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

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

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

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

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

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

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.