Suffolk Undertakes “Scholar at Risk”

Over the last two years, Suffolk has had a visiting professor who has sought asylum  from Kyrgyzstan in the United States under the Scholars at Risk (RAS) network. Professor Bakyt Beshimov teaches courses out of the government department; including international organizations, international law, and state building and international intervention.

Professor Beshimov was elected twice to the Kyrgyzstani parliament under the platform of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan. He was the leader of an opposition against the two previous regimes which he calls “subordinates to President Vladimir Putin’s Russia.” As a politician, he advocated for anti-corruption, sound economic reforms, and promoted human rights and democracy. In recent Kyrgyzstani newspaper headlines, Professor Beshimov has been deemed a “CIA spy being paid by Uncle Sam,” because of his proactive policies toward relations with the United States. He argues against this rampant Cold War mentality present throughout Kyrgyzstan that has been holding back Kyrgyzstan’s efforts toward the democracy and modernization that he so strongly believes in.

Along with his time spent in Parliament, he also served as president of Osh State University in Kyrgyzstan and was Kyrgyzstan’s representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, Austria. At the OSCE, he focused on understanding the internal mechanisms and policies concerning water shortages throughout the globe, which has been a trying issue in his home country. Professor Beshimov also represented Kyrgyzstan at the Organization of Islamic Confidence in Cairo, improving communication and creating a common agenda among Islamic countries. These two organizations, while overwhelmingly counteracting each other, opened up his perspectives and allowed him to represent Kyrgyzstan in a productive and competent capacity. They also compliment the courses he teaches at Suffolk, using his real-life experience to bestow as much information upon his students as possible.

After two assassination attempts and other impediments imposed throughout his years spent as a politician in Kyrgyzstan, he is now living in the United States. His remarks about the higher and liberal education offered at Suffolk, as well as other universities he has been working with, are nothing less than admirable. He also has commended Suffolk students on their eagerness to learn in his courses. He stated, “the fabric of Suffolk is designed to aid and give students unlimited opportunity and they are hungry for knowledge.”

The Scholars at Risk program (SAR), founded at the University of Chicago, “promotes academic freedom and defends the human rights of scholars and their communities worldwide,” according to their mission statement. Since professor Beshimov has been actively being persecuted in his home country because of his political affiliations, he received a warm welcome from the U.S., as well as Suffolk. He expressed feelings of gratefulness for the chance to further his academic career in the U.S. and for the way Suffolk kindly accepted him as a professor.

Since it is too dangerous for him ever to move back to Kyrgyzstan, he is planning for a thriving academic career in the U.S. He admires Suffolk students specifically for relying on themselves and no one else for their future filled with a desire to find new opportunities. The chance for him to transform himself as a professor and to transform students into avid participators on the journey to knowledge, presented to him by Suffolk, made him feel like an acutely “lucky man.”

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