Since the early 1990s, Azerbaijan has grappled with how to house and provide services for the hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes by the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Many of those who streamed into Azerbaijan’s cities from the disputed enclave found their own solution, seizing vacant or unfinished private flats and houses.

Nearly 20 years later, some 1,200 refugee families still live in these properties, under the protection of the state - both the late President Heydar Aliev and his successor, Ilham Aliev, decreed that victims of the Karabakh war could not be turned out of any home they occupy until a permanent housing solution is found for them. Owners seeking to reclaim their properties have won decisions in domestic courts, and recently a handful have taken their claims to the European Court of Human Rights and won, but the rulings have yet to be enforced.

In this video report for Transitions Online, Rena Allahverdiyeva and the Team of Investigative Reporters, a journalism collaborative in Baku, examine the divide on the issue and its impact on property owners and displaced people.

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