Controversies regarding Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan-Vugar Mammadov

By | Vugar Mammadov 

Director of the International Relations and Protocol Department of the State Committee for Work with the Diaspora

December 26, 2020 

Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan has always generated fundamental prejudice in the Western media, partly driven by religious views and partly by ideological division. The presence of a strong Armenian diaspora and lobbying organizations in Western society has contributed to an increase in the number of falsified stories about the history and current trends of the conflict. Despite the fact that for almost thirty years the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan was under Armenian occupation, Western media regularly described the conflict as the freedom of movement of the Christian nation against Muslim Azerbaijan.

This falsification was predetermined by a strong Orientalist bias, which in recent years has intensified due to the growth of Islamophobia and turkophobia in the Western media. These media distorted the true essence of the Armenian occupation, including the causes and consequences of the Second Karabakh War and its impact on religious monuments. Many international journalists during their visits to the liberated cities of Azerbaijan witnessed the complete destruction of Azerbaijani cities and infrastructure, including the religious heritage of Azerbaijan, mosques and places of worship. Many mosques in Azerbaijani territories, which had been under occupation for three decades, were destroyed and turned into pigsties and stables for animals.

Armenia insults religions and all Muslims in the recently liberated territories from almost thirty years of occupation by Armenian troops.

International organizations, including UNESCO, have been turning a blind eye to the destruction of religious and historical buildings belonging to the Azerbaijani people by Armenia for 30 years.

About 67 mosques in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan were completely destroyed, and Azerbaijan has repeatedly appealed to UNESCO for 30 years, repeatedly claiming that religious sites were destroyed or humiliated, while mosques were used as farms for pigs, and historical sites of the Caucasian Albanians were settled by Armenians.

The Armenian government even destroyed Russian churches located in the occupied territories. The Yukhari Govkhar Agha Mosque in Shusha was “repaired” by the Iranians and renamed Iranian heritage. The only surviving Blue Mosque of Azerbaijanis in Yerevan was also renamed by the Armenian authorities into a “Persian” heritage. International organizations have never sent a mission there. The demands of the Azerbaijanis were ignored by the international community. This state of the mosques confirms that the Republic of Armenia has been violating the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, adopted in 1954 for many years.

However, some Western countries, including international organizations, NGOs or media groups influenced by the Armenian diaspora, raised their voices against Azerbaijan and falsely accused it of the status of Armenian religious structures in the liberated lands. The question arises why no one raised the issue of the national and religious heritage of Azerbaijanis and why no measures were taken for the cultural genocide of Armenians, especially against the heritage of Islam, for thirty years. The Armenians bred pigs in the mosque, which are forbidden in the Muslim faith. They came here and destroyed the mosques of Azerbaijanis and insulted their faith. How long will these double standards towards Azerbaijan last and why are Muslim countries not applying sanctions to Armenia for what it has done? Unfortunately, some Muslim states call Armenia a friendly country.

In fact, such fears are groundless, because tolerance and multiculturalism in Azerbaijan have deep historical roots, which develop in modern society and are supported at the state level. All conditions have been created for the peaceful and safe residence of representatives of various nationalities, cultures and religions; historical monuments, mosques, churches, temples, synagogues are carefully preserved and, if necessary, restored. The unique atmosphere of tolerance and intercultural dialogue in Azerbaijani society attracts attention as a role model for the development of multiculturalism. At present, dozens of representatives of various religions, such as Muslims, Christians and Jews, permanently and permanently live in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has promised to restore and protect all religious monuments in the de-occupied territories, including Christian churches. Azerbaijan hosted a number of prestigious international events promoting intercivilizational and interreligious dialogue, including the Second Baku Summit of World Religious Leaders in November 2019.

While visiting Azerbaijan in October 2016, Pope Francis praised the cooperation and dialogue between different cultures and religions. in our country. The opening ceremony of another high-profile international sporting event, the IV Islamic Solidarity Games, was held in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku. The ceremony took place at the Baku Olympic Stadium, which was transformed into a huge theater space equipped with a modern projection system. Athletes from over 50 Islamic countries came together from 12 to 22 May 2017 to represent their countries over 10 days of competition in 20 different sports.

