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Azerbaijan desecrates Armenia’s Christian cultural and religious heritage

“The erasure of the Armenian cultural heritage is part of a wider pattern of a systematic, state-level policy of Armenophobia,” says the European Parliament.

It’s a small favor that they said anything at all about this, but this is a characteristically silly statement from the Eurocrats. Armenophobia? The Azeris don’t hate the Armenians because they’re Armenians. They hate them because they’re Christians. What’s more, the Qur’an suggests that the destroyed remnants of ancient non-Muslim civilizations are a sign of Allah’s punishment of those who rejected his truth: “Similar ways have passed away before you. Just travel in the land and see the nature of the consequences for those who denied.” (Qur’an 3:137) The ruins of non-Muslim civilizations thus bear witness to the truth of Islam. What ensues from that idea? The creation of more ruins.

“Azerbaijan Desecrates Armenian Cultural and Religious Heritage,” by Uzay Bulut, Providence Magazine, December 13, 2022:

Since Azerbaijan’s aggressive war against Artsakh in 2020, considerable damage has deliberately been caused by the government of Azerbaijan against the Armenian cultural and religious heritage in Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian republic in the South Caucuses.

Many Armenian monuments in the region came under Azerbaijan’s control after the ceasefire of November 9, 2020 after Azerbaijan captured much of Artsakh and occupied those territories. Azerbaijani soldiers and mercenaries have since destroyed or vandalized many Armenian religious and cultural heritage sites. This includes Armenian cemeteries and religious artifacts, such as the “khachkars” or “cross-stones”.

In March 2021, BBC reported that an Armenian Church – the Church of Zoravor Surb Astvatsatsin (Mother of God) located in Mekhakavan – that fell into Azeri control following the invasion of Artsakh was completely destroyed. “Azerbaijan has said ethnic Armenians are welcome to stay in Nagorno-Karabakh but Armenia has accused it of damaging and destroying Armenian cultural heritage left behind in the region, including churches and monuments,” the BBC wrote.

Armenia’s National Commission for UNESCO condemned the destruction of the church, which it called “a cultural crime by Azerbaijan.” “Armenian monuments of Artsakh under Azerbaijani occupation are vandalized and destroyed in ISIS-style,” the Armenian National Commission for UNESCO added.

The desecration of Armenian religious heritage at the hands of Azerbaijan is ongoing. The Caucasus Heritage Watch (CHW) and the Monument Watch reported in October 2022 that the Surb Sargis Church, located in the center of the Azeri-occupied Hadrut region’s Mokhrenes village, was destroyed by Azerbaijan.

Artsakh has historically been an integral part of Armenia. The first ever Armenian school, the Amaras monastery, was established in Artsakh. This Armenian Republic has never been part of independent Azerbaijan. On December 10, 1991, a few days before the official collapse of the Soviet Union, Artsakh held a referendum where the overwhelming majority of the population (99.89 percent) voted in favor of independence.

Hence, in 1991, two independent and legally equal republics– Azerbaijan and Artsakh – were declared during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Azerbaijan, however, has since failed to recognize the Armenian right to self-determination in Artsakh. It launched three aggressive wars against Armenians: the 1991-94 war, the 4-day war in April 2016 and the 44-day war in 2020. Despite Azerbaijani threats, persecution, state terrorism, blockade, and repeated armed aggressions, Artsakh has preserved its independence to this day.

Azerbaijani aggression includes deliberate destruction against Armenian cultural heritage such as the shelling of the Gazanchi Church, the Holy Saviour/Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi during Azerbaijan’s second war against Artsakh. Azerbaijan first denied shelling the cathedral, but Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev later admitted it.

The desecration has been widely documented by cultural heritage organizations as well as Armenian media outlets. The website “Azeri War Crimes”, for instance, has documented the deliberate destruction and desecration of Armenian cemeteries and gravesites by Azerbaijan’s armed forces.

These attacks seem part of wider Azeri efforts to eliminate Armenians from the region. Sadly, Armenians who lived in what is now officially called Azerbaijan were for decades exposed to persecution, violence, and pogroms – such as the 1988 Sumgait pogrom and the 1990 Baku pogrom – at the hands of the Azeris. Through these aggressive policies, Azerbaijan wiped out the Armenian presence within its borders. Now the government of Azerbaijan is violently targeting Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia.

On October 11, the Caucasus Heritage Watch, which monitors and documents endangered and damaged cultural heritage using high-resolution satellite imagery, released a new report on satellite monitoring of cultural heritage in Artsakh. In the past year, the organization documented one destroyed church, one damaged historic bridge, and seven threatened churches and cemeteries.

On March 9, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that “strongly condemns Azerbaijan’s continued policy of erasing and denying the Armenian cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh”.

“The erasure of the Armenian cultural heritage is part of a wider pattern of a systematic, state-level policy of Armenophobia, historical revisionism and hatred towards Armenians promoted by the Azerbaijani authorities, including dehumanisation, the glorification of violence and territorial claims against the Republic of Armenia which threaten peace and security in the South Caucasus,” the resolution read….

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