In light of First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva’s appointment to the position of First Vice President of Azerbaijan, Meydan TV decided to speak with one of the country’s few female opposition politicians.
Alia Yaqublu is a member of the ‘Divan (Supreme Political Council)’ of Azerbaijan’s main opposition party, Musavat (Az. equality). She has worked as a journalist for 23 years in numerous publications, and was the chief editor of newspaper “Intibah” (Az. revival).
– Alia Khanim, given the fact that our conversation is taking place on the eve of International Women’s Day (March 8), I think it’s worth touching on the subject of “women in politics” in Azerbaijan. Across the world, women have firmly entrenched themselves in politics – even in certain Asian and South American states, not only in the West. However, here in Azerbaijan we have this stereotype that politics is a “dirty business”, and that it is predominantly a field for men. Women have in some sense given in to this paradigm, and seem willing to use their connections and abilities to help their husbands into political roles while retaining secondary ones. What do you have to say on this matter?
– Well, what is left for them to do in a society where women are considered decent if and only if they are only married, and where it is mandatory for them to show respect for their husbands? Should they refuse to do so, they are considered badly raised by others, without an ‘education’. In our society, a woman with a sense of herself as an individual ‘I’ and being is still a rather rare if not completely unnatural phenomenon.
This is the oldest stereotype since the establishment of the patriarchate in our country. It is, of course, a pity that Azerbaijan is not on the list of those countries that have long since moved to another level of social development. However, it is not simply the patriarchy that works against them – it is women in Azerbaijan themselves: they believe men are stronger than women, and it is more convenient for them to live with the patronage of their husbands, rather than to take their destiny into their own hands. Self – realization is not a priority, largely because many lack the courage to take a risk.
– Female politicians are a rather rare phenomenon in Azerbaijan. And this unfortunately has the effect of leaving Azerbaijan’s “palette of rule” rather uncolorful and bleak. However, quite recently we had a woman reach the height of power in the country – I am of course talking about our First Lady and now First Vice-President, Mehriban Aliyeva. Do you think she will be able to do anything to refute these cliches, to turn things around? How do you assess her appointment to the position of first VP in general?
– Had she come into this position by her own achievement and merit, or had it been her own victory and a political struggle…then maybe I – and I think many others from amongst the opposition – would be more than happy to appreciate its significance. However, this is merely the distribution of supreme power in the country within the framework of one family and a distorted constitution.
– The ancient Greeks were convinced that politics is one of the only worthwhile pursuits in life. What do you think: do we have any political life at all in the country, or has the authoritarian system deprived us of this opportunity?
– I agree with the ancient Greeks – politics is really quite an interesting activity. However, in our country there is no political life in the classical concept. If all power is concentrated in only one branch, and all the others exist just for show, such a political life [as the Greeks described] can simply not exist.
If the composition of the parliament is decided on not by the will of the people but by the president and his entourage; if both the executive and judiciary branches are completely under the control of the same; if the independent press has been exterminated and we are living with few internet resources and a requiem for the funeral of freedom of speech could already have been ordered long ago, well, where are we supposed to engage in real politics?
– How do you assess the current situation in Azerbaijan as a whole? Does our society have any chance to get out of this crisis?
– The situation is very complicated. In Azerbaijan we have a deep economic crisis, and the country is ruled by a power that is incapable of anything except political and financial scams. To what and how quickly we are headed is difficult to answer.
One thing is clear, however: wherever we end up, if we continue along this path, things will be very, very bad. But if at that time our society will still show some signs of life – that is, if the people at least express their desire to intervene in the course of events, then I think there will still be a chance for salvation.
But if that doesn’t happen, then we may look forward to events that will irrevocably and drastically change not only the government system of the country, but also its political orientation.