Preservation of cultural heritage of Artsakh a collective responsibility, Armenian MP tells PACE

Opposition Pativ Unem faction MP Hayk Mamijanyan delivered remarks at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) summer plenary session in Strasbourg on June 26. Read his full statement below.

“Honourable colleagues,

I would like to add some more facts to those that have been presented by their rapporteur in the paragraph about the South Caucasus because the systemic obliteration of a rich and ancient heritage of Armenia 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, the legacy has been increasingly under threat, particularly in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Caucasus Heritage Watch, an organisation monitoring cultural heritage in conflict zones, has provided comprehensive documentation on the matter.

St Yeghishe Arakyal Monastery, the 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.

Sushi’s Cathedral – Ghazamchetsots – the iconic cathedral which was shelled during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Despite international calls for its protection, the site has been further neglected and damaged into 2023. Satellite images confirmed the deterioration of the important cultural landmark. Sources are claiming that Azerbaijan is trying to wipe out its Armenian origins and turning it into a so-called “Albanian monastery”.

St John the Baptist Church – Kanach Zham – located in Sushi. This church has been subjected to repeated vandalism. In 2023, reports indicated that the church’s dome and cross has been removed and its interior desecrated.

St Astvatsatsin Church –  another significant site. St Astvatsatsin Church is in Hadrut district and has been repurposed with the Azerbaijani authorities converting it into a mosque, erasing the Armenian Christian heritage. Azerbaijani authorities won’t stop with that. They didn’t stop till they ethnically cleansed Nagorno-Karabakh, where there is not a single Armenian at the moment.

I’m sure that sooner or later the right of self-determination of Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will be exercised as agreed and announced five times by the heads of states of Minsk Group Co-chair countries. Azerbaijani authorities are afraid of that. As they should be. And the fear transferred into aggression towards people, monasteries and 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.

Thank you.”


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