In a report on Religious Freedom in Azerbaijan, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom points to vandalism of Armenian cultural and religious sites on territories that passed to Azerbaijani control after the fall fighting.
“Armenian officials, religious leaders, and civil society representatives expressed concerns for the protection of Armenian cultural and religious heritage as the sites passed from Armenian to Azerbaijani control,” the report noted.
It quoted the Human Rights Watch report, which asserts that Azerbaijani forces attacked and damaged the Holy Savior Cathedral in Shushi in two separate incidents on October 8.
“Reporters on-site during the attack reported a drone flying overhead at the time and that the two strikes were made by high-precision missiles. There was reportedly no evidence the site was used for military purposes. In an October 26 interview, President Aliyev denied purposefully bombing the church, saying it was bombed by accident or was done by the Armenians themselves to frame Azerbaijan,” the Commission noted.
It further stated that Armenian religious officials accuse Azerbaijan forces of desecrating the Holy Savior Cathedral in Shushi.
“Numerous videos circulated during and after the fall fighting that showed attacks on and vandalism of cultural and religious sites. These videos prompted Armenian officials, religious leaders, and civil society representatives to express serious concerns regarding the preservation of the sites as they passed from Armenian to Azerbaijani control. Following the ceasefire, leaders of the Armenian Apostolic Church requested that Russian peacekeepers protect the medieval Dadivank Monastery in the district of Kalbajar,” the report noted.
“Russian peacekeepers took control of the site immediately following a November 14 call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. President Aliyev’s public claim that “the churches in Kalbajar belong to the ancient Caucasian Albanian state” raised concerns among Armenians that Azerbaijan might seek to sever some religious sites’ connections with their Armenian heritage,” it added.
The Commission also referred to the destruction of the dome and the bell tower of the St. John the Baptist Church (also known as Kanach Zham/Green Church) located in Shushi.
There were also videos of soldiers desecrating and damaging the Church of Zoravor St. Astvatsatsin, located in Mekhakavan settlement, including the breaking of the church’s cross.