Aliyeva Mehriban Arif was born on 26 August 1964 in the city of Baku to a family of intelligentsia. Having finished secondary school №23 in Baku City with a gold medal in 1981, she entered the Treatment and Prophylaxis Faculty of the Azerbaijan State Medical University named after N.Narimanov. In 1988, Mehriban Aliyeva graduated from the First Moscow State Medical Institute named after M.Sechenov with honours diploma. In 1988-1990, she passed clinical residency in Eye Diseases department at the First Moscow State Medical Institute named after I. M. Sechenov. In 1990-1995, she worked at the Eye Diseases Research Institute in Moscow under the leadership of Academician Krasnov. In 1995, the Azerbaijan Culture Foundation, which is currently led by her, was established upon Mehriban Aliyeva’s initiative. In 1996, with the objective of extensive promotion of the Azerbaijani culture, Mehriban Aliyeva founded the "Azerbaijan - Irs" Magazine, which is published in three languages (Azerbaijani, English and Russian).
On October 7, 2002, Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva was elected President of Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation (AGF). At the same year, 4 gymnastics disciplines were included into the AGF’s activity, while 9 gymnastics disciplines are being developed in our country today. Our gymnasts participated in the Olympic Games and became the medallists of the World and European Championships. Azerbaijan successfully hosted 17 World Cup series, 2 World Championships, 5 European Championships. One of the unique sports facilities in the world - Milli Gimnastika Arenasi (National Gymnastics Arena) is at disposal of our gymnasts for trainings and hosting of competitions from 2014. As a result of a comprehensive development strategy carried out by Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, gymnastics sections currently operate in 18 regions of Azerbaijan. AGF’s inclusion into the ranking of “10 Meritorious National Federations” of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) for 6 consecutive years and taking the first place in the ranking for the last 3 years, is a striking example of her perfect organizational skills and growing international influence. Mehriban Aliyeva has been leading the Heydar Aliyev Foundation founded to study the rich legacy of Heydar Aliyev, the national leader of Azerbaijan, as well as deliver his national statehood ideas to new generations. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation was inaugurated on May 10, 2004. Due to her hard efforts in protection and development of Azerbaijan's verbal folk literature and music heritage, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO on August 13, 2004. On December 28, 2004, Mehriban Aliyeva was elected a member to the Executive Committee of the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the 4th General Assembly of the Organization. Mehriban Aliyeva has been a member of the Political Board of the New Azerbaijan Party since 2004. In March 2005, Mehriban Aliyeva was honoured with “Caspian Energy Integration Award-2005” International Award on the nomination of “The Public Figure of 2004”. Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the title of "Woman of the Year" according to the social poll held in Azerbaijan in 2005. On June 9, 2005, she was awarded the 'Ruby Cross' Order of 'Philanthropists of the Century International Charity Foundation of Russia for her public, philanthropic and charity activities, support to the educational and cultural institutions, precious contributions to the consolidation of the friendly ties between the nations of Azerbaijan and Russia. In 2005, Mehriban Aliyeva received the degree of a doctor of philosophy, having defended a thesis on “Euthanasia and humanism issues in medicine”. In the elections to the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan held on November 6th, 2005, Mehriban Aliyeva, whose candidacy was run by the New Azerbaijan Party from the Azizbeyov Second Constituency №14, was elected to the Parliament with 92.12% vote (23,106 votes). The National Hero Chingiz Mustafayev Foundation and the ANS Group of Companies announced Mehriban Aliyeva 'Person of the Year 2005' for her services to the development of the education system of the country, protection of the national and cultural heritage, the works she has done for a positive image of Azerbaijan in the world, organization and realization of the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championship in Azerbaijan, as well as the philanthropic activity. In March 2006, for the contribution made to preservation of cultural and moral values, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the golden medal of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). On November 23, 2006, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador of ISESCO for the wide-scale and selfless activity in different spheres, including the dialogue among civilizations, the attention towards the children in need of care - big support to improvement of their living conditions, education, as well as the works carried out in the Islamic world. Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded a prize of the World Health Organization for her great contributions to the protection and strengthening of mother, child and family health upon the unanimous decision of the 120th Session of the Executive Committee of the Organization held in Geneva, January 29, 2007.
