Rasht Valley Superstar Committed to Social Innovation in Tajikistan

Community leader and social entrepreneur are just a few words that define Firdavs Nurov. Firdavs has drawn from his 2010 International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) experience in the United States where he acquired new skills for youth programming, explored advanced principles for nonprofit organizational management, and strengthened his leadership competency to envisage and carry out numerous projects for promoting tolerance and inclusive development in the Rasht Valley.  Rasht Valley is an isolated and conservative region of Tajikistan where, from 2009 to 2011, political violence was a common occurrence and today,   youth in the Valley are especially susceptible to extremist narratives and recruitment.  It is estimated there are approximately 1,000 Tajik fighters serving in extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, many of which are from the Rasht Valley.

Firdavs has demonstrated genuine leadership time and again through projects like the “Young Leadership Program” (YLP) which teaches leadership and volunteer skills to young people and “First Brick” which helps to improve the cultural knowledge of Tajik youth while strengthening their critical thinking skills.  Firdavs is an innovator who develops programs that apply holistic and multifaceted strategies to resolve the underlying conditions that give rise to social instability and violence.  Such innovation is exemplified by the 2012 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF)  winning project “Volunteer to Prosper Our Community” that positively impacted the health and welfare of more than 1,800 youth from the Valley’s five districts.  Social entrepreneurship is at the heart of his work and is personified through Marifatnoki—a nongovernmental organization and social enterprise that promotes social innovation and that he helped to create.

Under Firdavs’ leadership, Marifatnoki has launched several youth programs that offer positive outlets and alternatives to young people and their communities.  One project in particular, “Violent Extremism and Radicalization which Lead to Terrorism,“ has proven effective at discouraging youth from joining violent groups by helping those susceptible to violent extremist narratives to understand the basic ideology of violent extremism, the methods used by violent extremists to recruit members, and techniques to refute incorrect interpretations of facts and reject false promises.  Other projects, such as “Youth Leaders of Tomorrow” and “Empowering Women and Girls in Rasht Valley,” have helped to reconcile the Valley’s drivers of instability while strengthening social constructs to pursue positive, nonviolent solutions to social, economic, and political disputes.  Firdavs has also contributed to efforts to help improve community safety through partnerships between local law enforcement and communities.

Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna.  Firdavs Nurov is this month’s outstanding alumnus, and his work will be recognized throughout June on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website which serves more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.