$10,000 in prizes for young American and Middle Eastern writers

Winners from previous years featured in critically acclaimed book: Arab Spring Dreams 

WASHINGTON, October 22, 2013 – The American Islamic Congress (AIC) announces its eighth annual  The contest, which annually awards $10,000 in prizes, is open to young thinkers and writers from the Middle East and United States. A diverse panel of celebrity judges will select the winners.

“AIC launched the ‘Dream Deferred’ contest eight years ago precisely to encourage young people growing up under repression to share their repressed dreams,” noted Zainab Al-Suwaij, AIC’s Executive Director. “The contest taps into the spirit that gave rise to the ‘Arab Spring’ and today struggles to secure a Middle East with basic civil rights for all.”

AIC recently published an anthology of outstanding essays from the contest’s first five years. Arab Spring Dreams: The Next Generation Speaks Out for Freedom and Justice from North Africa to Iran (Palgrave-Macmillan) features a foreword by Gloria Steinem.

“The real struggle in the Middle East is the struggle for individuality,” noted AIC’s Director of Civil Rights Outreach Nasser Weddady, who co-edited the anthology and serves as one of the contest’s judges. “Will young Middle Easterners be able to express themselves and lead their lives as they want? We hope that the essay contest continues to inspire young people to explore that challenge – and how they can be part of the solution to it.”

The Arab Spring Dreams anthology has been hailed as “an essential portrait of a generation” by ABC News’ Lara Setrakian, a “wonderful book” by Reading Lolita in Tehran author Azar Nafisi, and an “important testimony” by Nobel Laureate Lech Walesa for spotlighting “young courageous people who dare to dream of the things their parents never dreamt of.”

The “Dream Deferred” essay contest is open to anyone under the age of 26, regardless of background. Entrants can submit in English, French, Farsi, and Arabic.

Contest deadline is February 28, 2014

For more details and to enter the contest, visit http://www.hamsaweb.org.


The American Islamic Congress is a nonprofit, non-religious anti-extremism civil society development organization serving Muslims and Non-Muslims by promoting civil and human rights through advocacy, engagement, and education.