In May 2007, Mehriban Aliyeva was honoured with the ‘Golden Heart’ international award for high achievements in the sphere of serving supreme ideals of the mankind. Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the Heydar Aliyev Prize for her fruitful actions in the public, political and cultural life of the republic by order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated May 5, 2009. For her contribution to the enhancement of friendly relations between Azerbaijan and Poland, Mehriban Aliyeva was decorated, on September 14, 2009, with the ‘Senior Commander Cross’ Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. On February 15, 2010, Mehriban Aliyeva was honoured with Officer Degree of the ‘Legion of Honour’ Order by a resolution of the President of the Republic of France for her services to France and the loyalty demonstrated. UNESCO`s Mozart Gold Medal was presented to Mehriban Aliyeva on July 30, 2010. Nominated for the elections to the Milli Majlis to be held on November 7, 2010 by the New Azerbaijan Party from Constituency No.14 in the Khazar District, Mehriban Aliyeva was elected a deputy, winning 94.49% (31797 votes) of the votes. On June 24, 2011, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the Gold Medal and, on June 29, 2012, the “Prix de la Fondation” Prize of the Crans Montana Forum. On February 13, 2012, Mehriban Aliyeva was honoured with the title of Honorary Professor of the Russian Federation’s I.M.Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University. On April 13, 2012, Mehriban Aliyeva was presented the “Stars of the Commonwealth” Interstate Prize by the Humanitarian Cooperation Council (HCC) of CIS member states and the Interstate Humanitarian Cooperation Foundation (IHCF) of CIS member countries. In 2012, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the prize "Cossack Glory" by the Union of Cossacks of Azerbaijan for her "kindness, benevolence and tireless work for the good of peoples, and support provided to Cossacks". On December 8, 2012, the European Olympic Committee’s General Assembly took a decision to hold the 1st European Games in Baku. With a view to holding the first European Games at a high level, an Organizing Committee was established on January 17, 2013, and Mehriban Aliyeva was appointed chairperson of the Committee. In January 2013, Pakistan's influential newspaper "Daily Times" and the Women Volunteers Association declared Mehriban Aliyeva "The Symbol of Humanism - The Person of 2012". On 7 June 2013, she was elected deputy chairperson of the New Azerbaijan Party. On December 27, 2013, Mehriban Aliyeva was honoured with the award "Martyr Benazir Bhutto Woman Perfection Prize - 2013". According to the results of the survey conducted by the Arab Cultural Heritage Centre of France and “Nefertiti Media Productions” Company of Egypt from 8 March 2013 to 10 January 2014, Mehriban Aliyeva was honoured with the title of the Most Influential Woman of 2014. In May 2014, for the contributions made to dialogue between civilizations, as well as for the services to promotion of the Turkic world in Germany and development of Azerbaijan-Germany relations, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded an honorary prize of the Turkish-German Friendship Federation. In May 2014, she was honoured with “First Lady of the Year” Award by “The Business Year” Magazine for her active role in Azerbaijan’s public, social and cultural life, contributions made to the society’s dynamic development, matchless services towards promoting our culture in the world, multilateral support provided for preservation of the world cultural heritage, and loyalty to the principles of social justice and humanism. In June 2014, Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the "Olympic Excellence" Special Honorary Prize of the International Olympic Academy for promotion of the Olympic values. In August 2014, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on the Order of “For Services to Astrakhan Region” and an Honorary Diploma of the State of Kuwait for her worldwide promotion of the Islamic cultural heritage, noble activities both in Azerbaijan and beyond its boundaries, as well as great contribution she has made to education and healthcare. On 11 February 2015, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on the order "Hilal-e Pakistan" of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. On 26 March 2015, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on a high state award of the Serbian Republic – the Sreten Order – for her special services before Serbia in public, cultural and humanitarian fields. By a decree