Aga Khan Development Network

AKF home

Facts at a glance

Country Summaries



Rural development

Civil Society


Current Projects


Cross-cutting issues

Information for Partners

Other AKDN agencies


Scholarship Programme News (2004-2005)

Message from Bishkek
Navroz CelebrationThe Aga Khan Foundation is supporting 51 Tajik students at universities in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where a violent revolt erupted suddenly in late March. Fortunately, the riots lasted only one day and the students did not have to be evacuated. Bakhtiyor Naimov (TSP 01-05), who is studying International Relations at the American University-Central Asia in Bishkek, describes the events:

"Some anti-government demonstrations started already in February when the second round of Parliamentary elections were announced. The demonstrations first started in the region of Jalalabad, which is situated in the south of Kyrgyzstan. They then spilled over to Osh and other southern regions. Since the television was government controlled, it did not report anything about the disputes and restlessness in the south, which resulted in a lack of information for all of us here in Bishkek. We nevertheless heard all sorts of rumours and started worrying even before the actual events took place on Thursday, March 24th, here in the capital.

A skit performed by Bakhtiyor and friendsIt was a sunny day and we went to the university as usual. There we learned that all classes had been cancelled for fear of an outbreak of violence. Huge masses had gathered in front of the Parliament and the President's House, which are next to the American University. Students were sent home and international students were asked to remain alert and stay indoors. Besides being anti-government, the people from the south were anti-foreigners as well. They believed that foreigners had taken over all the decent jobs and were the cause of unemployment in the south. They complained that their only comfort was in alcohol and drugs. I guess some nationalist leaders encouraged this kind of an attitude.

Heeding the warning, I stayed at home that day, though many of the other AKF students went to the central square and witnessed the storming of the President's House. President Akaev fled to Russia with his family and while the new elite was busy distributing government positions and authority, there was chaos in the city. I live right on the main street where supermarkets and banks are located. That night was horrifying. The noise of the crowd could be heard from far away as they approached our apartment block. We could see from the windows how the impoverished and greedy people broke all the store windows and looted everything possible, not even looking at what they were grabbing - TV sets, cell-phones, brassieres, sofas, or whatever. Finally, the crowd moved on, but even at night the city looked like it had been hit by a tornado. When we walked through the city the next morning, it was a very sad picture. From supermarkets to hairdressers and from internet cafés to photo-developing studios, all were looted. The marauders looted everything possible and then burned the shops after them.

Now, let me tell you what the students felt. We were all very scared because the situation was just like in Tajikistan right after independence. The civil war in Tajikistan had started from exactly the same kind of demonstrations and the first days in Bishkek progressed the same way. We had all lived through the war and I am sure all of us lost a relative or someone we knew; therefore, violence and war are especially frightening for Tajik citizens. All of us were afraid that when the mob finished with the shops and banks, they would start breaking into apartments and start stealing and killing like they did in Tajikistan a decade ago. Therefore, we decided that it would be better if we all stayed together. We divided into three groups and stayed in three apartments, guys and girls together. The unfortunate thing is that this was the end of the month, when no one had any money and shops were looted, so prices rose drastically, some because of shortages and some because the shopkeepers and sales people took advantage of the situation. We were unable to get our stipends for the following month because the banks were closed and some were even looted. I am pleased to say that those students who had a little money were generous and shared it with the others.

On Saturday there were rumours that the escaped President has mobilized forces and would re-enter the city to fight. This was shocking news and we gathered to discuss the possibility of our being evacuated. Our parents started to call from Tajikistan and asked that we return, and we ourselves were quite eager to go. I personally packed and unpacked my suitcases about five times. The telephone rang and someone said that the Tajik Embassy was organizing a plane and that we would all be leaving the next day; then someone called again and told us that the plan had been cancelled. In an hour someone else would call and say that AKF was organizing a plane to evacuate the staff and the students, and it also turned out not to be true and so forth and so on.

Group picture with Nasreen Dhanani, Nurjehan Mawani and studentsI then called my teachers to ask for advice, because if I left and the situation calmed down, then I would have missed classes and the presentation of my thesis . In Tajikistan we would have had to obtain the newly required international passport for travel in the CIS (ex-Soviet) countries, which would have taken about a month. My teachers told me that I should not leave and if I was scared I could go and stay with them, but fortunately everything settled down on Monday. Classes, however, were still cancelled and only resumed on Tuesday when some sense of peace returned, but the university is still open only until 7:00 p.m. rather than 10 p.m. as before.

By now, we have all received our stipends and things are slowly getting back to normal. If prices were not increasing, it would be even better. It is a pity that we do not have nice shops and comfortable internet cafés any more. Some businesses are starting to reopen, while others, especially those owned by the Turkish community, many of whose businesses were looted, remain closed

President Akaev officially resigned today (April 4) in Moscow, which stabilizes the situation even more. As a person who has experienced a civil war, I think peace should be the main priority. That is why I am particularly interested in peace studies.

This was pretty much how we lived and felt during the revolution.

Best regards, Bakhtiyor".

A few days before these frightening events, Bakhtiyor and his friends celebrated Navroz (the Persian New Year) with Nurjehan Mawani, the Aga Khan Development Network Representative in Bishkek, and Nasreen Dhanani (ISP 89-92), a public health specialist and academic who is currently working at the University of Central Asia. Nurjehan had invited the students to lunch and they in turn put on a skit to show how Navroz is celebrated in the Pamirs, including the clothing worn on that day, the traditional dishes prepared, the games played as well as explaining the spiritual meaning of the day.

Alumni Visits to Geneva
Alumni visits to GenevaDr. Sadaf Khan (ISP 02-03) from Pakistan, who finished a Master's in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in 2003 and is back in Karachi teaching and doing research at Ziuddin Medical University, came by the AKF Geneva office for a visit in early March. Sadaf is also working with the National Committee for Maternal Health on the reduction of maternal mortality. She was in Geneva to attend a two-month course on Research Methods on Reproductive Health at the World Health Organisation.

A few weeks later, AKF received the visit of Satyajit Sarkar (ISP 97-98) a development communication professional from India. Satya had completed an MA programme in Television and Video for Development at the University of Reading on an Aga Khan Foundation scholarship in 1998. Since then he has worked as a consultant in media and development communications, as a director and producer of documentary videos, and a communications researcher and trainer. He has been employed by UNICEF and WHO in India and for the last two years has been working for the World Health Organisation in Geneva as a Campaigns Officer on the Stop TB Partnership Programme. Satya and his wife, Sharad, who is finishing a contract with UNAIDS Headquarters in Geneva, are now at a crossroads, thinking through how they want to use their skills and experience in the future. Good luck to both.

Other News

Nabilla Porbandarwalla (ISP 03-07), a medical student at the University of Texas, San Antonio, won first place at her school's annual Medical School Research Day and first place out of 76 posters presented at the National American Medical Association Conference in Atlanta last December. Her paper was on Community-Onset Methicillin-Resistant infections. As first prize winner, Nabilla was awarded a trip to the AMA National Conference and Leadership Program in Washington DC in March 2005. Congratulations to Nabilla.

Firoz Ladak (ISP 86-89) has an MPhil in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Oxford and a BA in Political Science from McGill University. After over a decade in the banking sector, with Banque Paribas in Paris and South Africa and Société Générale in Paris, this bilingual ISP alumnus has moved to Geneva. Firoz has taken up a position at the LCF Rothschild Group as advisor to Benjamin de Rothschild and his wife on the financial and strategic management of their philanthropic foundations. Firoz has already visited the AKF office and we hope to see more of him during his stay in Geneva.

Zamila Karimi (ISP 80-82), an architect from the state of Georgia, recently wrote us about her academic and volunteer work in the USA:

"I am currently pursuing graduate studies in Interior Design at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. My main research interest is the impact of Islamic culture on the design of buildings and interior spaces in the last 20 years. I would be very interested to link up with ISP alumni with similar interests and can be reached by email at Currently, I am also on the National Committee of Aga Khan Foundation USA and have had the opportunity to travel to East Africa and the Northern Areas of Pakistan to observe AKF projects at the grassroots level. During these trips I visited Serena resorts and hotels as well and saw how local resources are used in the design and implementation of these projects. What struck me most was the relationship between development initiatives and artistic endeavours, whether in music, arts and crafts or restoration projects, and would like to incorporate this aspect into my research project.

Other volunteer activities that I have been involved with in the past include Village-in-Action (VIA), a development education program which has become the flagship activity for AKF USA's Partnership Walks. VIA gives participants of all backgrounds and ages an opportunity to engage in interactive activities and learn how people in developing countries create solutions to overcome such hardships as low income, poor health and limited educational opportunities. VIA demonstrates the positive results achieved through the Foundation's development programs and allows young people to engage in the project at many levels, from research and planning to designing and creating the exhibits. It gives everyone who gets involved a real sense of the breadth and depth of AKDN activities and the inter-relationship of different agencies within the network. It is very rewarding to see young people learn about and engage in these activities and become AKDN ambassadors to the general public on the day of the Walk.

