A BBC Reporter Revealed the Destruction in a Segment Posted Thursday
A week after it was revealed that a 200-year-old church in Shushi was destroyed after Azerbaijanis occupied the city, a BBC journalist investigated the destruction of another church, this time in Mekhakavan (formerly Jebrail), which was surrendered to Azerbaijan after the November 9 agreement.
BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher investigated the “disappearance,” of the Zoravor Surp Astvatsatsin (St. Mary’s) Church in Mekhakavan, since a video posted online clearly showed the church was intact when the town was captured by Azerbaijani forces.
Fisher traveled to the exact location of the church, where not a single trace of it is left. When he asks a police escort what happened to the church, he replies that he has no information. When asked again, the Azeri policeman falsely claims that perhaps the church was destroyed during the war – something that couldn’t have happened because the videos clearly show that the area had come under Azerbaijani control when the church was still intact.
The BBC segment was posted on the broadcaster’s site early Thursday morning local time.
Last week, a video showing the destruction of the St. John the Baptist (Surb Hovhannes Mkrtich) Church, known as Kanach Dzham, in Shushi surfaced, after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev traveled to Hadrut and ordered the removal of Armenian inscriptions from all churches, calling them “fake.”
“Despite efforts to present itself to the world as a center of tolerance and multiculturalism, Azerbaijan has so far proven its position as a leader in the destruction of the Christian heritage,” said Armenia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan in a statement regarding the BBC report.
“We strongly condemn this yet another case of a crime committed by Azerbaijan on the grounds of religious hatred. At the same time, the attempts of the Azerbaijani leadership to justify this barbarism are even more concerning, as it shows that this manifestation of vandalism was intentional in nature and is reminiscent of the systematic destruction of Nakhichevan’s historical and cultural heritage,” added Naghdalyan.
She said this, as well as the destruction of the Kanach Zham Church in Shushi “proves that the cultural vandalism carried out by Azerbaijan is based on only one criterion: hatred toward the Christian Armenian people.”
“The destruction of the Armenian historical-cultural and religious heritage once again demonstrates that the assurances on the preservation of the Christian cultural values by the Azerbaijani authorities are false. The international community should undertake measures to stop and condemn the crimes, including the cultural genocide being committed by Azerbaijan since September 27 last year to date,” added Naghdalyan.
Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan on Thursday said that the destruction of the church in Mekhakavan “is further evidence that what happened with Armenians in Artsakh was ethnic cleansing stemming from a genocidal policy.”
“Back during the war, Azerbaijani servicemen had posted footage showing them cynically vandalizing the Armenian church,” explained Tatoyan, adding that the Human Rights Defender’s staff had translated and analyzed the footage, which clearly demonstrates religious hatred and their intention to demolish the Armenian church.
“This incident is another manifestation of the policy of Armenophobia and religious hatred in Azerbaijan, a gross violation of internationally guaranteed religious freedom,” added Tatoyan.
In a Twitter post on Thursday, Armenia’s National Commission for UNESCO strongly condemned the destruction of the Mekhakavan church.
“Strongly condemn yet another act of cultural crime by Azerbaijan. As BBC found out Armenian church disappeared after Azerbaijani got control over it,” the Armenian National Commission for UNESCO tweeted, noting that before the Azeri authorities demolished the church the Azeri troops had vandalized it and posted videos online.
“Armenian monuments of Artsakh under Azerbaijani occupation are vandalized and destroyed in ISIS-style,” the Armenian National Commission for UNESCO added.