Mehriban Aliyeva

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Mehriban Aliyeva
Mehriban Aliyeva07.JPG
Mehriban Aliyeva
First Lady of Azerbaijan
Incumbent
Assumed office
31 October 2003
President Ilham Aliyev
Preceded by Zarifa Aliyeva
Personal details
Born (1964-08-26) 26 August 1964 (age 49)
Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Azerbaijan
Political party New Azerbaijan Party
Spouse(s) Ilham Aliyev (m. 1983)
Children 3
Religion Shia Islam
Website www.mehriban-aliyeva.org

Mehriban Arif qizi Aliyeva (Azerbaijani: Mehriban Arif qızı Əliyeva) (born 26 August 1964, Baku) is the head of Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the wife of its current president Ilham Aliyev. The Sunday Times, writing in 2005 about Aliyeva's decision to run for the Azerbaijani parliament, described her as already wielding "considerable influence," and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation as "a powerful and wealthy institution set up to safeguard the late president’s legacy and support a number of educational and charitable projects."[1]

According to the Los Angeles Times, Mehriban Aliyeva is widely considered to be in line to succeed her husband as President of Azerbaijan.[2]

Early life and marriage[edit]

Mehriban Aliyeva (née Pashayeva) was born into a family described in Wikileaks cables as "the single most powerful family in Azerbaijan." Her grandfather was noted Azerbaijani writer Mir Jalal Pashayev. Her uncle Hafiz Pashayev was Azerbaijan's first Ambassador to the United States. Aliyeva's father Arif Pashayev is Rector of the National Aviation Academy in Baku,[3] and her mother, Aida Imanguliyeva (1939–92) was a prominent philologist and arabist.[4]

Mehriban Aliyeva finished secondary school in 1981 and married Ilham Aliyev, the son of Heydar Aliyev, in Baku on 22 December 1983.[4] She continued her studies, in which she excelled,[5] at the Azerbaijan Medical University and later at the Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy, from which she graduated in 1988.[4][1] From 1988–92, Mehriban Aliyeva worked at the State Research Institute of Eye Diseases of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in Moscow, which was led by Dr. Mikhail Krasnov.[4][6] Two articles in The Times in 2005 described her as a "qualified physician"[5] and "former eye doctor."[1]

The Aliyevs have two daughters, Leyla (born 3 July 1985) and Arzu (born 23 January 1987) and a son Heydar (born in 1997). Leyla is the editor of Baku magazine, published by Azerbaijani Russian businessman Aras Agalarov, and is married to his son Emin Agalarov.[7]

Career[edit]

In 1995, she established the Azerbaijani Culture Friends Foundation.[4] In 1996, with financial support from Chevron, the foundation gave lifetime awards to six representatives of Azerbaijani art and culture. The foundation also sponsored performances in Baku of music by Antonio Vivaldi and George Gershwin.[8]

After the death of her father-in-law Heydar Aliyev in 2003, Aliyeva established, in 2004, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which focuses on studying and holding events to promote Heydar Aliyev's political ideology. In Azerbaijan, according to a recent news article, "The HAF builds more schools than Azerbaijan's Ministry of Education, more hospitals than the Ministry of Health, and conducts more cultural events than the Ministry of Culture."[9] The Heydar Aliyev Foundation also sponsors projects outside Azerbaijan, including helping to finance renovations at the Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, and Strasbourg Cathedral.[9][10][11]

Also in 2004, Aliyeva became a designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, to honor her work promoting oral and musical traditions.[12]

In Azerbaijan's 2005 parliamentary elections, she was elected to the National Assembly of Azerbaijan with 94% of the vote (Source: BBC). She had previously broken with tradition to help campaign for her husband in 2003, when he ran for President of Azerbaijan.[13]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Attendance[edit]

According to WikiLeaks documents, Mehriban does not attend Parliament’s sessions. "Embassy monitors, who have attended nearly every session over the past year, have never seen her present in Parliament."[14]

Competence[edit]

It was published in 2010 that western diplomats reported that Aliyeva appears to not be very informed about political issues, even though she is an appointed member of Azerbaijan’s Parliament. The diplomats noted, "she appeared poorly informed about political issues and could only respond knowledgeably about issues relating to the Heydar Aliyev Fund."[15]

Irregular Voting and Intimidation Allegations[edit]

According to Human Rights Watch, Mehriban's election for Parliament was tainted by irregular voting practices and widespread intimidation. According to the report: “Respect for human rights in the November 2005 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan fell far short of international standards, with serious violations occurring both prior to and on election day.”[16]

According to the same report by Human Rights Watch, the First Lady’s party, Yeni Azerbaijan Party, refused to investigate complaints of election fraud.