of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev dated 29 June 2015, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on the Heydar Aliyev Order for her activity associated with the development of culture, education and healthcare in the Republic of Azerbaijan, broad promotion of the Azerbaijani people’s cultural heritage on an international scale, and great services to the organization of the 1st European Games. Nominated for the elections to the National Assembly held on November 1, 2015 by the New Azerbaijan Party from Khazar Constituency No.14, Mehriban Aliyeva was elected MP, gaining 96,7% (38 029 votes) of the votes. The National Hero Chingiz Mustafayev Foundation and ANS Group of Companies have announced Mehriban Aliyeva the “Person of 2015” for her exclusive role in high-level organization and holding of the Baku-2015 first European Games, large-scale activities towards worldwide promotion of Azerbaijan’s positive image, works she has done for mutual integration of Azerbaijani and world cultures, her contribution to the formation of a multicultural environment in the country, and consistent benevolent activity. On 21 January 2016, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on the High Order - the highest award of the European Olympic Committee - by a decision of the European Olympic Committees’ Executive Committee, for her special services to the development of sport in Europe. On 6 March 2016, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on Commander’s Cross Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary. At the 4th Congress of the World Azerbaijanis held in 2016 in Baku, she was elected a member to the World Azerbaijanis Coordination Board. On September 22, 2016, for the services to preservation of a cultural heritage of the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tyrnovo, Mehriban Aliyeva was presented the diploma of an honorary citizen of the city, and a badge.
On September 22, 2016, for the great contribution to preservation and promotion of Bulgaria’s cultural heritage, and active participation in this work, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on a diploma of honorary doctor of the Veliko Tyrnovo University named after Saints Cyril and Methodius. On February 21, 2017, by an order of President Ilham Aliyev, Mehriban Aliyeva was appointed First Vice-president of Azerbaijan. As a result of this appointment, as of March 6, 2017, the authorities of Mehriban Aliyeva, a deputy of the National Assembly of the Republic of Azerbaijan of the 5th convocation, were terminated as a deputy. On June 2, 2017, Mehriban Aliyeva was elected a member of the Architects Union. For her activities towards preserving Azerbaijan’s architectural heritage and contribution to this sphere, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on the commemorative medal “Academician Mikail Huseynov”. On 26 December 2017, Mehriban Aliyeva was presented the Saint Princess Olga Order of 2nd degree for the support provided to the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as for the care shown towards developing Astrakhan city. On March 15, 2018, Mehriban Aliyeva was presented the Gold Medal of the Nizami Ganjavi International Centre for her contributions to global projects and advancement of education, science and culture. On 18 July 2018, the Order of Knight Grand Cross “For Merits” of the Italian Republic was presented to Mehriban Aliyeva. On September 22, 2018, Mehriban Aliyeva was presented the Medal of Special Merit of the International Fair Play Committee for her exemplary achievements in the sports world, and promotion of Fair Plays. On January 18, 2019, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on the honorary medal “Uzeir Hajibeyli”, instituted by the Composers Union, for her matchless contributions to preservation of the rich legacy of composer-genius, founder of the contemporary Azerbaijani music Uzeir Hajibeyli, and conveying them to future generations. On August 13, 2019, by the Order of President Vladimir Putin, Mehriban Aliyeva was conferred on the Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation for her contribution to the advancement and strengthening of the Azerbaijani-Russian relations. On February 22, 2020, Mehriban Aliyeva was honoured with the highest degree of the Pontifical Order of Knighthood – Knights Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX - for her contribution to the development of mutual relations with institutions of the Holy See. On March 5, 2021, by the Order of Chairperson of the New Azerbaijan Party Ilham Aliyev, she was appointed to the position of first deputy chairperson of the Party. Mehriban Aliyeva