Brian J. Dooley

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Brian J. Dooley
Photo of Brian.jpg
Born1963 (age 56–57)
OccupationHuman rights activist
Years active1980–present

Brian J. Dooley (born 1963) is an Irish human rights activist and author. He is Senior Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Senior Advisor at Washington DC-based NGO Human Rights First. He is a prominent human rights voice on Twitter (@dooley_dooley).

He served for eight years as an advisory board member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and as a visiting scholar at Fordham University Law School in New York 2019-2020.


Dooley works primarily with human rights defenders in danger, engaging with the U.S. and other governments to end threats to human rights activism.

He is a speaker on human rights issues at government, academic, and think tank events, and has testified at U.S. Congressional hearings and in other parliaments.[1][2][3]

For the 20 years prior to joining Human Rights First, Brian worked for U.S., Irish and international NGOs. He writes for and is regularly quoted in international print and broadcast media, including the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, BBC, CNN, Foreign Affairs and Al Jazeera, and is a columnist for the Huffington Post.[4] During the 1980s he wrote for the anti-apartheid newspaper the New Nation[5] until it was banned, and during the 1980s and 1990s was a regular literary critic for The Economist, The Guardian, and for The Irish Times.

He led Amnesty International's work on partnering with national NGOs in the global South for many years, and worked as Head of Media for Amnesty International in London and in Dublin, and as Director of Communications for Public Citizen in Washington, D.C.

He is the author of several books[6] about civil rights and U.S. politics, and had early experience on the Hill, interning for Senator Edward Kennedy in the mid-80s as a legislative researcher, contributing to what ultimately became the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Act.

He lived and worked as an English teacher and community organizer in a black township in South Africa in 1981-1982 in defiance of apartheid's racial segregation laws. Other human rights work included helping establish Baltic Pride marches 2007–2010.

His work for Amnesty International included being on research teams sent to conflicts in Lebanon 2006 and Gaza 2009, and on the ambassador of Conscience Award project for Nelson Mandela in 2005.

Dooley has a PhD in the history of civil rights from the University of East Anglia, an MPhil in Government and Politics from the Open University, and a B.A. with honors in Political Science from the University of East Anglia. He represented The University of East Anglia at cricket and football, and the George Washington University in Washington DC at football (soccer).


Dooley has written three books.

"Robert Kennedy: The Final Years" (Edinburgh University Press 1995, St Martin's Press, New York 1996)[7] is a political biography of Bobby Kennedy.

"Black and Green: The Fight for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland & Black America" (Pluto Press, 1998, reissued 2019)[8] traces the historic links between the civil rights movements in Northern Ireland and the US. Artist Helen Cammock featured the book in her installation which won the 2019 Turner Prize. In December 2019 the book was the subject of a 60 minute podcast by Shared Ireland.[9]

"Choosing the Green?"(Beyond the Pale 2004)[10] analyses the part played by the Irish diaspora in the Irish conflict. In September 2019 the History Now TV programme in Northern Ireland ran a 30 minute interview with Dooley about "Choosing the Green?"[11] From January 2020 the digital files of the book have been hosted and available in the Special Collections Archive at the Library of London Metropolitan University.[12]

Dooley speaks regularly in the media, at universities, political conferences, and other venues on these and related issues.

Bahraini uprising[edit]

Since the Bahraini uprising, Brian has produced a series of reports and articles highly critical of the Bahraini regime which are regularly featured in the international press.[13] A November 2013 report urged the U.S. to change its approach on Bahrain - Plan B for Bahrain: What the U.S. government should do next.[14] A 2015 report suggested ways the U.S. government could help bring stability through the promotion of human rights in Bahrain.[15] A 2016 report suggested how the US government should drastically alter its relationship with the Gulf kingdom - How to Reverse Five Years of Failure on Bahrain.[16]

He was denied access to Bahrain in January 2012[17] which promoted members of US Congress to complain to the government of Bahrain.[18] Admitted to Bahrain in March 2012, he has been refused access to the country since, despite repeated requests to enter. In August 2014 Dooley was refused access to Bahrain with U.S. Congressman James McGovern.[19] The continued denial of Dooley's access to Bahrain is documented in the U.S. State Department's Country Reports for 2012, 2013 and 2014.[20][21]

The Bahrain Ambassador to the US wrote a blog in 2012 criticizing Dooley, entitled "Responding to Brian Dooley's Article in Foreign Policy"[22] and Brian invited the ambassador for a public debate, which was refused.[23] He is also regularly attacked by Bahrain's pro-regime press.[24][25][26]

In September 2014 an article he wrote about Bahrain for Defense One[27] was featured by the Washington Post editorial board in a piece on U.S. Imperfect Allies in the Middle East[28] and by the Aspen Institute as a Best Idea of the Day.[29] He was cited again by name in a June 2015 Washington Post editorial Bahrain's Rulers Now Flout the U.S. Openly.[30] Other pieces on Bahrain include February 2016 for the Washington Times,[31] June 2016 for Defense One,[32] July 2016 in Politico,[33] September 2016 for The Hill[34]

In April 2018 he was deported from Bahrain Airport with Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen when they attempted to gain access to Bahrain to visit jailed Danish citizen and human rights defender Abdulhadi Al Khawaja. The Bahraini authorities took their passports on arrival and held them for 24 hours. The incident was widely covered in the Danish, Irish and international media.[35][36] In November 2018 he wrote a policy briefing for the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) "No Applause For Bahrain's Sham Election,"[37] which was the subject of a UN Dispatch podcast.[38]

In June 2019 he addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Bahrain's violations of the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly.[39]


In March 2013[40] and May 2013[41] he authored reports critical of the Morsi government in Egypt and reported from Cairo in August 2013 when the Egyptian government massacred at least 800 protestors.[42][43]

In January 2014 he was in Cairo reporting on Egypt's constitutional referendum and authored a report on the continuing crackdown on human rights in Egypt which called for an overhaul of U.S. government policy towards Egypt[44] and in December 2014 another report on the fears of Egyptian civil society confronted with a new crackdown.[45] In January 2016 in the run up to the fifth anniversary of Egypt's uprising he visited Egypt and wrote a report[46] and oped[47] on the targeting of human rights activists.

In August 2017 he authored a report and opeds detailing continuing human rights abuses in Egypt, including the radicalization of prisoners by ISIS in Egyptian jails.[48][49][50] He recommended the U.S. government cut military aid to Egypt until human rights improved. Three weeks after the report was released the U.S. government announced that for the first time it was cutting military aid to Egypt, denying $60m in military aid and suspending $195m more on human rights grounds.[51] He authored another in September 2018 jointly for Human Rights First and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, again focused on the issue of US military aid for Egypt.[52]

In February 2019 Dooley produced a report for Human Rights First on the extensive recruitment by ISIS in Egyptian prisons. Based on interviews in Egypt with former prisoners, Like a Fire in a Forest detailed how torture in Egypt's jails drives prisoners seeking revenge to join ISIS.[53]


In 2014 Dooley reported on political extremism in Ukraine[54] and on difficulties for civil society during the conflict with Russia[55] and in October 2014 authored a report on what the U.S. government should do to support democracy and human rights in Ukraine.[56] In December 2017 he authored a Human Rights First report Democracy in Danger, focusing on corruption and attacks on activists.[57] He spoke at a Helsinki Commission event in the US Congress[58] and with activists at the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre in Kyiv[59] about the report, and co-authored an oped with local anti-corruption activists Oleksandra Ustinova in Newsweek about the issue.[60]

Hong Kong[edit]

In September 2019 he authored a report on the unrest in Hong Kong with recommendations for what the US government should do to support those protesting for human rights there, and returned in November 2019, giving a public lecture at the University of Hong Kong on Commissions of Inquiry into Police Behaviour, and writing a piece with Hong Kong barrister Wilson Leung for the Hong Kong Free Press on the need for a such a local inquiry.[61][62][63] In December 2019 he wrote an oped for the Hong Kong Free Press on lessons Hong Kong could learn from the Northern Ireland experience,[64] and another for the same outlet in January 2020 with Francine Chan of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group about challenges faced by human rights lawyers in mainland China and Hong Kong.[65]

Other Human Rights Issues: The UAE, Kenya, Guantanamo, Syria, Hungary, and Northern Ireland[edit]

In July 2019 he wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post on how the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was escaping scrutiny for its abysmal human rights record.[66] In 2015 he reported from the UAE[67] on the suffocation of civil society there on the eve of UEA and other Gulf leaders arriving at Camp David for a summit meeting with President Obama. He authored a report on human rights in the UAE[68] and articles on the summit.[69][70]

In 2015 he also reported from Kenya on the country's efforts to counter violent extremism,[71] and authored a report in advance of the visit of President Obama's visit to Kenya.[72]

In 2015 he observed the Guantanamo hearings of those accused of the September 11, 2001 hijackings, and wrote a series of pieces on the courtroom scenes.[73][74][75][76][77]

In 2016 he wrote a series of pieces in Foreign Affairs and elsewhere about the Syrian conflict and the role of civil society in the country's politics.[78][79][80][81][82][83]

In 2017 he authored a report on the vilification of human rights lawyers in Northern Ireland.[84]

In 2017 and 2018 he authored reports on the rise of the populist right and attacks on civil society in Hungary,[85][86][87]

Mandela legacy[edit]

On the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013 Dooley provided analysis and media commentary on the legacy of Mandela, including in the New York Times,[88] NPR,[89] Al Jazeera, Huffington Post[90] and various other international media.[91][92]


  1. ^ "Written Testimony of Brian Dooley" (PDF). May 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-12-05. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-28. Retrieved 2016-12-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-29. Retrieved 2016-12-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Dooley, Brian. "Brian Dooley". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  5. ^ New Nation (South Africa)[circular reference]
  6. ^ Dooley, Brian. "Dooley Profile on". Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  7. ^ Dooley, Brian (1996). Robert Kennedy: The Final Years. St. Martin's Press. p. 191. ISBN 0312161301.
  8. ^ Dooley, Brian (Apr 1, 1998). Black and Green: The Fight for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland & Black America. Pluto Pr. p. 192. ISBN 0745312950.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Dooley, Brian (2004). Choosing the Green?. Beyond the Pale Publications. p. 192. ISBN 1900960265.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Brian Dooley". Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  14. ^ "Plan B for Bahrain" (PDF). November 2013. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  15. ^ "How to Bring Stability to Bahrain". Human Rights First. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Archived from the original on November 18, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  19. ^ "US congressman refused access to Bahrain". TheHill. 2014-08-23. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  20. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014". Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  21. ^ "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014". Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  22. ^ "Responding to Brian Dooley's Article in Foreign Policy | Ambassador Houda Nonoo". 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  23. ^ Archived from the original on July 4, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-12-29. Retrieved 2016-12-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-12-29. Retrieved 2016-12-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ [1]
  27. ^ Dooley, Brian (2014-09-25). "Obama Should Be Pressuring, Not Legitimizing, Bahrain". Defense One. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  28. ^ Board, Editorial (27 September 2014). "Imperfect allies in the Middle East". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ "Five Best Ideas of the Day | The Aspen Institute". 2014-09-29. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  30. ^ "Bahrain's rulers now flout the U.S. openly". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  31. ^…
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  40. ^ "Egypt's Human Rights Crisis Deepens" (PDF). March 2013. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  41. ^ "Egypt: Attacks on the Media" (PDF). May 2013. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  42. ^ "Cairo's Dispersal Dilemma". Huffington Post. 13 August 2013.
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Back to Square One" (PDF). January 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  45. ^ "How to Prevent Egypt Slipping into a deepening Crisis" (PDF). December 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  46. ^ How to Navigate Egypt's Enduring Human Rights Crisis
  47. ^
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  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ "Brian Dooley: Where's the Ukrainian far right now?". 2014-07-09. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  55. ^ "It's Time Kyiv Got It Right". Huffington Post. 5 July 2014.
  56. ^ "How to Promote Ukraine's Democracy". Human Rights First. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  57. ^
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  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^
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  66. ^
  67. ^ "Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent". Huffington Post. 28 April 2015.
  68. ^ "How to Counter Terrorism by supporting Civil Society in the United Arab Emirates" (PDF). May 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  69. ^ "Obama must stand up to abusive Gulf allies". MSNBC. 2015-02-24. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  70. ^ "How To Sound Like a Washington Expert on Bahrain". Huffington Post. 6 May 2015.
  71. ^ Dooley, Brian (2015-07-21). "Obama Must Address Kenya's Alarmingly Weak Counterterrorism Plan". Defense One. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  72. ^ "How the United States Can help Counter Violent Extremism and Support Civil Society in Kenya" (PDF). July 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  73. ^
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  82. ^ [2]
  83. ^ [3]
  84. ^
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  87. ^
  88. ^ Kristof, Nicholas D. (11 December 2013). "How to Truly Honor Mandela". The New York Times.
  89. ^ "Who Is The Next Mandela?". NPR. 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  90. ^ "Mandela, The United States, And Bahrain". Huffington Post. 5 December 2013.
  91. ^ Biddle, Jo (2013-12-07). "US embarrassment at terror list inclusion". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  92. ^ "12/10/13, Arise America, Mandela Memorial Part 01". YouTube. 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2015-11-25.

External links[edit]