June 15, 2016
01:00 pm - 03:00 pm

About the Event

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is well known as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He is less well known as a dedicated advocate for the principles of democracy and for the political reforms he introduced when he gave up his role as political leader of the Tibetan people, devolving political power to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the elected government in exile. The Dalai Lama has often said that opposing totalitarianism is not enough, and that it is also necessary to offer a democratic alternative. 
We are delighted to welcome His Holiness to NED where he will engage in conversation with four dynamic young activists who believe deeply in the principles of democracy and human rights and are working in extremely difficult environments to advance those rights and principles.
NED will present the Democracy Service Medal to honor the courageous work of the late Tibetan Buddhist Monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a prominent political prisoner who died in a Sichuan prison in 2015. According to Human Rights Watch, Tenzin Delek’s imprisonment in 2002 was the culmination of a decade-long effort by Chinese authorities to curb his efforts to foster Tibetan Buddhism. Tenzin Delek was an inspiration for Tibetans struggling to retain their cultural identity in the face of China’s harsh policies. 
NED will also use this special occasion to recognize the democratic accomplishments of the Central Tibetan Administration, which assumed full responsibility for the Tibetan government in exile after the Dalai Lama devolved his political authority in 2011.

Arzu Geybullayeva, Journalist, Azerbaijan
Rosa Maria Payá, Cuba Decide
Azaz Elshami, Sudanese Digital Activist
Rami Soud, Jordanian Activist
moderated by
Brian Joseph, NED Senior Director, Asia
and the presentation of the
Democracy Service Medal
honoring the late
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (1950-2015)

Panelist Bios

Rosa Maria Payá is a young human rights and democracy activist hailing from Havana, Cuba. Since 2009 she has led a number of civil society activities in Cuba and was part of the coordinating team of the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberacion), founded by her father, famed democracy activist and 2002 European Parliament Sakharov Prize winner Oswaldo Payá. Since the mysterious death of her father in a car crash in July of 2012, Rosa Maria has led an international campaign seeking an independent inquiry into his death and has traveled to dozens of international conferences and high-level meetings seeking greater international solidarity with Cuban democracy activists and the struggle for a free Cuba. Currently, she is head of the Cuba Decide (Cuba Decides) campaign, which calls for the Cuban government to issue a plebiscite asking whether the Cuban people would like to hold free and fair elections for the first time in over 60 years. Most recently, in March of 2016, Rosa Maria and other members of the Cuba Decide team personally went to the Cuban Parliament and presented more than 10,000 signatures calling for a national plebiscite. Since 2015 she has served as President of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, where she coordinates a series of pro-democracy and human rights events aimed at strengthening, defending, and consolidating democracy throughout Latin America.

Azaz Elshami is a Sudanese human rights and gender equality advocate. Influenced by years of living abroad, the formation of identity and its relation to conflict and peace building are among her main interests. She participated in numerous advocacy and academic platforms where she presented her views and analysis of youth movements, gender policies, and conflict dimensions in Sudan. Elshami advocates for Internet access rights and she has been an analyst for the Sudan Section of Freedom on the Net reports for 2 consecutive years (2015 and 2016). Elshami also develops and facilitates training on topics related to non-violent resistance, governance evaluation, and peace-building in conflict or post-conflict areas. Elshami is keen on learning about the impact of globalization and digital advancements on youth mobilization and social movements under authoritarian regimes and transitional democracies.

Elshami’s work with grassroots and civil society groups on developing advocacy campaigns, online and offline, yielded two significant milestones in her career: one was translating a book on strategic use of social media into Arabic, and the other was authoring the Sudan chapter component of the annual Freedom on the Net report (2015), a project by Freedom House that examines online freedoms and laws governing internet governance. 

Arzu Geybullayeva is a regional analyst and correspondent. She is the recipient of 2014 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship with the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Her main focus is human rights, press freedom and net freedom. Arzu holds MSc degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and BA degree in International Relations from the Bilkent University. She was featured on BBC 100 Women Changemakers in 2014.
Rami Soud is a Jordanian activist who believes that democratic values, dialogue, and knowledge-sharing are important for young people to get involved in social change and political participation in the Arab region. Rami is currently the Executive Director at Success Network 21, which aims to spread the culture of success and prosperity and promote the concept of community leadership among young people in the Middle East and Africa. Prior to this role, Rami worked for HIKAYA Center for Civil Society Development in Jordan to develop programs, activities, and projects to serve young people in Jordan and to promote their participation in the development process. In 2014 Rami was a Hurford Youth Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy where he worked on a six-month long project on “The Role of Youth in Social Change Process.”  He currently lives and works in Amman, Jordan.

This is an invite-only event. 
Press must RSVP with NED Public Affairs. If you are a member of the press, please RSVP with your credentials to