Who we are

Leila Mekhdi

Leila Mekhdiyeva is a freelance journalist and writer born and raised in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a mixed Azerbaijani-Kazakh family. She has been living in the Czech Republic since 2015. After graduating from Prague’s Anglo-American University with a BA in Journalism & Communications, Leila has written for a variety of media outlets including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, BLVD Magazine, Lennon Wall Magazine, and Youth Time Magazine.

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Leila Mekhdi


Jana Cekara Film Festival in Almaty Goes Online Due to Pressure from the Kazakh Government

Jana Cekara Film Festival was set to be hosted in Almaty for the second year to advocate for the violation of rights of Turkic nations in China’s Xinjiang region. Yet a few days before the film festival was planned to open, the Kazakh National Security Committee pressured the venue providers to refuse to host it. Jana Cekara’s team, despite losing the venue, decided to move the festival online, refusing to be silenced in the country that some suggest supports the Chinese government on their “re-education” of Muslims in East Turkistan.

15 September 2023

Central Asia, Culture

How Kazakhstan Is Reviving the Aral Sea that the Soviet Union Destroyed

Kazakhstan is leading the charge in reviving the Aral Sea, which while once a vital ecosystem, now remains a stark reminder of environmental consequences.

12 September 2023

Central Asia, Stories

Kazakhstan’s Battle Against Bride Kidnapping and Gender Inequality

Bride kidnapping cases are growing in Central Asia, and Kazakhstan is no exception. Part of the society in rural areas explains that it’s part of the Kazakh tradition “Qyz Alyp Qashu,” while experts are looking into ways to toughen the penalty for the crime. 

6 September 2023

Central Asia, Stories

Tahmina Rafaella: The Venice Film Festival, Patriarchy in Azerbaijan, and Life in LA

Tahmina Rafaella, the director and lead actor of "Banu," talks about her journey and the societal issues in her native Azerbaijan that inspired her to create her debut movie.

29 August 2023

Caucasus, Stories

In Kazakhstan, the Fight Against Animal Cruelty is Far from Over

Despite new laws regarding animal abuse, incidents continue to make headlines in Kazakhstan, but what more is being done to prevent these horrific acts of cruelty?

8 August 2023


Always Inspired: Azerbaijan’s First Podcaster Leila Aliyeva

Leila Aliyeva, the founder of Always Inspired, one of Azerbaijan's most popular podcasts, talks about her journey from a corporate career to an anonymous food blog to an open and honest podcast discussing mental health.

21 July 2023

Caucasus, Stories

Dina Smailova’s Help to Sexual Violence Survivors is More Than Just Activism

Dina Smailova is an activist and founder of Ne Molchi Kazakhstan, a foundation helping victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse, who is not afraid to confront the government, NGOs, and the system. We discussed why she had to relocate to Tbilisi, Georgia, and why she can’t return to Kazakhstan.

Soviet Modernist Architecture in Almaty

What do you think of when you hear “Soviet architecture”? Gray building blocks? Emblems of arms and hammers? Lack of individuality? All are correct. Yet today, we take a look at when Soviet architecture produced something beyond its cliche buildings and explored different shapes, creating the style of Soviet Modernism.

​​Snow Leopards: How a Symbol of Kazakhstan Turned into a Vulnerable Species

Snow leopards are an important symbol in Kazakhstan, and now vital steps are being taken to save them, including the conservation of their habitats, a nature reserve, and a rehabilitation centre.

How Journalist Aisana Ashim is Building a Media Empire in Kazakhstan

Aisana Ashim, a 31-year-old media entrepreneur and founder of multiple publications, is fighting for independent journalism in Kazakhstan.

Jamila Musayeva: Azerbaijan’s Famous YouTuber and Etiquette Consultant

A successful YouTuber from Azerbaijan, Jamila Musayeva, whose content on etiquette and manners has gained over 770 thousand subscribers and more than 23 million views on her channel, shares her view on etiquette, the importance of knowledge, and how facing fears is paramount to success.

Uyat: How Shame Keeps Us Hostage

"Uyat" (shame) in Kazakhstan enforces gender stereotypes, victim-blaming, and inadequate protection for women and children.

Veronica Fonova: What It Takes to Be a Feminist in Kazakhstan

Leila Mekhdiyeva interviews Veronica Fonova, a 30-year-old graphic designer and feminist activist in Kazakhstan. She is the co-founder of KazFem, has participated in the UN Women’s Conference, and established a reliable source on domestic violence statistics.

How Kana Beisekeyev Transformed Documentary Filmmaking in Kazakhstan

Leila Mekhdiyeva talks to Kazakhstan’s successful filmmaker about his professional path, his successes, and his creative plans for the future.

International Women's Day in Post-Soviet Countries: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In post-Soviet countries like Kazakhstan, International Women's Day is marked each year by near-mandatory gifts of flowers, but is this all it's meant to be? Leila Mekhdiyeva shines some light on the good, the bad, and the ugly of March 8.

How Russia “Civilized” Kazakhstan

The relationship between Kazakhstan and Russia is complicated, but after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhs have been reflecting a little more angrily about the way their republic was brutally shaped by Russian power over the past century.

Diaspora Kid – One Azerbaijani Kazakh's Story

Growing up in Almaty, Leila Mekhdiyeva started to discover prejudice against her for being half-Azerbaijani. However, rather than giving up her mixed identity, she went on to explore and celebrate her Azerbaijani roots.