WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) today called on U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish to immediately and forcefully halt the ongoing demolition of medieval Armenian cemeteries and historic carved stone crosses (khatchkars) in the southern Nakhichevan region of Djulfa by the Azerbaijani armed forces.
The cemetery, home to more than 10,000 individual khatchkars, was subjected to sustained attacks throughout the 20th Century and again, starting in 2002, when Azerbaijani forces crushed hundreds of the crosses and shipped the rubble from the region by rail. The most recent attacks have been the worst yet. A 12-minute video of the attacks may be viewed at:
In a letter sent today to Ambassador Harnish, and copied to the White House and Members of Congress, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian called on the U.S. envoy to:
1) Immediately travel to Djulfa to personally survey the damage and intervene against any continued demolition.
2) In the name of the U.S. government and on behalf of the conscience of the international community, demand that Azerbaijan respect the terms of its 1993 agreement to join the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, and immediately end this destruction.
3) Demand that, to the extent possible, these sites be restored, under the appropriate supervision of Armenian experts and other internationally recognized authorities on Armenian religious monuments.
4) Offer a full and public reporting on this systematic, state-sponsored eradication of these treasures of world cultural heritage.
The Foreign Minister of Armenia, Vartan Oskanian, in a December 16th letter, urgently called upon UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura to use his office to bring about an end to this destruction. In the letter, he expresses, with a “great sense of anger and regret,” his hope that “the ire and disapproval of the international community will be brought to bear on Azerbaijan in order that they cease from carrying out these acts which are tantamount to ethnic cleansing – only this time, there are no people left, and they have resorted to cleansing the memory of those people.” The Minister went on to explain that “Nakhichevan was home to a majority Armenian population for generations.”
The International Council on Monuments and Sites – the leading non-governmental organization working preserve the world’s cultural and religious landmarks – has posted an article on this issue on its website. To view photos of the Djulfa cemetery and and learn more about the response by ICOMOS to this issue, visit:
Photo Caption: Historic Armenian stone crosses (khatchkars) in the Djulfa region of Nakhichevan, before and after Azerbaijani destruction. For additional photos and background information, visit the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) website: