Majal is a non-profit organization dedicated to amplifying underrepresented voices and promoting social justice, particularly in the Middle East. In a region where oppression, censorship, and marginalization are prevalent, Majal’s network of websites offer a rare outlet for self-expression to those who need it most.
Since it first launched as Mideast Youth in 2006, Majal’s network of communities has grown to include:
Migrant-Rights.org - dedicated to documenting the plight of migrant workers across the region, and humanizing their experiences. The site also provides resources to migrants in the hopes of helping them improve or escape their situation. Mideast Tunes - showcases independent and underground musicians using their art as a tool for social justice advocacy. The platform has helped launch the careers of underground, mold-breaking artists in the region and beyond. CrowdVoice.org - Monitors, consolidates, and contextualizes crowdsourced content comprising social movements across the web. Ahwaa.org - A bilingual platform for Arab LGBTQ youth that leverages game mechanics to protect and engage its community. Because of the risks to participating members, security, privacy, and anonymity are core needs to each of the sites on Majal’s platform. The group’s beginnings date to 2006, when it was founded in Bahrain by Esra’a Al Shafei. Since then, Majal has introduced dozens of products, and now has a distributed team of 10 volunteers.
Majal’s work has been a tremendous success: myriad individuals have contacted Majal thanking it for giving them a place to be themselves in a relatively safe environment. Majal and Al Shafei have also received international recognition from the likes of the World Economic Forum, TED, and the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School for “Outstanding contributions to the Internet and its impact on society.”
Unfortunately, Majal’s mission and success have long made it a target for malicious actors attempting to take down its sites and break into its systems.
In mid-2018, concerted DDoS attacks on Migrant-Rights.org were taking a toll. Over a period of months the site was dealing with extended bouts of downtime and unreliability — members complained about being unable to upload a single video — with little sign of reprieve.
The stakes are high: if the services Majal offers are unavailable, the people who make up its communities face silencing isolation. There is the risk that in looking for another outlet for self-expression and community, they might settle for one of the many platforms that treat security and anonymity as afterthoughts — exacerbating the risk to their personal safety.
In the midst of these attacks, a supporter encouraged Al Shafei to contact Cloudflare’s Project Galileo. Majal was quickly approved to become part of the program, and its network of sites is now protected by Cloudflare’s enterprise-grade security protection and performance acceleration at no charge.
“That fixed it,” Al Shafei says. “After we moved onto Cloudflare, our site reliability was restored. Without Galileo, we’d have to invest a lot of money into getting the same kind of protection. We’re a non-profit with very limited resources and we need to invest them wisely. For us to be able to get this level of protection from Cloudflare for free — it’s a huge help.”
“As creators of these platforms, we’re responsible for the safety of the people using them. We can’t say, ‘oh we’re just volunteers so we’re not going to worry about security’ — we’d rather offer no platform than one whose development is half-baked.”
“We invest in things like development, security, and systems administration because we always want to be able to tell users that we’re doing everything we can to protect them from abuse and the prying eyes of surveillance technologies.”
Esra'a Al Shafei
Founder & Director, Majal.org