Saskia Schäfer
Head of Research Group

Saskia Schäfer’s research focuses on politics and religion. She has held post-doctoral positions at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life, both at Columbia University, and at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She received her Dr. phil. in political science from the Otto-Suhr-Institute of Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin in collaboration with the multidisciplinary Graduate School “Muslim Cultures and Societies.” She is currently preparing a manuscript on religious freedom and orthodoxy in Indonesia.

image © Mareike Stoll

Mutmainna Syam
PhD Candidate/Research Assistant

Mutmainna Syam holds a M.A. in International Relations from Gazi University, Turkey. While studying in Turkey, she also worked for the Indonesian Embassy in Ankara as a Political Analyst Assistant. She is currently conducting research about religious authorities and democracy in the education sector in Indonesia.

Dissa Julia Paputungan
PhD Candidate

Dissa Julia Paputungan received her M.A. in political science from Osnabrück University. Her research interests include public policy, civil society, and the use of social media. She is currently conducting her PhD research about intolerance and civil society organizations in the education sector in Indonesia. Her PhD research is funded by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Ela Ezgi Benli
Student Research Assistant

Ela Ezgi Benli studies Global History (M.A.) at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. Her main interest is women’s rights activism in Muslim countries and her regional foci are the Middle East, East Africa, and Indonesia. In addition to her studies, Ela pursues anti-racism work and is active in Kurdish and Turkish women’s rights organizations.

Bahar Çatı
Student Research Assistant

Bahar Çatı studies Social Sciences at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Her academic focus is on global feminist movements and Islamism. She also works on nation-building in the Middle East, especially in Turkey and Kurdistan, and contributions made to nation-building by the respective diasporas in Germany. She has been a Rosa Luxemburg Foundation fellow since 2020.


Zeynep Inal is currently pursuing her M.A. in the German-Turkish Masters Program in Social Sciences jointly offered by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Middle East Technical University. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Administration at Middle East Technical University in 2021. Her major research interests are democratization, populism, gender politics, and EU-Turkey relations.  

Farina Salma is currently pursuing her B.A. in Political Science and
Sociology in the National University of Singapore. Her academic
interests include Political Islam, Democracy and the Politics of the
Middle East. Aside from her academics, she is also actively
involved in local organizations that promote inter-religious and
inter-ethnic discussions to create a stronger, cohesive community. 

External collaborators

Leona Pröpper works as a One World Promoter with the human rights organization Watch Indonesia!. She collaborates with SIDIT on urban development and civil society. 

Petsy Jessy Ismoyo is a lecturer in the International Relations Study Program, Faculty of Social and Communication Sciences, Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana (UKSW), Indonesia and a researcher at the Center for the Study of Religion, Pluralism, and Democracy (PusAPDEm). She holds a BA in French Studies and MA in European Studies from Universitas Indonesia (UI). Her research interest focuses on culture, gender, and religion. Jessy joined our work group as part of a fellowship with the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA).

Zeynep Balcioglu works as a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University. She earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University in 2021. Her research focuses on multi-level governance structures, social services, and assistance provisions for refugees and immigrants, local bureaucracies, and international humanitarian organizations. She holds a BA in Political Science and International Relations from Boğaziçi University and an MA in Global Ethics and Human Values from King’s College London. After joining the team in Berlin for a post-doctoral fellowship in 2022, she continues to collaborate with SIDIT on a project on notions of democracy among elites in Turkey.

Former members and former guest researchers

  • Fatma İhtiyar (Intern, Humboldt Internship Program, August 2022-February 2023)
  • Bryan Christopher Tan (Intern, Humboldt Internship Program, June 2022-September 2022)
  • Marisa Chávez Gómez (Intern, Humboldt Internship Program, June 2022-September 2022)
  • Muhittin Ahmedoğlu (Research Assistant, February 2020-May 2022)
  • Mehmet Keserli (Student Research Assistant , March 2021-March 2022)
  • Amalie Ravn Østergaard (Intern, Humboldt Internship Program, July-August 2021)
  • Büşra Nur Beşir (Intern, Erasmus Internship Program, July-August 2021)
  • Joseph Black (Intern, Humboldt Internship Program, May-July 2021)
  • Lea Ebeling (Student Research Assistant, August 2019-April 2021)
  • Prof. Merlyna Lim (Guest Researcher, September-October 2019