The Guardian has published a letter of response by Tahir Taghizade, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, to an article penned by Simon Maghakyan on the preservation of cultural heritage in conflict zones.
The article reads:
“It is ironic that Simon Maghakyan (Palmyra and Unesco’s approach to heritage, Letters, 27 August) writes in defence of the importance of the preservation of cultural heritage and condemns my country. Over the course of the armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it is not Azerbaijan but Armenia that has now turned into a monoethnic country – a rare example in this part of the world – and has pursued a policy of transforming into a monoculture society by wiping out the centuries-old cultural and historical heritage of its ethnic Azerbaijani population,” the Azerbaijani Ambassador says in his letter.
Furthermore, Armenia has continued the same policy in the occupied Azerbaijani territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions, in a more violent and destructive nature. George Mitchell, the British travel writer, who visited the occupied territories in November 2014, calls Agdam, an occupied Azerbaijani town, “a ghost town” and “Hiroshima of the Caucasus” and reports on the total devastation of nature and heritage all around.”
Mr Taghizade says: “Azerbaijan has repeatedly called for a comprehensive international fact-finding mission to find out the situation regarding the preservation of cultural heritage in the occupied territories, Armenia has declined to allow this mission to carry out its work.”
“The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe fact-finding missions in 2005 and 2010 have reported on the destruction of cultural heritage in occupied territories of Azerbaijan. That includes looting of museums, destruction of monuments of historical, cultural and religious significance, attempts at changing the facts on the ground. The sole aim of this policy, which continues to this day, is to rewrite the history of the occupied regions on the basis of falsified sources.
In Azerbaijan we take pride in our respect for the history and culture of all ethnic and religious minorities. The best example is the Armenian church that stands in the central square of Baku. However, it is unfortunate that almost all Azerbaijani monuments in Armenia itself and the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven regions have been wiped out by Armenia.