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Azerbaijan: Emphasizing IDPs’ Right to Return over Right to Stay Put

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Ali, who lives in a Baku dormitory for refugees, says he does not attend school because he suffers from a speech impediment.

Nearly 20 years after a ceasefire brought a halt to all-out warfare in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani government is still grappling with the challenge of accommodating the country’s 600,000 Internally Displaced Persons, without encouraging them to forget their former homes.

Since coming to power in 2003, President Ilham Aliyev -- whose father, the late president Heydar Aliyev, signed the 1994 Karabakh ceasefire agreement -- has allocated hundreds of millions of manats annually from the $39-billion State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan to build housing and provide benefits to IDPs. In 2012, the Fund provided 300 million manats (about $382.45 million) for this purpose. Azerbaijani IDPs constitute one of the world’s largest IDP populations.

According to the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs, over the past decade roughly 37,000 families (more than 160,000 people) have been resettled in 79 new apartment buildings and settlements, mostly around the capital, Baku. Tent settlements no longer exist.

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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance correspondent based in Baku. Sitara Ibrahimova is a freelance photojournalist based in Baku.

Azerbaijan: Emphasizing IDPs’ Right to Return over Right to Stay Put

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