Political Exiles

Welcome to the Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) database. You can:

Open Society FoundationsFunding

The CAPE project is supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.


The CAPE project is directed by Dr John Heathershaw and Dr Saipira Furstenberg.  Over the years, we have benefited from the research assistance, skills and hardwork of postgraduate students and visiting fellows at the University of Exeter.  In 2018/19, these are Daniela Bracke and Galina Selivanova.

About the database

The Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) database at the department of Politics, University of Exeter studies the extra-territorial security measures deployed by the five Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and the human rights threats abuses and concerns faced by individuals in exile and opposition movements abroad. It was initiated in October 2014 by John Heathershaw and Alexander Cooley in partnership with David Lewis and Ed Lemon. The dataset offers a unique analytical tool to study the dynamics of extraterritorial security measures (sometimes called ‘transnational repression’) in countries of Central Asia to target dissidents abroad, from the period of 1990 to present times.

Since the launch of the database, it has been widely both by researchers and policy makers.


Research publications which have used the CAPE database include:

  • Edward Lemon, Saipira Furstenberg and John Heathershaw, ‘Tajikistan: Placing Pressure on Political Exiles by Targeting Relatives’, Foreign Policy Centre, September, 2017.
  • Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw, Dictators Without Borders: power and money in Central Asia, London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017.
  • John Heathershaw, Eve Bishop and Rosa Brown, ‘Practices and patterns of extraterritorial security: introducing the Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) database’, in Adam Hug (ed), No shelter: The harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union, London: Foreign Policy Centre, November 2016, pp.20–24.
  • Edward Lemon, ‘Tajikistan: The transnationalisation of domestic struggles’, in Adam Hug (ed), No shelter: The harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union, London: Foreign Policy Centre, November 2016, pp.25–8.

Let us know if you have used the database, and if you have any feedback: email us or tweet @CentralAsiaNet.

Criteria and methodology

Separate articles specify the parameters and definitions used, as well as the ethics and methodology that guides the CAPE database.


Learn how it is kept up-to-date, by regular review and revision, and the criteria for adding or removing names.

Partner organisations

We cooperate with the following organizations in data sharing and/or joint advocacy initiatives:

Click to go to CAPE

News items

Transnational Politics of Central Asia and Beyond – 26 June, 2019

ESCAS 2019 Pre-Conference Workshop

ESCAS 2019 Pre-Conference Workshop Wednesday 26 June 2019 Upper Lounge at Reed Hall, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter This workshop is part of the Central Asian Political Exiles project and is organised by Saipira Furstenberg and John Heathershaw.  The concept note for the workshop is here: The Transnational Politics of Central Asia and beyond (PDF). […]

Not In Our Name: multiple causes for reflection

A new documentary by RFE/RL provides an opportunity to reflect on the complexities of the recruitment of Central Asians to violent extremism and the limitations of research and policy-making on the topic On Monday 6 November, I had the privilege of attending the UK premiere at Chatham House of the new RFE/RL documentary Not In […]

Tajikistan: No Freedom beyond this point?

    Saipira Furstenberg and John Heathershaw offer reflections on their visit to the OSCE (HDIM) meeting in Warsaw, 2018.   On September 10, we visited Europe’s annual largest human rights and democracy conference, the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw. HDIM is a two-week session, bringing together 57 OSCE participating states, and nongovernmental representatives, international […]

ESCAS 2019 pre-conference workshop, University of Exeter 26 June, 2019

      Applications now open for the ESCAS 2019 pre-conference workshop! University of Exeter  26th of June 2019   Call for Papers: Transnational Politics of Russia and Eurasia   This one-day ESCAS pre-conference workshop, hosted by Exeter Central Asian Studies, aims to discuss the relationship between Russian and Eurasian exiles and diaspora communities and […]

Central Asia Political Exiles Newsletter #2 — Summer 2018

Message from the Team Welcome to the summer edition of your Central Asia Political Exiles Newsletter. In this issue, we feature the launch of the second edition of the CAPE database and a number of reports on the deteriorating space for human rights and free media in parts of the Central Asian region. We link […]

Preventing Transnational Repression, Protecting Human Rights Ideas for the Future?

Transnational repression takes place where authoritarian regimes repress former citizens beyond their borders and so outside of their sovereign territory. The Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) database documents this repression against political exiles that have fled from fear of persecution within the Central Asian states. The authorities of these countries may then track, target and […]

Tajikistan’s Imprisonment of Journalists: Khayrullo Mirsaidov and the question of Western (ir)responsibility

In recent years, the repression of civil society, the media and academia has starkly increased in Tajikistan[1]. A number of prominent Tajik scholars and journalists have been detained in Tajikistan, forced to flee, and/ or targeted or threatened with long-term imprisonment. Steve Swerdlow, a Central Asian researcher at Human Rights Watch, and Michael Anderson, an […]

Resilience and Repression of Political Islam in Central Asia: Muhiddin Kabiri at Chatham House

On the 20th June 2018, the Exeter Central Asian Studies network were delighted to be joined by Muhiddin Kabiri at the “Political Exiles and Transnational Repression in Central Asia and Beyond” workshop. Held at Chatham House, and formed as a cooperative between ExCAS, Chatham House and the European Social and Economic Research Council, the morning […]

Political Exiles and Transnational Repression in Central Asia and Beyond

Chatham House, 20 June

Venue: Chatham House, 10 St James‘s Square, London Date: 20 June 2018, 9:30–13:00 This workshop at Chatham House will include academics, activists, lawyers and exiles themselves.  We are delighted to say that Muhiddin Kabiri, leader of the banned Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, will be able to join us via video connection. 9:30-11:00: Session 1 […]

Political Exiles, Transnational Repression and Global Authoritarianism in Eurasia and Beyond

Monday, May 7, 2018 The Harriman Institute at Columbia University Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies 1512 International Affairs Building (420 W 118th St, 15th floor) Please join us for a workshop bringing together academics, journalists, and human rights activists for three thematic panels. This event is supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation […]