If you are in a hurry: Brief overview
- The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has again stated that the historical heritage of the Armenian people is protected in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan, and that they did not fight against civilians.
- However, the leader of Azerbaijan is falsifying information. Armenian and international monitoring organizations have confirmed that Armenian cultural monuments are being destroyed in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan.
During the war, international human rights organizations confirmed that the armed forces of Azerbaijan killed Armenian civilians.
During the opening ceremony of the international media forum held in Shushi on July 21, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan has never damaged the historical heritage of the Armenian people.
“We do not touch the historical heritage of the Armenian people. There is even an Armenian church in Shushi. Anyone can go and see that we have not touched a single stone there. On the contrary, it is protected,” Aliyev said.
The Fact Investigation Platform has referred to similar official statements by Azerbaijan several times. Both before and after the 44-day war, not only Armenian, but also international sources have warned that Armenian cultural monuments are endangered in Azerbaijan and in the territories under actual control of Azerbaijan.
Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral of Shushi
On October 8, 2020, the Azerbaijani armed forces shelled the Church of the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots in Shushi twice. Human Rights Watch considered this a possible war crime.
“Apparently, the church, a civilian object with cultural significance, was an intentional target despite the absence of evidence that it was used for military purposes,” the report of the organization published on December 16, 2020 said.
After the capture of Shushi, the cathedral was defiled. The Azerbaijani military made notes on the walls of the church.
Months after the war, it was revealed that the Azerbaijanis were “restoring” the church, and the dome of the church had been removed.
The Azerbaijani side reports that the renovation will return the church to its “original” appearance, referring to the condition of the Ghazanchetsots church after the massacres of the Armenian population of Shushi in 1920, when the dome-shaped cupola was removed. However, until 1920, the church had a dome-shaped cupola.
Azerbaijan is systematically destroying or de-Armenizing Armenian cultural and religious monuments
For many decades, Azerbaijan has been destroying Armenian monuments in the territories under its control.
One of the most vivid examples of this was the destruction of Jugha khachkars (cross stones) in Nakhijevan. From the 1990s to 2005-2006, Azerbaijan systematically destroyed about 10 thousand Armenian khachkars.
The prestigious British Guardian magazine considered this act the greatest cultural genocide of the 21st century.
After the 2020 war, Azerbaijan continued this policy. After the war, it was revealed that the Kanach Zham Church in Shushi was partially destroyed, the Kataro Monastery in Hadrut was used as a military warehouse, graves and other monuments were destroyed.
After the 44-day war, Azerbaijan has not only been destroying, but also de-Armenising, “albanizing” the Armenian culture in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Fact Investigation Platform has also addressed this issue in previous publications. The representatives of Azerbaijan claim that the Dadivank monastery complex and the Church of the Holy Mother of God in the village of Tsakuri, Hadrut region, are not Armenian.
At the moment, Monument Watch and Caucasus Heritage Watch are monitoring Armenian cultural monuments in the territories that have passed under the control of Azerbaijan. Detailed and up-to-date information on endangered monuments can be found on their websites.
Civilian casualties in Nagorno Karabakh
In the same speech, Aliyev also claimed that they never fought against civilians. “We are on the battlefield to avenge the blood of our martyrs. We have never fought against civilians.”
This is not the first time that Aliyev has made such a false statement. FIP.am checked a similar statement by him in March 2022.
According to the report of the human rights defender of Nagorno Karabakh, 80 civilians were killed during the hostilities unleashed by the armed forces of Azerbaijan (42 as a result of targeted strikes), and 38 civilians were captured, and 12 of those killed were women.
“Hetq” presented the stories and circumstances of the deaths of Armenian civilians who were captured and killed by Azerbaijan.
The 80-year-old resident of Azokh village of Hadrut region, Yuri Asriyan, was beheaded by the Azerbaijanis who occupied the village, and the video was posted on one of the Telegram channels. 69-year-old Gennady Petrosyan, a resident of Madatashen village, was also beheaded. Azeris killed 58-year-old Alvard Tovmasyan, a disabled resident of Karintak village, after occupying the village. The body was found after the war. It was dismembered, the hand, ear, and leg had been cut off.
In a report published in 2022, human rights defenders representing Human Rights Watch state that, as in other conflicts, during the 44-day war, the elderly were the most vulnerable group during the hostilities.
“Those remaining, with few exceptions, were older people. An older woman and her husband, Arega and Eduard, both in their 70s, remained in their village to protect their property. In October, Azerbaijani soldiers found the couple at home and aggressively detained them, holding them initially in abandoned houses without food and water, then taking them to a detention facility in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. Officials denied Arega medication for her high blood pressure. Eduard died in detention. When Arega viewed his body shortly after his death, she described his face as black and blue,” the HRW report reads.
In its May 2022 report, the international human rights organization Amnesty International, citing the Human Rights Defender of Nagorno Karabakh, also reported that at least 30 elderly people were killed by the Azerbaijani military, and noted that the organization was able to confirm many of these deaths. “Many of the actions of the Azerbaijani military – extrajudicial executions, torture, mutilation and attacks on civilians – violate Azerbaijan’s international human rights obligations and are considered war crimes,” the report reads.
Thus, Ilham Aliyev’s statement in Shushi that they do not touch the Armenian heritage is false. His statement that they are not fighting against the civilian population is also misleading.
You can read in more detail about Azerbaijan’s targeting of the civilian population of Nagorno Karabakh in our article “False statements by Aliyev: Azerbaijan has targeted civilian population and civilian infrastructure”.