Jawar Mohammed was born on 12 May 1986 in the small town of Dumuga on the border of the former Arsi and Hararghe provinces. His father was Muslim while his mother was an Orthodox Christian; their inter-religious union was considered novel but was ultimately accepted by the community.
Jawar began his formal education at a Catholic school in Asella. He then attended secondary school in Adama until 2003, when he was awarded a scholarship to study at the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore, from which he graduated in 2005. He described his experience at the UWC as awakening his consciousness to his own Oromo identity. He then studied at Stanford University, graduating in 2009 with a degree in political science. He went on to pursue graduate studies in human rights at Columbia University, receiving a master’s degree in 2013.