EVENT: Saltanat’s Law: Women’s Rights in Central Asia

About the Event

The Jamestown Foundation and the Energy, Growth, and Security Program at the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) will jointly host the event “Saltanat’s Law: Women’s Rights in Central Asia.”

Following a dramatic trial in which a previously untouchable former minister in Kazakhstan was convicted of brutally murdering his wife, civil society and state actors alike have mobilized in an unprecedented fashion in defense of women’s rights in Central Asia. In April 2024, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed “On Amendments and Additions to Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Ensuring Women’s Rights and Child Safety” and “On Amendments and Additions to the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Ensuring Women’s Rights and Child Safety” following calls to improve protection against domestic violence in Central Asia. These are being labeled “Saltanat’s Laws,” named after the victim in the trial, and are one prominent effort against domestic violence amongst many currently unfolding in the region.

Experts on gender equality will share their insights about current developments in Central Asia regarding the elimination of violence against women. Additionally, they will discuss the importance of increasing economic participation and political representation of women at all levels of society and government in the five Central Asian states.

Changing legislation to protect women and children from domestic violence has been on the agenda of governments and civil society in the region for several years. Reforms are also ongoing to boost women’s social and political standing and change public attitudes, particularly among men, on the right of every woman to be treated as an equal member of society.

The event will be hybrid with some online participants. It will also be broadcast over Zoom and livestreamed on The Jamestown Foundation’s YouTube channel. Registration announcement to come. 

Register Here


Ambassador Madina Jarbussynova, UN Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Dr. Jennifer Wistrand, Deputy Director, Kennan Institute, The Wilson Center

Joy Neumeyer, Journalist and Historian Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia

Ariel Cohen, L.L.B., Ph.D., Energy, Growth, and Security Program at the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC)

Dina Daniyarova, Business-partner of JSC NC KazMunayGas


Margarita Assenova, Senior Fellow, Jamestown Foundation

Speaker Bios:

Ambassador Madina Jarbussynova of Kazakhstan is a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Previously, she was the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings representing the OSCE at the political level in anti-trafficking issues. From June 2012 to August 2014, she served as the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine. She was Ambassador-at-Large for Kazakhstan from 2009-2011, including during Kazakhstan’s Chair-in-Office in 2010. She was also chairperson of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Advisory Board and a member of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. From 1999 to 2003, she was her country’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations. Prior to this, from 1998 to 1999 she served as the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Joy Neumeyer is a journalist and historian whose writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Nation, the Atlantic, and Foreign Policy. She was a Fulbright fellow in Russia and has lived and worked as a reporter in Moscow and Warsaw. She holds a PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Jennifer S. Wistrand is the Deputy Director of the Kennan Institute. She holds a BA in Anthropology and French from Northwestern University and an MA and PhD in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis. Her areas of expertise are migration and forced displacement in the Caucasus and Central Asia and humanitarian and development approaches to managing migration and forced displacement.

Prior to joining the Kennan Institute Dr. Wistrand was an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Prior to that she was a consultant to the World Bank for projects concerning internally displaced persons (IDPs), women, and youth in Azerbaijan, Sudan, and Morocco. She was a term appointee and a Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies’ Fellow in the US Department of State’s Secretary of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. She also taught at the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies and the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University.

Dr. Wistrand has held several fellowships, including a Fulbright Fellowship in Azerbaijan and a Title VIII Kennan Institute Fellowship. She was also a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan.

Ariel Cohen, L.L.B., Ph.D., is an internationally renowned expert on energy policy, Russia/Eurasia, Eastern and Central Europe, and the Middle East. He is a recognized authority on political and security risk management; economic development, investment policy; the rule of law; crime and corruption; market entry strategies; and other aspects of state/business relations.

Dr. Cohen is a Senior Fellow with the International Tax and Investment Center and Managing Director of the Energy, Growth and Security program. He also serves as a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. He is a member of the prestigious Loisach Group at the George Marshall Center in Garmisch, Bavaria, Germany.

He earned his master’s degree and PhD from the Tuft’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Margarita Assenova is a Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington DC and a regular contributor to its flagship publication Eurasia Daily Monitor covering energy security and politics in Europe and Eurasia. For over two decades, she also lectured and served as Advanced Area Studies Course Chair for Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia at the Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State.

Assenova is a recipient of the John Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University for her reporting on nationalism in the Balkans. Her articles appeared in U.S. and European newspapers, magazines, and online publications, including The Hill, The National Interest, The Washington Times, RFE/RL Newsline and Balkan Report, Transitions Online. She has also written extensively on Russian disinformation for Polygraph.info, a Voice of America counter-disinformation site.

Her latest book, Eurasian Disunion: Russia’s Vulnerable Flanks (2016), co-authored with Janusz Bugajski, is a critical study on Russian subversion in Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia. She edited and co-authored Azerbaijan and the New Energy Geopolitics of Southeastern Europe, Ed. (2015), a study of the potential impact of Caspian natural gas supplies on energy security in the Balkans. Her report Nord Stream 2: Myths, Reality, and the Way Forward (CEPA, 2018) became instrumental in mobilizing efforts to curtail Russian energy domination ambitions in Europe.