I was also the founding member of Camp Mosaic in the United States for youth aged 6-13 years, which is run by volunteer counsellors and staff. In 1998/99 I was the lead exhibition designer as well as the curator for the cultural show "The Expressions of the Pamirs" which toured the United States, Canada and Europe. Designing this travelling exhibit was a new experience for me and gave me an opportunity to learn about the arts and culture of the people of Tajikistan and Central Asia. The entire project was constructed with the help of volunteers and it was a huge success. In 2000 I was the Project Manager for "Illuminations", a cultural program of the Culture and Arts Portfolio of the Ismaili National Council in the USA. The program was held at the Georgia Dome and was attended by 5,000 people. It brought together young people and artists from different regions of the US to perform together under one roof and display their work in an art exhibition. Currently, at UGA I am teaching courses in Interior Design as part of my graduate work which is very rewarding as I want to go into teaching and research after my graduation."

Two former Tajik scholarship students, Gulru Dodikhudoeva (TSP 98-03) and Abakhon Sultonazarov (TSP/ISP 95-01), are working with NGOs in Afghanistan. Gulru is Regional Grant and Donor Officer for the Bhaglan Regional Office of Aga Khan Foundation (Afghanistan) in Pul-i-Khumri. Gulru did her undergraduate studies at International University of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek and was an AKF USA summer intern in 2003. Abakhon has been with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Kabul since December 2004, where he is the Business and Finance Director. He completed his BS and MS degrees in Economics at Moscow State University and spent six months as an intern at AKF USA in 2001. On his return to Tajikistan he worked for AKF(Tajikistan) in Khorog and UNDP in Dushanbe, before moving to Kabul.

Here are some more stories from Pallavi Aiyar (ISP 00-02) from China (see also Alumni News below):

How Chinese companies are entering into the global brands race:

China is starting to experiment with direct elections. Pallavi's article in Indian Express takes a look at the elections for village councils that are now mandatory across the mainland:

The gender empowerment revolution in China has catapulted the middle kingdom from a feudal, patriarchal past into modernity:


AKF is grateful to Alireza Mirshahi (ISP 94-00) for his donation of EUR 500 to the ISP in January.


Tom Mboya Olali (ISP 00-03), The Veneration of the Prophet: the Role of Kasida Ya Hamziyyah during the Maulidi Festival of the Lamu Archipelago, Kenya, PhD, African Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, April 2004

Pattabiraman Subramanian (ISP 03-04), Can Post Harvest Management Aid to Alleviate Market Vulnerability? An Analysis of Sri Lankan Paddy Post Harvest Management System, MSc, Poverty Reduction and Development Management, The University of Birmingham, October 2004

Robiya Elnazarova (ISP 03-04), Curriculum Reform in Tajikistan. Issues of Governance and Decentralisation, MA in Educational Leadership and Innovation, University of Warwick, Institute of Education, January 2005


2004-2005 ISP Scholars

The Aga Khan Foundation is pleased to announce the new recipients of its international scholarships from the following countries:

Dr. Shehzad Ali (Pakistani), PhD, Social Policy, University of York
Ms. Farzana Rashid, MA, Economics, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts

Mr. Nuruddin Karim, MArch, Design Research, Architecture Association, London
Mr. Farid Merchant, MS, Computer Science (Bio-informatics), Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
Dr. Uma Natchu, MPH, Public Health, Harvard University
Mr. Jayaraj Sundaresan, MSc, City Design & Social Science, London School of Economics

Dr. (Ms.) Sima Eshkoor, MS, Human Genetics, University Kebangsaan, Malaysia

Ms. Angela Githitho-Muriithi, MPhil, Education, University of Cambridge
Mr. Michael Owino, MSc, Tropical Agricultural Development, University of Reading

Mr. Al-Karim Datoo, PhD, McGill University
Mr. Ghulam Khan, MSc, University College London
Mr. Kamal Khan, LLM, University of Hull
Ms. Anila Mithani, MSc, London School of Economics
Mr. Salman Muhammad, MA, Catholic University Leuven, Belgium

Dr. Khuder Alagha, AFSA, Reanimation, University of Montpellier
Mr. Fadi Al-Housari, PhD, Agronomy, Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse

Mr. Shodi Abdulvasiev, MA, Intercultural Service, Leadership & Management, School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont
Mr. Muhsinjon Ahmadov, MS, Economics, KIMEP (Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics/Strategic Research), Almaty
Ms. Borkhotun Iskandarkhonova, Candidate of Science, International Law, Institute of International Relations, Moscow
Mr. Tohir Kalandarov, PhD, Ethnology and Anthropology, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
Ms. Zevar Sabzalieva, MA, International Education, University of Sussex

Mr. Nishan Degnarain, MPA/ID, Public Administration and International Development, Harvard University
Mr. Karim Merchant, MA of Music, Jazz Piano, Manhattan School of Music, New York

Return to top