The high global appreciation for women’s role in worldwide diplomacy came on the heels of the initiative of Azerbaijan, where female diplomats have been key to the fulfilment of both the internal and foreign policy agendas of the country.
Women diplomats of Azerbaijan have been at the forefront of national statesmanship for ensuring the development of the country and strengthening its role and position in global politics for decades. Today diplomatic service of the country in the international community is acknowledged to be a reliable and significant contributor to regional and global peace and cooperation partly thanks to the efforts of the women diplomats.
The modern diplomatic success of the Azerbaijani ladies has its roots originating from their ancestors, including Sara Khatun, the first female diplomat in the entire Muslim East.
Sara Khatun was the mother and senior adviser of Uzun Hasan, the ruler of the Azerbaijani state of Ag Goyunlu, and a major figure in building and developing the state’s foreign diplomatic relations.
Uzun Hasan discussed with her all political issues concerning the relations with foreign countries and assigned her to almost all diplomatic negotiations. Sara Khatun has successfully negotiated with the diplomats of certain foreign states, as well as the state rulers, including the Timurid ruler Abu Said and the Ottoman Emperor Mehmet II. One of her major achievements was the conclusion of the Treaty of Yassychemen in 1461 with Emperor Mehmet II. This contract, according to historical sources, was one of the first treaties of its time inked with the ruler of a foreign state. Sara Khatun also led a delegation of ambassadors in negotiations with the Timurid warlord Abu Said in 1468. European countries were said to instruct their ambassadors, particularly those from Venice, to meet with her and use her authority to achieve their goals.
Saraka Khatun and his son Uzun Hasan
The diplomatic heritage of Sara Khatun has been echoing through centuries to our days to inspire the women in Azerbaijan to bind their life and career with diplomacy, like Mehriban Aliyeva – the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan, who has been at the forefront of national diplomatic course for years. In addition, the legalization of gender equality by the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918 by granting women the right to vote was one of the pillars of the rise of women in state affairs. Being equal to men earlier than in many advanced European countries was a unique source of inspiration for Azerbaijani ladies to develop themselves and assume roles in national politics.
Mehriban Aliyeva could be seen as the most vivid example of the Azerbaijani women’s decades-long self-development that led to a solid self-confidence for taking upon responsibilities in the big diplomatic arenas in the country and the world. Her great role in the development, expansion and strengthening of Azerbaijan’s relations with various countries testifies to how the females in the country form a driving force behind national diplomacy.
Mehriban Aliyeva has brought an-all new breath to diplomacy by intertwining the politics and universal human values such as kindness, understanding, mercy, compassion, and helpfulness. Philanthropy is one of the mainstream features of her activities seen in the restoration and preservation of the cultural heritage of humanity, strengthening of the humanization process in the relations between countries and peoples, as well as preservation and implementation of universal values. Restoration of the entire humanity’s historical and cultural monuments is one of many tasks prioritized by Mehriban Aliyeva through the Heydar Aliyev Foundation led by her. So far, Azerbaijan has contributed to the restoration of historical and cultural monuments in many European countries including France, Italy, Germany, and Russia.
For her contributions to the development and promotion of national music, literature, and poetry, as well as to building a steady intercultural dialogue, Mehriban Aliyeva has been awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO for her contribution
“To see you among Goodwill Ambassadors is a privilege for us – for UNESCO. It’s hard to cover the scale of your achievements in one word. You are the true face of UNESCO’s humanistic values,” former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has once said about Aliyeva.
Her desire and sponsorship in bringing the 1st European Games, the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games and the pan-European song contest “Eurovision”, which unites different people, cultures, thoughts, and values under the same roof, testifies to how a wise statesman can be a herald of worldwide solidarity at a time when the world needs it the most.
The role of the female diplomats in Azerbaijan’s political life is also sustained by many others, including Leyla Aliyeva, vice-president of Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Chairman of Azerbaijani Youth Organization in Russia; Sahiba Gafarova, the speaker of the parliament, where 20 out of 125 members are women; Elmira Akhundova, an ambassador to Ukraine, Nargiz Gurbanova, an ambassador to Poland, Khanim Mammadova, an ambassador to Swiss confederation, as well as female employees at the embassies in the US, France, Germany, Argentina, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, India, NATO, the UN, and others.
Azerbaijan has signed international conventions on gender equality and passed a Law on State Guarantees of Equal Rights for Women and Men in 2006 that set the legal foundation for gender equality. Gender equality goals form part of national development policies and economic strategies. Strong support for women’s empowerment in the country will undoubtedly further pave the way for ladies to make broader inroads into diplomacy and continue driving the politics forward in their own way within the interests of the people and government.