Azerbaijan's great return starts: families move to the village of Aghali

On Tuesday, (19 July), the Azerbaijani government began the process of returning citizens displaced during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Baku’s plan, which it is dubbing “The Great Return”, is to relocate families to territories which it retook from Armenia during the 44-day war. While this has long been a priority of Azerbaijan’s, a significant step was taken yesterday when 10 families, comprising 58 individuals, moved in the village of Aghali, in Zangilan district. Another 31 families who fled the village three decades ago will also move in by the end of the week. 

The Azerbaijani government has promised employment opportunities for the breadwinners of each family moving back, and new “smart villages” have been constructed for the inhabitants, as well as other infrastructure projects such as a school. This comes as part of Baku’s multi-billion dollar pledge to “reconstruct” parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding district damaged during the war, for which it has already allocated $1.3billion from last year’s budget.

Officials have stated that the plan is to “fully repopulate” the village over the next few months. However, a timeline for the large-scale return of refugees to the regained territories remains unclear, given the large number of landmines and the level of construction needed to restore parts of the region.

photo: Aghali village; Eurasianet