Sakena Yacoobi (Afghanistan) | Ester Hakobyan (Armenia) | Shahin Abbsov (Azerbaijan) | Iryna Vidanava (Belarus) | Wenguang Zhang (China) | Mohammed Nosseir (Egypt) | Sisay Alemahu Yeshanew (Ethiopia) | Eka Kemularia (Georgia) | Roozbeh Mmirebrahimi (Iran) | Sukaina Jameel (Iraq) | Natalya Seitmuratova (Kazakhstan) | Marie-Claude Najm (Lebanon) | Pewee Flomoku (Liberia) | Yusmadi Yusoff (Malaysia) | Khalid El Hariry (Morocco) | Prateek Pradhan (Nepal) | Machill Manidu Maxwell (Nigeria) | Ini-Abasi Onuk (Nigeria) | Sheerin Al Araj (Palestine) | Zahid Ebrahim (Pakistan) | Andrei Illarionov (Russia) | Grigory Shvedov (Russia) | Maan Abdul Salam (Syria) | Geoffrey Ekanya (Uganda) | Nelson Chamisa (Zimbabwe)
Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL), an Afghan women-led NGO she founded in 1995. Established to provide teacher training, education, and health services to women and children, AIL now provides services to 350,000 women and children annually and has established itself as a groundbreaking, visionary organization that works at the grassroots level empowering women and communities to find ways to help them. Dr. Yacoobi also serves on the boards of Global Fund for Women and Creating Hope International. As a result of her outstanding work, Dr. Yacoobi has been given several awards, including the National Endowment of Democracy’s Democracy Award.
Ester Hakobyan is the head of programs at Children of Armenia Fund, a non-profit organization that uses community-led approaches to reduce rural poverty, with a particular focus on children. The organization is implementing a comprehensive program that focuses on infrastructure improvements to support educational, health, social and economic development in eight villages.
She started her professional career as an English teacher. In 1992 she joined the Second Foreign Language department of the Yerevan Institute of Foreign Languages and finished her doctoral thesis, which analyzed innovative pedagogical trends in the late Soviet period. Hakobyan also worked on projects for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and joined the USAID/Armenia Mission, where she worked as an information assistant and then as the monitoring/evaluation specialist. In 2003 she was distinguished as the USAID Europe and Eurasia Bureau’s Foreign Service National of the Year.
Hakobyan holds a PhD in education from the Armenian Pedagogical Institute as well as a master’s in international development from the University of Pittsburgh.
Shahin Abbasov is the regional media project manager at the Council of Europe office in Baku. He is also the founder and executive director of the S&A Partnership Ltd, a consulting company based in Baku.
Prior to joining the Council of Europe he was formally the deputy chief of party at the International Research and Exchanges Board/ United States Agency for International Development Media Advancement Project in Azerbaijan from 2004-2011. The project served to support democratic development of free media in Azerbaijan. From 2003-2004, Abbasov was a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC. Prior to that, he spent more than 10 years working in print media in Azerbaijan. He has been the deputy editor-in-chief at Echo and Zerkalo - daily newspapers in Baku - and continues to freelance as a correspondent for Eurasianet.
Iryna Vidanava is a leading media activist from Belarus. She is the founder and director of City Dog, an online magazine focusing on Minsk.
Vidanava is also the founder and editor-in-chief of 34 Multimedia Magazine, an award- winning Belarusian independent youth magazine. She has served as the international coordinator for the Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs, Belarus’ largest third sector umbrella organization. An historian by training, she has taught at Belarus’ leading university. Vidanava is an author of numerous publications on new media, youth, civil society and public policy in Belarus.
From 2004-2006, Vidanava was a Muskie Fellow at Johns Hopkins University. She has a master’s in history from Belarusian State University and a master’s in public policy from Johns Hopkins University.
Wenguang Zhang has been working for the Dongfang Public Interest and Legal Aid Law Firm, China’s only public interest law firm, since its establishment in 2003. He was a Public Interest Law Fellow at the Public Interest Law Institute in New York city in 2004-2005.
Mohammed Nosseir is a member of the political bureau of the Free Egyptians Party, established in 2007 to promote liberal democracy in Egypt. In this role he is working to establish relationships with international liberal organizations and parties to develop the party into a professional institution with the goal of advancing liberalism, political participation and globalization in Egypt. He is also the general manager and founder of Global Marketing Consultancy.
