Azerbaijan's cultural heritage sites desecrated as result of Armenian occupation - letter to UN chief

Politics Materials 13 June 2022 13:59 (UTC +04:00)
Azerbaijan's cultural heritage sites desecrated as result of Armenian occupation - letter to UN chief

BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 13. Cultural heritage sites of Azerbaijan were desecrated as a result of Armenian occupation, Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the UN Yashar Aliyev said in his letter to the organization’s Secretary-General António Guterres about the results of the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and the vandalism committed during 30 years by Armenia against the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan in its Karabakh region, Trend reports.

The letter was written in response to the Armenian representative's absurd allegations about the so-called ‘destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage’, which were reflected in his letter a few days ago.

According to Aliyev, in connection with the letter of the permanent representative of Armenia, which contains false statements about the realities in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, distorting reasons for the war unleashed by Armenia against Azerbaijan, it must be taken into account that by these methods Armenia is trying to avoid responsibility for the atrocious crimes committed by it during the armed conflict, falsify history and justify its territorial claims.

The Azerbaijani representative’s document noted that impudently exploiting the sensitive topic of cultural heritage, Armenia is silent on numerous facts which clearly display its insinuations and the hateful policy which it has been pursuing against Azerbaijan for decades.

“For example, it’s well known that Armenia, unlike Azerbaijan, is a mono-ethnic country which achieved ethnic homogeneity as a result of the expulsion of other peoples, including hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis, once the largest national minority in Armenia,” the document said. “The Azerbaijani cultural heritage was completely destroyed and annihilated throughout the territory of Armenia, and many historical sites were ‘reconstructed’ in such a way as to change their unique characteristics. Armenia pursued the same policy with respect to the Azerbaijani territories which were previously occupied by it.”

“Most of the towns and villages of Azerbaijan seized by Armenian armed forces in the early 1990s were subjected to ethnic cleansing, which affected more than 700,000 Azerbaijani residents, and were subsequently razed to the ground,” Aliyev stressed. “Thousands of cultural sites located in them, including mosques, temples, mausoleums, museums, art galleries, archaeological sites, libraries and theaters were looted and destroyed. Moreover, the original architectural features of many cultural and religious sites were deliberately and purposefully changed in order to negate and distort Azerbaijani history, culture and ethnic identity.”

The permanent representative further noted that as a result of the Armenian occupation, Azerbaijani religious sites were also desecrated: their religious symbolism was abused when they were used as horse stables and cattle pens, which was a brutal symbolic anti-Islamic act aimed at inflicting a special insult on the Azerbaijanis. Of the 67 mosques and Islamic religious shrines, 65 were destroyed and two were seriously damaged.

“Against this background, Armenia declares that it maintains ‘friendly relations and constructive cooperation’ with most Islamic countries, which is the utter impudence. Moreover, 900 cemeteries were vandalized in the previously occupied territories,” he said in the letter. “Azerbaijan also recorded the destruction of millions of books and rare manuscripts and the theft of thousands of historically significant museum exhibits and valuable artifacts discovered during illegal archaeological excavations in these territories. This is an irrecoverable loss for the cultural heritage of the country.”

The Azerbaijani diplomat emphasized that the above crimes have been strongly condemned by the international community. The Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, at its forty-eighth session, held on 22 and 23 March 2022 in Islamabad, strongly condemned the large-scale and widespread acts of vandalism, desecration, looting and destruction of archaeological sites, cultural heritage sites and religious sites, including the vast majority of mosques and Islamic religious shrines in the previously occupied territories of Azerbaijan and expressed support for its efforts to hold Armenia accountable for violating its obligations.

Furthermore, the resolution of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) "On the destruction and desecration of Islamic historical and cultural relics and shrines in Azerbaijan's liberated territories resulting from the aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Azerbaijan", strongly condemned Armenia's barbaric acts against the Islamic historical and cultural heritage of Azerbaijan during the occupation period.

