Three more smart villages are to be built in the Karabakh region’s Zangilan by the end of 2023 after the pilot project of the Agalı village has been launched, a special representative of Azerbaijan’s president in Zangilan, Cahid Movlayev, said.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Sabah, Movlayev said that 66 families, making up 325 people, have settled in the village. The first family had moved to Agalı village in July 2021, almost a year after the liberation of Zangilan.
He said that the locals are engaged in various kinds of employment including farming, working in the KOBIA, the Small Business Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan, representation of the president, in the bank, market, restaurant, hospital, school, petrol station and textile industry while some work outside the smart village such as in agriculture companies.
Movlayev indicated that transportation to the village would be easier in the future as the bad roads, worn off due to years of war and lack of investment by Armenia, are being replaced by the ongoing construction around the region.
“There are more people that want to come to Zangilan. Actually, the demand is too high – everyone who was from this village wants to come here. For example, for Agalı, there are 1,500 people that want to return although the number had not been that high prior to the occupation of the village.”
Movlayev told reporters that 30 years is enough to live outside of your village and that therefore people long to come back to their homeland.
Movlayev, who is himself from Kalbajar in Karabakh, said that he is looking forward to seeing his homeland and village reconstructed. “I was born there but I lived 30 years outside of it and could not see it for 30 years,” he noted.
The government has committed to providing employment opportunities to the breadwinners of each family who settles in the Agalı village.
Families living in Agalı, which was liberated from Armenia in 2020, are allocated farming land. Some residents will be farming, while others will work in public institutions.
The Azerbaijani government has constructed around 200 detached houses equipped with solar batteries and eco-heating systems in the region. The government is not only assisting families in returning to their villages for well-maintained houses and livelihoods, but it has also developed proper infrastructure such as a school for 360 students, a kindergarten for 60 children, a primary health care center and a market area.
“Everything is free of charge – no transportation, housing costs – jobs are organized for them,” Movlayev said. “The school has been provided with computers, high-speed internet.”
The smart village project was carried out by AS Group Investment.
One of the residents who spoke to Daily Sabah, Zamanova Sevinç, said it has been just a few weeks since she moved to Agalı.
“I was looking forward to coming to these lands. Although I am not from this village, my ancestors died here,” Sevinç said.
Despite being 25 years old, she explained that she had no second thoughts on moving to Karabakh and hoped to work in the village’s newly built school.
The Azerbaijani government's efforts to reconstruct and rejuvenate the liberated regions are in full swing, facilitating families to gradually return to their villages.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had for years promised to retake lands lost in the 1990s and the first returns marked a symbolic moment for Azerbaijan.
In the autumn of 2020, Azerbaijan and Armenia went to war for the second time in Karabakh.
During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and around 300 settlements and villages that had been illegally occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.
The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020, which was seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia.
In January 2021, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It also included the establishment of a trilateral working group in Karabakh.
After the conflict ended, Azerbaijan launched a massive reconstruction initiative in the liberated Karabakh region.
In July, Azerbaijan began the process of returning its people to land recaptured from Armenian forces in what Baku calls "The Great Return." The oil-rich country has vowed to repopulate the recaptured lands.