About the Awards
On February 14th the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted the inaugural Rafik Hariri Awards at a gala dinner at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center celebrates its tenth anniversary, the awards honored outstanding figures from the Middle East and North Africa who embody the center’s values and vision.
Among the Rafik Hariri Award recipients were Sir Magdi Yacoub, founder of the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Foundation, Magdi Yacoub Foundation, and Chain of Hope for the Social Impact Award; Fatma Said, award-winning soprano for the Artistic Excellence Award; and Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, executive vice chairman of Abdali Hospital for the Business Leadership Award; and the late Dame Zaha Hadid, international award-winning architect Special Tribute Award.
February 14 also marked the 18th anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was a firm believer in unlocking and investing in the economic and human potential of the Middle East and North Africa. Inspired by his legacy, the Hariri Center for the Middle East was founded in 2011 by his son Bahaa Hariri and the Atlantic Council to perpetuate this vision.
In a keynote speech at the Rafik Hariri Awards, the White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk laid out five principles that make up the “Biden doctrine” in the Middle East. “It now guides US engagement in the region,” he told attendees at the gala on February 14th.
2023 Rafik Hariri Awardees
Social Impact Award
Sir Magdi Yacoub
Founder of the Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Foundation, Magdi Yacoub Foundation, and Chain of Hope
INTRODUCED BY: Racha Helwa, Director, EmpowerME, Atlantic Council
Global pioneer heart and lung transplant surgeon, Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub received the Rafik Hariri Center Award for Social Impact. Professor Yakoub, who became known as “the King of the Hearts” after performing the UK’s first heart and lung transplant surgery in 1983, is the Founder of The Magdi Yacoub Foundation and the Aswan Cardiac Center in Egypt, the Chain of Hope for Cardiac Care in the UK, and the Magdi Yakoub Global Heart Foundation in the US. At the Aswan Cardiac Center, many of the most needy people from the region, including many children, are treated at no cost.
It is my distinct honor and privilege to most humbly accept this award on behalf of all the workers who dedicated their lives to improving human life and, importantly, spreading knowledge.
Artistic Excellence Award
INTRODUCED BY: William F. Wechsler, Senior Director, Atlantic Council
The Rafik Hariri Award for Artistic Excellence was presented to prominent international award-winning soprano, Fatma Said. Ms. Said, the first Egyptian soprano to perform at the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in Milan and the first non-European to win Germany’s Best Young Artist Prize, is currently an Artist in Residence at the Konzerthaus Berlin. She has been a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, a Gramophone Classical Music Award winner for Best Song Album, a winner of BBC Music Magazine’s Vocal Award, as well as Germany’s Opus Klassik. Please take a moment to read our interview with her, and listen to the amazing performances she gave us in seven languages, both immediately after receiving her award and to close our memorable evening.
Art is important, and my dream and hope is to be an example to so many young girls and boys to fight for their dream no matter how strange, different, or unfamiliar it might feel for the society they live in.
Business Leadership Award
Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh
Executive vice chairman of Abdali Hospital
INTRODUCED BY: Amjad Ahmad, Chairman, empowerME, Atlantic Council
The Business Leadership Award went to Ahmed Abu Ghazaleh, a young businessman from Jordan who created Abdali, a unique patient-centric hospital in Amman. Mr. Abu Ghazaleh also serves as the Chairman of United Cables Industries Company and as Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Jordanian Air Academy, of private air charter companies Arab Wings and Gulf Wings, and of Queen Noor Technical College. He also serves as a board member of Fresh Del Monte Produce, the Queen Rania Foundation, Endeavor Jordan, and the American Center for Oriental Research, and is the founder of the MMAG Foundation campus in Amman, a free art school, exhibition space and community center.
For our region, as a concept, I would start with peace and prosperity, not peace for prosperity. Let’s educate and not separate, let’s unify and not build silos.
Special Tribute Award
Dame Zaha Hadid
International award-winning architect
INTRODUCED BY: Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council
A memorial award to honor the late Zaha Hadid was accepted by Charles Walker, director of London-based Zaha Hadid Architects. Dame Hadid was an international renowned architect from Iraq who won countless international awards for architecture, art and creativity, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004), the Stirling Prize (2011), and Glamour Award for The Architect-In-Chief (2012).
Dame Zaha Hadid was an extraordinary architect whose impact on the profession will be felt for generations to come. Zaha was an optimist set on the avant-garde, focused on delivering promising architecture of the future into our present time today.Charles Walker on behalf of the late Dame Zaha Hadid
Honoring Rafik Hariri’s legacy
Reflecting on the legacy of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon
Celebrating ten years of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East
Key participation from government officials and representatives
Senior United States government officials and representatives from over 8 embassies to the United States attended the Gala last Tuesday night to honor the awardees of the inaugural Rafik Hariri Awards. Among the speakers at the event were Bahaa Hariri, son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; Fred Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council; William F. Wechsler, Senior Director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs, Atlantic Council; Brett McGurk, White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa; Lakhdar Brahimi, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria; and Monsignor Joseph Soueid on behalf of Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.
Other official attendees included: Adrienne Arsht, Executive Vice Chair and Founder, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center; Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ranking Majority member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Aurélie Bonal, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of France; Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism; Turkish Ambassador Hasan Murat Mercan, Egyptian Ambassador Motaz Zahran, Tunisian Ambassador Hanene Tajouri Bessassi, and Ambassador of Monaco, Maguy Maccario Doyle.
Monsignor Joseph Soueid on behalf of Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al Rahi
Politico Playbook | OUT AND ABOUT — The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East celebrated its 10th anniversary and presented its inaugural set of Rafik Hariri Awards to Magdi Yacoub, Fatma Said and Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh in a gala at the Kennedy Center last night.
Al Jadeed TV Report | Special Coverage of RHC Gala on TV Prime Time News Show by Lebanese News Channel
EU Agenda | AC Tweet including Fred’s quote posted on EU Agenda
Sawt Beirut International | مركز رفيق الحريري يحيي الذكرى 18، بحضور الشيخ بهاء الحريري ومسؤولين امريكيين وعربيين في واشنطن (The Rafik Hariri Center celebrates the 18th anniversary – of Hariri’s assassination – with the presence of Bahaa Hariri and American and Arabic representatives in Washington, DC)
Nogoum | السوبرانو المصرية فاطمة سعيد تحصل على جائزة رفيق الحريري للتميز الفني (Egyptian Soprano Fatma Said receives the Rafik Hariri Center Award in recognition of her artistic excellence)
Shorouk | السوبرانو المصرية فاطمة سعيد تفوز بجائزة رفيق الحريري للتميز الفني (Egyptian Soprano Fatma Said receives the Rafik Hariri Center Award in recognition of her artistic excellence)
Roya News | أحمد أبو غزالة، مؤسس مستشفى العبدلي يحصد جائزة ريادة الأعمال الدولية المرموقة من المجلس الأطلسي (Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, founder of Abdali hospital, receives the prestigious International Entrepreneurship Award from the Atlantic Council)
Al Ghad | أحمد أبو غزالة.. مؤسس مستشفى العبدلي يحصد جائزة ريادة الأعمال الدولية المرموقة من المجلس الأطلسي (Ahmad Abu Ghazaleh, founder of Abdelli hospital, receives the prestigious International Entrepreneurship Award from the Atlantic Council)
El 7ekaya | تكريم عالمي لمجدي يعقوب وفاطمة سعيد بمركز كيندي في واشنطن (An international tribute to Magdi Yacoub and Fatma Said at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC)
Rewatch the event
Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.