Stepanakert Refutes Azeri Claims about Destroyed Monuments

The ancient Armenian monastery of Gandzasar in Artsakh

STEPANAKERT—The Head of the Department of Ethnic Minorities and Religious Affairs of Artsakh, Ashot Sargsyan, on Saturday responded to statements from the Chairman of Azerbaijan’s State Committee on Religious Organizational Affairs, Mubariz Qurbanli, that Armenians have destroyed numerous Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Afghan monuments in the “occupied territories,” Arstakhpress reports.

“All the monuments in Artsakh have been protected, regardless of their origin or religious affiliation,” Sargsyan said. “Unlike Azerbaijan, we preserve and reconstruct antiquities, not destroy them. Shushiand Aghdam (Akna) mosques still remain as excellent examples.”

“They are Muslim cultural and spiritual values, and we respect them. Otherwise, why have these mosques still existed,” he said, adding that there are many examples when Armenian monuments have been vandalized, including the ancient Armenian graveyard in Nakhijevan that was desecrated and completely destroyed by Azeris.

A mosque in Artsakh

According to Sargsyan, in July 2009, under Russian mediation, an Azerbaijani delegation comprised of Members of Parliament Asim Mollazade and Rovshan Rzayev, journalists, intellectuals and Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia Polad Bulbul Oglu, visited Shushi and saw, firsthand, the city’s Persian Muslim mosque and cemetery.

“Bulbul Oglu also visited his father’s house in Shushi, and was impressed how it had been preserved,” Sargsyan noted, adding that the Armenians of Artsakh have been living peacefully side-by-side with Russians, Greeks, Jews, Azeris, Georgians, Persians and other nations. But today only Russian and Greek communities are officially registered as organized communities in the country.

“By the way, I would like to focus on another important fact: in the midst of [the] Artsakh war, in 1992, the Supreme Council adopted a law that Artsakh ethnic minorities could not only avoid military operations, but also if they wanted, the state could provide transportation for their secure transfer to Yerevan. Meanwhile, [the] Azerbaijani side was sending representatives of its country’s ethnic minorities to take part in military operations, and there are many proven facts about it,” he stressed.

In an interview with Artsakhpress, the Head of the Artsakh Government’s Department of Cultural Protection and Research, Slava Sargsyan, said that this is not the first time that Azerbaijan has made such an absurd statement.

“In Artsakh both Muslim and Christian monuments are protected equally. If one desires, he can see with his own eyes that Azerbaijani side spreads slander,” Sargsyan said. He also clarified that there are no Jewish monuments in Artsakh because there hasn’t been a Jewish community there. With regard to Afghan monuments, Sargsyan said Azeris distort the facts and certainly by “Afghan” they mean ancient Armenian monuments.

“Since Soviet times Azeris have presented all Armenian historical monuments in Artsakh as Afghan,” to dispute the fact that Artsakh is part of the Armenian homeland, Sargsyan said.

“And this absurdity has been performed in such an illiterate way, that for example 200 Armenian inscriptions on the walls of Gandzasar Monastery were interpreted as ‘Afghan,’” Sargsyan mentioned, adding that even Armenian cross-stones in Akna with inscriptions and ornaments were translated by Azeris as “Khashdasher,” considering them as Azerbaijani monuments.

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