It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Dr Shirin Akiner, former BUS Chair and a dedicated member of the Society since its inception. In the world of academia, she was renowned for her myriad scholarly works, particularly on Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Tatars of Belarus, and for sitting as a member of the editorial and advisory board of the Journal of Central Asian and Caucasian Studies, published by the USAK; as Founder and General Editor of the Central Asia Research Forum series, published by Routledge; and as Rapporteur to the UNESCO project Integral Study of the Silk Road, amongst other positions. She presented papers in more than 20 countries on a vast number of topics, including Islam, ancient manuscripts, gender, political transformation, conflict and ethnicity, and was a frequent broadcaster on TV and radio.
However, for those who knew her, Shirin will be remembered for the warmth of her personality, particularly towards young people; her incredible knowledge and appreciation of Central Asian, Turkic and Persian cultures and languages; her humour; and her relentlessly upbeat spirit, even during the courageous fight against her final illness. The hallmark of her life was her indomitable spirit and energy. Having survived a terrible car accident during her early years in Turkey when her first husband Murat Akiner and three of his family were killed, she appreciated every day and was extraordinarily generous with her time and energy.
As Chair of BUS, she worked passionately to promote the people, culture and the country of Uzbekistan. Her spirit, her work and positive approach to life were appreciated amongst BUS members and all those who met her. All BUS event attendees remember her memorable lectures, talks and presentations, which enlightened knowledge of Central Asia and the Silk Road for many. Shirin may not now be with us, but her soul is an omnipresent inspiration.
Naturally, she garnered numerous awards, including the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal from the Royal Society for Asian Affairs; the Honorary Fellowship of the Anciens Association of the NATO Defence College; the International Chingiz Aitmatov Award and a special recognition from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry for her work as BUS Chairman.
Dr Shirin Akiner BA, PhD (London), Research Fellow at UCL; Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs; Scholar, Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London; Visiting Professor at Oberlin University (USA), Uppsala University (Sweden), Kazakh National University (Almaty) and the National University of Seoul (South Korea); Senior Fellow, Cambridge Central Asia Forum, University of Cambridge.