Heads of religious confessions in Azerbaijan have issued a joint statement on the destruction of religious sites by Armenian vandals in Karabakh.
"We, the leaders of Muslim, Orthodox, Albanian-Udi and Jewish confessions in Azerbaijan, express the wishes of the believers and appeal to the heads of state and government, heads of international organizations, religious leaders and the world community.
After 30 years of struggle to restore its territorial integrity, the flying of the tricolor state flag of Azerbaijan above Karabakh lands these days again means a victory of historical justice and stability in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. Azerbaijan and its President His Excellency Mr. Ilham Aliyev have been pursuing a peace policy for many years, demonstrating consistency in the peaceful settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of international law, and decisions and resolutions of international organizations. Over these years, political talks have failed to produce results, and the UN resolutions calling for an unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijan’s territories have not been implemented. Forced to prevent further military provocations by the Armenian side, the people of Azerbaijan rose to war with the aim of restoring the country’s territorial integrity, and this war resulted in the triumph of international law and justice. Along with Muslims, there are Christians and Jews among those who became martyrs for the territorial integrity of our country.
Nevertheless, the world community must know that not only has Armenia committed ethnic cleansing, genocide and occupation against Azerbaijan, but also has pursued a policy of aggression against the diverse cultural and spiritual heritage of our country. Armenia's state policy based on mono-ethnicity aimed at leaving only Armenian traces in the occupied territories. Armenia, which has created a society intolerant towards other nations and religions, has tried to completely erase the ancient Albanian, Orthodox, Muslim religious and cultural heritage that historically existed in the occupied territories of multi-ethnic and multi-religious Azerbaijan. It has either completely destroyed our cultural and spiritual heritage or misappropriated – Armenianized and Gregorianized – them by falsifying their history and origins.
Unlike Armenia, thousands of citizens of Armenian descent live in peace in Azerbaijan, the capital Baku and various regions, and the Armenian church and its library in the center of Baku have been renovated and protected by the state. Mosques, temples and cemeteries, historical monuments, museums, libraries in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan have been destroyed and looted; Caucasian Albanian Christian temples and Russian Orthodox churches have been Gregorianized; mosques have been turned into barns and subjected to unprecedented insults such as using them to keep animals forbidden in Islam. Out of 67 mosques in Karabakh 63 have been razed to ground and the remaining three have been severely damaged. Armenia has completely demolished the historical Azerbaijani religious sites in its territory – Yerevan’s “Shah Abbas”, “Sardar”, “Haji Novruz Ali” and other mosques, and changed the architectural style of the Blue Mosque. Not content with destroying only Muslim mosques, Armenia has usurped the Gregorian Orthodox Church in Shusha, the Albanian-Udi temples in other districts, and completely destroyed the Khojavand Orthodox Church. The main goal of the aggressor state, which has been cherishing an illusion of creating a “Great Armenia”, in committing such acts of vandalism was to annihilate both our historical past and our spiritual memory in the lands where we have lived for millennia.
Having pursued aggressive policies for years, the Armenian regime has ignored the norms of international law and international humanitarian law, has committed environmental crimes in the occupied territories through fires, use of phosphorus bombs, poisonous substances and mines. The atrocities committed while withdrawing from the territories of Azerbaijan, real facts of pillaging tangible and spiritual heritage sites, theft of artworks, forests and civilian objects being set ablaze are being extensively covered by global media.
Armenia's actions aimed at destroying and falsifying the religious and cultural heritage of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious people Azerbaijan represent a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions, as well as an attack on the entire culture of the mankind and world heritage.
Upholding multicultural traditions, the Government of Azerbaijan considers the protection of cultural and spiritual values a priority and makes an invaluable contribution to restoration of historical sites, mosques and churches within the country and elsewhere around the world, including the Vatican, France, Bulgaria and Serbia. Known as one of the world's centers of multiculturalism, Azerbaijan has hosted a number of prestigious international events promoting inter-civilizational and inter-religious dialogue, including the Second Baku Summit of World Religious Leaders in November 2019. During the visit to Azerbaijan in October 2016, Pope Francis praised the cooperation and dialogue between different cultures and religions in our country.
At present, Armenia conducts fabricated religious propaganda against Azerbaijan, claims that Azerbaijan is taking steps to destroy religious and cultural sites in our liberated territories and attempts to portray its own provocations as those of our country. Despite all these real facts, Armenia’s continued hypocritical statements, fake news and false information depicting itself as a suffering nation cause legitimate anger of the Azerbaijani people and representatives of all faiths living in our tolerant and multicultural country.
The President of Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated in his addresses and interviews that all religious and cultural sites and places of worship in the liberated territories will be restored, every person’s faith will be respected and peaceful coexistence will be ensured as is the case in other parts of Azerbaijan. As the leaders of Orthodox, Catholic, Mountain Jews, Albanian-Udi Christian, Ashkenazi-European Jews and other religious communities, who have lived prosperously in Azerbaijan throughout our history and freely performed our religious rites, we support this peaceful policy of Azerbaijan and extend our blessing to efforts aimed at restoring our history and culture.
We, the leaders of religious confessions in Azerbaijan, appeal to the heads of state and government of foreign countries, heads of international organizations, religious leaders and the world community to support the establishment of peace, tranquility and coexistence in our country and the region where we live!" the statement reads.
Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade
Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Office
Archbishop of Baku and Azerbaijan
Head of the Mountain Jews Community in Azerbaijan
Chair of Baku Religious Community of European Jews
Chief Rabbi of Azerbaijani Ashkenazi Jews
Head of the Albanian-Udi community