You will need to login before you can apply for a job.

Research and Advocacy Lead, Middle East and North Africa

PEN America
New York City, New York
Starting at $75k commensurate with experience
Closing date
Sep 1, 2022
You need to sign in or create an account to save a job.

PEN America, a nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks an experienced human rights practitioner to undertake research and advocacy in our PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write Center. This is a full-time position within PEN America’s broader Free Expression Programs department, reporting to the Director of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center. The position is expected to  be based in PEN America’s offices in New York or Washington, D.C.

The research and advocacy lead will carry out research, communications, and advocacy on individual cases of writers at risk and on broader issues of free expression in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This new role will build on PEN America’s existing casework and advocacy in the region to establish a dedicated regional body of work within the recently-launched Freedom to Write Center. The research and advocacy lead will monitor existing and identify new cases of writers and public intellectuals under threat; develop advocacy and initiatives on cases and free expression in the MENA region; collaborate with PEN America’s Washington advocacy team on D.C.-focused advocacy; identify opportunities for and undertake unique, compelling research and other publications. The lead will collaborate with partner organizations and may also organize events, convenings, and/or delegations as part of advocacy initiatives. 

The ideal candidate will have first-hand experience in human rights research and advocacy in the MENA region and be capable of developing and leading the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center’s strategy on free expression in the MENA region. They will bring strong networks in the region and in the advocacy community, sound political judgment and excellent communication skills, and an appreciation for PEN America’s unique role as an advocate for writers and creative and literary expression. They will have a keen sense of how to push PEN America’s mission and message to create impact. 


  • Research human rights abuses relating to free expression in the MENA region by collecting and analyzing information from a wide variety of sources including governments and public officials, local media, civil society organizations, victims and survivors, witnesses, and journalists
  • Write and publicize reports, briefing papers, letters, news releases, op-eds, and submissions to international bodies based on the research conducted
  • Develop recommendations for improvements in free expression rights in the region; devise and implement local, regional, and international advocacy strategies to change abusive laws, policies and practices and contribute to an enabling environment for free speech and expression
  • Work closely with the PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write Center’s writers at risk team to identify and monitor cases of individual writers and public intellectuals at risk in the MENA region and contribute to the annual Freedom to Write Index
  • Coordinate and collaborate with PEN America’s Washington advocacy, research, and communications’ teams on relevant advocacy and research initiatives
  • Follow key developments and trends on free speech and expression in the region and key countries; identify opportunities for advocacy or research
  • Cultivate and maintain relationships with a wide variety of organizations and individuals 

All PEN America staff are considered to be stakeholders in the development of our shared organization. As such, staff play a role in varied activities within the workplace as part of their job responsibilities. These may include committees or task forces to work on office issues, diversity and inclusion, strategy projects, training or other initiatives.



  • A minimum of four to six years relevant experience, including in international human rights, advocacy, media, and/or research  Demonstrated regional expertise regarding the Middle East and North Africa; proven experience undertaking research and advocacy in the MENA region highly desirable Demonstrated understanding of international human rights with reference to freedom of expression in particular; understanding of international human rights law preferred Familiarity with cultural and/or literary communities in the MENA region a plus Demonstrated ability to network, build external relationships, and mobilize coalitions Ability to represent PEN America and to communicate concerns, positions and, where relevant, strategies to external and internal stakeholders. Ability to work quickly, meet deadlines and work under pressure Experience with using social media or other communications tools for professional purposes a plus Excellent written and speaking Arabic and/or Farsi; French would be an advantage Willingness to travel, as required and appropriate, to conduct research and advocacy Commitment to and passion for PEN America’s mission

Salary and Benefits: PEN offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.


Please submit a cover letter and resume and the contact information for three references. Submit the entire application to Please use “MENA Advocate” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “MENA Advocate – Jane Doe”). Only complete applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please. 


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

You need to sign in or create an account to save a job.

Get job alerts

Create a job alert and receive personalized job recommendations straight to your inbox.

Create alert

Similar jobs