Central Asia-Azerbaijan Fellowship Program

The Central Asia-Azerbaijan Fellowship Program (CAAFP) is intended for young professionals – scholars, government officials, policy experts, human rights and political activists – who want to enhance their research and analytical skills and seek to become public policy leaders in their respective countries. More generally, the fellowship program seeks to provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and to build lasting intellectual networks among Central Asian, Azerbaijani, and U.S. scholarly and policy communities.


CAAFP fellows spend five months in residence at GW, where they participate in tailor-made programs and are introduced to U.S. policy and expert communities in both Washington, DC and New York.  Fellows are required to attend seminars, workshops and training sessions, to write one policy brief on a predetermined theme, and to present their research at two public seminars.

Spring 2017 CAAFP Fellows

Kamal Gasimov is a researcher in the field of Islamic Studies from Azerbaijan. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Oriental Studies (Persian language and literature) from Baku State University (Azerbaijan). He has also studied Arabic language and literature at Kuwait University. His research has mainly concentrated on Islamic social movements, particularly quietist Salafi trends and their interaction with Islamists or jihadis; the transnationalization of Salafism and its connection with local (post-Soviet) actors; and Islamic legal theories. His interests lie primarily in contemporary Islamic groups in Syria, Iraq and the Gulf countries. During his fellowship, Kamal will consider transformations in the Islamic landscape of Azerbaijan.

Multimodal Salafi Engagement with Digital Media in Azerbaijan

Presentation, June 1, 2017

Nazik Imanbekova is a transparency and open government activist from Kyrgyzstan, who has worked at various organizations from local NGOs (Public Foundation ElNaz, EITI public reception, EITI NGO Consortium, Human Development Center Tree of Life) to IGOs (UNDP). As the head of EITI public reception in Talas region, she developed a dialogue platform, which the national government to adopted and led to the establishment of periodical meetings with local communities. She holds a Specialist Diploma with Honors in Economics from the Academy of Management under the President of the Kyrgyz Republic. During her fellowship, she will study the impact of mining contracts and government’s policy. The research will focus on the effects of current policies and contract clauses on local communities around the mining value chain in Kyrgyzstan.

Empowering Local Communities in the Kyrgyz Mining Sector: The Case of Talas

Presentation, June 1, 2017

Daniyar Kussainov currently works as a program assistant for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Sub-regional Coordination Office for Central Asia and was a research fellow at the Soros-Kazakhstan Foundation Public Policy Initiative in 2014. Daniyar holds an MA degree in Politics and Security (Central Asia) from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek. His professional and academic interests include migration, education, and elections. Prior to joining the IOM Office in Almaty, he worked for local and international NGOs, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Missions, OSCE Secretariat and the World Bank. During his fellowship, Daniyar will study state educational policies and their potential effects on rising socio-economic inequality in Kazakhstan.

Inequality in Secondary Education and Kazakhstan’s Risk of Becoming a Fragmented Society

Presentation, June 1, 2017

Dinara Nurusheva is co-founder of PaperLab Research Group and was a research fellow at the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan Public Policy Initiative in 2014. She graduated from Abylai Khan Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages with a Bachelor in International Relations. She obtained her master’s degree in Global Political Economy at City University London through the Bolashak scholarship. She has experience working in the analytical department at Nazarbayev Centre in Astana and the Center for Humanitarian and Political Trends in Almaty. Her research interests include institutionalism and the social and economic development of Kazakhstan’s regions. During her fellowship, Dinara will study the social and economic implications of living in a mining city, focusing on Tekeli, a city in Almaty oblast.

Improving Governance in Kazakhstan’s Mining Towns

Presentation, June 1, 2017

Rafael Sattarov is a political analyst. He is a graduate of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He has a Master’s degree from the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He is a columnist of several editions in Russia and Kazakhstan and has edited articles on economics and politics in Forbes Russia, Lenta.ru, and Russia Beyond the Headlines. He was a delegate of the Young Educational Leaders Program of NATO. His research interests include reforms of the socio-political and economic systems in the post-Soviet space, U.S.-Russia relations after the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy in Central Asia, international relations in Eurasia and the geopolitics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. During his fellowship, Rafael will look into the rise of conservative values and so-called spirituality in Uzbekistan and their relevance in modern-day Uzbek society.

