Hidden Treasure in Zangilan – Homeward Bound Series
One of the treasures found in the dug-out were photos like this. Zangilan in 1991, Kifayet is on the far left, 10 years old, crouched next to her neighbours. Her parents on the right, her father in his police hat. Image: Kifayet Suleymanova
A surprise discovery awaits urbane teacher Kifayet Suleymanova, returning for the first time in nearly 30 years to her childhood home. She’d been 12 years old in 1993 when her family fled Zangilan to avoid the approaching Armenian forces during the First Karabakh War. Ever since, she has been living as an IDP (internally displaced person), a refugee within her own country, unable to return to her hometown, left in ruins thanks to the war and Armenian occupation.
The Zangilan Region, where she grew up, is sandwiched into the southwestern corner of Azerbaijan close to the southern foot of Armenia. In the early 1990s, with distant conflict looming, Kifayet’s family dug a make-shift shelter to sit out bombardments. Eventually, the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis from Qubadli meant that Zangilan became cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan. As it became apparent that the war was coming inexorably nearer, Kifayet’s family joined a flood of fellow Azerbaijanis fleeing across the Araz River that forms the border with Iran. But not before they had hidden away many of their more valuable but un-transportable possessions, sealing them into their former bomb shelter now disguised behind a stone-and-mortar wall. The family had hoped to come back again within months once the conflict ended. Instead, they would have to wait until 2021 to see what remained of their house - and of the little treasure trove that they had left hidden all those years ago. Watch the video to see what they found.