April 2, 2022 - 13:57 AMT
Karabakh: Azerbaijan destroying Armenian heritage in newly-occupied areas

Azerbaijan is destroying the Armenian cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh territories it has recently invaded, resorting to overt falsifications, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Karabakh said in a statement on Saturday, April 2.

Since March 24, the area around the village of Parukh, the ruins of the settlement of Karaglukh and the nearby height of the same name have been occupied by the enemy, the Ministry said.

"Apart from its strategic significance, the area is also important for its historical, cultural and natural environment," the statement said, revealing that about 20 monuments are officially registered in said areas, including 2 churches, the famous Shikakar-Karaglukh fortress, cultural monuments with great archeological value, cemeteries, khachkars, tombstones.

The area, however, has not been sufficiently studied, evidenced by research conducted in December 2021, which uncovered thirty other monuments.

"Having the bitter experience of the anti-Armenian policy of Azerbaijan, which organizes and encourages cultural vandalism in the occupied territories of Artsakh at the highest level, we confidently declare that the historical and cultural heritage of Parukh and Karaglukh is also endangered under the Azerbaijani occupation," the Ministry said.

In particular, the Ministry said, the Azerbaijanis have dug out remains from an Armenian cemetery dating back to the 9th-12th centuries and are now claiming that the bones are allegedly from a mass burial site for Azerbaijanis killed in hostilities in the settlement of Ivanyan.

The surface of those bones is smooth, which means that they can not be 30 years old, and in fact go back centuries, while "the nomadic ancestors of the Azerbaijani population invaded these parts of Artsakh only in the 18th-19th centuries," the Ministry added.

"Therefore, taking into account the systematic and deliberate crimes committed by Azerbaijan against the rich Armenian and Christian cultural heritage in the previous decades, which gained new momentum with the aggression of 2020 and were registered by many international organizations, including the European Parliament in a resolution dated March 9, 2022, we call on the international community, cultural protection and human rights organizations to not remain indifferent and to take measures against the cultural ethnocide committed by Azerbaijan. We regret that to date UNESCO, despite its obligations, has not sent a fact-finding mission to the occupied territories of Artsakh and is not making significant efforts to prevent the commission of new crimes by Azerbaijan."

Concerns about the preservation of cultural sites in Nagorno-Karabakh are made all the more urgent by the Azerbaijani government’s history of systemically destroying indigenous Armenian heritage—acts of both warfare and historical revisionism. The Azerbaijani government has secretly destroyed a striking number of cultural and religious artifacts in the late 20th century. Within Nakhichevan alone, a historically Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani forces destroyed at least 89 medieval churches, 5,840 khachkars (Armenian cross stones) and 22,000 historical tombstones between 1997 and 2006.