The heads of local election commissions, all members of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, refused to accept written complaints from independent and opposition observers and opposition commission members, intimidated them, and called in the police to arrest them.[17]

Family Wealth[edit]

Mehriban Aliyeva during her visit to France.

Mehriban Aliyeva was born Mehriban Pashayeva. The Pashayev family members hold high-level, influential, and powerful positions throughout the Azerbaijani government and business sector.[18]

An article in 2010 reported, "As president, Aliyev earns an official salary of close to $230,000 a year. But Aliyev, who prior to office served as vice president of SOCAR, Azerbaijan's state oil company, has kept a tight grip on the resources of his oil-rich country. . ." [19]

The president and Mehriban’s holdings are believed to be in the tens of millions of dollars.”[20] Meanwhile, the per capita income in Azerbaijan is 4,727 manats, which is equivalent to only 3.74% of the per capita income in the United States.[21]

The president and Mehriban, in defiance of Azerbaijani law, have never declared their net worth.[22]

According to Radio Free Europe, Aliyeva and her two daughters are believed to control several of Azerbaijan's largest banks.[23]

SW Holdings[edit]

SW Holdings is an Azerbaijani holding company. Mehriban’s daughter, Arzu Aliyeva, is one of the owners. SW Holdings owns almost all the businesses that serve Heydar Aliyev International Airport, including: [24]

  • Sky Catering, which serves mid-flight meals
  • Airport Gate, which runs the airport taxi service
  • Silkway Technics, which does technical upkeep of airplanes and helicopters

SW Holdings even owns a bank called Silk Way Bank. [25]

Transfer of Assets to Children[edit]

According to a report in The Washington Post, in 2011 Mehriban’s pre-teenage son Heydar became the legal owner of 9 luxury mansions in Dubai. The mansions were purchased for approximately $44 million.

Their daughters, Arzu and Leyla, also have Dubai property registered under the names. In total, the children's property holdings are estimated at $75 million. [26]

According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Mehriban's younger daughter owns a luxury villa in the Czech spa town Karlovy Vary.[27]

Azerfon[edit]

In a 2011 article, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) discussed their investigation into the ownership of Azerfon, a Baku-based telecommunications company. The company has 1.7 million subscribers and is the only 3G provider in Azerbaijan. [28]

The article reported that the Azerbaijan Communications Ministry has said several times since 2006 that Azerfon was owned by Siemens AG and a couple of British firms. However, a Seimens AG spokeswoman told RFE/RFL that her company never owned any shares in Azerfon or any other mobile company in Azerbaijan. [29]

According to the article, RFE/RL obtained documents from the Azerbaijani Tax Ministry. Azerfon is owned by Cellex Communications SA (owns 18 percent), Aztelekom (a company owned by the Azerbaijani government; owns 18 percent), and three companies registered in Panama: [30]

  • Hughson Management, Inc. (own 24%)
  • Gladwin Management Inc. (owns 24%)
  • Grinnell Management Inc. (owns 24%)

The article reported that according to the Panama State Registry: [31]

  • The President of Gladwin Management Inc. is Leyla Aliyeva (daughter of President Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva).
  • The President of Grinnel Management Inc. is Leyla Aliyeva.
  • The President of Hughson Management, Inc. is Arzu Aliyeva (daughter of President Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva).

The article also reported: “According to an Azerbaijani law adopted in 2005, senior government officials, including the president, are required to provide asset declarations about themselves and their immediate families. President Aliyev has never made such an asset statement public and the Azerbaijan Central Election Commission rejected RFE/RL's request for copies of his statements.” [32]

Additionally, according to the article, in April 2011 the Caspian-European Integration Business Club named Azerfon the “mobile operator of the year.” The Honorary Chairman of the club is President Aliyev. [33]

Because Mehriban's daughters own Azerfon, the company was given almost two years of exclusive 3G service in the country. [34]

Awards[edit]

Aliyeva has received many awards for her humanitarian work, including France's prestigious Legion d'Honneur, honoring what French President Nicolas Sarkozy called her "outstanding service and loyalty to France."[10]

In 2010, UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova awarded Aliyeva the UNESCO Mozart Medal "for strengthening the intercultural dialogue".[35][36]

WikiLeaks[edit]

In 2010, The Guardian published an article with the title, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan’s first lady." The article detailed several things that western government officials observed about Aliyeva.[37]

According to the article, "Observers in Baku often note that today's Azerbaijan is run in a manner similar to the feudalism found in Europe during the Middle Ages: a handful of well-connected families control certain geographic areas, as well as certain sectors of the economy." The WikiLeaks-obtained cable accused the Aliyev family of colluding with other powerful families to keep a monopoly-style hold on Azerbaijan’s big business.[38]

Ms. Aliyeva’s business interests include:[39]

  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Construction
  • Travel

Additionally, it is reported that her family owns a Bentley car dealership.[40]

Diplomatic cables leak[edit]

Mehriban Aliyeva and Svetlana Medvedeva visiting Museum of Modern Art in Baku.

