As part of a visit to Ganja, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has reviewed a new residential settlement built for 1,500 internally displaced families.
The work under way to improve the living conditions of the internally displaced persons suggests that our fellow compatriots are surrounded by constant care and attention of President Ilham Aliyev. The resettlement of the people who left their homes in the aftermath of the Karabakh war from temporary housing sites and tent camps to modern settlements is a clear indication of state attention and care about them. Thanks to the measures to improve the living conditions of the internally displaced persons, which form one of the fundamental principles of the policy pursued by President Ilham Aliyev, there is not a single tent camp left in the country and all their inhabitants have been resettled to modern settlements. To improve the material well-being of these people, government programs have been adopted and important measures taken to increase social benefits. The IDP settlements built in many parts of the republic are evidence of another reality: the Azerbaijani government shows constant care about its citizens and the solution of their problems represents an important direction of public policy. This is confirmed by the conditions created in a new settlement of multi-storey residential buildings built in Ganja for 1,500 IDP families in accordance with a relevant order of President Ilham Aliyev.
Overall, a total of 40,000 apartments have been commissioned in 82 settlements or neighborhoods built for refugees and IDPs in 2001-2013. Over the last 10 years, 77 settlements or neighborhoods, 120 schools, six music schools, 33 kindergartens and 37 medical institutions have been built. In total, 4.4 billion manats have been spent on the social protection of people of this category to date. Eighty-four per cent of these funds has been allocated in the last 10 years. Over the years, the amount of monthly allowance paid to IDPs for food has been increased 3.6 times, for public services 4.5 times, while the annual budget of the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs has grown 4.6 times. Last year, the amount of money expended on an average IDP totaled nearly 1,100 manats, which is the highest indicator compared to other conflict zones in the world. Over the past 10 years, the level of poverty among IDPs has dropped from 75 to 15 per cent.
After arriving at the settlement, the President was first familiarized with the office building of the Kalbajar District Executive Authority.
Informing President Ilham Aliyev, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs Ali Hasanov said that the fully equipped building is well placed for the efficient operation of staff.
In the lobby of the building there is a photo stand describing meetings of nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev and President Ilham Aliyev with the IDPs. The head of state enquired about the conditions in offices and the assembly hall. Then, President Ilham Aliyev visited the Culture Center.
It was noted that the Culture Center was the largest of all the culture centers built in IDP settlements to date. The 500-seat hall has the latest lighting and sound systems. The Culture Center can host events both of regional and national importance. The music school operating under the Culture Center also has excellent conditions .
President Ilham Aliyev also visited Kalbajar secondary school No 9 for 1,200 children.
In the foyer of the school there are photo stands documenting international events with the participation of great leader Heydar Aliyev. The pictures also reflect meetings of the nationwide leader and President Ilham Aliyev with IDPs.
The President was familiarized with the master plan of the settlement.
The settlement has been built on the basis of additions to the "State program on improving the living conditions and employment opportunities of refugees and internally displaced persons" approved by a decree of the President of Azerbaijan from 31 October 2007. The program proper was approved by President Ilham Aliyev on 1 July 2004. The settlement consists of 25 five-storey buildings and the necessary social infrastructure. The new buildings will be home to 6,750 people or 1,500 IDP families – 1,400 from Kalbajar and 100 from Agdam, Jabrayil, Fizuli, Lachin, Shusha, Zangilan, Khojaly and Khojavand Districts. There is a community center, an office building, a medical center and a telephone exchange here. Water, electricity and gas lines are connected to the communication lines of Ganja. In general, 23 modern settlements with the entire social and technical infrastructure have been built, the living conditions of 16,000 families or 76,000 IDPs improved over the last five years.
During familiarization with the school it was noted that this institution, fitted with modern equipment, is well suited for teaching and learning. The attention and care of President Ilham Aliyev about the development of education confirm that this area is one of the important public policy priorities. This process is not limited only to the capital but also covers the regions, which contributes to the organization of education of our compatriots who were expelled from their homes. Substantial support for the implementation of this ongoing state program is provided by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
President Ilham Aliyev also reviewed the school’s gym.
It was noted that the kindergarten built in the settlement also has the necessary conditions.
Then the President visited the home of IDP from Kalbajar Ofelia Mammadova.
It was indicated that the four-room apartment of Ofelia Mammadova, whose family consists of five people, has all the conditions.
