Mehriban Aliyeva

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Mehriban Əliyeva
Mehriban Aliyeva02.jpg
First Lady of Azerbaijan
Assumed office
31 October 2003
President Ilham Aliyev
Preceded by Zarifa Aliyeva
Personal details
Born (1964-08-26) 26 August 1964 (age 52)
Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Azerbaijan
Political party New Azerbaijan Party
Spouse(s) Ilham Aliyev (m. 1983)
Children 3
Alma mater Azerbaijan Medical University
Religion Islam

Mehriban Arif qizi Aliyeva (Azerbaijani: Mehriban Arif qızı Əliyeva) (born 26 August 1964, Baku) is the First Lady of Azerbaijan since 2003, 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 (1939–1992) 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 1984) and Arzu (born 23 January 1987) and a son Heydar (born 2 August 1997). Leyla is the editor of Baku magazine, published by Azerbaijani Russian businessman Aras Agalarov, and is married to his son Emin Agalarov.[7]


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]

Mehriban Aliyeva during her visit to France.

Member of Parliament[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]


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]


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.[16]

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.[17]

Ms. Aliyeva’s business interests include:[18]

  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Construction
  • Travel

Additionally, it is reported that her family owns a Bentley car dealership.[19]

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.[20][21][22]


  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)". 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. 
  7. ^ "The World's Billionaires: #962 Aras Agalarov". Forbes. 5 March 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  8. ^ "Friends' Foundation Continues to Stimulate Azerbaijani Arts". Azerbaijan International. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Abbasov, Shahin. "Azerbaijan: Foundation Finances Renovations at Versailles, Strasbourg". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  10. ^ 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". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  12. ^ Mehriban Aliyeva designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Oral and Musical Traditions. 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. 
  14. ^ ["US Embassy Cables: Who Owns What in Azerbaijan"], The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  15. ^ ["US Embassy Cables: Who Owns What in Azerbaijan"], The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  16. ^ Luke Harding, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady", The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  17. ^ Luke Harding, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady", The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  18. ^ Luke Harding, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady", The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  19. ^ Luke Harding, "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady", The Guardian, 12 Dec 2010
  20. ^ Luke Harding (12 December 2010). "WikiLeaks cable sticks the knife into Azerbaijan's first lady | World news". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  21. ^ "Photo Gallery: How the US Sees Select World Politicians". Der Spiegel Online. 28 November 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  22. ^ "Who's Who in WikiLeaks". Foreign Policy. 2 December 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2010. 

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