married Ilham Aliyev in 1983. They have three children named Leyla, Arzu and Heydar, and five grandchildren. Mehriban Aliyeva is the daughter-in-law of Azerbaijani people’s national leader Heydar Aliyev and doctor of medical sciences, academician Zarifa Aliyeva. Heydar Aliyev is an eminent state person of Azerbaijan. Thirty five-year period of our history starting late 1960s and ending early in the 21st century is associated with the name of Heydar Aliyev. During all these years, he carried the responsibility for Azerbaijan on his shoulders, and ensured that Azerbaijan, as a state, and the people, as a nation, withstood difficult and severe tests of the history. He created an independent country that we call today contemporary Azerbaijan, and laid a reliable foundation for its bright future. Honoured scientist of Azerbaijan, doctor of medicine, academician Zarifa Aliyeva has made exclusive contribution to the development of ophthalmology in Azerbaijan. She is the author of a number of weighty researches related to study, prevention and treatment of eye diseases, as well as contemporary problems of ophthalmology. In 1981, for the great contribution made to the development of ophthalmology – researches conducted in the field of visual organs’ professional pathology – she was conferred on the highest award in the sphere of ophthalmology – the Academician M.I.Averbakh Award of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. Zarifa Aliyeva was the first woman to have been conferred on this award. Mehriban Aliyeva is a granddaughter of professor Mir Jalal Pashayev - a writer, philologist, Honoured scientist of Azerbaijan, doctor of philology (1947), and eminent journalist, pedagogue, honoured person of science Nasir Imanguliyev. Her father, professor Arif Pashayev, is Azerbaijan’s eminent scholar, pedagogue, public person, academician of the National Academy of Sciences, laureate of the State Prize, doctor of physics and mathematics. Since 1996, Arif Pashayev has been the rector of the National Aviation Academy under the Azerbaijan Airlines State Concern. Her mother – orientalist, philologist, critic, translator, doctor of philology, professor Aida Imanguliyeva - was the first doctor of science in Arabic literature and first professor-woman in Azerbaijan. Her numerous scientific works (3 monographs, over 70 research papers) analysed a synthesis of western and eastern cultural traditions, development of creative style and formation of new artistic trends, which has laid a foundation for future studies of not only Arabic, but also all new Oriental literature.
Decorations, awards and honorary titles: Heydar Aliyev Order (Republic of Azerbaijan); Order of the Legion of Honor (French Republic); Order of Friendship (Russian Federation); (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (Italian Republic), Grand Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit (Republic of Poland); Hilal-e Pakistan Order (Islamic Republic of Pakistan); the Sreten Order (Republic of Serbia); Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary; Order of the Saint Equal to the Apostles Duchess Olga of the 2nd Degree (Russian Orthodox Church); Order of Merit of the Astrakhan region (Russian Federation); UNESCO Golden Mozart Medal, Gold Medal of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization; Gold Medal and "Prix de la Fondation" Prize of the Crans Montana Forum; High Order of the European Olympic Committees; Special Service Award of the International Fair Play Committee; Gold Medal of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center; Honorary Diploma of the State of Kuwait; Heydar Aliyev Award; Executive Board Award of the World Health Organization; “Golden Heart” International Award; “Olympic Excellence” Special Honorary Prize of the International Olympic Academy; Turkish-German Friendship Federation Award; Honorary professor of I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, honorary doctor of the St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria).
Mehriban Aliyeva: The many faces of Azerbaijan’s First Lady and new Vice President
On 21 February, Mehriban Aliyeva was appointed as the Vice President of Azerbaijan, a post that was created via a constitutional referendum in September 2016. But her appointment has generated controversy, not least because she was appointed by her husband, the current President, Ilham Aliyev. Arzu Geybullayeva writes that with the country’s economy badly hit by the recent fall in oil prices, the creation of the Vice President position is intended to ensure the President can engineer a friendly transition of power should he come under pressure.
