Azerbaijani cultural heritage sites desecrated as a result of Armenian occupation – letter to UN chief

BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 13. Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage sites have been desecrated as a result of the Armenian occupation, Azerbaijan’s permanent representative to the UN, Yashar Aliyev, said in his letter to the organization’s secretary-general, António Guterres, on the results of the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and the vandalism committed for 30 years by Armenia against the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan in its Karabakh region, reports Trend.

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

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

The Azerbaijani representative’s document noted that Armenia’s brazen exploitation of the sensitive subject of cultural heritage is silent on many facts that clearly show its insinuations and the hateful policy it has been carrying out against Azerbaijan for decades.

“For example, it is 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 Armenia’s largest national minority,” the document said. “Azerbaijani cultural heritage was completely destroyed and wiped out throughout Armenia, and many historical sites were “rebuilt” in such a way as to change their unique characteristics. Armenia continued the same policy towards the Azerbaijani territories it previously occupied.

“Most of the towns and villages in Azerbaijan seized by the 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 pointed out. “Thousands of cultural sites there, 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 have been intentionally and deliberately altered in order to deny and distort the history, culture and ethnic identity of Azerbaijan.

The Permanent Representative further noted that following the Armenian occupation, Azerbaijani religious sites were also desecrated: their religious symbolism was abused when they were used as stables and cattle pens, which constituted a symbolic act against -brutal Islamic aimed at inflicting a special insult on Azerbaijanis. Of the 67 Islamic mosques and religious shrines, 65 were destroyed and two severely damaged.

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

The Azerbaijani diplomat stressed that the above crimes have been strongly condemned by the international community. The Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, during its forty-eighth session, held on 22 and 23 March 2022 in Islamabad, strongly condemned the acts of vandalism, desecration, looting and destruction of large-scale and widespread 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 liable for the breach of its obligations.

In addition, 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 the liberated territories of Azerbaijan resulting from the aggression of the Republic of Armenia against the Republic of Armenia Azerbaijan”, strongly condemned the barbaric acts committed by Armenia against the Islamic historical and cultural heritage of Azerbaijan during the period of occupation.

The resolution also expressed strong condemnation of Armenia’s desecration of mosques and called on the country to stop all attempts to claim Azerbaijani heritage.

Moreover, during the 30 years of occupation, Armenia and its puppet regime in Karabakh built a number of facilities symbolizing their policy of colonization and annexation. The monument to Vazgen Sargsyan in Shusha in Azerbaijan, where 98% of the population was Azerbaijani before the first Karabakh war, is just one example. The odious warlord, responsible for the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijani territories, became Defense Minister and Prime Minister of Armenia.

Today, Armenia shamelessly claims that the monument to this terrorist and other similar facilities erected on the territory of Azerbaijan are nothing but a “cultural heritage” that must be respected and protected. Such absurd claims have “no basis” in international law and demonstrate Armenia’s propensity to spread false information.

Azerbaijan, after the end of the war, immediately made the restoration and reconstruction of the territories liberated from Armenian occupation, including the restoration of all historical and cultural sites without exception, the letter of Yashar Aliyev.

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

Armenia, now declaring loud and clear about the “imperative” of UNESCO’s unhindered access to the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, forgets how it has consistently denied the 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 its 1954 and 1999 Protocols, stated that the he organization was unable to send a mission to verify the state of cultural property in the region, as other specialized UN agencies cannot enter these territories after their occupation by the 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 aforementioned letter and the report attached to it illustrate attempts to prevent and undermine dialogue and instead promote hostile tales and spread misinformation.

Regarding the provisional measures order issued by the International Court of Justice on December 7, 2021, Armenia deliberately omits to mention that Azerbaijan has also seized the Court against Armenia in accordance with the provisions of the International Convention on elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and that the Court has issued two orders for interim measures.

Consequently, the Court clarified that it is not required to establish violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in order to rule on requests for provisional measures and that it is not unable to definitively determine the facts at this stage.

In addition, the International Court of Justice has rejected most of Armenia’s requests for specific measures, including a request to prevent and prohibit the so-called “modification” of “heritage sites” which, in effect , aimed to stop any form of restoration of Azerbaijan. with regard to the monuments located in the liberated territories.

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

Thus, this resolution recognizes that the Azerbaijani towns of Aghdam and Fuzuli were almost completely destroyed and looted and that Azerbaijani cultural heritage sites, including cultural and religious sites left behind by internally displaced persons in the region, have been damaged or destroyed, and points out, in particular, that these sites have either been destroyed, partially destroyed, abandoned, desecrated because they were used as cattle pens and modified to remove cultural traces, or dismantled to building materials.

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

“Armenia must also refuse to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of war crimes for which it is responsible, commit to normalizing interstate relations on the basis of international law, faithfully implement international commitments and support efforts to build , consolidating and maintaining peace and stability in the region,” the Azerbaijani diplomat’s letter reads.

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

Michael A. Bynum