The Woman Face of Diplomacy
“We are proud that the women of Azerbaijan give the world people of arts, political figures, and statesmen. Credit is due to the women of Azerbaijan for all that.”
Azerbaijan - the Land of Fire- is at the millennial crossroads of cultures and civilizations. History itself has created the present image of Azerbaijan. Today, the whole world is witnessing the fact that Baku has become one of the main world platforms for promoting the values of multiculturalism and tolerance, a venue for global forums on intercultural and interreligious dialogues. This is not the result of chance. Our lifestyle has always been remarkable in the above-mentioned values which shaped the humanistic and freedom-loving nature of the Azerbaijani people.
In this vein, traditionally active participation of women not only in issues related to home, but public life as well, is completely natural. Names of many prominent women of Azerbaijan have been etched in history of our culture and statehood throughout the centuries.
The epic Queen Tomyris, the 12th century antique time poetess Meskheti Gyanjevi, the 19th century poetesses Khurshidbanu Natavan and Fatma Kamina, all of them are cultural heritage of the Azerbaijan.
Suffice it to look at kalagai - a traditional female headgear of Azerbaijan that has been included on UESCO’s list of World Heritage List – to finally prove that women of Azerbaijan have never been indifferent recluses, but, rather lived with an open face in the literal and metaphorical sense of the word.
In the 15th century Sara Khatun, mother of Uzun Hassan, leader of the Ag Goyunlu dynasty, achieved the conclusion of an international agreement with the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, thereby going down to history as the first high-level female diplomat (an equivalent of the modern Foreign Minister) of the entire Muslim East.
Based on its rich history, our people legally established gender equality right after declaring independence of Azerbaijan in 1918, thus giving women right to vote earlier than it was done in many advanced European countries. Unfortunately, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan existed only 23 months. However, it demonstrated the political will of the Azerbaijani people to build their lives on the basis of their many inherent values one of which is personified in outstanding women of Azerbaijan.
In the subsequent period, being a part of the USSR, Azerbaijan, nevertheless, used all the opportunities to maintain international contacts and compose its national diplomatic personnel. It is noteworthy that this process was very fruitfully carried out within a period from 1959 to 1983 when the Foreign Ministry of the Azerbaijan SSR was headed by Taira Tairova . Until 1968, according to the existed practice in the republics of the Union, she served as Minister in addition to other senior positions she held. But then she managed to get permission of Moscow to focus on purely diplomatic work and successfully worked as Minister of Foreign Affairs during the tenure of Heydar Aliyev.
The 1970s became very productive in terms of expanding international contacts of Azerbaijan. Baku – albeit within the Soviet Union- became the venue for a number of representative international forums. Azerbaijan managed to achieve the inclusion of anniversaries of its prominent people in the international agenda, for instance, celebration of the 600 th anniversary of great humanist poet Nasimi. When she was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, T. Tairova actively participated in the work of the UN General Assembly three times. In 1975 she headed the Third Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues. Such actions of Azerbaijan contributed to its recognition in the international arena, as well as laid the foundation for shaping international relations for the independence period.
Subsequently, Elmira Kafarova, a former foreign minister from 1983 to 1987, continued the tradition of women’s involvement in diplomacy in Azerbaijan.
Having joined the international community as an equal member, the Republic of Azerbaijan has consistently solved the most complex tasks of establishing and consistent strengthening of its statehood. Foreign policy – the main strategy of which has been established by Founding Father of modern Azerbaijan Prezident Heydar Aliyev - has always been one of the main pillars of a statehood. That foreign policy has become extremely successful under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev.
We can say, with good reason, capacity of women has been actively used in independent Azerbaijan.
Thus, although initially the Republic of Azerbaijan had a small number of embassies all over the world, two women - Eleanor Huseynova and Sima Eyvazova - have been appointed to key diplomatic posts: Ambassador to France and a representative of Azerbaijan to international organizations in Geneva respectively. Later Naira Shakhtakhtinskaya have been appointed Ambassador to Lithuania. So far, the number of women appointed to high administrative posts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has increased by 33 percent of the total number of employees of the diplomatic service of Azerbaijan. Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Bulgaria Nargiz Gurbanova, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Switzerland Hanim Ibrahimova, president of the Turkic Heritage and Culture Foundation Gunay Efendiyeva are among them. Women also hold positions of department and division heads, advisers, etc.
