State Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan for Work with Religious Organizations has released a statement on the Azerbaijan-related part of the report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom on Destruction of Cemeteries dated September 1, 2021, APA reports.
The statement reads:
“In recent days, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom – USCIRF has released a report entitled “Destruction of Cemeteries”. Unfortunately, fake claims, which do not reflect the real situation, which cited false information, spread by Armenians, on the background of the real attitude of the Azerbaijani side to historical-religious, as well as gravestones have been submitted in the report too as it was in many times.
Although the report covers the period after 2018, “claims on Nakhchivan and Baku” belonging to the beginning of the 2000s have been repeated in the sector on Azerbaijan, necessary attention has not been paid to vandal attitude of Armenians against graves of Azerbaijanis, although there is a separate subtitle entitled “Jewish cemeteries” in the factsheet, vandalism acts against Holocaust Memorial and Jewish cemeteries in Armenia in 2020 and 2021 have not been reflected.
We state that in general, during the independence history of Azerbaijan, destruction of any cemetery or graveyard was not been recorded. Even during the 44-day Patriotic War, any attack operation to civil facilities, as well as religious buildings of the enemy was not conducted by Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces. Foreign journalists also confirmed the fact for times.
Although it has been stressed in the report Human Rights Watch confirmed the fact that cemeteries and other places belonging to Azerbaijanis were destroyed, Armenian military forces purposefully shelled funeral ceremony in Terter district during the last war, 4 people were killed, 4 were injured, it is strange this information has been noted under a subtitle of “Azerbaijan”.
All of the mentioned and non-existence of the “Armenian” subtitle in the report are indicators of how pro-Armenian and biased the material is. Unfortunately, Armenia’s conduction an ethnic cleansing and genocide in Azerbaijani territories, recognized by the UN, kept under occupation for about 30 years, Armenianization of Azerbaijani toponyms, besides hundreds of historical-cultural monuments, destruction of more than 60 existed mosques, about 200 shrines, insulting religious values by maintaining animals in tumbledown mosques, as well as grigorianization or destruction by doing falsifying works in Christian monuments, belonging to Caucasian Albania cultural heritage and Orthodox Church have not been reflected in the mentioned document.
It is not a secret for anyone that Azerbaijani citizens were deprived of visiting graves of their close people during the occupation, in total, more than 900 cemeteries either were razed to the ground completely or bodies were taken out, insulted, tombstones were looted.
By all of these criminal acts, the opposite side has grossly violated the requirements of the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, the 1954 Hague Convention for the “Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”, 1992 European Convention on the “Protection of the Archaeological Heritage”, Convention in 1972 of UNESCO for the “protection of the world cultural and natural heritage” and other international norms and standards.
Note that alongside representatives of the diplomatic corps operating in our country, international organizations such as ICESCO, International Organization of Turkish Culture (TURKSOY), Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking Countries (CCTS), International Turkic Culture and Heritage Foundation, as well as foreign journalists, while carrying out their mission in the liberated territories, they have also visited the cemetery in the Jabrayil region, which is an example of acts of vandalism committed by the hated enemy against cemeteries and called on the world community to condemn the Armenian atrocity that they personally witnessed.
Unfortunately, during 30 years of occupation, some interested international bodies have been indifferent to this issue, despite the requirements of the Azerbaijani party, a fact-finding mission has not been sent by the influential international organizations, as well as UNESCO regarding these issues.
It should be noted that after the end of military operations, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has immediately announced the restoration of all the religious monuments in the liberated territories from the occupation destroyed by the Armenian Armed Forces, in accordance with the instructions of the President to prepare a plan of socio-economic development of these areas, the restoration process has been launched based on the “Great Return”. Alongside the state structures, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation also participates closely in the restoration process and currently, the restoration projects are successfully carried out.
In the end, expressing our deep regret over the biased and non-objective information, we repeatedly note that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which is responsible for analyzing and assessing the situation regarding the freedom of conscience in the world has entered some issues to the mentioned report without investigating. The State Committee on Religious Associations once more invites U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and other relevant organizations for cooperation in order to compile future reports developing in this field more objective and faithful”.