Khudavang, or Deveveng, located in the village of Vang, Kelbajar region, on the left bank of the Terterchay River, was the religious center of the Khachyn Albanian principality (IX century) after the collapse of Caucasian Albania. The Khudavang complex was the headquarters of the Albanian bishop and functioned as a center for religious education. The Ganjasar monastery, located in the village of Vangli, Kelbajar region, along with the headquarters of the Caucasian Albanian Apostolic Church, was the shrine of the Jalalids, Albanian kings. At present, Armenian researchers are trying to present this Albanian monastic complex, which was under Armenian occupation for a long time, as an Armenian monument. Recently, when the Armenians left these complexes to Azerbaijan, they plundered all the heritage of the complex belonging to Azerbaijan.

The heads of religious confessions of Azerbaijan made a joint statement on the destruction of religious objects in Karabakh by Armenian vandals.

“We, the leaders of the Muslim, Orthodox, Albanian-Udi and Jewish confessions in Azerbaijan, express the wishes of believers and appeal to the heads of state and government of countries, heads of international organizations, religious leaders and the world community. Today, after 30 years of struggle to restore its territorial integrity, raising the tricolor state flag of Azerbaijan over the Karabakh lands again means the victory of historical justice and stability in our multinational and multi-confessional country.

Diasporas and communities of different nationalities living in Azerbaijan have clearly declared their solidarity with the people and state of Azerbaijan during the war. When the war broke out, the State Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan for Work with the Diaspora held a meeting with the leaders of communities living in Azerbaijan. The meeting was attended by the leaders of the Public Association “Indian Association of Azerbaijan”, the Georgian community of Azerbaijan, the Ukrainian Congress of Azerbaijan, the Russian community of Azerbaijan, the Public Association “Polonia-Azerbaijan Polish Community”, the Pakistani diaspora, the Ahiska Turks living in Azerbaijan, the Union of Ahiska Turks of the World , German-Azerbaijani Society, Jewish humanitarian organization “Vaa Latsolas Nichei Yisroel”, Public Association “Support for the development of friendship between Azerbaijan and Bulgaria.” At the event, leaders and representatives of the community signed a joint statement addressed to the UN, the Council of Europe and other international organizations, all states that respect international law and norms.

The statement calls on international organizations to influence Armenia to put an end to provocations and immediately liberate the occupied Azerbaijani territories, as well as to ensure that the Armenian government observes international laws and norms. These leaders worked actively with their communities in Azerbaijan and with their compatriots around the world. The Azerbaijani diaspora has demonstrated unprecedented effectiveness in foreign media. They published articles, organized interviews and wrote letters to press agencies to eliminate the bias and unfair attitude towards Azerbaijan. They showed similar activity on social networks, while others managed to convince local journalists to defend Azerbaijan’s position. Despite fierce attacks from the Armenian diaspora, some foreign journalists published articles, organized videoconferences and were very active on social media to uphold our fair position.

From September 27 to November 30, various diaspora organizations and activists from 51 countries joined the process of bringing the true voice of Azerbaijan to the world. 228 rallies were held in 38 countries, 330 statements (appeals) were published in 23 languages ​​by various diaspora organizations and activists in 51 countries. Petitions have been submitted to the parliaments of more than 50 countries that are members of international organizations. 4,700 letters from 11 Coordination Councils operating in different countries with detailed information about provocations, occupation policies, aggressive activities of Armenia were sent to world leaders, representatives of international media, influential international organizations, parliaments and prominent public figures of different countries.

The Azerbaijani diaspora organized round tables, meetings, press conferences, car rallies, displayed posters and advertisements in city centers, met with representatives of the state and government, local politicians, and parliamentary deputies to talk about the realities of Armenian aggression. They also volunteered as doctors to support the Azerbaijani army on the front lines, and this was the first time our diaspora organized such a colossal fundraiser. As a result of the activities of the Azerbaijani diaspora, 1941 articles and news were published in 47 languages ​​in 70 countries, television and radio reports were prepared, 224 events were held in 38 foreign countries, 336 news were broadcast in 7418 local sources.

Armenia has nothing to complain to Azerbaijan about multiculturalism, tolerance and danger to any religion. All these facts show that Armenian terrorism was directed against Azerbaijanis, since on February 26, 1992, they perpetuated the Khojaly genocide against 613 civilians in Azerbaijan, such as women, the elderly and children. This is one of the most dangerous crimes against humanity of the 21st century. They also perpetuated genocide against the religions of Russian Orthodox churches, Caucasian Albanian churches and especially against Islamic religious sites. Armenian diasporas in Islamic countries must end their support for Armenia because of all the crimes they commit against Islamic religious sites in Azerbaijan.