One US embassy dispatch leaked by WikiLeaks in 2010 devoted substantial space to Mehriban Aliyeva in the context of discussing the Pashayevs, her family of origin, noting that Aliyeva is the family's "most famous member."[3]

Describing her leadership of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the cable said:[3]

Aside from being the President's wife, she is President of the Heydar Aliyev Fund, which proclaims to be a humanitarian organization constructing schools, hospitals, and youth centers, among other projects. These projects provide a constant array of goodwill photo opportunities and advertisements for the First Lady, as she cuts ribbons on new schools and cultural centers.

The cable's remarks about Aliyeva's clothing choices, and its claims she used Botox and had cosmetic surgery, were widely reported.[41][42][43]

Il Foglio allegations[edit]

Although the charges have never been proven or disproven, the Italian newspaper Il Foglio made allegations of “informal meetings” between Aliyeva and the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.[44] Il Foglio later apologized for its reporting.[45]

Eurovision Song Contest Scandal[edit]

In May 2012, it was reported in Radio Free Europe that Aliyeva and her family are personally profiting from the construction project of Crystal Hall, which was built for the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 at a cost of $134 million. "An investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and RFE/RL has discovered that the first family is personally profiting from the massive construction project through its hidden ownership in the Azenco construction company."[46]

According to the Caucasus Analytical Digest, Aliyeva and her staff did not disclose their expenditures or budget when she served as the head of the organizing committee for the Eurovision Competition.[47]

The Eurovision competition, which Aliyeva helped organize and host, highlighted “corruption and human rights abuses” in the country.[48] According to the German paper Der Spiegel, the Eurovision Song Competition held in Baku was marred by numerous human rights violations.[49]

Media intimidation[edit]

According to a report produced by the University of Witwatersrand on the corruption in Azerbaijan’s telecommunications sector, the ownership of Azerfon by Mehriban and her family was first identified by an investigative journalist named Khadija Ismayli. In response to Ms. Ismayli's reporting, the Azeri government tapped her phones and hid a camera in her bedroom in an attempt to intimidate her. Khadija Ismayli stated these allegations in April 2012 while speaking at a roundtable meeting in Washington, D.C.[50]

In August 2012, it was reported in The New York Times that Ismailova has been openly critical of the first lady. Ismailova was quoted as saying, "Lots of women want to look like Mehriban, wear their hair like her, see what she’s buying and buy things that look like them at the cheap Sadarak mall outside town."[51]

In September 2012, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that Ismailova had received death threats. According to the article:

