Baku rejects allegations of falsification of Armenian cultural heritage
By Vugar Khalilov
Baku has rejected the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s claim on the alleged falsification of Armenian cultural heritage by Azerbaijan.
In a statement posted on the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry website on February 9, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Leyla Abdullayeva stressed that Yerevan intends to cover up Armenia's illegal actions by making false conclusions from the Culture Ministry's statement earlier made on religious sites on Azerbaijani territories liberated from occupation during the 2020 war with Armenia.
In her remarks also posted on her Twitter account as a reminder for Yerevan, she said: "The Armenian Foreign Ministry turns a blind eye to the facts of large-scale destructions, urbicide, culturecide and ecocide by Armenia in the Azerbaijani territories kept under occupation for 30 years."
Armenia has wiped out nine Azerbaijani cities and hundreds of villages. Historical, cultural and religious monuments in these areas have been destroyed and looted, Abdullayeva said.
She added that for decades, Armenia prevented the UNESCO mission to visit the occupied territories to hide the purposeful destruction it had committed. This fact is clearly reflected in the activity report published by UNESCO in 2005.
"At the same time, Armenia has completely destroyed the Azerbaijani cultural heritage on its territory by violating international law, including humanitarian law, the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as well as 1954 and 1970 UNESCO Conventions over the past 30 years," Abdullayeva said.
The results of the above-mentioned vandalism of Armenia have been widely documented and covered by the international media and independent experts, she underlined.
“However, the official body of the neighboring country forgets that, unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan does not discriminate against its historical and cultural heritage on religious and ethnic grounds. Azerbaijan is an example of tolerance and cultural diversity all over the world,” Abdullayeva stressed.
The spokesperson called on the Armenian Foreign Ministry to demonstrate good intentions and deeds instead of fabricating false information.
Armenia's erasure of Azerbaijani heritage
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Consul General in Los-Angeles Nasimi Aghayev shared the link of an article headlined "How Armenia looted and erased Azerbaijani heritage" (https://link.medium.com/UGisXULiunb) on his official Twitter account.
“I have compiled names, dates, photos and videos of numerous Azerbaijani mosques and other cultural heritage sites destroyed by Armenia. Feel free to share,” the diplomat said.
Monitoring of cultural heritage in Karabakh
In a statement published on February 8, the Culture Ministry said: "Azerbaijan always respects its historical and cultural heritage regardless of its religious and ethnic origin. This approach also applies to the historical and cultural heritage in the Azerbaijani territories liberated from Armenian occupation."
In its statement, the Culture Ministry pointed out that the Azerbaijani officials have reiterated that the historical and religious monuments located in the liberated territories belong to the Azerbaijani heritage and their protection is Azerbaijan’s responsibility.
"The large-scale restoration and construction of two Christian churches in Azerbaijan’s liberated Shusha city along with mosques can be mentioned as an example. Azerbaijan, as opposed to Armenia, does not make religious and ethnic distinctions in its historical and cultural heritage and is committed to its obligations under international conventions, including the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954 Hague Convention)," the ministry said.
The Culture Ministry is currently monitoring the territories liberated from occupation.
"As for the ancient Albanian heritage in the liberated territories of the country, a working group was created, local and foreign experts were involved to conduct the appropriate monitoring. In case of revealing falsifications, this will be indicated in the documents and presented to the international community consisting of international experts. The change in the ownership of the historical and cultural heritage, its origin is contrary to the provisions of the 1954 Hague Convention," the statement added.
To recap, Azerbaijani Culture Minister Anar Karimov voiced similar views during a press conference in Baku on February 3.
Armenian aggression's consequences
It should be noted that Armenia's aggression and illegal occupation caused irreparable damages to Azerbaijan's cultural heritage, which includes thousands of cultural values, including monuments of the world and national importance, mosques, temples, mausoleums, museums, art galleries, sites of archaeological excavations, libraries and rare manuscripts.
Sixty-four of 67 mosques and Islamic religious sites were destroyed, greatly damaged, and desecrated.
More than 900 cemeteries were destroyed and vandalized. The evidence of illegal "archaeological excavations" and so-called "restoration work" was found on the liberated Azerbaijani territories, confirming previous reports of Armenia's attempts to hide and falsify cultural, historical and scientific evidence, said an official letter addressed by Azerbaijan to the UN.
The letter added that a modern workshop for the production of "ancient" khachkars - Armenian cross-stones was discovered in Azerbaijan's liberated Kalbajar region.
“These khachkars were oxidized and vinegar was used in the process of artificial aging and then they were buried as 'indisputable evidence' of 'centuries-old Armenian roots' in this region," the letter said.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said that hundreds of cultural institutions, 927 libraries with a book fund of 4.6 million, 22 museums and museum branches with more than 100,000 exhibits, 4 art galleries, 8 culture, and recreation parks, as well as one of the oldest settlements in the world in Fuzuli region - Azykh Cave, the Shusha State Historical and Architectural Reserve had become victims of the Armenian vandalism.
Occupied by Armenian forces in 1993, Aghdam is known as the Hiroshima of the Caucasus for the level of destruction during the three decades of occupation.
In 2020, as a result of Armenia's targeted missile attacks on Azerbaijani cities outside the war zone (Ganja, Barda, Tartar, and others), 100 Azerbaijani civilians, including 12 children were killed and over 400 were wounded. International human rights watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also verified the use of banned cluster bombs and rockets by Armenia in its attacks against Azerbaijani cities.
Armenia extensively damaged the ecosystem, wildlife and natural resources in and around occupied Karabakh.