Ararat Alliance Forum petitions UNESCO to send a mission to Nagorno-Karabakh and include in the World Heritage List all historical Christian monuments of this Caucasus region.
YEREVAN, ARMENIA, February 09, 2024 /24-7PressRelease/ — There are more than 500 ancient Armenian Christian architectural monuments in Nagorno-Karabakh (www.museumofthebible.org/location/ancient-faith-the-churches-of-nagorno-karabakh), including the world-famous monasteries of Gandzasar (XIII century), Amaras (IV century)and Dadivank (IX-XIII centuries).
In 2020 the large part of Nagorno-Karabakh came under control of Azerbaijan and the reports of Armenian churches being vandalized started to draw international attention.
In response, The International Court of Justice has ruled on 07 December, 2021 (www.icj-cij.org/public/files/case-related/180/180-20211207-PRE-01-00-EN.pdf) that Azerbaijan must “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage, including but not limited to churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artefacts.”
However, the reports of vandalism continued and in September 2023, after a ten-month blockade, over 100,000 Armenians, almost entire Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, fled from the advancing Azerbaijan’s military into the neighboring Armenia, with the rest of Christian monuments of Nagorno-Karabakh coming under the control of Azerbaijan.
On 17 November 2023 the International Court of Justice ruled (www.icj-cij.org/node/203314) that Azerbaijan must enable anyone who wanted to return to Nagorno-Karabakh to do so in a “safe, unimpeded and expeditious manner.”
None of the Armenian refugees has returned to their homes so far, fearing Azerbaijan’s reprisals.
Azerbaijan’s authorities created a working group for “restoration of Albanian religious temples” called to change the identity of the Armenian religious, historical and cultural monuments of Nagorno-Karabakh. In practice, Azerbaijan removes crosses from the domes of Armenian churches and erases ancient Armenian inscriptions carved on the walls of churches in Nagorno Karabakh.
The Ararat Alliance asserts that these are acts of state vandalism, similar to the barbaric actions of the Taliban against ancient Buddhist monuments in Afghanistan, and similar to the crimes of ISIS against the ancient churches of Syria and Iraq.
Pope Francis called on 15.10.2023 (www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2023-10/pope-calls-attention-to-humanitarian-crisis-in-nagorno-karabakh.html) for the protection and respect of monasteries and places of religious worship in Nagorno-Karabakh. “My concern about the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh has not abated”, stated the Pope. “In addition to the dire humanitarian situation of refugees, I would like to make a special appeal for the protection of monasteries and places of worship in this region.”
On January 4, 2024 the US State Department added Azerbaijan to the US List of Religious Freedom Offenders, citing its treatment of Christians, Muslims, and ethnic Armenians displaced from the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. (www.rferl.org/a/religious-freedom-azerbaijan-belarus-united-states-report/32761553.html)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on January 4 that Azerbaijan joins the list along with the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam. (www.state.gov/religious-freedom-designations/)
On February 07, 2024 the Ararat Alliance Forum appealed to Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, calling upon UNESCO to take three steps:
1. Send a long-term UNESCO mission to Nagorno-Karabakh.
2. Include in the World Heritage List of UNESCO all historical Christian monuments of Nagorno-Karabakh.
3. Convene a UNESCO conference with the participation of international experts to discuss the current situation and find possible solutions for the protection and conservation of the religious and cultural monuments of Nagorno-Karabakh.
THE ARARAT ALLIANCE FORUM is an Armenian NGO conducting historical, economic, strategic and cultural studies to help advance democratic development and strengthen national security of Armenia. The First Ararat Alliance Forum was held in June 2022 in Yerevan.
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