – one might remember Hannah Arendt, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Viktor Frankl, Isiah Berlin, Vaclav Havel, and even Angela Merkel, who was raised in Soviet-era East Germany. Many of the greatest liberal voices of the 21st will be the same, and we hope to contribute to that discussion.
Who Are We?
Iyad El-Baghdadi, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Iyad is an internationally recognized Arab Spring activist and an expert on the topic of Islam & liberty. He rose to prominence in the aftermath of the Arab revolutions of 2011 before being summarily arrested and forcibly exiled from his country in April 2014.
Today he is recognized among the most influential and prominent Arab voices online. He heads the Kawaakibi Foundation and writes regularly for both Norwegian and international media, and his Twitter account received 165 million views in 2016. Iyad is a fellow at Norwegian liberal think tank Civita and board member at Munathara, the Arab debate NGO. He lives in Oslo, Norway, where he has been granted political asylum.
Ahmed Gatnash, Founder and Head of Operations
Ahmed Gatnash is the co-founder of Kawaakibi Foundation and the host of the Arab Tyrant Manual podcast. He has been working with El Baghdadi since 2013, co-authoring the upcoming book the Vicious Triangle: Terrorists, Tyrants and the West, and researching authoritarianism and Islamic libertarianism.
Kholoud Sasi, Founder and Creative Director
Kholoud is a creative designer with a background in communications and marketing and was previously communications director for a leading women’s rights organization.
Sana Sekkarie, Podcast Editor
Sana is a researcher of the Syrian conflict, and has worked in academia, the think tank world, and the private sector.
Khalid al-Baih, Cartoonist
Khalid is a Sudanese artist and political cartoonist based in Copenhagen. His satirical series Khartoon! (a pun on the capital city of Sudan) lampoons authoritarians and their enablers, and his cartoons have appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, National Public Radio, and the BBC. His work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions in Tokyo, Doha, Boston, Providence, New Delhi, Dearborn, Montreal, and London
Write for Us
We’re interested in publishing anyone with an insight into the mindset and methods of authoritarianism anywhere in the world. If you’d like to write for us, send a short pitch to [email protected]
It’s an exciting and busy time at Kawaakibi Foundation, our parent institution. We’re focussed on growing our two platforms Islam & Liberty and the Arab Tyrant Manual, as well as more to-be-announced projects. We’re short-staffed though, and need support. If you’re motivated and care about liberty and human rights, get in touch on our Contact page.
We’re especially looking for experienced editors, as well as artists, designers and experienced translators to work on the Arab Tyrant Manual. We give priority to Arab voices, to women, to refugees and other marginalized groups. We always have a place for motivated talent.