YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 27, ARMENPRESS: Covcas Bulletin, a monthly bilingual (English/French) publication of Covcas Center for Conflict Resolution and Human Rights, whose purpose is to alert the international community about early warning news on Human Rights in the Caucasus region, placed a story in its recent issue about Azerbaijan’s policy of destroying Armenian cultural and historical monuments located now in Azerbaijan.

“Alarming news about the systematic destruction of the Joulfa Armenian cemetery in Nakhitchevan, currently in Azerbaijan, went nearly unnoticed to international organizations. There is proof that this is not a case of vandalism but is a programmed destruction of this XIIth century Armenian heritage. At the beginning of the XXth century, before the region was attached to Azerbaijan by Stalin, the cemetery included nearly 12000 sculpted stone crosses (” Khatchkars “).

These Khatchkars are masterpieces of Armenian medieval art. With the programmed expulsion of the Armenian population during the Soviet era, the number of Khatchkars went down to less than 2000. These last

2000 World Heritage monuments have just disappeared, in total lack of interest by the international community for these barbarous activities, for which Azerbaijan used its states logistics. A first attempt to annihilate these unique monuments was prevented by pressure from the international community on Azerbaijan in 1998. This time it seems that it is too late to save even the smallest fraction of this heritage. One could call upon international organizations, such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe, to carry out sanctions against Azerbaijan for its cultural crimes. These crimes remind us of the destruction of the statues of Buddha carried out by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The international community remained silent on this issue, but the American State Department’s Democracy and Human Rights Bureau denounced in a report the arrest and persecution of “non-traditional” religious minority members in Azerbaijan. Non-traditional religious minorities include Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Molokans, Adventists, Evangelists and others, traditional religions in this country being Islam, Orthodoxy and Judaism. The State Department’s report shows proof that the state committee in charge of religious organizations, which is supposed to protect the rights of all believers, does not act against the persecution of the members of these religious minorities by the authorities.