Armenia's vandalism against Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage - flagrant violation of int’l law

Politics Materials 18 May 2021 15:18 (UTC +04:00)
Armenia's vandalism against Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage - flagrant violation of int’l law

BAKU, Azerbaijan, May 18


Armenia's vandalism against Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage is a flagrant violation of international law, Trend reports referring to the letter of Azerbaijan's Permanent Representative to the UN Yashar Aliyev, sent to the UN secretary-general.

The letter tells about the 30-year Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and the deliberate destruction of the cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people in the occupied territories.

"Besides the devastating humanitarian, economic and social consequences, the aggression of Armenia and the illegal occupation of Azerbaijani territories that lasted for three decades also caused irreparable damage to the Azerbaijani cultural heritage, which includes thousands of cultural values, including monuments of the world and national importance, mosques, temples, mausoleums, museums, art galleries, sites of archaeological excavations, libraries and rare manuscripts,” the letter said.

“The Azerbaijani historical and cultural heritage on the Armenian territory was also damaged," the letter says.

The author of the letter stressed that the Azerbaijani government has consistently provided the UN with extensive evidence testifying to Armenia’s purposeful actions to consolidate the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by changing their demographic, cultural and physical nature and preventing the return of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Azerbaijanis to their homeland.

“This is a flagrant violation of the international law and relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council,” the letter said.

"Referring to the particular importance of this problem and big concern about it, Azerbaijan has repeatedly drawn the attention of the international community to the atrocities committed against its cultural heritage,” the letter said.

“Azerbaijan appealed to UNESCO and other international organizations to send fact-finding missions to the occupied territories and take urgent measures to ensure the protection of cultural property located there.”

“However, Armenia consistently prevented such missions’ visit throughout the occupation period to cover up its crimes based on hatred,” the letter said.

“So, for example, in its report on the activity carried out in 1995-2004 to implement the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocols of 1954 and 1999, UNESCO indicated that the Azerbaijani government informed the Secretariat of its concern about the protection of cultural property in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and other occupied territories adjacent to it, and requested to send a fact-finding mission,” the letter said.

“However, the Secretariat is unable to send a mission to check the state of cultural property in the area as other UN specialized agencies have been unable to enter these territories since the moment of their occupation by the Armenian Armed Forces,” the letter said. “The Secretariat will again consider the issue of sending a mission after Armenia and Azerbaijan reach a peaceful settlement."

The author of the letter stressed that the resumption of hostilities, which followed a new act of aggression by Armenia in late September 2020, led to the liberation of more than 300 cities, settlements and villages of Azerbaijan from the Armenian occupation.

“There was a lot of evidence of destruction and looting committed by the aggressors in the liberated areas and horrifying in its scale,” the letter said. “Among other civilian facilities, hundreds of historical, cultural and religious monuments were looted, vandalized and destroyed in these territories.”

“Some 64 out of 67 mosques and Islamic religious sites were destroyed, greatly damaged and desecrated,” the letter said. “Mosques in Aghdam, Gubadli and Zangilan districts, desecrated by Armenian graffiti, were used as pigsties and cowsheds. More than 900 cemeteries were destroyed and vandalized in these territories."

“The evidence of illegal "archaeological excavations" and so-called "restoration work" was found in the liberated Azerbaijani territories, confirming previous reports of Armenia's attempts to hide and falsify cultural, historical and scientific evidence,” the letter said.

"Thus, a modern workshop for the production of "ancient" khachkars - Armenian cross-stones was discovered in the liberated Kalbajar district of Azerbaijan," the letter says.

“These khachkars were oxidized and vinegar was used in the process of artificial aging and then they were buried as "indisputable evidence" of "centuries-old Armenian roots" in this district," the letter says.

“The Armenian Armed Forces and illegal settlers, hastily leaving the occupied territories, which had to be returned to Azerbaijan under the terms of the agreement dated November 10, 2020, continued to destroy and plunder cultural values,” the letter said.

"For example, the Armenian Armed Forces burned down a mosque in Giyasli village of Aghdam district before their withdrawal from this district by November 20, 2020,” the letter said.

“During the withdrawal of the Armenian Armed Forces, the Khudavang monastery complex, located in Kalbajar district of Azerbaijan, was looted,” the letter said. “The fresco on the eastern wall of the Arzu Khatun church inside the complex, as well as crosses, bells and icons were removed and illegally taken to Armenia."

“The author of the letter stressed that the irresponsible behavior and vandalism of Armenia against Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage is a flagrant violation of international law, according to which, firstly, cultural values must not be an object of attack, and, secondly, all necessary measures must be taken for the protection of cultural property during hostilities,” the letter said.

“Thirdly, seizure, destruction, deliberate damage, plundering and misappropriation of cultural property and acts of vandalism against them are prohibited, and, fourthly, the occupying country must prevent the illegal export of cultural property from the occupied territory and return them to the competent authorities of the occupied territory,” the letter said.

"Armenia's actions against the Azerbaijani cultural heritage during the conflict [the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict] are also the violation of international humanitarian law and are war crimes and crimes against humanity in accordance with the international criminal law,” the letter said.

“Moreover, along with ethnic cleansing, seizure of land and property and change of place names in the territories from which the Azerbaijani population was expelled, Armenia, within its purposeful policy and practice of discriminatory destruction of traces of Azerbaijani historical and cultural roots in these districts, was engaged in destruction, desecration, plunder and misappropriation of the Azerbaijani cultural heritage," the letter says.

The author of the letter stressed that the Azerbaijani government will repair and restore all historical and cultural facilities damaged during the years of conflict and occupation.

"The work is underway with the participation of experienced specialists and architects in the liberated territories," the letter said.

“As Armenia continues to lie and incite hostility, it is important for the international community to remember Armenia's responsibility for the war it has unleashed, for the tens of thousands of civilians it has killed and thousands of cities, settlements and villages that it razed to the ground with the sole purpose of realizing its illegal territorial claims based on fabricated historical theories and racial prejudices to promote lasting peace, justice, and reconciliation,” the letter said.

The author of the letter also called on the UN secretary-general to distribute the letter as a document of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.

The photos of destroyed and desecrated mosques in Aghdam, Gubadli, Zangilan and Aghdam districts, as well as other cultural heritage sites of Azerbaijan destroyed by Armeniawere also attached to the letter.