Internet disruptions in Fuzuli [Update October 24, 2023]

[Update] Reports from Fuzuli confirm, that internet access has been restored as of October 24, 2023. Residents say that despite almost a month-long throttling, they have noticed the cash balance on their accounts has been withdrawn even though there was no internet access. Of the companies providing Internet access in Fuzuli, only Aztelekom has thus far restored access. According to reports, mobile operators continue to resort to throttling.

Azerbaijan throttled internet access on September 19, 2023, during military operations but according to reports from the ground, despite it being more than 20 days since the intervention, internet disruptions remain.

Azerbaijan launched a military offensive into the formerly disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on September 19, with the aim “to restore constitutional order” and “force the dissolution of the government” in the capital Khankendi [Stepanakert in Armenian]. As a result of the 24-hour operation termed by Azerbaijan’s Military of Defense as a “local anti-terror operation,” the government of Stepanakert/Khankendi surrendered, accepting the truce agreement outlined by Azerbaijan and Russia on September 20.

More coverage of the offensive available here.

According to reporting by independent Meydan TV, an online news platform, the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport, as well as other relevant institutions, have been silent about restrictions placed on internet access in Fuzuli. Users said on the social media platform Meta, that it was not only Fuzuli where restrictions continue but also in Aghdam, and Terter. “Access to the internet is only available at government institutions in Aghdam, Terter, and Fuzuli while the population remains without access,” wrote Khagani Bakshali in a post. 

Screenshot of the post on Facebook.
eydan TV reports that all main providers, Aztelecom, Nar Mobile, Bakcell, and Azercell stopped providing access to the internet in Fuzuli immediately after the military operation started on September 19. Inquiries directed to the press services of mobile operators remained unanswered.

Meanwhile, residents were not informed of planned disruptions according to Meydan TV reporter reporting from the Arayatli village of Fuzuli. 

The disruptions have affected especially students receiving online education.

An employee at the call center at Aztelecom, the main provider of internet access, said the company would investigate the disruptions, while the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport said there was no reason to worry and that the internet would be restored soon. “There is no reason to worry. Internet will be restored. We advise citizens to be patient,” the ministry said according to reporting by Meydan TV.

According to ICT expert and president of Azerbaijan Internet Forum Osman Gunduz, while the decision to restrict access to the Internet can be justified during military operations, once these are ended, access should be restored. In an interview with Meydan TV, Gunduz said, “When the state is conducting an anti-terrorist operation in a certain region, it is understandable that [the state can] restrict [access to] the Internet. An anti-terrorist operation can also be considered a military or emergency situation. But if the operations are over now, if the situation is under the control of the state, it would be correct to restore communications, open the Internet, and activate the mobile Internet service.”

*Fuzuli was one of the seven districts surrounding Karabakh occupied by the Armenian forces following the first Karabakh war. Azerbaijan regained control of the district as well as other six districts during the second Karabakh war