Diplomats of Azerbaijan have become one of the key elements ensuring the ongoing development of the country and strengthening its role and place in the region as well as in the whole world. In this regard, it is especially encouraging that today diplomatic service of Azerbaijan, including its female staff, reaches out the world willing to contribute significantly to regional and global peace and cooperation.
Republic of Azerbaijan First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva’s activity is the most vivid evidence of it. The great role of the first lady in the development, expansion and strengthening of relations of Azerbaijan with various countries of the world is undeniable.
Mehriban Aliyeva has been awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO for her contribution to the development and promotion of national music, literature and poetry, as well as her role in the field of intercultural dialogue.
Faithful to the ideas of UNESCO, for 15 years as a Goodwill Ambassador, she has worked hard to ensure preservation and development of oral literature and musical heritage of Azerbaijan as well development of cultural exchange. All of that has ensured success of Azerbaijan, is a contribution to history of its diplomacy, has bolstered its credibility on the international level and helped to win new friends.
Mehriban Aliyeva brought novelty to politics: she combined politics and universal human values such as kindness, understanding, mercy, compassion, willingness to help. Philanthropy, implementation of major projects aimed at preserving the cultural heritage of humanity, strengthening of humanization process in the relations between countries and peoples, as well as preservation and implementation of universal values have earned Mehriban Aliyeva profound respect as a wise public figure and stateswoman.
It is worth recalling the words of former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova:
"To see you among Goodwill Ambassadors is a privilege for us – for UNESCO. It's hard to cover the scale of your achievements with one word. You are the true face of UNESCO's humanistic values." Activity of Mehriban Aliyeva is highly appreciated in many countries of the world as well. Isn’t winning friends one of the main tasks of diplomacy after all? The 1st European Games, the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games and Europe’s most popular song contest "Eurovision" successfully held in Azerbaijan were sponsored by Mehriban Aliyeva. Azerbaijan has managed to build up a relationship of trust with senior religious establishment of Europe.
Restoration of historical and cultural monuments belonging to all of humanity is one of many tasks sponsored by Mehriban Aliyeva through the Heydar Aliyev Foundation she runs. So far, Azerbaijan has taken part in the restoration of historical and cultural monuments in many European countries including France, Italy, Germany, Russia.
And, of course, restoration of historical monuments all over Azerbaijan has been achieved through targeted and dedicated work of Mehriban Aliyeva. Restoration of cultural monuments in European cities allowed Azerbaijan to gain the favor of influential representatives of the cultural and religious elite of Europe, to seek their support in promoting the truth about the aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, the destruction and falsification of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan located in the occupied territories.
As an active participant in granting humanitarian assistance to different countries in need, Mehriban Aliyeva has successfully displayed the international community true qualities of the Azerbaijanis, who have inherited compassion and sympathy, passed down generationally, at a genetic level.
The first lady of Azerbaijan has showed that our people has always been the bearers of humanistic traditions and remain loyal to them even under Armenian aggression, even now as Azerbaijan faces the problem of more than a million refugees and internally displaced persons.
It is hard to overestimate the importance of tremendous work she does. After all, traditions of the past, whether they are connected with people’s life, with their art or other material evidence of their talent, are not something forever frozen, petrified, deeply buried in the storerooms of museums or in theses of historians. It is traditions that help to be creative today, to bring knowledge of beauty to the world. They appeared perhaps thousands of years ago, but carefully preserved to this day, making our life more diverse and richer. Preservation of its own tangible and intangible heritage is Azerbaijan’s major concern. Our country has made tremendous efforts in popularizing the values of multiculturalism, maintaining a dialogue with various countries of the world and international organizations in order to create the basis for humanitarian cooperation, strengthening the existing and building new cultural bridges between peoples. A policy of multiculturalism implemented by our country at the state level has become one of the key global venues for holding representative forums over the past decade. Almost every year, forward-thinking people well-known for their activities aimed at reducing the level of confrontation and preventing the threat of war meet in Baku. For them, Baku has become a kind of international headquarters, where they can meet and have a dialogue, develop a humanitarian action plan.
Today, at an even higher level, as the First Vice-President, a stateswoman role model and world-class diplomat Mehriban Aliyeva tackles those and other challenges facing the country. Her indispensable contribution to the successful implementation of the foreign policy of President Ilham Aliyev strengthens the independence of Azerbaijan.
Using the multidimensional activity of Mehriban Aliyeva as an example, we all, both in Azerbaijan and abroad, witness diplomacy being an art and the success it can achieve when left to professionals. Indeed, female diplomats constitute an essential part of the Azerbaijani elite.
Dr. Gyulnara Aghalarova