Alexandra Tsay is an independent research fellow in cultural studies and an art curator based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She is involved in PaperLab: Public Policy Research Laboratory and Open Mind. Previously, she worked as a Senior Lecturer at International Information Technologies University in Almaty. Alexandra is an alumni of University of Warwick (UK), where she earned an MA in International Cultural Policy and Management, and KIMEP University (Kazakhstan), where she earned a BA in International Journalism and Mass Communication. She was a research fellow at Public Policy Initiative Program of Soros Foundation Kazakhstan in 2014-2015. During her fellowship, Alexandra will explore the cultural public sphere in Kazakhstan. Her hypothesis is that the cultural public sphere and artistic expressions are becoming an important arena for public debates, criticism and inventions of counter-discourses in societies with restricted freedom of the press and a shrinking political public sphere.

Contemporary Art as a Public Forum in Kazakhstan

Presentation, June 1, 2017

Spring 2017 Fellows

Previous CAAFP Fellows and Their Publications

BerikbolBerikbol Dukeyev
is a Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy and International Security Department at the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies (KISI) under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He obtained an M.A. in Security and Politics at OSCE Academy in Bishkek and a B.A. with honors in Political Science at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. Previously Berikbol worked at the Kazakhstan Center for Humanitarian and Political Trends in Almaty. He was a research fellow at the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan Public Policy Initiative in 2014.  His research areas are security issues in Central Asia, postcolonial theory application in Central Asia and Kazakhstan nation building. During his fellowship, Berikbol will explore the push and pull factors of the repatriation of ethnic Kazakhs from China, particularly issues of socio-economic integration and changing public perception towards the repatriation program.

Ethnic Return Migration in Kazakhstan: Shifting State Dynamics, Changing Media Discourses

Presentation, January 12, 2017

Savia Hasanova_pic (1)Savia Hasanova is an economic expert at the Public Association “The Investment Round Table” in Kyrgyzstan. She is also a project manager at the Public Association “Women’s Forum Kurak.” She has worked on different research projects related to human development, particularly of vulnerable groups. Her recent experience involves drafting the UNDP report on human development and trade in Kyrgyzstan, including issues of sustainable economic development. She holds an MS degree in economics and management science from Humboldt University in Berlin. During her fellowship, Savia will study the effects of different types of social benefits on income inequality in Kyrgyzstan. The research will draw attention to rising income inequality in the country, as well as assess the effectiveness of current social policy with respect to monetary inequality reduction.

Income Inequality in Kyrgyzstan: The Redistributive Effect Of Social Benefits

Presentation, January 12, 2017

M.Ismayilov-GWUMurad Ismayilov is a doctoral researcher at Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies (PPSIS) at the University of Cambridge. He holds an MSt in International Relations from the University of Cambridge and an M.A. in International Relations from Baku State University. He has been awarded fellowships and research and visiting scholar grants from Open Society Institute Europe Foundation, Aleksanteri Institute, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Michigan State University’s Center for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (CERES), and NATO Studies Centre (Bucharest, Romania). During his fellowship, Murad will look into various aspects of the sociology of religious communities in Azerbaijan, including as part of broader contextual dynamics of state-society relations at the macro-state level.

A Resacrilization of Public Space and the Future of (Political) Islam in Azerbaijan: Quo Vadis?

SerikSerik Jaxylykov is a sociologist and works at a private research company in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He earned his M.A. in Sociology from the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. Most of his professional background lies in sociology in different areas including socio-economic, socio-political studies (for the World Bank, UNDP, Oxford Policy Management, and the European Training Foundation) and marketing research for private companies. He was a fellow at the Soros Foundation Kazakhstan Public Policy Initiative in 2015-16. During his fellowship, Serik will research Kazakhstan’s internal migration issues, and examine government’s policy aimed at smoothing out the difference between the overpopulated South and the shrinking population in the North.

The Northern Region and the Southern People: Migration Policies and Patterns in Kazakhstan

Presentation, January 12, 2017