Azerbaijan's First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva's political career is on a rocket-like trajectory, according to a recent article. Her primary qualifications?
She looked like Audrey Hepburn as she greeted the attendees - her black hair was tied elegantly in a tight top knot, she wore makeup on her dark eyes, and her short-sleeved black dress had a round collar that left space to show off her glamorous pearl necklace and earrings
The article contrasts her with Ermine Erdoğan, the Turkish Prime Minister's wife who was wearing a headscarf at this conference, which de facto disqualifies her from serving as a role model for anyone. Alieyva served as a role model for me once, when I sat next to her at a dinner and watched her not visibly react when the wife of the US Ambassador talked about how she and her husband used to go on dates at nude beaches.
Based on simple stereotypes, Mrs. Aliyeva would seem to be representing the West, and Mrs. Erdoğan the East. But one of the key goals of the conference was to get women thinking beyond stereotype.
This is true, if by "representing the west" the writer means "first lady of a hereditary dictator of a former Soviet backwater" and not "wife of a popularly elected Prime Minister in the one of the world's few functioning Muslim democracies." That's some serious stereotype-thinking beyond!
Mehriban Aliyeva is rumored to be a possible future president of Azerbaijan. If that possibility becomes reality, she will not only glamorously represent her country, but also be the first woman president of a Muslim nation. Such a president - indeed, such a woman - with passion and dreams for her country will stand as a shining example to the Muslim world.
I think the article missed an important nuance to this story. Only when even Muslim women can steal elections, beat journalists and become leaders of a hereditary kelptocracy will the glass ceiling really be broken. Mehriban Aliyeva is truly a pioneer. I wish her the best of luck in her political career.