During both the recent aggression against Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) and afterwards, the government of Azerbaijan showed no respect to the Christian Armenian cultural monuments. Azerbaijan’s government’s notorious habit of destruction of the Christian Armenian cultural heritage has turned into one of defining moments of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. An abundance of historic evidences leaves no space for hesitation: Baku pursues a state policy of either destruction of the Christian Armenian heritage or spares no effort to present them as non-Armenian monuments.
In 2005, the video recording of how the Azerbaijani soldiers destroy the millennia-old Christian monuments of Nakhichevan reflected the final and ultimate destruction of the Armenian millenia-old cemetery of Juga. The European Parliament and UNESCO condemned this act of vandalism. The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) highlighted the destruction of Juga cemetery in its 2015 report on Azerbaijan recommending that this Caspian republic to be watched closely by the U.S. government. Consequent U.S. ambassadors Matt Bryza and Richard Morningstar, despite attempts, were not allowed to visit the site by the government of Azerbaijan. In 2005, the Norwegian Embassy to Baku reported that authorities deliberately changing the Armenian identity of the church in the settlement of Nij, that a Norwegian organization was reconstructing, and misrepresenting it as an Albanian church.
During the most recent aggression against Artsakh Azerbaijan twice bombed the main cathedral in the town of Shushi. Later, after Shushi’s capture, the church was vandalized. The St John the Baptist church, known also Green Church of Shushi was partially demolished, recent reports suggest that Kataro monastery has been damaged as well. The deployment of the peacekeepers from Russia provides assurances and protection to several Christian monuments like Dadivank and others. However, considering the ongoing vandalization reports, we recognize the importance of global measures to secure the safety of all monuments at all time.
We call the U.S. Administration and the U.S. Commission for the International Religious Freedom to follow closely to situation with the Christian Armenian monuments in Artsakh. We hope that both U.S., as well as international watchdog organization will report about the Armenian monuments of Nagorno-Karabakh and include the topic in their annual reports. AFA condemns in strongest terms the violence against Christian monuments by Azerbaijan and calls the government of Azerbaijan to uphold its international commitments and obligations regarding religious freedom and democratic values.