CAPE parameters and definitions

Scope of the database

The study of patterns of extra-territorial security measures is not just of historical interest, but also a matter of current concern. Recent studies in political fields as well as policy and human rights group reports reveal that increasingly Central Asian incumbent regimes frequently mobilise extra-territorially to strengthen their hold on power and to weaken opposition abroad (Amnesty International, 2013; Moss, 2016; Tsourapas,2016; Adamson,2017; Jörum, 2015; Michaelsen, 2016).

Existing efforts to catalogue detailed information about political exile events has not been yet documented consistently. The Central Asia Political Exiles database is the first database of its kind designed to capture the dynamics of Central Asian exile politics. Its scope is to collate publicly available data on exiles from the five post-Soviet states of Central Asia, and to highlight practices of extra-territorial security measures employed against them overseas by their home states. The focus on politics of exile and extraterritorial security also enables us to shed light on some aspects of transnational political mobilization, and the complex nodes and networks embedded in the global scale across organizations and actors.


Exile implies the physical dispersion of the individuals from their homeland where time and space are viewed as temporary (Said, 2000). At the core of what constitute exiles is the relationship that the individuals in exile sustain between their home and host countries. Therefore the database does not focus on economic migrants but on individuals whose departure from their homeland and their relationship to the current state is political in nature and contested. We focus on ‘exile’ rather than ‘diaspora’ as our inquiry focus primarily on individuals who have been involved into the politics of their homeland contestations. It’s further associated with political activities of the individuals in exile geared towards transformations of the political situation in the home country (Dufroix, 2005; Shain, 2005; Adamson,2016; Betts and Jones, 2016).

For these reasons, under the criterion of political exiles in our database we distinguish on causes, motivations and means of departure for political and social reasons from an individual’s home country to abroad for an unknown period of time. Factors for leaving the country of origin: those circumstances that ‘pushed’ the individual to relocate must be partly or wholly political in nature.

On this basis, an individual in political exile in our database is defined as:

An emigrant who has settled or spent a prolonged period overseas for reasons which are wholly or partly of a political character.

This category of individuals in political exile bears the following characteristics:

  • Individuals who have previously acted politically, in government or in opposition, in a role which has pitted them against the regime of power, and/or individuals who have previously opposed their government from outside of formal politics.
  • Individuals of civil society, facing the danger of persecution in their home based country for political reasons.
  • Individuals participating in exile politics — attention here is on exile’s political activities while abroad and its implication on regime’s domestic politics.
  • Individuals persecuted for their social affiliation or the political activities of their relatives or friends.

In the CAPE database we identify five categories of political exile which are observable in a Central Asian context. As empirical categories these may shift over time.

  1. Former regime insiders and family members
  2. Members of opposition political parties and movements
  3. Banned clerics and alleged religious extremists
  4. Independent journalists, academics and civil society activists
  5. Others: Businessmen, workers or relatives of political exiles

Excludes from our database concern are:

  1. War criminals and individuals convicted of terrorist offences overseas in a court in a jursidiction where a high standard of the rule of law is upheld. None of the current legal processes with regard to terrorism offences within any of the five Central Asian republics can be considered as upholding a high standard of the rule of law.
  2. Members of transnational clandestine groups, including proscribed terrorist organizations. This includes any individual where there is a credible public source (i.e. established media in an environment with freedom of press) reporting them as a member of a proscribed group (according to the US list or another plausible list).
  3. Labour migrants. Migrants subject to bureaucratic control and even ‘administrative persecution’ do not count as political exiles unless there is a prima facie political rationale for these measures taken against them (i.e. they are members of a group which attributes them to one of the five categories of political exile).

‘Extraterritorial security’

Extraterritorial security denotes a range of practices to track and ultimately detain, capture or assassinate an exile who is deemed a threat to the regime in power. While security officers may portray their targets as transnational militants or terrorists who are threats to national or international security – sometimes with good cause– they are subject to extraterritorial measures due to being identified as a threat to regime security.

The CAPE database identifies three stages of extra-territorial security:

Stage 1:
Put on notice, which includes informal warnings and threats to individuals and intimidation of family members and formal arrests warrants, including Interpol notices, and extradition requests
Stage 2:
Arrest and/or detention, which includes short-term and long-term periods of detention ordered by courts and irregular detention and detention without charge, and conviction (with violations of fair trial standards) to serve a sentence at home.
Stage 3:
Rendition and/or attack, which includes a formal extradition to face torture and imprisonment, informal rendition often following release from detention, disappearance, assassination and serious attacks with an attempt to murder or disable.

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Consulted references

Adamson, F. (2016). The Growing Importance of Diaspora Politics. Current History, 115 (784): 291–297.

Adamson, L. (2017). Non-State Authoritarianism and Diaspora Politics. Paper prepared for the workshop “Authoritarianism from Afar: Diaspora Engagement and the Transnationalisation of State Repression” – CERI, Sciences Po, July 2017.

Amnesty International (2013). Eurasia: Return to Torture Extradition, Forcible Returns and Removals to Central Asia. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 15 September 2017]

Betts A., and Jones W.( 2016). Mobilising the Diaspora: How Refugees Challenge Authoritarianism. Cambridge University Press.

Dufroix, S. (2005). La communauté politique des exilés, une nation hors l’État. Hommes et Migrations, dossier “Trajectoires en exil” Art. 1253.

Jörum, L. E.(2015). Repression across borders: homeland response to anti-regime mobilization among Syrians in Sweden. Diaspora Studies, 8(2): 104–119.

Michaelsen, M. (2016). Exit and Voice in a Digital Age: Iran’s Exiled Activists and the Authoritarian State. Globalizations, 15(2): 248–264. DOI: 10.1080/14747731.2016.1263078.

Moss, S. (2016). Transnational Repression, Diaspora Mobilization, and the Case of The Arab Spring. Social Problems, 63 (4): 480-498.

Said, E. (2000). Reflections on Exile. Harvard University Press, pp 656. ISBN 9780674009974.

Shain Y., (2005). The Frontier of Loyalty Political Exiles in the Age of the Nation-State. Michigan University Press, pp 248. DOI: 10.3998/mpub.93349.

Tsourapas, G. (2016). Illiberal Emigration States in World Politics. Paper prepared for the workshop “Authoritarianism from Afar: Diaspora Engagement and the Transnationalisation of State Repression” – CERI, Sciences Po, July 2017.