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Who is Mehriban Aliyeva? A look at Azerbaijan's First Lady and Vice President

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By Atack Patrick
Who is Mehriban Aliyeva? A look at Azerbaijan's First Lady and Vice President

Mehriban Aliyeva is the Moscow-educated wife of Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, and as of this week will serve as the country’s Vice President.

In a statement, President Aliyev said his wife was appointed to the role due to her “important and active” place in the “public, political and cultural life of (Azerbaijan) for many years”.

In addition to her roles at the top of Azeri society, Aliyeva has been deputy Chair of the New Azerbaijan Party (Yeni Azerbaijan Party) since 2013, and an MP since 2005. She received over 90% of her constituency’s votes in each of the three elections she has stood in.

Her personal website adds that Aliyeva was awarded the Heydar Aliyev Order for her work resulting in the “development of culture, education and healthcare in the Republic of Azerbaijan”, and “great services to the organisation of the 1st European Games”. The award is named after her father-in-law, the ex-KGB former President who ruled from 1993 to 2003, when his son took over. It is the country’s highest award.

Why did she get the job?

In his official announcement of the decision to make his wife Vice President, Aliyev praised Aliyeva’s work as an MP, such as addressing “the socioeconomic problems of (her) constituency”, and “broad international activity an as MP”.

Aliyev added that Mehriban’s work as president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation played a key part in his decision-making.

Her work has “contributed to the all-round development of our country”, he says.
President Aliyev also praised his wife’s work as Goodwill Ambassador to UNESCO and ISESCO, as well as her contributions to the nation’s national Olympic committee.

At no point in his official announcement, or her official acceptance, is their relationship mentioned.

Who is Mehriban?

After growing up in what she describes as a “family of intelligentsia” in Baku, Mehriban studied at the 1st Moscow State Medical Institute. She returned to medicine and was awarded a doctorate in 2005.

She married Ilham Aliyev in 1983. The couple have three children and four grandchildren.

However, most of Mehriban’s career has been spent as the figurehead of various Azerbaijani foundations and federations.

She set up the Azerbaijan Culture Foundation in 1995; created the “Azerbaijan- Irs” magazine in 1996; was elected president of Gymnastics Federation of Azerbaijan in 2002; elected to Executive Committee of the National Olympic Committee in 2004; made president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in 2004; She has been a member of her husband’s New Azerbaijan Party since 2004, and deputy chair since 2013.

Mehriban is the daughter of two esteemed professors. Her father Arif Pashayev is “Azerbaijan’s eminent scholar, pedagogue (and) public person”, according to Aliyeva’s website. Her mother is equally revered, described, again on Aliyeva’s website, as the “first professor-woman in Azerbaijan”.