Behind the fences
Behind the fences
For nearly two decades, the picturesque coastline of Azerbaijan’s Absheron peninsula has been hidden by illegal fences. The area, once a favorite for local filmmakers and beachgoers, has become the private playground of an elite few. Despite numerous attempts to restore public access to the beach, the fences and walls stood–and locals began to believe they had no right to question them anymore.
Recently, more than 70 activists from the nearby Buzovna village scored a rare success with a social media campaign against the “restricted beaches.” After the campaign started to gain public attention, the government began demolishing the barriers. However, activist groups worry the fight is not over yet: only the walls of the constructions were torn down. The illegally built houses and buildings remain. In other villages on the peninsula, locals are still too afraid to speak out– instead, they travel for kilometers to access a sea that is literally in their backyard.
I grew up in the settlement of Baku called Khashakhuna, and as a child I was forever looking for a way to get to the beach. But security guards chased us while we were trying to jump over the walls that barred our access–and guard dogs threatened us. We always thought we were breaking the law and entering someone's private beach. Now as an adult, I know the law doesn’t allow any private or commercial construction to be built 150m from the seaside. Any buildings that were constructed illegally must be demolished and walls can not obscure the view of the sea.
But locals from the nearby village do not believe they have the power to remedy the situation because they believe these buildings and fences are owned by the people who rule the country and, so, will never be torn down.
I think this project can plant a seed of hope in people's minds after witnessing how the residents of one local village, Buzovna, came together to force change.