Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev (Azerbaijani: İlham Heydər oğlu Əliyev, born 24 December 1961, Baku) is the President of Azerbaijan since 2003. He also functions as the Chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party and the head of the National Olympic Committee. Apart from his native Azerbaijani, he speaks Turkish, English, French and Russian. Ilham Aliyev is the son of Heydar Aliyev, who was Azerbaijan's president from 1993-2003.
In 1977 Aliyev entered the Moscow State University of International Relations (MSUIR) and in 1982 continued his education as apostgraduate. In 1985 he received a PhD degree in history. From 1985-1990 Aliyev lectured at MSUIR.
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In May 1994, Ilham Aliyev was appointed vice-president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR). He participated as one of the key figures during the negotiations between Azerbaijani government and Western oil companies during the conclusion of new contracts now known as Contract of the century. The following year Aliyev was elected to the National Assembly of Azerbaijan and later became president of the National Olympic Committee (still incumbent) and head of the Azerbaijan delegation to the Council of Europe. In August 2003, two months prior to the presidential elections, he was appointed prime minister. In October, Heydar Aliyev, suffering failing health, stepped down as president and in a controversial move, appointed his son, an independent candidate, as his party's sole presidential candidate.
2003 presidential elections
The official results of the October 15, 2003, elections gave victory to Ilham Aliyev, who earned 76.84% of the votes. However, the domestic opposition refused to accept the results and staged mass protests. The protests were due to alleged corruption and staging of elections.
The elections received harsh criticism from the international community, with many observers noting that they fell short of international standards and were accompanied by voter intimidation, unequal campaign opportunities for the candidates, and widespread violations of the electoral laws and process. The OSCE International Election Observation Mission noted a number of irregularities in the counting and tabulation. Human Rights Watch complained that Aliyev's election campaign had been supported by government resources and that the Central Election Commission and local election commissions had been stacked with its supporters, while local non-governmental organizations had been banned from monitoring the vote.
Opposition members and human rights activists complain that during Aliyev's presidency the human rights situation has not improved. Opposition mass meetings remained banned or were allowed to be held in remote parts of Baku, thus aiming at demoralizing and making it difficult for supporters of opposition to reach there, and the government has continued to pressure the opposition and independent press. In March 2005 under continued pressure from the international community, especially the Council of Europe, Aliyev released from prison many prominent members of the opposition, arrested during protests against the way the October 2003 election was conducted.
For his human rights violations and uncontested rule over Azerbaijan, Aliyev is considered a dictator by many experts on the Caucasus and the former USSR. In 2010, WikiLeaks uncovered a diplomatic cable dispatched by the US Embassy in the Republic of Azerbaijan, part of the cache of documents obtained by the WikiLeaks website, that explicitly compared Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to a mafia crime boss, leaving many to wonder if his government was actually democratic and whether people truthfully believed that Azerbaijan does not repress minority populations. A number of groups have also complained to the Commission on Human Rights for the purpose of adopting a resolution, which urges Azerbaijan to guarantee the preservation of the cultural, religious and national identity of the Talysh people in light of repeated claims of repression.
On March 26, 2005, Aliyev was officially elected as the ruling New Azerbaijan Party chairman. The opposition denounced this as a violation of state laws, because according to the law on political parties, the president should have no party affiliation.
In April 2006, President Aliyev made a state visit to Washington, D.C. It was a remarkably successful trip, at least in terms of image. Speaking at a public forum sponsored by the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, Aliyev discussed oil, economic development, and democracy with an audience of reporters and others. The visit was capped with a private meeting in the White House with President George W. Bush, who told reporters that their discussion was "really interesting", although he also said the meeting was "candid" - sometimes a code word for "tense". Opposition groups said that an official meeting with President Bush sent an inappropriate signal that the violence and intimidation of the 2005 parliamentary election was now a closed matter.
In 2008, Aliyev declared that “Nagorno Karabakh will never be independent; the position is backed by international mediators as well; Armenia has to accept the reality” and that “in 1918, Yerevan was granted to the Armenians. It was a great mistake. The khanate of Iravan was the Azeri territory, the Armenians were guests there."
