Azerbaijan’s fear of realising the right to self-determination “turns into aggression” against people, monasteries and cultural values. Hayk Mamijanyan

Hayk Mamijanyan, member of the National Assembly of Armenia, and representative of the “I have honor” alliance of parties, today, on June 26, made a speech at the PACE session in Strasbourg during the discussion on the fight against the erasure of cultural identity in war and peace (our article about it is here).

“I would like to add some more facts to those that have been presented by the rapporteur in the paragraph about South Caucasus, because systematic obliteration of a rich and ancient heritage is not only a cultural tragedy but also a flagrant violation of international law and human rights.

The Armenian cultural identity is deeply rooted in the history of the South Caucasus. However, this legacy has been increasingly under threat, particularly in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The Caucasus Heritage Watch, an organization monitoring cultural heritage in conflict zones, has provided comprehensive documentation on the matter. Their 2023 and 2024 reports highlight the following key incidents:

St. Yeghishe Arakyal Monastery: This 9th-century Armenian monastery has been significantly damaged. Photographic evidence from 2023 shows the removal of Armenian inscriptions and the defacement of religious symbols. The destruction is part of a broader pattern observed in territories that came under Azerbaijani control after the 2020 war.

Shushi Cathedral (Ghazanchetsots): The iconic cathedral, which was shelled during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Despite international calls for its protection, the site has seen further neglect and damage in 2023. Satellite images confirm the deterioration of this important cultural landmark. There are sources claiming that Azerbaijan is trying to wipe out Armenian origins of it turning it into another so called “Albanian” monastery.

St. John the Baptist Church (Kanach Zham): Located in Shushi, this church has been subjected to repeated vandalism. In 2023, reports indicated that the church’s dome and cross had been removed, and its interior desecrated.

St. Astvatsatsin Church: Another significant site, the St. Astvatsatsin Church in the Hadrut district, has been repurposed, with Azerbaijani authorities converting it into a mosque, erasing its Armenian Christian heritage.

Azerbaijani authorities won’t stop on that. They didn’t stop till they ethnically cleansed Nagorno Karabakh where there is none a single Armenian at this moment. I am sure that sooner or later the right of self determination of Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh will be exercised as agreed and announced 5 times by the Heads of states of Minsk group co-chair countries. Azerbaijani authorities are afraid of that as they should be and that fear transfers into aggression towards people, monasteries and other cultural sites.

The preservation of cultural heritage is a collective responsibility. By safeguarding the Armenian heritage, we uphold the principles of cultural diversity, historical integrity, and international law. Let us stand united in our commitment to protect and preserve the cultural identity of all nations, ensuring that history, no matter how vulnerable, is never forgotten”.