YEREVAN (Public Radio of Armenia)—Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian addressed the 38th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Doha, Qatar, condemning the intentional destruction of cultural and religious heritage and artifacts.
Nalbandian specifically drew attention to Azerbaijan’s violation of Armenian cultural heritage and the intentional destruction of medieval Armenian artifacts, including cross-stones and churches, in the Nakhijevan region.
“In an era when the protection and promotion of human rights are considered to be the underpinning concept for the civilized world, intolerance towards the values of civilization belonging to others, intentionally damaging or destroying cultural or religious heritage, must be condemned with the same resolve and determination as violence against people. The international community should act in a resolute and timely manner to protect what is still possible to preserve,” Nalbandian said as he addressed the 38th session of UNESCO.
“Armenia has continuously drawn the attention of this high body to the appalling situation of Armenian cultural heritage in neighboring Azerbaijan. In Nakhijevan alone, thousands of medieval cross-stones, hundreds of Armenian churches, monasteries and other sacred sites have been completely destroyed by Azerbaijan in an attempt to erase all traces of the people who have inhabited the region for centuries and who gave the name to it—‘Nakhijevan,’—which in Armenian literally means ‘the first place of descent,’ a reference to the Biblical descent of Noah,” Nalbandian said.
“In its recently published report for 2015, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has made a reference to the vandalized Armenian cemetery in Nakhijevan and reported that the religious freedom in Azerbaijan has further deteriorated, including by bringing examples of Baku’s only remaining Armenian church which is currently used as an archive for the Presidential administration and the confiscated Lutheran Church turned into a concert hall. If we—UNESCO and other international organizations, do not act today, what would be the future of those and many other endangered monuments tomorrow?” Nalbandian said.
Nalbandian compared neighboring Azerbaijan’s actions to its other neighbor, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“In sharp contrast to this, neighboring Iran has made great efforts to preserve and protect Armenian cultural heritage. The Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, the oldest of which dates back to the 7th century, were inscribed on the World Heritage List by the Iranian Government. On our part, Armenia reconstructed the Iranian 18th century Blue Mosque in Yerevan, and is going to inscribe it on the World Heritage List,” Nalbandian added.
Nalbandian went on to call upon UNESCO to create within its educational programs an overview mechanism that would examine and evaluate the textbooks of member-states, especially in history and social sciences, with a special emphasis on the exclusion of intolerance and xenophobia.
“Azerbaijan attempts to distort and alter the centuries old Armenian heritage, culture and history. In this country the rewriting of its own history is continued by means of misappropriation or annihilation of the traces of other cultures on their territory, or even more, by privatizing the cultural heritage of the neighboring nations. A country that appeared on the political map of the world less than a hundred years ago has cultural claims towards a country and a people the several millenniums’ history of which is recorded from the ancient times,” Nalbandian added.
Nalbandian concluded his remarks by saying that Armenia is strongly committed to the ideals and goals of UNESCO and will continue expanding its involvement in the organization’s initiatives and programs.