Azerbaijani First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO and ISESCO Good-Will Ambassador and Member of the Azerbaijani Parliament, Mehriban Aliyeva, is celebrating her birthday Aug. 26.
Mehriban Aliyeva was born into a famous family in Azerbaijan. Her father, Arif Pashayev, is an academic at the National Academy of Sciences and holds a PhD in physics and mathematics. He is the Rector of the National Academy of Aviation in Baku. Her mother, Aida Imanguliyeva, was an Orientalist, PhD in Philological Sciences, Professor and Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences, and specialist in Arabic literature.
In 1982, Mehriban Aliyeva graduated from Secondary Public School No. 23 in Baku, receiving a gold medal for the successful completion of her studies. A few months later she was admitted to the Nariman Narimanov Azerbaijan State Medical University and later continued her studies at the Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy, from where she graduated with an honorary diploma in 1988. In 1988-1992 Mehriban Aliyeva worked at the Moscow Scientific Research Institute for Eye Diseases.
In the mid-1990s, Mrs.Aliyeva established the Friends of Azerbaijani Culture Foundation, which she currently heads and which publishes the "Azerbaijan-IRS" (Azerbaijan-Heritage) magazine in three languages, including Azerbaijani, English and Russian, to widely publicize Azerbaijani culture.
Thanks to this publication, Azerbaijan was presented in the international arena not only as a state rich in oil and gas, as well as a country that has created a masterpiece in many areas - in music, architecture, fine and applied arts.
Mehriban Aliyeva established the Heydar Aliyev Foundation on May 10 in 2004. Its goal is to study the rich heritage of the National Leader of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, to train new generations in the spirit of the ideas of national statehood created by him. The priority directions of the Foundation are education, health, culture and social sectors. It covers assistance to children devoid of parents, recreation and improving logistics base of orphanages and boarding schools.
"We started with the logistics base of schools. We appealed to international organizations and big companies, explaining that there are small schools in rural areas that need urgent assistance. Thus, about 300 modern schools, provided with the necessary equipment, have been built through joint efforts in recent years. The Foundation developed a special program for sick children. They appeal us when they become almost desperate to get help. I personally try to trace the fate of each child. One of our rules is that all appeals to the Foundation should be read, analyzed, and a concrete decision must be taken on each of them." This statement was sounded at the celebration of the anniversary of the Foundation.
The status of First Lady and working for the Foundation enable Mehriban khanum to regulate the work, expand the scale of projects and draw extra resources for their realization.
To popularize and promote Azerbaijani culture, Gabala again hosted numerous visitors from all over the world at the Second International Music Festival upon the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. During the event Mrs. Aliyeva was awarded the Mozart Gold Medal by UNESCO in recognition of commitment to the promotion of tangible and intangible heritage of humanity, a continuing effort to promote intercultural dialogue, a significant contribution to enhancing cultural diversity and dedication to the ideals and objectives of this organization.
The Heydar Aliyev Foundation pays special attention to the publication of music albums of prominent Azerbaijani singers. The Foundation reprinted the "Ekhlagi-Nasir" book of the world-renowned thinker, great scholar, who had an encyclopedic knowledge, Nasreddin Tusi, in the Latin alphabet, prepared a photo album "Azerbaijan" and a Russian version of the Gabusname publication that is popular in many Turkic countries, presented a multimedia collection "Azerbaijani Mugam" and the "The World of Mugam" publication. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation held premiere of Intizar opera under its International Music Project.
Museum of Modern Art was opened in Baku upon Mehriban Aliyeva's initiative. "This museum was a must. We were able to create something that is an art object in itself: there are no well-defined routes, and visitors can examine the collection as they like. The museum resembles a maze, a way out from which one does not want to find. Anyway, such are my feelings exactly. I hope very much that visitors to the museum will also feel this unique atmosphere," Mrs. Aliyeva said at the opening of the museum.
