A woman of the East, leading through the political arena
“No woman from the East can be a perfect politician,” the teacher said. This assertion greatly bothered Lamiya Guliyeva, a high school student at the time. This was a girl who enjoyed political and cultural conferences, participated in the Student Academic Society, and actively contributed to the centers for American and German studies. Her favorite subjects were geography and history, along with foreign languages and cultures. She disagreed with the teacher’s pronouncement, but it continued to disturb her.
She lived in cosmopolitan Baku, the cultural and industrial center of Azerbaijan. Though predominantly a Muslim country, Azerbaijan provides for freedom of religion, and women are free to dress in Western fashions. At an early age, she concluded that her interests would serve a career in politics, and she entered Azerbaijan University of Languages (AUL), majoring in international relations and specializing in European studies and political science.
Determined to finally silence the high school teacher’s voice in her head, she wrote a theme titled, “Gender: East and West,” satisfied she’d proven her teacher wrong. She interned first with the State Committee for the Affairs of Azerbaijanis Living in Foreign Countries and then with the UN office in Baku where she learned about the national interests of foreign countries and the challenges of the diplomatic community. She gained a greater understanding of careers that would link her academic interests with future employment.
One summer Lamiya attended the International Summer School (ISS) of Oslo University, an experience that enhanced her open-mindedness and flexibility, improved her ability to analyze problems between nations in the region, and understand the reasons behind the persistent conflicts. Involved in the social life of ISS, Lamiya earned the confidence of her fellow students who selected her for the student council of ISS, which, in turn, chose her to head the Farewell Party Committee.
If the high school teacher’s prejudiced statement still lingered in any way in Lamiya’s consciousness, her selection as a team member at a winter session of the NATO International School of Azerbaijan (NISA) surely crushed any lingering doubts about her place in the political arena. NISA’s acting director worked with Lamiya on several successful projects and not only found Lamiya’s academics and experiences to be beyond expectation, but her vision was also extraordinary for one so young, accompanying a sense of responsibility and determination that make her a good partner as well as a natural leader.
Lamiya has graduated from AUL and now serves as a board member of the UN Association of Azerbaijan (UNAA), a young NGO that seeks to represent Azerbaijan in the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) as a member state, serving as a bridge between Azerbaijan and the UN. They specifically address and promote human rights, democratic governance, peace, and security by doing their best to provide education about the UN in Baku, especially targeting young people, conveying UN principles, goals, and knowledge of the specialized organs detailed in the UN Charter. Through different activities, Lamiya and her team arouse interest in international law and assist in the development of democracy in a civil society while maintaining stability and security in the region.
Lamiya most of all desires a peaceful resolution to the disastrous Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and admits that what is most bitter to her is that the international community still tolerates what qualified as aggression under UN rules. “Russia’s hand is still felt over the region,” she says, but she is convinced that most armed conflicts that still happen in the world result from policies and strategies that serve the selfish interests of a certain few. The more involved democratic people become in the peace process, the more likely conflicts will be resolved. Lamiya hopes to become “a good politician who will be able to contribute to the development of friendly relations between nations and establish peace and security throughout the world.”