Azerbaijanis forced from their homes during First Karabakh war hope they can soon return - Wall Street Journal

Azerbaijanis forced from their homes during First Karabakh war hope they can soon return - Wall Street Journal


Some 30 years on from the war that saw Armenian forces drive hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from their homes in and around the conflict-torn Nagorno-Karabakh, many hope they can soon return after Azerbaijan liberated much of the surrounding area in a counteroffensive last fall, Trend reports citing the article published by the Wall Street Journal.

This is stated in an article named “Azerbaijanis Wrestle Over Return to Abandoned Towns, Decades After First Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict With Armenia”.

Alastun Pashayev, 45, said that the Pashayev family lived in a two-story home before the conlict forced them to flee to a tent city near the capital of Baku.

Tahir Mirkisili, chairman of an economic planning and business committee in the Azerbaijani parliament, says that over 150,000 homes were destroyed in the areas Azerbaijan recaptured last year, along with 9,000 public buildings, including 700 schools. With rail and airport infrastructure long destroyed, the only way in is by road, making it harder to restore public services and rebuild shattered towns.

The report noted that the Pashayevs lived in a two-story home in Aghdam. The living room measured almost 200 square feet, Mr. Pashayev said. They had a vineyard that yielded up to 15 tons of grapes a year and raised cows and sheep. His father worked as a long-distance truck driver, earning enough to buy land and build a home for each of his nine children. After they fled, they had to make do for a time in a tent city near the Azerbaijani capital Baku, sharing bathroom and washing facilities with other families.

Elkhan Khanalizade, a screenwriter, was 13 years old when fighting arrived in his village in the southern region of Fuzuli. The ordeal of fleeing the village and walking 40 miles barefoot to safety, his legs bloody from thorn pricks, remains etched in Mr. Khanalizade’s memory. There wasn’t time to grab any family heirlooms, including a sugar pot carved from walnut and copper that had been passed down through generations.

Life in Baku, where the Khanalizades landed in 1994 has been adequate, Mr. Khanalizade said, “but it’s not home.” “I don’t share any childhood memories with those who live here in Baku,” he said, adding that his 82-year-old father longs to one day be buried in Fuzuli. “That small village where I grew up, that was my world,” he said.

The report added that some 800,000 Azerbaijanis have said they want to return, according to a government committee supporting repopulation efforts.

The author added that Turkey, Iran, Hungary, Italy and the UK are among the countries that have said they would help contribute to the reconstruction, including investing in industries and helping to remove land mines. The rebuilding effort has already begun in some areas now under Azerbaijani control.

“In the Fuzuli region, to the south of Nagorno-Karabakh, the names of villages now adorn shiny new signposts along the main road and its airport is being rebuilt. Azerbaijanis who once lived here are exploring the idea of returning,” the report said.