The Foundation has also successfully implemented many projects outside Azerbaijan through its representations in other countries. Thus, "Dialogue of cultures in a globalizing world" Forum was held in Baku in June upon the initiative of Head of the Russian representation of Heydar Aliyev Foundation Leyla Aliyeva.
The Foundation participates in the restoration of universal cultural monuments. Thus, the Foundation restored two monuments included in the World Heritage List, damaged with time and by climatic conditions, in the park of Versailles Palace in Paris. The Foundation allotted financial aid to repair of stained-glass windows of the Strasbourg Cathedral. Furthermore,many mosques, synagogues and churches were restored in Azerbaijan.
The Foundation also expands its cooperation with foreign countries - Greece and Poland. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Lithuanian Embassy in Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the humanitarian sphere in July. The Foundation plans to establish the French school in Baku together with the French Embassy in Azerbaijan.
Mehriban Aliyeva is committed to the use of all available opportunities to enhance the efficiency of such humanitarian programs, the purpose of which is benefiting to the Azerbaijani people.
One of the priorities of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation is to draw the international community's attention to the realities of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Among the implemented projects, it is necessary to mention the publication of a collection of "Karabakh Realities" booklets, reflecting the history of the Armenian aggression, books entitled "War and Our Cultural and Historical Monuments" and "War Against Azerbaijan: Targeting Cultural Heritage", recounting Armenian destruction. Moreover, the Foundation has held events and photo and video exhibitions in various countries on the Khojali genocide.
In August 2004, Mehriban Aliyeva became a designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for promoting national literature and the musical heritage of Azerbaijan. Two years later, she was conferred with the title of ISESCO (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Goodwill Ambassador for extensive and selfless activity in various fields, including inter-cultural dialogue, attention to children in need of special care and support for improving living conditions and education.
To be ambassador for such authoritative international organizations is a very honorable and responsible mission. Both UNESCO and ISESCO are non-political institutions, as is written in their charter. And at the same time, this is an international arena in which Mehriban Aliyeva represents her country.
This is an opportunity to introduce modern Azerbaijan and its people with the most profound historical and cultural roots, and to inform the world about the achievements of national art, music, and literature.
Mehriban Aliyeva's task as goodwill ambassador is to show the opportunities of the Islamic world through science, culture, and education and to demonstrate how the West and the East, two very different civilizations, could be interesting and helpful to each other.
In 2005, the First Lady was awarded the order of the "Ruby Cross" from the International Charitable Foundation "Maecenas of the Century" for her public support and charity activities, considerable contribution to the support of educational and cultural institutions and strengthening friendships between the peoples of Russia and Azerbaijan. The World Health Organization (WHO) gave Mehriban Aliyeva an award "for the exceptional services in protecting and strengthening the health of mother, child and family". For her charitable activities and the outstanding achievements in services to the highest ideals of humanity, Mehriban Aliyeva was honored an International award the "Gold Heart" in 2007.
Mehriban Aliyeva's broad activity has not been limited with the above said. In 2002 Mehriban Aliyeva was elected the President of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, demonstrating herself as an excellent organizer. Her authority has played a crucial role in making decisions on holding the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Azerbaijan in 2003 and 2004 and the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in 2005 and European Championship in 2007 and 2009. The Azerbaijani national rhythmic gymnastics team has gained international recognition, and Azerbaijani gymnasts take the leading places at international events
In 2005, Mehriban Aliyeva received a PhD in Philosophy. In the same year, she was elected a member of Azerbaijani Parliament.
The Azerbaijani President signed an order May 5, 2009 to award Mrs. Aliyeva the Heydar Aliyev Prize for the productive activities in the socio-political and cultural life of the country.
Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the Grand Commander`s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Republic Sept. 14, 2009. Mehriban Aliyeva received this Order for her contribution to development friendly ties between Azerbaijan and Poland.
Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded with Order of Legion of Honor by French President's order dated Feb.10, 2010.
Mrs.Aliyeva has two daughters, Leyla and Arzu, a son, Heydar, and two grandchildren, Mikayil and Ali.