Having tea with the family, President Ilham Aliyev said:
- A beautiful settlement has been built in Ganja. This is the biggest settlement for displaced persons built in recent years. The entire work has been done at a high level here. There is a large area, 25 buildings, and 7,000 people will live here. It is the largest project carried out in recent years. In essence, it is a city within a city. I can see that excellent work has been done. A large school, a kindergarten, a medical center and a culture center for 500 people have been built. So all conditions are available – sports grounds, indoor and outdoor stadiums. There are all possibilities for a comfortable life here. You deserve all of this. For many years you lived in difficult conditions. And from now on you will live comfortably. I congratulate you!
IDP Ofelia Mammadova: Thank you very much, Mr. President! We are very pleased to meet with you today. We are overjoyed. First, we are lucky enough to meet with you, dear Mr. President. Secondly, you have presented our family with such a beautiful apartment with all the conditions. You have always taken good care of us. No other country in the world looks after the internally displaced persons so well. On behalf of our family I express our gratitude to you for this care. I wish you a long life and good health.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you. In recent years we have done a lot to improve the lives of the displaced persons. As you know, the basis of this work was laid by great leader Heydar Aliyev. First payments from the State Oil Fund were aimed at improving the living conditions of displaced persons. This policy has continued from that time to the present day. We try to increase the number of IDPs who are provided with new apartments and houses every year. For example, whereas last year we were hoping to provide housing to 20,000 persons, we actually provided homes to nearly 30,000 persons – a total of 28,000 forced migrants moved into new apartments and houses during the year. In essence, we have built a whole new city in one year.
This policy continues in 2014 as well. In the first month of the year we are meeting again in a large settlement built for the IDPs. Funds are provided both from the state budget and from the State Oil Fund. Last year we allocated funds amounting to 640 million manats, of which 300 million manats were allocated from the State Oil Fund, 300 million manats from the state budget and only 40 million manats were provided by international donors. Essentially, it shows that Azerbaijan is doing and will continue to do this enormous work at its own expense. This is the most serious and the biggest social problem, the biggest problem facing the country.
Over the past 10 years, about 170,000 forced migrants have moved to new homes. However, there are still those who live in difficult conditions. You also lived in difficult circumstances until today. Therefore, construction work in this area will certainly be continued in the coming years, including Ganja and other cities where individual houses, apartments and camps will be built.
We need to create better conditions for those who live in kindergartens, schools and on the territory of military units. But the main construction work will begin after the liberation of our lands from occupation. We are preparing and must be ready for that. Today we have the power, the technical capabilities and professional builders. All of these conditions are created by our local builders. Therefore, after an end is put to occupation – and I am sure that this day will come – we will build beautiful buildings in Kalbajar, Lachin and all other cities. Even better buildings will be constructed than in previous years.
This day will come. We will all try to bring this day closer. Azerbaijan is building up its power, our strength, economic and military potential and the country's population are growing. Last year, more than 170,000 children were born in Azerbaijan. So natural increase during the year amounted to 120,000 people, and the population will continue to grow. Now our population is 9.5 million people, and this figure will gradually increase. Demography, economy and military power will play a major role in resolving the Karabakh problem.
Today Armenia can’t exist without foreign aid. It can’t exist on its own, not to mention development. Even their most senior officials admit that "without foreign aid we can’t exist". Why? Because this is the result of their aggressive policy. But look at the great development Azerbaijan has achieved as an independent state in the past 20 years despite the occupation and difficulties! Our development will be continued even more rapidly. Therefore, the issue of restoration of our territorial integrity will be resolved without a doubt. Let no-one have any doubts about that. At the same time, I have repeatedly talked about this and want to say again that the Azerbaijanis must return to all our historical lands in the future. And our historical lands are not limited to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions. If we look at the recent history and the statistics of the 19th century, we can see that the area populated by the Azerbaijanis was very large. The present-day Armenia is actually located on historical lands of Azerbaijan. Therefore, we will return to all our historical lands in the future. This should be known to young people and children. We must live, we live and we will continue to live with this idea.
