2011 Democracy Award Biographies

Roundtable Participants

Jamel Bettaieb* is a Tunisian activist, teacher, and trade unionist from Sidi Bouzid, the hometown of Mohammed Bouazizi, the unemployed fruit vendor who burned himself to death after being humiliated by the police, igniting Tunisa’s revolution. An active member of the recent Tunisian protest movement and labor union activities, Bettaieb was born in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia in 1981. He is a professor of German at the Sidi Bouzid Institute and is an active member of the “Secondary Education Union,” part of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT). Mr. Bettaeib is the Sidi Bouzid representative of the Tunisian Observatory for Trade Union Rights and Freedoms, and describes himself as an “independent progressive” without a party affiliation.

Radwan Ziadeh is a visiting scholar at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University, a visiting fellow at Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) in London, and the founder of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies in Syria. Previously, he was a Senior Fellow at United States Institute of Peace (USIP), in Washington, D.C. In 2008, Ziadeh co-founded and served as the executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C. Ziadeh was editor-in-chief of Tyarat magazine in 2001-2002 and secretary of the Syrian Organization for Transparency. Ziadeh is also an award-winning researcher, and serves in an advisory capacity to a number of scholarly organizations. He has written ten books and published studies, and is a frequent political commentator in the media, including for Aljazeera, Alarabiya, the BBC and Alhura. He is also writes a bimonthly op-ed for the leading Arab daily Al-Hayat.

Aly Ramadan Abuzaakouk is a leading pro-democracy Libyan activist based in Washington, DC. He currently serves as president of the Citizenship Forum for Human Development and Democracy (CFHDD). He also serves as Executive Director of the Libya Human and Political Development Forum, editor of Al Muntada Allibi (The Libyan Forum), an Arabic language journal, and managing editor of Libyaforum.org. He is the Managing Editor of Democracy Watch; and Director of External Affairs for the Network of Democratic Journalists in the Arab World (DJAW). He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Network of Democrats of The Arab World (NDAW).

Prior to relocating to the United States, Abuzaakouk was a Lecturer in Communications at the University of Benghazi in Libya. Mr. Abuzaakouk is a frequent commentator on radio and television programs around the world. He publishes in both English and Arabic, and has presented numerous papers and lectures to conferences and universities internationally.

Husain Abdulla, originally from Bahrain, is the director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). Husain received his Bachelor’s in Political Science and Mathematics from University of South Alabama and his Master’s in Political Science and International Relations from the University of West Florida.  Husain and ADHRB work to educate the U.S. Congress and the Administration about the current Human Rights situation in Bahrain and the ongoing uprising in the country.

Atiaf Zaid Alwazir is an independent researcher, blogger, and activist. Since the end of January, she has been chronicling the Yemeni revolution on her blog, Woman from Yemen, with commentaries, videos and photographs. Ms. Alwazir is also a development professional with over nine years experience in the Middle East and North Africa, supporting indigenous civil society organizations to implement programs related to social justice. She worked for leading donor and implementing organizations on programs addressing youth engagement, human rights, women’s empowerment, accountability, rule of law, and good governance. Her Master’s thesis focused on “Women in Prison in Yemen, between honor and crime.”

Sahar F. Aziz will be an associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law starting in the fall of 2011, where she teaches national security and civil rights law. She is the President of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association, which supports Egyptian-led legal reforms aimed at transitioning Egypt into a democracy after its historic January 25th revolution.

Aziz previously served as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where she worked on public policy involving the intersection of national security and civil rights. Aziz is also the author of numerous law review articles addressing post-9/11 discrimination issues including Caught in a Preventive Dragnet 10 Years Later: Selective Counterterrorism Against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians (forthcoming Fall 2011). She has been featured on CSPAN and has published numerous commentaries on national security issues in CNN.com, the Houston Chronicle, Huffington Post, and Truthout.com.

Democracy Award Presenters and Recipients

William J. Burns holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, Career Ambassador, and became Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the highest career position in the State Department, in May 2008. Prior to that, he spent three years as Ambassador to Russia. He has held a number of other key posts since entering the Foreign Service in 1982, including Acting Director and Principal Deputy Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff. Ambassador Burns earned a B.A. in History from LaSalle University, and M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees in International Relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar. He is the author of Economic Aid and American Policy Toward Egypt, 1955-1981 (State University of New York Press, l985). In 1994, he was named to TIME Magazine's list of the "50 Most Promising American Leaders Under Age 40", and to TIME's list of "100 Young Global Leaders."

Zahraa Said is the sister of Khaled Said, a young Egyptian businessman who was beaten to death by police because he had video evidence of police corruption.  After his murder, a now-famous facebook page was created called, “We Are All Khaled Said,” which was a major catalyst in Egypt’s recent revolution.

*Jamel Bettaieb is a Roundtable participant and a Democracy Award recipient.