The resolution also expressed its strong condemnation of desecrating mosques by Armenia and demanded the country to stop all attempts to arrogate the Azerbaijani heritage to itself.

Moreover, during the 30-year occupation, Armenia and its puppet regime in Karabakh constructed a number of facilities symbolizing their colonization and annexation policy. The monument to Vazgen Sargsyan in Azerbaijan's Shusha, where 98 percent of the population were Azerbaijanis before the first Karabakh war, is just one example of this. The odious warlord, responsible for the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijani territories has risen to the defense minister and prime minister of Armenia.

Now Armenia shamelessly claims that the monument to this terrorist and other similar facilities erected on the territory of Azerbaijan are nothing but 'cultural heritage' that should be respected and protected. Such absurd claims have 'no basis' in international law and demonstrate Armenia's propensity for spreading false information.

Azerbaijan, after the end of war, immediately made its top priority to restore and reconstruct the liberated territories from Armenian occupation, including the restoration of all historical and cultural sites without exception, the letter of Yashar Aliyev said.

Many international organizations, officials and independent experts, at the invitation of the Azerbaijani Government, visited liberated territories to witness and document the damage caused during the 30 years of occupation and to observe the reconstruction work.

Armenia, loudly declaring now about ‘imperativeness’ of UNESCO's unimpeded access to the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, forgets how it consistently denied UNESCO organization such access to the same territories when they were under Armenian occupation.

For example, UNESCO in its 1995-2004 report on the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1954 and 1999 Protocols thereto, stated that the organization was unable to send a mission to verify the condition of cultural property in the area, as other UN’s specialized agencies cannot enter these territories after their occupation by Armenian armed forces.

According to the Azerbaijani diplomat, even now, after the end of the Second Karabakh War, Armenia continues to politicize the participation of humanitarian organizations, and the above-mentioned letter and the report annexed thereto is an illustration of attempts to prevent and undermine dialogue and instead promote hostile tales and disseminate false information.

With regard to the provisional measures order issued by the International Court of Justice on December 7, 2021, Armenia deliberately omits to mention that Azerbaijan has also brought before the Court against Armenia in accordance with the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and that the Court has issued two orders on provisional measures.

Therefore, the Court has made it clear that it is not required to establish violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in order to decide on requests for provisional measures and that it is not in a position to definitively determine the facts at this stage.

In addition, the International Court of Justice rejected most of Armenia’s applications for specific measures, including a request to prevent and prohibit so-called ‘modification’ of ‘heritage sites’ which, in fact, was aimed at halting any kind of restoration of Azerbaijan in respect of monuments located in liberated territories.

As for the resolution of the European Parliament, adopted in March 2022, and not in 2021, as the permanent representative of Armenia mistakenly claims, even this tendentious text, prepared under the influence of the Armenian diaspora, does not hush up the atrocities committed by the Armenian side against Azerbaijan and its cultural and religious heritage.

Thus, this resolution recognizes that the Azerbaijani cities of Aghdam and Fuzuli were almost completely destroyed and looted and Azerbaijani cultural heritage sites, including cultural and religious sites left by the country’s internally displaced persons in the area, were damaged or destroyed, and emphasizes, in particular, that these sites were either destroyed, partly destroyed, abandoned, desecrated because they were used as cattle pens and altered to remove cultural traces, or dismantled for building materials.

Aliyev also noted that instead of trying to distort the facts, mislead the international community, misinterpret international documents and fuel hatred, Armenia must renounce hostile narratives, cease and desist from disseminating, promoting and sponsoring hate propaganda.

"Armenia must also refuse to prosecute and punish perpetrators of war crimes for which it is responsible, commit itself to normalizing inter-state relations on the basis of International Law, faithfully implement international commitments and support efforts to build, consolidate and maintain peace and stability in the region," the Azerbaijani diplomat's letter said.

The letter was also accompanied by several photographs illustrating the scale and nature of the falsification of history and destruction of Azerbaijani cultural heritage during the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories.