Letter from Elkhan Mirhashimli on Azerbaijan’s destroyed graveyards


Elkhan Mirhashimli

April 5, 2021 

Multimedia was provided courtesy of the guest contributor, and the local community. Fair use.

Featured above, sepluchres lay disjointed as the graves of the region lay intentionally disturbed during the occupation.  

I was born in 1966 in a remote mountain village, Goyara Abbas of the Gubadly region in Zangezur. My village is located 10-15 km from the border with the Republic of Armenia.

A grave lays broken in the snow. 

My grandfather’s memory was marred with horrors of 1905 when the Armenians murdered and forcibly expelled ethnic Azerbaijanis from the village of Kafan and Gorus in Zangezur. Until 1905, 80-90% of the population of Zangezur were ethnic Azerbaijanis.

In 1923 Zangezur separated from Azerbaijan and handed over to the Republic of Armenia by Stalin’s decree. The Russian communists closed Azerbaijan’s borders with Nakhchivan and Turkey.

Now let’s fast-forward it to the 70s-80s. 

Armenians often came to my village in the ’70s-’80s for relaxing walks and rest. Armenians customary rested not far from an old Albanian church and cemetery in our village.

As kids, we have observed how they gradually destroyed the Albanian church. I personally eyewitnessed how these Armenian visitors erased hand-carved Albanian scripts on walls, removed and broke crosses from the church walls. They carried crosses and small stones that had scripts on them, to Armenia.

When we asked the reason for it, they would say they were looking for gold. I would not realize the true reasons for it until much later. The Armenians did not come to our village for gold, but to destroy our historical, religious culture and monuments under the watchful eyes of the former Soviet Union and right in front of us.

Below is a video of Imamzade Cemetery in Gubadli. It was filmed March 31, 2021 after the area’s liberation.

In the 1990s, the Republic of Armenia occupied our country and declared that this land was ancient Armenian land. The Armenians removed the inscriptions on the Albanian churches, destroyed them, took everything they could, including stones to Armenia, and obliterated everything. 

The graves have been destroyed in the old Albanian cemetery.

The ornate, the simple, the ancient lie among Azerbaijan’s vivisected cemeteries, as even the dead cannot find peace.

We have always had friendly relations with the Armenians, but the Armenians were jealous of us and systematically destroyed our ancient history and wrote it for their own account. 

In 1992, the Armenian army fell on the village where we lived, killing and injuring many people and forcing civilians to flee their homes.

When we fled our home, we thought that international organizations and countries would condemn the Republic of Armenia and that would force the Armenians to liberate our occupied territories. We hoped to return our home soon, but there was no pressure on Armenia, Armenia did not comply with any of the four UN resolutions.

A close up of the destroyed tombs in Imamzade Cemetery. These were the graves of grandfathers, aunts, and uncles. 

Although the Minsk group negotiated for 26 years, Armenia did not liberate the occupied territories. The Second Karabakh War started on September 27, 2020, and the Azerbaijani army liberated our country from Armenian occupation in a 44-day war.

At the mouth of the destroyed grave, a shred of humanity remains in the form of this Azerbaijani ancestor’s skull.

I asked my relatives and friends who had traveled to Gubadly to send me photos and videos.

Utter destruction and devastation met the residents, who returned to their homes after 28 years. Not only were they faced with desolated properties but dug out, desecrated, and vaporized graves. As if that was not enough the Armenians even removed the buried bodies.

Imamazade Pilgrimage, Gubadli city, 1992 before the I Karabakh War

The cemetery, Imamzade, where my grandfather Seyid Mirgashim Agha is also destroyed. I couldn’t hold back my tears when I saw these videos. There was a large cemetery around Imamzade (worshippers would regularly visit), but this cemetery is no more, because the Armenians destroyed all the graves, dug graves, and threw the bones away. The Imamzade Mosque has been destroyed.

The Armenians terrorized not only the peaceful Azerbaijani population but also the dead. There was no peace for the dead ethnic Azerbaijanis. 

During the 28 years of Armenia’s occupation of Karabakh and neighboring areas, the Azerbaijani state has appealed to international organizations, UNESCO. No one heed to our cry for help to stop the cultural genocide committed against our heritage. The UNESCO failed to fulfill its obligation of visiting, observing the region, and inform us.

  While international organizations remained silent, the Armenians committed this vandalism, cultural genocide with impunity, became more empowered, and destroyed our history and graves.

International organizations with their silence joined the Armenian crime against our living and dead. 

Hundreds of destroyed Azerbaijani historical, religious, cultural monuments, dug-out graves, and scattered human bone fragments display and demonstrate how deep the hate penetrated the hearts and minds of those who ordered crime against humanity and ultimately carried out those orders. 

If the perpetrators of this crime are not punished, it will be a disgrace to humanity, It is necessary to let go of double standards and convey the truth to the world community.

We were born and live once in this life, I am 28 years away from my close friends and relatives, the war destroyed my dreams.

Whether all international organizations are drawing conclusions from these wars and putting pressure on countries that support separatism and terrorism, be they Muslims or Christians, we must first be human.

Many of our young people have died in this 30-year war, both in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani people have no problems with the Armenian people. Let’s end all conflict and look to the future with the desire to live in peace and security in the region so that our children don’t see war.

As neighbors, we must respect, not destroy, each other’s history.

Respectfully yours, Elkhan Mirhashimli, Chairman of the Azerbaijan Chamber of the Netherlands