First lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva`s multifaceted activity is a role model for women of the nation she belongs to, former UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura said in an interview to AzerTAc.
- You were the UNESCO Director General for long time and visited Azerbaijan many times during your term. You presented a diploma of the UNESCO goodwill ambassador to first lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva. Do you remember when you first met Mehriban Aliyeva?
- I am very happy to speak about first lady of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO and ISESCO goodwill ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva because her multifaceted activity is a role model for women of the nation she belongs to.
I remember very well that ten years ago I appointed Mehriban Aliyeva as the UNESCO goodwill ambassador in 2004. I have good memories about that.
I met Mehriban Aliyeva in April 2000 during my first visit to Azerbaijan to attend the summit of leaders of the Turkish-speaking nations organized under leadership of national leader Heydar Aliyev.
Great leader Heydar Aliyev invited me to lunch. Over lunch I met Ilham Aliyev who used to work at the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan then and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva. It was very good for me. I want to underline that this meeting took place just six months after my election as the UNESCO director general. It was my first official visit to one of the member countries. Then, I received a proposal on Mehriban Aliyeva`s desire to work with the UNESCO and I accepted it with great pleasure. We met with Mehriban Aliyeva at the UNESCO headquarters. During my first convention, I made sure that she will make a good goodwill ambassador. There was an important issue concerning her powers since every goodwill ambassador has his own obligations. Talks on the new convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage, which includes national, traditional dances, songs and ceremonies, were going on then. It was the period when the international convention on the intangible cultural heritage emerged. At last, we achieved official adoption of the new convention in autumn 2003. I assumed that this field will be interesting for Mehriban Aliyeva and suggested it to her. For her part, Mehriban Aliyeva favored this suggestion and said that she is glad to accept this post and bear her responsibility as the UNESCO goodwill ambassador on intangible heritage.
This event was positive for both the people of Azerbaijan and the region and the peoples of the world. That is why I was very glad to organize a nomination ceremony in August 2004 at the UNESCO headquarters with participation of President Ilham Aliyev. Afterwards, we conducted many meetings together with Mehriban Aliyeva both in Baku and Paris and other places. I am very glad that Mehriban Aliyeva made a considerable contribution to promotion of the new convention on the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage. I would like to add that I visited various regions of Azerbaijan together with Mehriban Aliyeva. It was always pleasure for me to visit Azerbaijan.- You noted that you worked together with Mehriban Aliyeva at UNESCO. What can you say about her activity at this organization?
- I noted Mehriban Aliyeva is an active goodwill ambassador who bears responsibility for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage of the completely new field of activity for the UNESCO.
Thus, she successfully popularized the new convention not only in Azerbaijan, but also in other countries. Currently, the convention on the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage was ratified in more than 160 countries. The convention on the world heritage ratified in 190 countries is more famous convention. The convention on the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage has been nearing recently to the convention on the world heritage. No doubt, Mehriban Aliyeva made her contribution to this cause and popularization of the new convention.
Mehriban Aliyeva organized important meetings and discussions in not only the cultural sphere but also in the field of education. Sometimes, she chaired international meetings. I would like to add that she popularized the culture of Azerbaijan by organizing the presentation of traditional Azerbaijani dances and songs at the UNESCO scene. The major scene of UNESCO seats over 1000 people. The number of spectators exceeded 1000 at the presentations of the Azerbaijani culture organized by Mehriban Aliyeva. Thanks to Mehriban Aliyeva these presentations became successful events in the history of UNESCO.
- Mehriban Aliyeva is famous around the world as a philanthropist of international level, political figure and scholar. How do you evaluate such a multifaceted activity as a woman?
- In terms of the international career of Mehriban Aliyeva, she is very active in all fields in particular, the intangible cultural heritage. I would like to add also that Mehriban Aliyeva is very active on the political arena of Azerbaijan as well. I am very glad to see her as a very active politician of international level.
I need to underline that it all indicates to its impact on the improvement of the welfare of the people of Azerbaijan.- What can you say about the tireless activity of Mehriban Aliyeva to popularize Azerbaijani culture, in particular mugham, ashug and carpet arts, which have ancient and rich traditions?
- Activity of Mehriban Aliyeva to popularize ancient mugham, ashug and carpet arts in the world is praiseworthy indeed. In accordance with the new convention, the first element submitted by Azerbaijan on the intangible cultural heritage is the mugham art. President Ilham Aliyev and first lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva suggested that I take part in the creation of the international mugham center in Baku.
I was happy to accept this proposal. I remember how together with President Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva I attended the ground-breaking and inauguration ceremonies for the International Mugham Center. I would like to underscore that I enjoyed seeing shows related to the intangible cultural heritage including mugham organized at the new center. After I left UNESCO in November 2009 I had many opportunities to visit your country at the invitation of the Azerbaijani government, especially Mehriban Aliyeva. During each trip, I was glad to visit the International Mugham Center, attend interesting concerts dedicated to the intangible cultural heritage including the mugham art and national dances and songs of other countries. I enjoyed songs of ashugs in Baku and at the UN headquarters in New York.
In March 2009, I visited the Icherishehr over the Novruz holiday ceremony together with President Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva. Azerbaijan conducts very interesting ceremonies of Novruz, creates stands, which present national carpets, cuisine, etc. I enjoyed walking in Icherisheher together with President Ilham Aliyev and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva.
In addition, Mehriban Aliyeva sent a group of Azerbaijani mugham performers to Japan in August 2009. The Japanese enjoyed listening to the national Azerbaijani music at a symposium held in the city of Nara.- Mr. Matsuuro, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation led by Mehriban Aliyeva does a great job in educating the world community about the truth on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, tragedies, which happened as a result of the conflict in the town of Khojaly and other places. What can you say about that?
- I appreciate Mehriban Aliyeva`s activity to raise the world community’s awareness about the truths on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, tragedies, which happened in the wake of this conflict in the town of Khojaly and other places. I would like to note that it is the great tragedy for the people of Azerbaijan. I remember very well how Mehriban Aliyeva referred to these events in her official remarks both in Baku and at the UNESCO headquarters. Unfortunately, this conflict has not been solved yet. Hope that it will be solved peacefully in the near future.
- The Japanese national cuisine washoku was included into the world cultural heritage list at the UNESCO meeting held in Baku. You were also present at this meeting. Your impression on Azerbaijan and its capital?
- The government of Azerbaijan invited me to the meeting of the UNESCO committee on the intangible heritage held in December last year in Baku at a very high level. At this event, the Japanese national cuisine washoku was added to the UNESCO world heritage list. I am very glad that washoku is now in the list and happy that it happened in Baku ten years after the adoption of this convention. I want to express my gratitude to Mehriban Aliyeva for organizing this event so perfectly.
As to Azerbaijan, Baku, I would like to underline that your country is rapidly developing. Baku changes and renews every day. This is acknowledged by foreign guests who take part in the events held in the capital of Azerbaijan.
In conclusion of the interview, I avail myself of the opportunity to congratulate esteemed Mehriban Aliyeva on her jubilee and wish happiness to her. I believe that Mehriban Aliyeva will successfully continue her humanitarian mission both at the international level and domestically. I wish Mehriban Aliyeva every success in her important activity.