Nosseir writes a monthly article that is published on his website and occasionally is re-issued in Liberal Matters magazine. He participates and talks at several international events where he comments on the state of liberal democracy in Egypt from a political and economic perspective.
Nosseir earned his BA in accounting from the faculty of commerce, Ain Shams University in Cairo. In 2009, Nosseir was a Multi Nation Program Eisenhower Fellow.
Sisay Alemahu Yeshanew
Sisay Alemahu Yeshanew is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Human Rights of Åbo Akademi University in Finland, where he researches and lectures on the inter-linkages between human rights and development. His PhD thesis deals with the role of judicial organs in addressing problems of socio-economic development in Africa. Yeshanew has also worked on election observation and consulted with NGOs on issues of human rights and democracy in Ethiopia. He has published on various issues of human rights in Africa in general and in Ethiopia in particular. Before moving to Finland for his PhD, he was a legal officer at the Office of the Legal Council of the African Union.
Eka Kemularia is the director and co-founder of the Center for Democracy and Development in Georgia. The Center works to improve the country`s political climate and human rights situation through various activities, including research and training programs. The Center’s activities cover a wide range of issues: human rights, freedom of the press, places of imprisonment, children's rights, development of national and ethnic minorities, trafficking of humans and instruments and measures to combat ill-treatment.
Previously, Kemularia was the head of the staff of the Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration of the Parliament of Georgia. In that capacity she was directly involved in drafting laws addressing the legal profession, prisoners, freedom of expression, and the protection and integration of national minorities. Apart from her parliamentary activity, Kemularia actively cooperates as a legal advisor with an Independent Board of Advisors of the Parliament of Georgia, American Bar Association and Transnational Crime and Corruption Centre. She is one of the co-authors of “National Plan of Action for Children,’ which was prepared with the help of UNICEF.
Kemularia is a graduate of Tbilisi State University with a master's degree in law.
Roozbeh Mirebrahimi is a journalist and has served in multiple positions, including reporter, political editor, social editor, editor in chief, and also writer. He has written several stories and articles in different publications (newspaper and weekly magazines) during the course of his career. His career in Iran was put on hold in 2004, when Mirebrahimi was arrested and spent sixty days in jail for making political statements online. His case is still open in general court in Tehran. Fortunately, he came to the US in November 2006. In 2006, Mirebrahimi was given the Hellman/Hammett International prize from Human Rights Watch, which acknowledged his work and perseverance. During the 2007-8 academic year he was the first international journalist in residence at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is also editor in chief of the magazine Iran dar Jahan and has authored several books about Iran.
Sukaina Jameel is the southern Iraq manager for the Iraq Foundation – Basrah. She works in the field of human rights and democracy, reaching out to different segments of Iraqi society through workshops, forums, conferences, and media outlets. Jameel would like to educate Iraqi women about international conventions that concern them. In order to secure reparations in Iraqi law, she hopes to learn more about how she can contribute to a future where Iraqi women are able to fully exercise their political and professional rights in a democratic society.
Natalya Seitmuratova is the human rights adviser in the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE)’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Since 1999, she has worked on a number of projects aimed at promoting human rights, the rule of law, and democratization in the former Soviet Union. Her particular areas of interest are freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Seitmuratova also focuses on human rights defenders’ work and their roles in assisting national authorities in establishing democratic institutions.
Marie-Claude Najm is a professor at the faculty of Law and Political Science of Saint-Joseph University (Beirut, Lebanon) and an attorney at the Beirut Bar. She specializes in private international law consulting and founded her own practice in 1998. Najm has conducted extensive research on multi-religious societies and international situations in which civil and religious laws are in conflict. Her PhD thesis on "Directing Principles of Private International Law and Conflict of Civilizations" won awards in Lebanon and abroad. In addition to her work as a scholar and as a practitioner, Najm has actively contributed to numerous civil society projects and initiatives. She is a founding member of "Khalass!" (i.e. "Enough!"), a civil society campaign launched in 2007 which works to develop a peaceful and binding solution to the current political deadlock in Lebanon. While positioning her existing NGOs to influence political decision makers, Najm’s main objective is to create, together with young Lebanese from various socio-political and religious backgrounds, a new political group seeking positive change in the political culture in Lebanon and dedicated to the promotion of democracy, social development, and the rule of law.
