Armenian war crimes through the eyes of int’l organizations
By Sabina Mammadli
On November 10, 2020, Armenia accepted its defeat in the 44-day-long second Karabakh war and signed a trilateral statement initiated by the Kremlin, Azernews reports.
The trilateral deal heralded a new era, that is, the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands that lasted nearly 30 years ended under the crucial strikes of the Azerbaijani national army, and the occupied lands came under the control of the real owner.
However, as the Azerbaijani army restored control and mounted the national flag in the liberated lands, another bitter truth came to light, that is, the outcome of the scorched earth policy of the Armenian occupation razed to the ground everything created by men throughout the history of existence on these lands.
Before the signing of the historic deal, dubbed the act of capitulation, the Azerbaijani army had liberated around 300 villages, settlements, towns, and historic Shusha city - the pearl of Karabakh.
During the 30 years of bloody occupation, Armenia destroyed and vandalized the Azerbaijani territories, leaving once prosperous, rich lands razed to the ground and littered with mines planted to kill innocent people and deter their return to homes after 30-year long hiatus.
The scale of destruction and massacres on Azerbaijan's formerly occupied territories is shocking, implying deep hatred and animosity toward the Azerbaijani people, with many experts describing these mass destructions and killings as genocide.
The country's war-torn Aghdam region alone is seen as a stark example of Armenian hatred and enmity. Aghdam, known as the "Hiroshima of the Caucasus" shocks and traumatize visitors, who arrive at this scene to see with their own eyes infamous scenes of ruin and destruction.
Throughout the 30-year-long occupation and in the post-war period, Azerbaijan has repeatedly appealed to international organizations to dispatch fact-finding missions to register war crimes on the scenes. Among international organizations, designed and financed by its members, to deal with and react to the destruction of monuments of culture is UNESCO. Azerbaijan has repeatedly invited UNESCO to send its mission to Azerbaijan to record Armenia's destruction in the territories occupied by Armenia for decades. Alas, numerous calls went unheard by this international organization with the mission first of all to react to the destruction of cultural facilities and monuments.
Furthermore, Azerbaijani NGO leaders also asked UNESCO to send an expert group to assess the current state of Azerbaijan's centuries-old cultural and historical heritage but to no avail.
NGOs said that by pursuing a policy of both ethnic and cultural genocide, Armenia has purposefully erased all traces of Azerbaijanis, aboriginal inhabitants of these territories, by plundering, destroying, embezzling, and distorting the Azerbaijani people's cultural legacy. At the same time, ancient toponyms in those areas were changed with Armenian ones.
In this regard, on February 4, during a virtual conference, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, French President Emanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel, and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan achieved an agreement on UNESCO missions to be sent to Azerbaijan and Armenia.
In the Foreign Ministry’s statement to UNESCO on February 11, they stated that a number of precise facts in earlier appeals to UNESCO have been provided to them. Such as the fact that more than 300 mosques located in Armenia were deliberately destroyed, appropriated, or used for other purposes in the early 20th century. It was noted that only the Damirbulagh Mosque functioned as intended until 1988, but it has now been completely demolished and replaced by a high-rise building.
U.S. State Department
While some try to toss aside the factual information about Armenia’s three-decade war crimes, the recent U.S. State Department’s report highlighted that hundreds of sites, including most mosques, shrines, and cemeteries used by the region’s ethnic Azerbaijani communities – approximately 400,000 people – were looted, vandalized, desecrated, and/or destroyed while under Armenian occupation.
The information was published in a report on the department’s website, titled “2021 Report on International Religious Freedom” under the section “Armenia”.
The report noted that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has condemned the damage and destruction for which Armenia was responsible in the areas previously controlled by Armenia-supported separatists, which became again under Azerbaijan's control.
Under the report, the assembly stated that “the long-running conflict has had a catastrophic impact on the cultural heritage and property of the region”.
“The assembly condemned the damage and destruction for which it said Armenia was responsible in the areas previously controlled by Armenia-supported separatists, which became again under Azerbaijani control, and in particular the almost total destruction and looting of Aghdam, Fuzuli, and other areas over the last 30 years, as well as the transfer of cultural heritage,” the report said.
It was noted that graves were desecrated; in some instances, holes were dug out to rob graves, while other sites showed evidence of the destruction and exhumation by heavy construction equipment.
"The methodical vandalism of headstones left few individual graves untouched. Many graves had the carefully hewn faces of the deceased (carved into gravestones) destroyed by hammers or similar objects. Additionally, the remains from Azerbaijani graves were exhumed and gold teeth removed, leaving skulls and bones strewn across Azerbaijani cemeteries or in some cases completely removed," the report stated.
Furthermore, it was stressed that extensive mining of the territories returned to Azerbaijan made it impossible to access a vast majority of hundreds of religious sites in towns and villages, and the extent of any damage to these sites might remain unknown for years.
The report noted such examples of the damage to significant religious sites as the 19th-century Haji Alakbar Mosque in Fuzuli District, which was destroyed, and the Juma Mosque in Aghdam, which was vandalized with Armenian-language graffiti and whose mehrab (the niche in the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca) was riddled with bullet holes.
Moreover, it was stated that western diplomats visiting Martyrs’ Alley reported seeing holes where bodies were once interred and that only one broken headstone remained in the cemetery. Because religion and ethnicity are closely linked, it is difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.
"Cemeteries throughout Aghdam were desecrated, looted, and/or destroyed, including the sacred and historic 18th-century tombs of Imarat Garvand Cemetery, the city’s “Martyrs’ Alley,” the report added.
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