Azeri destruction of Armenian church "is evidence of ethnic cleansing"

March 26, 2021 – 10:49 AMT

PanARMENIAN.NetAzerbaijan’s destruction of an Armenian church in Mekhakavan (Jabrayil) is evidence of a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against Armenians in (Nagorno-), Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan said on Thursday, March 25.

As a consequence of September-November war of 2020, the Zoravor Surb Astvatsatsin Armenian Church was completely destroyed after it came under Azerbaijani control, the Defender said.

“The destruction of the church is confirmed in a reportage prepared by BBC World News (Nagorno-Karabakh: The mystery of the missing church).

Even during the war, the Azerbaijani military published a video which showed its troops going about and, cynically insulting and vandalizing the Armenian Church. The staff of the Human Rights Defender of Armenia translated and analyzed the video which openly attests to the religious hatred and intent to destroy the Armenian Church,” Tatoyan said.

“One fact is not disputable: the church was destroyed not during the hostilities, but after their cessation. What happened is yet another consequence of Azerbaijan’s policy of anti-Armenian and religious hatred, and another product of its gross violations of the internationally guaranteed right of the freedom of religion.

“This is yet another proof that a policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide against Armenians has taken place in Artsakh.”

During the recent military hostilities, Azerbaijani forces launched two targeted attacks on the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi. After the city came under Azerbaijan’s control, the domes of another Armenian church commonly known as the Green Chapel were destroyed too. Azerbaijan earlier “restored” a church by replacing its Armenian inscription with glass art. Furthermore, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev visited the region of Hadrut in territories occupied by Azerbaijan and declared his intention to “renovate” a 12th century Armenian church, which he claimed to be “an Albanian church”. Aliyev went so far as to accuse Armenians of leaving “fake inscriptions” in the Armenian language.

Concerns about the preservation of cultural sites in Nagorno-Karabakh are made all the more urgent by the Azerbaijani government’s history of systemically destroying indigenous Armenian heritage—acts of both warfare and historical revisionism. The Azerbaijani government has secretly destroyed a striking number of cultural and religious artifacts in the late 20th century. Within Nakhichevan alone, a historically Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani forces destroyed at least 89 medieval churches, 5,840 khachkars (Armenian cross stones) and 22,000 historical tombstones between 1997 and 2006.

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