Pewee S. Flomoku
Pewee S. Flomoku is a former photojournalist who worked for the Associated Press West African bureau as photo-news stringer throughout the Liberian civil crisis under former president Charles Taylor. He also freelanced for the London-based magazines New African, West Africa, Africa Weekly, and BBC’s Focus on Africa. As a frontline journalist, Flomoku provided photo-news to the outside world on happenings in Liberia. He also advocated human rights and press freedom for civil society under former president Taylor. Flomoku is currently working as senior project coordinator with Access to Justice, a justice advocacy group based in Africa, as well as with the Carter Center.
Yusmadi Yusoff is a lawyer, political analyst, writer, and social activist. He is a partner at a regional law firm in Malaysia, where he specializes in public interest litigation and criminal defense cases. Yusoff is also a legal counsel to Anwar Ibrahim (former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia) and a founding director of RIGHTS Enterprise, a law and policy center focusing on Southeast Asian issues. In 2006, he was selected to represent Malaysia as the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow for Law and Human Rights at the America University College of Law in Washington, DC. In the March 2008 general elections he was elected as a Member of Parliament in Malaysia.
Khalid El Hariry
Khalid El Hariry is currently a Member of the Parliament of Morocco, elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2007. Since 2004, he has been the vice-chairman of the finance committee for the House of Representatives. In this role he oversees legislative processes in the fields of finance, including privatization, stock exchange regulation, banking sector laws, competition regulation, and control of state-owned companies. El Hariry has been involved in the analysis, amendment, and adoption of the annual budgets of Morocco since 2003. His extensive private sector experience includes an entrepreneurial role as a founder of different small and medium-sized enterprises in the information technology sector and as a member of the board of different professional associations. In 2006, El Hariry was elected chairman of the Moroccan Chapter of GOPAC (Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption).
Prateek Pradhan has been practicing journalism in Nepal for more than sixteen years. He is currently the editor of Nepal's largest English daily, The Kathmandu Post. Under his leadership the Post has helped to bring peace and institutionalize democracy in Nepal. Pradhan was the first journalist to interview the Maoist rebels' top leader, which led to the initiation of a peace process with the insurgents. The Post was also one of the major newspapers to defy the king's dictatorship and is now playing an important role in bringing Maoists into the democratic mainstream. Pradhan is interested in press freedom and is a member of the Press Council Nepal.
Machill Manidu Maxwell
Machill Manidu Maxwell is a development practitioner with fifteen years of experience in election monitoring and voter education. He started out as a social studies teacher and later, a television producer, before proceeding to the University of Jos for his master’s degree in law and diplomacy. His research at the University of Jos focused on the implications of the concept of domestic jurisdiction on the settlement of internal conflicts. Upon graduation, Maxwell worked as an assistant manager in the client relations department of an advertising and public relations firm. Thereafter, he joined the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), the largest civil society organization engaged in election monitoring and voter education in Nigeria, with a membership base of more than 350 NGOs country-wide. In 2003, Maxwell managed TMG’s civic/voter education and domestic election monitoring activities for the 2003 elections.
In 2006, Maxwell joined the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and coordinated NDI’s support program to domestic election monitoring organizations in Nigeria during the 2007 elections, which culminated in the mobilization, training, and deployment of approximately 50,000 domestic observers. In 2007, Maxwell served as one of NDI’s Long Term Observers in Sierra Leone. He is still in the service of NDI working on its elections program in Nigeria.
Ini-Abasi Laura Onuk
Ini Onuk is the lead consultant and CEO of ThistlePraxis
Consulting Limited (TPC), an assessments and strategy firm
based in Lagos, Nigeria that helps clients address the
demands of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Onuk leads a faculty of experts on increasing awareness of CSR as an element of business strategy, as well as encourage
discussions of CSR and sustainability across the African continent.
Prior to setting up TPC, Onuk served as the executive secretary of Women in Management and Business, a Nigerian not-for-profit organization established in 2002, as a platform for increasing the success rate of female entrepreneurs as well as increasing the proportion of women in senior positions in corporate organizations. She also served as the executive director of Defense for Children International – Nigeria section, an independent non-governmental organization working on child rights.
Onuk is an alumna of the Harvard Business School Executive Education Program, holds a degree in international relations and diplomacy and a master’s degree in management.
Sheerin Al Araj
Sheerin Al Arajis an elected Member of Parliament to the municipality of Alwalajeh. She is an active member of the women’s committee in her area and together with other volunteers, is running a youth center in her town. Al Araj is currently working with the United Nations as a human rights officer and is hoping to learn how to maintain democracy in times of conflict and how to empower women to take part in the political process.
Zahid F. Ebrahim
Zahid F. Ebrahim is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy in Boston, where he was the Henry L. Cabot Scholar. With experience in both journalism and law, Ebrahim has actively campaigned on issues of media freedom and constitutional rule. Despite his arrest in the aftermath of the Emergency Rule in Pakistan in November 2007, he has played an active role in lawyers’ struggles for rule of law in Pakistan. Ebrahim advised the incoming coalition government and also drafted the proposed resolution to be introduced in Parliament for the restoration of the judiciary. He currently works with the firm Ebrahim Hosain in Pakistan.
Andrei Illarionov is currently a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity in Washington D.C, and is the president of the Institute of Economic Analysis, an independent economic think tank in Moscow, Russia.
Illarionov has a long history of work on economic policy in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In April 2000, he was invited to serve as chief economic advisor to the newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin. From May 2000 to January 2005 he was also Putin’s personal representative (or “Sherpa”) to the Group of Eight (G-8), a forum for the governments of the world's largest national economies. Illarionov resigned in December 2005 as a presidential advisor, citing the transformation of Russia into a politically non-free country, the capture of the Russian state by secret police officers (“siloviki”) and politically motivated price discrimination against Russia’s neighbors.
Illarionov obtained a PhD in economics in 1987 from Leningrad State University.
Gregory Shvedov is an editor-in-chief of Caucasian Knot, a Russian 24/7 Internet news agency that provides independent journalistic coverage of events in each of the 20 regions of the Caucasus. Shvedov also serves as director of Information Agency MEMO.RU, a social marketing organization founded in 2002 to motivate active citizen engagement in Russia.
Shvedov serves on the board of the International Memorial Society, where he was previously responsible for interregional cooperation between the organization’s 80 branches. In 2012, employees of Caucasian Knot; including Shvedov; were awarded the Dutch Medal Geuzenpenning in recognition for conquering information barriers and the dissemination of information relations to human rights as well as the Caucasian Premium in honor of the murdered Dagestani journalist Kh. Kamalov.
Maan Abdul Salam
Maan Abdul Salam is a publisher and analyst based in Damascus, Syria. He is the owner and managing director of Etana Press, a Syrian publishing house. Through activities and publishing, Etana Press aims to increase civic awareness in Syrian society, particularly among the youth demographic. In addition to his work with Etana Press, Salam is actively engaged in training, networking, and capacity-building initiatives designed to strengthen civil society in the Islamic world. In 2005, he was the senior national advisor for the Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Program in Syria, run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Salam is co-founder of Ideaccess, an NGO based in Montreal that makes valuable social justice-centered resources and human rights information available in local languages for use in Central Asia and the Middle East.
Geoffrey Ekanya has been a member of Uganda’s National Assembly since 1998. He is the Secretary for Agriculture of the country’s major opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change and is currently serving as the chairperson of the Parliamentary Local Government’s Accounts Committee. Ekanya is also a member of the Committee for Business and Public Service and for five years was a member of the Committee for National Economy, Presidential, and Foreign Affairs. He is a board member of the Uganda Debt Network organization, and has presented papers and been interviewed by media houses and researchers both locally and internationally.
Nelson Chamisa is the spokesperson of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe. His party stands ready to form the next government after winning the election on the 29th of March 2008. He was recently re-elected to parliament for Kuwadzana East constituency in Harare, and is one of the founding members of MDC, which was formed in 1999 by students and workers in Zimbabwe. Chamisa was the secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Students Union from 1998 to 2000. In Parliament, he served on the Transport and Communications and Local government Portfolio committees. Chamisa hopes to enhance his policy-making capacity and strengthen his role in oversight functions in parliament.
Chamisa has a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Zimbabwe.