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Ilham Aliyev
Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev (born December 24, 1961) is the current President of Azerbaijan. He also functions as the head of the New Azerbaijan Party.

Aliyev was born in Baku as the son of Heydar Aliyev, who became head of the Azerbaijani KGB when Ilham was six and later party secretary for Azerbaijan. After completing school, Ilham entered the history department of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO), receiving a PhD in history and international relations, before starting to teach at MGIMO.

He expected to be appointed to an important diplomatic post abroad, but the collapse of the USSR interfered with his plans. From 1991 to 1994 Ilham was a businessman in Moscow and Istanbul. Media reports soon spread of his highliving, involving gambling and women, and rumors of heavy debts to a Turkish casino owner. Heydar Aliyev was reportedly unhappy at his son's image as a playboy and the harm he felt this would do to his prospects of succeeding him. Heydar Aliyev then ordered the closure of all casinos in Azerbaijan.

In May 1994, Heydar Aliyev arranged for Ilham Aliyev to be appointed vice-president of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR). The following year he was elected to parliament 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. Some claim his father was already dead and that the signature was therefore faked. The domestic opposition heavily criticized his appointment.

The official results of the October 15, 2003 elections gave victory to Ilham Aliyev, it is claimed with 77.97% of the votes. However, the domestic opposition refused to accept the results and staged mass protests. Hundreds of demonstrators were beaten, and later arrested. Aliyev took office on October 31, despite opposition complaints.

The elections also 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, 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 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.

On March 26, 2005 Aliyev was officially elected as the ruling New Azerbaijan Party chairman. The opposition proclaimed this as a violation of state laws, because according to the law on political parties, the president should have no party affiliation.

He is married to Mehriban Aliyeva and has three children: Leyla, Arzu and Heydar. He also has an older sister, Sevil Aliyeva.


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