Azerbaijan’s Cultural Genocide Leaves Centuries-Old Armenian Heritage on the Brink of Destruction

PRESS RELEASE 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

 

(OTTAWA – December 8, 2021) – Today, the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) is marking Cultural Genocide Awareness Day, calling upon the Canadian Government to remember and condemn past and ongoing cultural genocides, work to preserve the riches of our diverse history and celebrate the contributions of threatened Indigenous cultures everywhere.

December 8th marks the 16th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s systematic destruction of the centuries-old Armenian cemetery of Julfa in Nakhichevan. From December 8 to 15, 2005, close to 200 state-sponsored Azerbaijani vandals destroyed nearly 10,000 unique Armenian funerary cross-stones, known as “Khatchkars”, flattening the 1500 years old Armenian cemetery.

“Despite international condemnation and various third-party investigations at that time, Azerbaijan remained largely unpunished, emboldening the Aliyev regime to double down on its anti-Armenian hatred and discrimination and continue its policy of cultural genocide and historical revisionism,” said Hrag Tarakdjian, co-president of the ANCC.

Years of indifference and neglect from the international community led to last year’s large-scale war in Artsakh, where as a result of Azerbaijan’s Turkish-backed aggression, large swaths of Indigenous Armenian land fell under Azerbaijani occupation.

Following the horrific 44-day war, the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh published an ad hoc report, revealing the extent of endangered cultural heritage that is now under direct threat of annihilation and revision by Azerbaijan.

The report, which was published in January 2021, confirmed that of the 4,000 Armenian cultural sites and artifacts, nearly 1,456 are now under Azerbaijani occupation, including 161 Armenian churches, the archaeological sites of Tigranakert, the Azokh Paleolithic cave and 8 state museums with 19,311 exhibits.

To strengthen their inorganic ties to the occupied territories, Azerbaijani authorities have begun a malicious process of historical revisionism, claiming that the centuries-old Armenian churches, fortresses, cemeteries and other cultural sites originally belonged to “Caucasian Albanians” and that the “Caucasian Albanians” were once the ancestors of the Azerbaijani people.

On December 7, 2021, the International Court of Justice introduced provisional measures, ordering 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.”

“Given Azerbaijan’s horrific record of brazenly lying to the world and its state-sponsored practice of systematic destruction of Armenian cultural sites, we call upon the Canadian government and UNESCO to take concrete action to ensure that international monitors and organizations such as UNESCO have unfettered access to Artsakh, where they can do the necessary work to preserve and protect what has been effectively stolen from the Armenian people,” said ANCC Co-president, Shahen Mirakian.

Throughout the month of December, the ANCC will highlight the plight of many threatened Armenian cultural sites through various informative content that will be posted on the organization’s social media accounts.

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The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Armenian-Canadian grassroots human rights organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-Canadian community on a broad range of issues and works to eliminate abuses of human rights throughout Canada and the world.

 

Contact: Sevag Belian  (613) 235-2622 | [email protected]

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