Begum Inaara Aga Khan is of German origin, a trained lawyer with a doctorate in international law. She was born on April 1, 1963 in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, the daughter of German entrepreneurs Renate Thyssen-Henne and Helmut Friedhelm Homey. She later adopted the name “Thyssen” from her stepfather, Dr. Bodo Thyssen.
In 1991 Dr. Gabriele Thyssen married Prince Karl-Emich zu Leiningen and became Princess Gabriele zu Leiningen. Their daughter, Princess Theresa zu Leiningen, was born in April 1992.
In May 1998 Princess Gabriele zu Leiningen married Prince Karim Aga Khan IV (The Aga Khan), the 49th hereditary imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and became the Begum Aga Khan. Prior to her marriage to the Aga Khan and her conversion to Islam, the couple jointly chose the Muslim name “Inaara” (derived from the Arabic “nur,” meaning “light”) for the bride. Their son, Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan, was born in March 2000.
The Begum is well-known for her philanthropic activities since her marriage to the Aga Khan. Alongside her husband, she worked in various educational, cultural and crisis response projects with the aim of improving living conditions of people of all different faiths in developing countries.
The Begum embraces charitable causes, particularly those concerning the rights of women and children, and seeks to better the living conditions of all people in underdeveloped countries. She also promotes understanding and tolerance amongst varied ethnic and religious communities.
Since 1999 the Begum has been supporting micro-loans and third world development projects through the German foundation “Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe” (UP foundation). The foundation funds micro-loans to families and single parents to promote self-reliance and to end the vicious circle of poverty in developing countries, which include Vietnam, Pakistan, India, Cambodia and the Phillipines.
In 2002, together with her mother Renate Thyssen-Henne and her stepfather Ernst-Theodor Henne, the Begum founded the German aid organization “SOS Projects for People and Animals” to help mentally ill, handicapped and traumatized children with animal-assisted therapies to overcome their pain and suffering.
In order to respond in a more effective way to the above-mentioned humanitarian program, the Begum founded an umbrella organization, The Princess Inaara Foundation, in 2004. The purpose of the foundation is to provide philanthropic assistance to the causes and charitable organizations whose work represents the humanitarian goals that the Begum has long supported.
Since 2004 the Begum has become intensively involved in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic by supporting the German AIDS Foundation. In March 2007 at the Conference of EU Ministers on AIDS, the Begum, together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, appealed to the international community to join forces in tackling HIV/AIDS with renewed vigor and closer transnational cooperation between governmental bodies and NGOs.
In March 2007 the Begum traveled to Palestine and Israel at the invitation of then-Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, in support of peace-building projects amongst Palestinian and Israeli children. During her visit the Begum met with various religious and political leaders in the region and called for the promotion of tolerance as the foundation for lasting peace in the Middle East.