Azerbaijan: Excavations by Armenia around Shusha mosque ‘vandalism’

The conduct of excavations by Armenia around the Shushamosque is part of this country’s systematic policy of vandalism, like the destruction and looting of cultural and religious monuments in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories, their appropriation, and the changing of their nature, Hikmat Hajiyev, spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry told APA on Monday.  

He was commenting on media reports of ongoing excavations around the Shusha mosque in the occupied Azerbaijani city of Shusha.

Hajiyev stressed that in the very recent past Armenians kept pigs in mosques in Aghdam and Shusha, the occupied districts of Azerbaijan, and desecrated a number of religious monuments.

“Archeological sites like the Yukhari Govharagha and Ashaghi Govharagha mosques in Shusha, Saatli Mosque, the Mausoleum of Vaqif, and the House of Natavan, Karvansaray were looted, demolished, or burned down. Or they began to be used for other purposes,” he said.  

“In the wake of the occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region and the seven surrounding districts and the temporary invasion of seven villages of Gazakh district situated near the border with Armenia and the Karki village of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, a total of 1891 material-cultural recourses were looted or vandalized, including 738 historical monuments, 28 museums with 83,500 artifacts, 4 picture galleries, 14 map complexes, and 1,107 cultural enterprises,” added Hajiyev.

The ministry spokesman pointed out that Azerbaijani historical and cultural monuments existing on Armenian territory are undergoing the same fate.

“The Damirbulag Mosque in Yerevan was wiped off the face of the earth and the Blue Mosque is being ‘renovated’ for the purpose of changing its original characteristics,” said Hajiyev, adding. “Other demolished architectural monuments include Haji Novruzali bey Mosque, built by Gara Seyid in Yerevan in the second half of the 18th century, Sardar Palace, Khan Palace, etc. Yerevan’s Sardar Mosque suffered a systematic destruction and was entirely annihilated in 2014.”

Hajiyev underlined the importance of the Foreign Ministry’s reports, titled “Destruction of Islamic historical and cultural heritage in Azerbaijan’s territories occupied by Armenia” and “Destruction and desecration of Azerbaijani historical and cultural heritage resulting from the continuing aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan”.  

“These reports have already been submitted to UNESCOOSCECouncil of Europe, OIC and ISESCO,” he said.

He went on to note that two resolutions on the destruction and desecration of Islamic historical and cultural heritage in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories were adopted at the sessions of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Kuwait and Uzbekistan in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Hajiyev stressed that such actions by Armenia are a grave violation of the obligations undertaken by this country in connection with The Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the Second Protocol (1999) to The Hague Convention.

“According to Article 9 (protection of cultural property in occupied territory) of Second Protocol, a Party in occupation of the whole or part of the territory of another Party shall prohibit and prevent in relation to the occupied territory any illicit export, other removal or transfer of ownership of cultural property, any archaeological excavation of, alteration to, or change of use of, cultural property in occupied territory,” he said.

“Under international law, illegal actions against cultural property and heritage during armed conflicts are considered a war crime. Therefore, Armenia directly bears legal responsibility for its cultural vandalism,” added Hajiyev.

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