By Joshua Muravchik
Ammar Abdulhamid, Founder and Director of the Tharwa Foundation, is a leading Syrian human rights and pro-democracy activist as well as a known poet and author. He enjoys a global reputation as an outspoken advocate for social and political change in Syria and the Broader Middle East and North Africa region. Ammar leads a grassroots movement in Syria that promotes respect for human rights and political change. For this, Tharwa works to break the Assad government’s information blockade by enlisting a cadre of local activists and citizen journalists to report on sociopolitical issues in Syria. The activities of the Tharwa team in Syria serve to galvanize grassroots support and generate enthusiasm for change even as the Syrian continues its crackdown against its opponents.
As a result of his activities and writings, the New York Times recognized Ammar as “one of the important voices articulating the rising generation’s disenchantment” with the current Syrian Regime, while Newsweek magazine named him as one of the most influential personalities in the contemporary Arab World.
Throughout the last few years, Ammar has briefed President of the United States, testified in front of the U.S. Congress and has been a frequent expert media commentator.
Prior to founding the Tharwa Foundation, Ammar served as a fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, and in 2003, Ammar, in partnership with his wife, Khawla Yusuf, herself an activist, established DarEmar, an independent publishing house dedicated to raising the standards of civic awareness in the Arab World.
Together, Ammar and Khawla gathered a following as leading dissidents and advocates for the rights of the disenfranchised and minorities. In September of 2005, in response to their vocal criticism and increasing influence and visibility, the Syrian government forced Ammar and Khawla into exile. They now live in Sivler Spring, Maryland, along with their two children, Oula (1986), and Mouhannad (1990).
Meanwhile, the Tharwa regional network of activists continue to expand, taking the Tharwa message for change to other parts of the region, inspiring and empowering more and more young activists starved for a hope, a sense of purpose and vision for a better future.
Joshua Muravchik - Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and author of The Next Founders in which he dedicates a chapter to the story of Ammar and Khawla.