LOS ANGELES–The world’s largest body of scientists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, just released satellite image comparison and analysis confirming the complete destruction of the ancient Djulfa cemetery, located in an historic Armenian exclave currently occupied by Azerbaijan.
Five years ago this month, more than 100 uniformed Azerbaijanis were caught on tape destroying the burial monuments of the medieval Djulfa cemetery, founded in the Armenian province of Nakhichevan during the 9th century and thriving as late as the early 1600s. The soldiers were smashing Armenian monuments with sledgehammers, using a crane to remove some of the largest monuments from the ground, breaking the stones into small pieces, and dumping them into the River Araxes by a large truck.
Overall, an estimated 3,000 khachkars, or intricately carved burial monuments, the craftsmanship of which is a UNESCO Intangible Heritage Tradition, were erased from the face of the earth. Azerbaijan’s president called the destruction report an “absolute lie,” and has maintained that official denial ever since.
AAAS’ release, which can be read here, conclusively confirms the destruction of a sacred place of memory.
“Azerbaijan’s war against indigenous Armenian heritage in Nakhichevan cannot be justified in any way–including by the gridlock in the negotiations over the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that fought for independence in the early 1990s from Azerbaijan precisely so that a destruction similar to Djulfa’s would not take place there,” Simon Maghakyan, the founder and project Manager at the Djulfa Virtual Memorial and Museum (www.djulfa.com), said today in a widely circulated email to media and advocacy groups.
“The loss of Djulfa was a blow to not just Armenian culture, but also to all world heritage,” said Maghakyan.
Maghakyan criticized UNESCO, “the organization charged with protecting our common heritage,” for its “shameful silence” on Djulfa’s destruction and urged action to tell UNESCO that “its unequivocal protest is long overdue.”
Maghakyan provides a more detailed account of the five-year rampage against Djulfa in a special blog post on the Amnesty International’s “Human Rights Now” blog. The post, titled “Cultural Oppression in Azerbaijan can be read here.