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Published on Aug 24, 2011
"I am stateless." Railya Abulkhanova, 36, was born and raised in a family of five in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan and was studying in Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving her citizenship in question. She surrendered her permanent registration card in Kazakhstan upon leaving to study in Russia. A subsequent application for naturalization in neighboring Uzbekistan, based on her work there as a university professor, failed as well. In 2008, she applied for papers in Russia but later withdrew them when she married a French national and moved with him to France. She is now living in Lille as the wife of a French citizen but without a passport. She is stateless. Because of her lack of naturalization papers, Railya says she has been unable to find work in her chosen fields despite possessing a PhD, eight years teaching experience and fluency in six languages including French. She has worked as a professor of languages and French Literature and is the author school texts in Uzbekistan.