Celebrity Judges for "Dream Deferred Essay Contest"

Ali Abdulemam

Abdulemam founded the influential forum Bahrain Online in 1998 and became one of the most prominent cyber-dissidents in the Gulf. After being arrested briefly in 2005 and again in 2010, Abdulemam went into hiding in 2011 during a crackdown on dissidents, escaping two years later and gaining asylum in Britain. He spoke about his escape at the Oslo Freedom Forum and recent won the CEPOS $60,000 "Freedom Prize."


Jane Novak

Jane Novak is a leading player in the Yemeni struggle for reform, press freedom, and women equality - and she does it all from her New Jersey home. This stay-at-home mother first became interested in Yemen in 2004 when she learned about the imprisonment of journalist Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani. Novak began to publicize his case on her blog and launched a petition calling for al-Khaiwani's release. The petition soon garnered 1,000 signatures, and Novak was profiled in the New York Times.


Amir Ahmed Nasr

A Sudanese native and head of a tech-focused start-up, Nasr is the author of the acclaimed new book "My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind - and Doubt Freed My Soul," which was recommended by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of 2013's top 25 books. His work explores how young social entrepreneurs are hacking business, culture, religion, and politics. 


Telmah Parsa

Parsa is the pseudonym of a young Iranian university student who previously won a prize in the Dream Deferred essay contest. Parsa's writing has subsequently been published in major newspapers, news websites, and in the book "Arab Spring Dreams." In judging this year's contest, Parsa brings the perspective of a former participant.


Nasser Weddady

The son of an ambassador, Weddady grew up throughout the Middle East and witnessed firsthand the toll of civil rights repression. As an adult he became an outspoken human rights activist and had to flee to the US as a refugee in 2000. A few days after September 11, he was mistakenly detained by the FBI. Today, he organizes workshops for Middle Eastern activists and helps lead campaigns to free dissidents. He is the co-editor of "Arab Spring Dreams," a new anthology featuring outstanding writing from this essay contest.