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.
Cash-rich Azerbaijan appears policy-poor when it comes to the thousands of veterans who fought in its 1988-1994 conflict with Armenia and ethnic Armenian separatists over the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh.
At the age of 14, Kifayat Mammadova was married and already an expectant mother. A year and a half later, her marriage had failed, her child had died, and she was on the road to Baku from her village in the mountains of southern Azerbaijan in search of a new life.
It’s a bright spring morning in Baku, and, at Azerbaijan’s only non-profit school for snipers, 10 students are diligently taking notes about the “peculiarities” of a Russian-made, semi-automatic Dragunov sniper rifle and those of a Israeli-made Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle.