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Republic of Azerbaijan & Women’s Right to Vote

Honourable senators, I rise today to commemorate the ninety-fourth Independence Day of Azerbaijan. On May 28, 1918, Azerbaijan was proclaimed a republic. It was the first successful attempt to establish a democratic state in the Muslim world.

I would like to emphasize that Azerbaijan was the first Muslim country to grant women equal political rights to men. Women were granted the right to vote in the same year as independence, 1918, one year later than in Canada and two years earlier than in the United States.

Even before this historic occurrence, Azerbaijan had promoted the status of women. In 1901, the first secular girls’ school was opened, the first of its kind in the Russian empire. In 1908, Sona Valikhan became the first certified Azeri female physician. Since gaining the right to vote, the women of Azerbaijan have participated in all facets of life, including politics. The first female cabinet minister was appointed in 1934, and the first female head of Parliament in 1964. More recently, in 2009, a woman was appointed Major-General, the third highest military rank in the nation.

Although the life of the republic was cut short by the occupation of the Bolsheviks in 1920, the founders laid the groundwork for building a modern and secular statehood. Azerbaijan restored its independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I would like honourable senators to join me in wishing Azerbaijan a happy Independence Day. I hope the country will continue to prosper in the development of its democracy, especially in regard to women’s rights, equality and representation.