Like the many faced god in the TV adaptation of the book, Game of Thrones, Azerbaijan’s new Vice President, Mehriban Aliyeva, has many faces – albeit she lacks the assassin followers of Game of Thrones, at least for now. She lists herself as the Head of the Azerbaijan Culture Foundation; founder of Azerbaijan’s Irs magazine; the President of the Gymnastics Federation of Azerbaijan; a member of the Executive Committee of the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan; Chairperson of the Organising Committee of the First European Games (which Azerbaijan hosted in 2015); President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation; member and Deputy Chairperson of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party; and a member of parliament. She has also been UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador since 2004. As of 21 February, by order of the country’s President and her husband Ilham Aliyev, she was able to add to this list of achievements the title of Vice President of Azerbaijan. The position was created despite opposition and criticism from international observers following a referendum in September 2016. The Central Election Commission (CEC), the government body responsible for elections in Azerbaijan, approved the results, calling the vote successful. Other observers were less positive, however, with the international watchdog organisation Freedom House, for instance, stating that “Azerbaijan’s election commission ignored its own requirements by accepting the results of the September 26 referendum despite well-documented ballot stuffing, the detention of people protesting the procedures, and other serious irregularities”. Freedom House was not alone in voicing criticism of the referendum. The Venice Commission voiced “concern”, noting that “given the already very strong position of the President, the new powers foreseen by this reform are at odds with European constitutional heritage.” And just as Baku was quick to brush off international criticism, it also had to dismiss local opposition groups who called for the result to be declared void. Granted, this response was unsurprising given the country’s recent electoral history. Business as usual Aliyeva’s appointment comes at a time when Azerbaijan’s human rights and democratic record has severely deteriorated while the country’s economy has also taken a sharp fall following the global decline in oil prices. The national currency has been devalued twice, and independent economists predict a third devaluation unless the ruling regime starts addressing economic issues more rapidly. Legal action against democracy advocates remains commonplace in the country, with a series of what might be termed ‘revolving door’ arrests taking place: activists being detained, released, then detained again. The campaign organisation Index on Censorship has tracked these arrests since 2003, and in 2016, there were a total of 38 threats identified against press freedom in Azerbaijan, with the authorities accused of arresting and even torturing journalists critical of the government, while access to independent and opposition websites has been restricted. Harassment of the family members of dissidents at home or abroad has also been raised as a concern. Coupled with sporadic bouts of civil disorder, this situation goes some way toward explaining why Aliyev pushed for creating the position of the vice presidency and subsequently appointing his wife. The suggestion here is that the country’s economic problems following the oil price drop could ultimately challenge Azerbaijan’s political stability and that the President has therefore been motivated to guarantee a friendly transition of power to his wife if needed. Since taking on her new role, Aliyeva has become the second highest ranking government official after the President and she will become acting President if her husband steps down. Previously, these responsibilities rested with the Prime Minister. During her term as Vice President, Aliyeva also has full immunity from prosecution. Immunity is important for President Aliyev. In 2012, the Azerbaijan Parliament passed a bill that granted immunity from arrest and prosecution to Aliyev and his wife for any crime committed during his presidency or while acting in his capacity as President. A second bill introduced at the same time “bars government officials from distributing information about companies if doing so ‘contradicts the national interests of Azerbaijan in political, economic, and monetary policy, the defense of public order, the health and moral values of the people, or harms the commercial or other interests of individuals’.” Both bills were introduced following a spate of investigative stories exposing the business interests of Aliyev’s family. Much of the information for these stories was produced using corporate records so limiting access was one of many ways to stall journalists from investigating any further. Keeping information from journalists is just one of many strategies available to the government in this context. One of the top investigative journalists in Azerbaijan, Khadija Ismayilova, who was among the first journalists to expose information about illegal businesses and offshore accounts held by the ruling family, was detained in December 2014 and sentenced to over 7 years in jail. Prior to this she was reportedly blackmailed with tapes of a personal nature. While Ismayilova was released in May of last year, she is facing a travel ban and authorities have allegedly continued to prevent her from doing her work. In a country where the ruling regime is desperate enough to resort to this kind of approach, any discussion of a real transition of power remains unlikely. And the appointment of Mehriban Aliyeva simply underlines that the government is intent on a further consolidation of its power.