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A Challenger In Azerbaijan's Ruling Family?

Sevil Aliyeva (left) now lives in London
Sevil Aliyeva (left) now lives in London
The Aliyev dynasty is known for dominating Azerbaijani politics, but there could be a challenger from within the family itself.

In recent days there have been a number of press reports that Sevil Aliyeva, President Ilham Aliyev's elder sister, is about to enter politics and even plans to head a political party in opposition to her brother.

Aliyeva now resides in London with her children and has been out of the public eye since the death of her father, late President Heydar Aliyev in 2003.

It is an open secret that Aliyeva doesn't exactly get along with her brother's wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, who over the last five years has become a hugely popular public figure in Azerbaijan -- perhaps even more popular than her husband.

Usually these kind of stories are ignored by the ruling family, but in this case Aliyeva quickly denied the rumors.

She told the Interfax news agency that she is happy with her life in England, has no plans to enter politics, and is spending her time composing music.

For years Sevil Aliyeva was the head of a Azerbaijani women's movement, named after her ("Sevil"). She is also the founder of the private Space TV.

But now all official women's activities are regulated by the first lady, who is also the chairwoman of the powerful Heydar Aliyev Foundation.

The foundation is almost a state within a state, involved in charity, education, and cultural events. Its budget has not been disclosed, but it's believed to be in the millions.

-- Luke Allnutt

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