Ilham Aliyev was re-elected in 2008 with 87% of the polls, while opposition parties boycotted the elections. In a constitutional referendum in 2009, term limits for the presidency were abolished and freedom of the press was restricted.
The 2010 parliamentary elections produced a Parliament completely loyal to Aliyev: for the first time in Azerbaijani history, not a single candidate from the main oppositionAzerbaijan Popular Front or Musavat parties was elected. The Economist subsequently scored Azerbaijan as an authoritarian regime, at the 135° place on 167, in its 2010Democracy Index.
Repeated protests were staged against Aliyev's rule in 2011, calling for democratic reforms and the ouster of the government. Aliyev has responded by ordering a security crackdown, using force to crush attempts at revolt in Baku. Officials loyal to the president have dismissed protesters' comparison of Azerbaijan to other countries considered to be part of the same revolutionary wave that has rocked North Africa and Western Asia since December 2010, and Aliyev has rejected the precedent set by leaders in Armenia, Oman,Jordan, and other affected states by refusing to make concessions. Well over 400 Azerbaijanis have been arrested since protests began in March 2011. Opposition leaders, including Musavat's Isa Gambar, have vowed to continue demonstrating, although police have encountered little difficulty in stopping protests almost as soon as they begin.
Ilham Aliyev is married to Mehriban Aliyeva and has three children: Leyla, Arzu and Heydar. He also has an older sister, Seville Aliyeva.
Ilham Aliyev's major honors include:
- Order of Honor (2003)
- Order of the Star of Romania (2004, awarded by Ion Iliescu)
- Heydar Aliyev Order
- Order of Abdulaziz al Saud (2005, awarded by Fahd of Saudi Arabia)
- Grand Croix of the Légion d'honneur (2007, awarded by French Ambassador in Baku Bernard Chaffin)
- Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (2008, awarded by Lech Kaczyński)
- Order of Yaroslav the Wise 1st degree (2008, awarded by Viktor Yushchenko)
- Medal For Distinction in Protection of CIS State Borders and Badge for Strengthening of Border Cooperation (2008)
- Gold Medal of the Greek Parliament (2009)
- Order of Glory and Honor 1st degree (Орден Славы и Чести; 2010, conferred by Kirill I of Moscow)
- Order of Sheikhulislam (Azerbaijan)
- The Order of St. Sergius I degree (Орден Преподобного Сергия Радонежского I степени (РПЦ))
- Order of Glory «Great Cordon» (International Military Sport Council)
- Order of Glory of the International Confederation of Sport Organizations of CIS countries
- Supreme Order of the Hall of Fame FILA "Legend of Sport";
- The Order of Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, I degree (Орден святого благоверного князя Даниила Московского I степени)
- Order of Mubarak Al-Kabeer (2009, Kuwait)
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Three Stars (Latvia)
- Юбилейная медаль «10 лет Астане»
- Премия Ихсана Дограмачи за мир и международные отношения (Turkey)
- Лауреат «Гран-при» премии "Персона года 2009" (Russia)
- Лауреат премии "Друг журналистов"
- “Man of the Year” by «Balcanii şi Europa» magazine (Romania)
- Honorary Professor of the Turkmenistan State University named after Makhtumkuli (Turkmenistan).
- Honorary Professor of the Belarusian State University
- Honorary Professor of Moscow State University (2008)
- Honorary Professor of L.N.Gumilev Eurasian National University (Kazakhstan)
- Honorary Professor of University of National and World Economy (Bulgaria)
- Honorary Doctor of Lincoln University (USA)
- Honorary Doctor of the Moscow State University of International Relations
- Honorary Doctor of Bilkent University (Turkey)
- Honorary Doctor of National Academy for Taxes (Ukraine)
- Honorary Doctor of Petroleum and Gas University of Ploesti (Romania)
- Honorary Doctor of Kyung Hee University (South Korea)
- Honorary Doctor of Jordan University (Jordan)
- Honorary Doctor of Social Sciences of the Corvinus University (Hungary)
- Honorary Doctor of the Kiev National University named after Taras Shevchenko (Ukraine)
On 21 November 2009, Aliyev was also included in a 500 Most Influential Muslims of World book.
In popular culture
Aliyev's photo is shown in the final frames of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan implying misleadingly that he is the president of Borat's fictionalised Kazakhstan.