You know that the occupation which has been ongoing for more than 20 years is very painful. It is an injustice which causes human suffering and, of course, is the biggest obstacle to the development of the country. However, 20 years is not such a long period from a historical standpoint. We must look ahead and see what Azerbaijan will be like in 20, 30, 50 years from now and how Azerbaijan will develop. I am confident that we will return to all our historical lands in the near future. Then the historical justice will be fully restored. At the first stage we should liberate the occupied lands. The Azerbaijanis should be able to live in Nagorno-Karabakh and in all other places. All of us should try to bring this day closer. But for the time being there are these temporary conditions. I am sure that this is a temporary place of residence. But even though it is temporary, it should be good. All of the high standards are met here.
Ofelia Mammadova: Yes, Mr. President, we also know that this settlement has not been given to us for a lifetime. We have one dream of going back to our Kalbajar. Inshallah, we will hold such meetings there.
President Ilham Aliyev: Inshallah.
Ofelia Mammadova: We say this completely relying on you, your policies, your strength and our strong army. Inshallah, we will celebrate this day. We will wait for it. We lived next door to insidious Armenians. We know their nature. We know how quickly they succumb to the strong.
President Ilham Aliyev: Azerbaijan will continue to evolve rapidly. You know, the occupation of Kalbajar, Lachin and Shusha created a negative turnaround in the Karabakh war because this occupation brought about to a geographical link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The occupation of Kalbajar in April 1993 was a great tragedy. The reason for that was the betrayal on the part of the people who led Azerbaijan at the time, the very existence of such treacherous authorities, their incompetence and negligence. Therefore, if great leader Heydar Aliyev had been in power in Azerbaijan at the time, not an inch of our land would have been under the enemy’s foot now. Everyone knows that. It was two weeks after his removal from political power in 1987 that the Armenians raised this issue. Unfortunately, the people who led Azerbaijan at the time failed to realize this great responsibility and pursue the right policy. They were very far from the people and in many cases conducted treacherous policies. This is why we are faced with this situation now.
But the present-day Azerbaijan is not what it was in 1993. From that time to the present day, Armenia has undergone further decline. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has developed. Both then during the occupation and today Armenia is not good for anything without foreign aid. We knew back then how our lands were occupied and who was involved in this occupation. The Armenians had no army, resources or hardware. We had practically no army either. Of course, our lands were occupied as a result of foreign intervention. This is the truth. Everybody knows that. You know this very well, I know this, our children also need to know this and all the people should know this. It is impossible to deny the historical truth. At some stage perhaps this is not talked about much. But this is history. No-one can change it. Besides, this is not too distant history, as these events took place right before our eyes. We must and we will get even stronger. We rely on our own strength. We will resolve this issue in our favor and fairly.
Ofelia Mammadova: Mr. President, over the course of 10 years you have done a lot for Azerbaijan. The election held last year clearly showed that the people are with you. The people elected a President they have confidence in. We can say that with full confidence. Let those who try to denigrate us learn about love of the people and the attitude towards them from you. They should learn from you how close one should be to the people. They need to learn this from you.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. I also work for the people and for the state. I am very glad that Azerbaijan is experiencing a period of rapid development. Social problems are addressed and the economy grows. We do wonderful things for the IDPs. Over 10 years about 170,000 people have moved to new homes. We will continue to carry out this work. Construction, care and benefits – everything will remain in place for you to live comfortably.
Look how much prettier the city of Ganja has become. It has become a modern city. These territories are turning into a whole new city, into a city center. A great trunk road has been built, jobs are being created. In the future there are plans to build large industrial estates and implement other projects in Ganja. So in the near future people may come to work here from other districts. Therefore, Ganja is getting prettier and you live in a beautiful settlement. I am very pleased with that.
Ofelia Mammadova: Mr. President, it is my duty to say another undeniable thing. The work carried out by First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva and your daughter Leyla Aliyeva, who develop our national music and Mugham, communicate to the world the culture of Azerbaijan, the Khojaly genocide and, in general, promote the realities of Azerbaijan, makes all of us genuinely happy.
President Ilham Aliyev: I congratulate you on the opening of the new settlement again and wish you good health and every success. I hope your children grow up in good conditions, become good citizens and contribute to the development of our country.
Ofelia Mammadova: The whole world envies us, Mr. President. Our great leader signed the Contract of the 20th century. Now our people are seeing its fruits. And the contract of the 21st century was signed by you. Inshallah, we will see the fruits of that too.
President Ilham Aliyev: Of course, we will do whatever is necessary for the future development of our country.
Ofelia Mammadova: Mr. President, I express my appreciation to you once again. I wish you and your family a long life, good health and continued success in the work that you do for the benefit of Azerbaijan.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much.