The village of Kokhanabi, in Azerbaijan’s north west Tovuz District, is the closest village in Azerbaijan to the border with Armenia. Only 300 metres separate Kokhanabi from an Armenian military outpost. Ten years ago, 125 families lived in the village, now only 35–40 remain. Those who do not want to leave their homes wake up almost every morning to the sound of gunfire.
One resident of the village, 48-year-old Mahammad Mahammadov, says that they are unable to plant crops in their own backyards to provide for themselves.
"Our village is very far from the district capital, so we have nowhere to go to work. What else can villagers do?! We should either keep cattle or plant crops. The land is irrigated; potatoes grow well here. Now is the time for sowing seeds — but we can’t. People in more inconspicuous houses on the sidelines of the village manage to plant some crops. But we have to work in the dark of night. If someone picks up a shovel to plant they shoot from the other side. Many residents have been injured, some permanently disabled, during planting time", Mahammadov told OC Media, AzVision.az reports.
Only Taghiyevs’ family keeps cattle in Kokhanabi. So far seven cows have been killed by gunfire from across the border. Their house can be seen very clearly from the Armenian outpost. Surayya Taghiyeva says that they cannot turn on the lights in their homes, because when the soldiers see light they shoot.
"Every year we have to repair the roof and the windows, and every year our cattle die. Roofs collapsed from machine gun bullets, broken windows, and bullet-ridden brick houses clearly illustrate how difficult to live in the village", Taghiyeva said.
Another resident of Kokhanabi, Saltanat Abbasova, lives alone in a two storey-house. She says that after her husband’s death, none of her five children stayed in the village, because they didn’t want to endure such difficult conditions. Some of them went to foreign countries to do business, some moved to the district capital and other villages. Despite being 80-years-old, she has not left her house, which she came to as a newlywed bride.
Empty classrooms — no future without education
Another resident, Gulruk Aliyeva, says that the future of young people has been destroyed in the village. She says that schoolchildren go to school behind the bushes — hiding. There are families who don’t send their children to school because they are afraid.
"I have three children. I send my children to school once or twice per week. One day the shooting was so intense that nobody sent children to school", Aliyeva said.
Aliyeva says that when girls grow up a bit and are married to men from neighbouring villages or further afield, their lives may be saved. There are 15–17 years old brides from this village who play with dolls together with their children.
According to the authorities of Tovuz District, in the last 2 years, 14 civilians have been injured as a result of Armenian provocation from across the border in the border villages of Tovuz.
The Executive Officer of Kokhanabi, Sadig Abilov said that damages caused by gunfire have been registered by the Emergency Commission and sent to the National Council, but there has so far been no response.
In 2014, Deputy Elman Mammadov told reporters that people living in these areas must be exempted from utility costs. Economist Zohrab Ismayil also says that concessions are necessary in remote villages and areas that are at war. According to him, Azerbaijan’s budget is sufficient to exempt such people of utility costs.
The clashes between the countries endanger the lives of people living on the border. At the same time they suffer damage to their property.
More than 5,000 people face constant danger and appalling conditions in the border villages of Tovuz District.