Photo Essay

Lives on the Line in Azerbaijan

Villagers eke out existence along "line of control" facing Armenian-held territory.
  • This home in Chiragli was destroyed in the conflict and never rebuilt. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • The Shukurov family home lies closest to the "line of control" beyond which Karabakh Armenian forces are in control. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • These windows are covered up to block bullets and shrapnel. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • A shepherd pastures his flock in what is now a no-man's line. He is protected only by earthworks intended to reduce the danger of being hit by bullets. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • A new security wall designed to protect homes in Chiraghli. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • Onion farming is the main local activity in an area once regarded as prosperous. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • Men spend their free time at the local tea-house. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • Women in Chiragli. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • This woman, shown with her granddaughter, lost her husband to one of many sniper fire incidents that has interrupted the ceasefire since 1994. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • Memorial to a villager killed during what passes for peacetime. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • The cemetery in Chiragi. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • A wedding in the village. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)
  • In a village where many homes are unoccupied, the future looks uncertain 16 years after the conflict ended. (Photo: Orhan Orhanov)

Stray too far from the Azerbaijani village of Chiraghli and you might end up in Armenian-controlled territory. The “line of control” drawn when the war over Nagorny Karabakh ended with a ceasefire in 1994, and villages close to it have had a precarious existence ever since.

Chiraghli is in the Aghdam district, three-quarters of which is in Armenian hands despite lying outside Karabakh itself. It is one of ten villages left on the Azerbaijani side, and lies just 250 metres from the nearest Armenian military positions.

Many residents have been killed or injured in the sporadic gunfire that punctuates the shaky truce, and others have simply moved out. For those who remain, it is hard to make a basic living because of the constant danger of sniper bullets, and the difficulty of getting their produce – mainly onions – to market.

The Azerbaijani authorities are now building sections of wall in places like Chiraghli to make life safer for residents. (See Azeris Wall Off Front-Line Zones.)

Pictures taken by freelance photographer Orhan Orhanov. 

Also in this issue

Sceptics question administration’s will to take on big fish who don’t pay all their taxes.
After a decade and a half in “temporary” housing, people who fled Karabakh see little hope of a better life.
Villagers eke out existence along "line of control" facing Armenian-held territory.
People moved out of landslide-prone areas often come back after taking dislike to new homes on offer.