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.
Dr. Yacoobi received her BA in biological sciences from the University of the Pacific and an MA in public health from Loma Linda University.
Ester Hakobyan 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. As society changed in the late 1980s and early 1990s so too did her career. Hakobyan started working on USAID projects and after a year of graduate studies in the U.S. she joined the USAID/Armenia Mission, where she worked at the program office first 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. She is now the monitoring and evaluation officer of the Millennium Challenge Account of Armenia.
Hakobyan holds a Ph.D. 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 deputy chief of party at the IREX/USAID Media Advancement Project in Azerbaijan. He is also a partner in S&A Partnership Ltd., a consulting company based in Baku. From 2003-04 Abbasov was a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. and spent more than 10 years working in print media in Azerbaijan prior to that. He was deputy editor-in-chief at Echo and Zerkalo, daily newspapers in Baku, and still freelances as a correspondent for Eurasianet (www.eurasianet.org).
He obtained his master’s degree from the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy.
Iryna Vidanava is the founder and editor-in-chief of CDMAG, the country’s only independent youth publication in Belarus. For over a decade, she has been a leader of Belarus’ third sector and fourth estate, holding key positions in leading youth, NGO umbrella and independent media groups. Vidanava regularly writes about and takes an active role in youth, women’s, cultural and “new media” issues. An historian by training, she has taught at Belarus’ leading university. From 2004-06, she was a Muskie Fellow at Johns Hopkins University. In 2007, her magazine won the prestigious Gerd Bucerius Prize for Free Press of Eastern Europe.
Vidanava holds a master’s degree in history from Belarusian State University and a master’s degree 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.
Zhang obtained his LL.M. degree from Columbia University in 2007.
Mohammed Nosseir is chair of the Secretariat of International Relations and a member of the political bureau of the Democratic Front 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. Nosseir writes a monthly article that is published on his web site and some of his articles are re-issued in Liberal Matters magazine. Moreover, 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 also has extensive experience in the private sector, and is general manager of Global Marketing Consultancy, which he founded in 1997.
Nosseir earned his BA in accounting from the Faculty of Commerce, Ain Shams University in Cairo in 1986. He is also a 2009 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 head of the staff of the Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration for the Parliament of Georgia. The committee’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. As the head of the staff of the committee, she is directly involved in drafting laws, including those 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 (ABA) and Transnational Crime and Corruption Centre (TraCCC) in their project activities combating economic crime, corruption, and money laundering. She is one of the co-authors of the “National Plan of Action for Children,’ which was prepared with the help of UNICEF.
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.
Since 2010, Mirebrahimi has been a visiting scholar at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
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.
Flomoku holds a BA in mass communications and now seeks a diploma at the Koffi Annan school of Peace Studies and Conflict Transformation.
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.
Yusoff obtained a degree in law and human rights from American University’s Washington College of Law.
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-Abasi Laura Onuk is the executive director of Defense for Children International – Nigeria Section, an independent non-governmental organization working on child rights issues that are relevant to their national contexts, including child labor, street children, violence against children, and juvenile justice. Having worked and still working as an international consultant on peace building, democracy and development, she hopes her time at Stanford will broaden her views on how democracy can bring about socio-economic development in Nigeria and Africa more broadly. Onuk is now the lead consultant and CEO of ThistlePraxis Consulting Limited, a consulting group that helps clients address the demands of corporate social responsibility.
Sheerin Al Araj
Sheerin Al Araj is 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. From April 2000 to December 27, 2005, he was chief economic advisor to the President of the Russian Federation. 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). 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 Ph.D. in economics in 1987 from Leningrad State University.
Grigory Shvedov is editor-in-chief of the 24/7 Internet edition Caucasian Knot, which covers 19 regions in Russia and independent parts of the Caucasus, and has 50 journalists and editors on staff. More than 120,000 materials have been published in Russian and English over the last 7 years. Shvedov is responsible for the overall coordination of the Internet edition, trips to the Caucasus, presentations to other journalists, and conference fundraising. Shvedov is director of the Information Agency MEMO.RU, running social marketing campaigns in the regions of Russia. Currently, he is coordinating campaigns in north and central Russia, providing personal expertise on all aspects of the marketing campaign (two monthly news papers, websites, topic guides for the focus groups, scenarios for the talk shows), overall coordination of staff (more than 20 employees), trips, and fundraising.
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.
Ekanya is a graduate of Makerere University with a master's degree in sociology.
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.