"For several years now, she has prepared story after story for RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service and other media detailing corruption in the highest echelons of the country's government -- including the vast financial holdings of President Ilham Aliyev and his family . . . So it was no surprise when she opened an envelope on March 7 with intimate photographs and a note calling her a 'whore' and saying that if she didn't 'behave,' she would be 'defamed.'"[52]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Franchetti, Mark (6 November 2005). "First lady of oil is power in the land". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Haley Sweetland Edwards, “AZERBAIJAN: WikiLeaks depicts lifestyles of Baku's rich and powerful”, Los Angeles Times, 25 Dec 2010, Accessed 26 Mar 2013
  3. ^ a b c "US embassy cables: Who owns what in Azerbaijan". London: The Guardian. 12 December 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Azerbaijan's first lady Mehriban Aliyeva celebrating her birthday today (August 28, 2008)". Today.az. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Mattin, David (8 November 2008). "The Face". The Times. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "Obituary of Mikhail Krasnov (PPT)". Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
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  9. ^ a b Abbasov, Shahin. "Azerbaijan: Foundation Finances Renovations at Versailles, Strasbourg". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Zamejc, Anna. "Azerbaijani First Lady Given Prestigious French Award". Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  11. ^ Abbasov, Shahin. "Azerbaijan: Ex-Guggenheim Director Betting on Bilbao-Style Project for Baku". Eurasianet.org. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  12. ^ Mehriban Aliyeva designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Oral and Musical Traditions. Unesco.org. 13 August 2004. Retrieved 18 September 2006.
  13. ^ "CNN World View broadcasts report about Azerbaijan's first lady". Today.Az. 9 May 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
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  15. ^ ["US Embassy Cables: Who Owns What in Azerbaijan" http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/245758], The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  16. ^ “Azerbaijan Elections and After”, Human Rights Watch, 18 Nov 2005
  17. ^ “Azerbaijan Elections and After”, Human Rights Watch, 18 Nov 2005
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  20. ^ Ulviyye Asadzade and Khadija Ismayilova "Aliyev's Azerbaijani Empire Grows, As Daughter Joins The Game" EurasiaNet.org, 14 Aug 2010
  21. ^ estimated by the International Monetary Fund
  22. ^ Ulviyye Asadzade and Khadija Ismayilova "Aliyev's Azerbaijani Empire Grows, As Daughter Joins The Game" EurasiaNet.org, 14 Aug 2010
  23. ^ Khadija Ismayilova, “Azerbaijani President's Daughters Tied To Fast-Rising Telecoms Firm”, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 27 June 2011, Accessed 26 Mar 2013
  24. ^ Ulviyye Asadzade and Khadija Ismayilova, "Aliyev's Azerbaijani Empire Grows, As Daughter Joins The Game", EurasiaNet.org, 14 Aug 2010
  25. ^ Ulviyye Asadzade and Khadija Ismayilova, "Aliyev's Azerbaijani Empire Grows, As Daughter Joins The Game", EurasiaNet.org, 14 Aug 2010
  26. ^ Ulviyye Asadzade and Khadija Ismayilova, "Aliyev's Azerbaijani Empire Grows, As Daughter Joins The Game", EurasiaNet.org, 14 Aug 2010
  27. ^ Pavla Holcova, Khadija Ismayilova and Jaromir Hason, “Azeri Enclave In Czech Republic”, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 11 Oct 2012, Accessed 26 Mar 2013
  28. ^ Khadija Ismayilova, “Azerbaijani President's Daughters Tied To Fast-Rising Telecoms Firm”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 27 Jun 2011
  29. ^ Khadija Ismayilova, “Azerbaijani President's Daughters Tied To Fast-Rising Telecoms Firm”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 27 Jun 2011
  30. ^ Khadija Ismayilova, “Azerbaijani President's Daughters Tied To Fast-Rising Telecoms Firm”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 27 Jun 2011
  31. ^ Khadija Ismayilova, “Azerbaijani President's Daughters Tied To Fast-Rising Telecoms Firm”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 27 Jun 2011
  32. ^ Khadija Ismayilova, “Azerbaijani President's Daughters Tied To Fast-Rising Telecoms Firm”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 27 Jun 2011
  33. ^ Khadija Ismayilova, “Azerbaijani President's Daughters Tied To Fast-Rising Telecoms Firm”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 27 Jun 2011
  34. ^ Ewan Sutherland, “A Short Note on Corruption in Telecommunications in Azerbaijan”, Social Science Research Network, 1 May 2012, Accessed 26 Mary 2013
  35. ^ "UNESCO Director – General. Irina Bokova inaugurates the 2nd Gabala International Music Festival in Azerbaijan". Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  36. ^ Azerbaijan's first lady presented with UNESCO's Mozart Gold Medal. Today.az. 31 July 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  37. ^ Luke Harding, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady", The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  38. ^ Luke Harding, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady", The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  39. ^ Luke Harding, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady", The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  40. ^ Luke Harding, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady", The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  41. ^ Luke Harding (12 December 2010). "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady | World news". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  42. ^ "Photo Gallery: How the US Sees Select World Politicians". Der Spiegel Online. 28 November 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  43. ^ "Who's Who in WikiLeaks". Foreign Policy. 2 December 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2010. 
  44. ^ Azerbaijan: Italian Newspaper Provokes Rage in Baku, ‘’EurasiaNet.org’’, 14 December 2010
  45. ^ [URL Apologies in Baku], ‘’Il Foglio’’, 22 December 2010
  46. ^ Khadija Ismayilova, "Azerbaijani President's Family Benefits From Eurovision Hall Construction" Radio Free Europe, May 9, 2012
  47. ^ Shahin Abbasov, “Azerbaijan’s Eurovision Story: Great Chances to Improve, But No Political Will”, Caucasus Analytical Digest, 5 Dec 2011, Accessed 26 Mar 2013
  48. ^ Samuel Jaberg, “Eurovision glitz hides Azerbaijan shadows”, SwissInfo.ch, 25 May 2012, Accessed 26 Mar 2013
  49. ^ “Eurovision-Chefin Deltenre: Ein Imageschaden? Glaube ich null”, Der Spiegel Online, 9 May 2012, Accessed 26 Mar 2013
  50. ^ Ewan Sutherland, “A Short Note on Corruption in Telecommunications in Azerbaijan”, Social Science Research Network, 1 May 2012, Accessed 26 Mary 2013
  51. ^ Joshua Levine, [1] "Big in Baku"], The New York Times, 15 Aug 2012
  52. ^ Robert Coalson, "Azerbaijani Journalist Defiant In Face Of Blackmail Bid", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3 Sept 2012

External links[edit]