Every year on 18 April, world community celebrates the “International Day for Monuments and Sites”, whose establishment was approved by the 22nd UNESCO General Conference in 1983.
The aim of celebration of this day is to encourage local communities and individuals throughout the world to consider the importance of cultural heritage to their lives, identities and communities, and to promote awareness of its diversity and vulnerability and the efforts required to protect and conserve it.
As UNESCO Member State since July 3, 1992, Azerbaijan controbutes actively to the protecion of Monuments and Cites which have worldwide importance. Indeed, It has been already 23 years since the Republic of Azerbaijan started its active cooperation with this Organization. Azerbaijan signed and ratified almost all of the Conventions and other legal instruments of UNESCO.
Azerbaijan’s relations with UNESCO reached a qualitatively new phase when Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, has become a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Since then the cooperation with UNESCO became broader, stronger and more dynamic. Another historic and landmark moment was signing of the Framework Agreement on the cooperation in the fields of science, education, culture and communication between the Republic of Azerbaijan and UNESCO in 2013. As a result, Azerbaijan joined the family of donor countries and started to actively support UNESCO’s programs and projects in the least developed countries.
2016 year’s subject being sport, and as far as sports and culture are concerned, Azerbaijan has hosted the first ever European Games in June of this year and in 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games will take place in Baku.
But today Azerbaijan’s concern is not on this point. Indeed, today the world witnesses the rise of extremism, radicalism, discrimination and racism, religious and ethnic intolerance, islamophobia and the spread of terrorism. All these manifestations of negative and dangerous phenomena are a clear threat to peace and security, safety and sustainable development. In this regard, we can also mention the case of Azerbaijan, as victim to such barbaric acts for more than twenty years.
The illegal military occupation by the neighboring Republic of Armenia of almost 20 percent of the internationally recognized historic territories of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno Karabakh and adjacent seven regions, continues regardless of four United Nations Security Council resolutions adopted in 1993, which demand immediate, unconditional and complete withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan’s territories.
More than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced as a result of this occupation. Along with the military occupation and ethnic cleansing on these occupied lands, the cultural property of the Republic of Azerbaijan has also incurred irreplaceable losses.
Numerous historical, cultural, religious monuments and pieces of arts have been looted and removed from the occupied Azerbaijani territories by the Armenian armed forces. Many of them were put on sale in the auctions and shops throughout the world. Armenia is trying to change the attributes of Azerbaijani cultural heritage, toponyms of Azerbaijani origin and identity.
The Museum of History of Kalbajar region with its unique collection of ancient coins, gold and silver wares, rare and expensive stones, carpets and other handicraft wares, the Museums of History in Shusha region, the unique Bread Museum of Agdam region, the Stone Monuments Museum of Zangelan region, as well as many others were plundered and destroyed. 500 historical, architectural and more than 100 archeological monuments, 22 museums (40 thousand museum pieces and exhibits), 9 historical palaces, 44 temples, 10 mosques, 4 art galleries have been looted and heavily damaged. Hundreds of ancient mausoleums and fortresses have been destroyed. In Shusha city, the 18th century Govhar-Aga mosque has been heavily damaged, other mosques in the occupied regions have been destroyed and burnt down. Many mosques have been turned into the ammunition warehouses and depositories. The occupation caused the leveling to the ground of the Khojaly Barrow Field, with unique monuments of the Bronze Epoch, which covered 50 hectares of land with more than 100 barrows. The Republic of Azerbaijan is deeply alarmed by the transformation of the Azykh Cave, a precious human prehistoric monument, which is one of the oldest cradles of the human civilization, into an ammunition dump. The faith of the Caucasian Albanian Round Temple and Khojaly Mausoleum of the 14th century also remains uncertain. These are obvious acts of cultural terrorism with the aim to wipe out the evidences of the historic roots of Azerbaijanis in these areas.
So, it is really frustrating to witness that a country as Azerbaijan, contributing such to the protection of world heritage is totally forgotten. We think that it is time for international community to react to reach the true result.
This conflict contains the most serious threats and challenges to the region. The only way to restore a full-fledged peace and security is the resolution of this conflict on the basis of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Dr. Turab GURBANOV