Azerbaijan's State Committee comments on call of US Commission on International Religious Freedom

Ali Haziyev, Head of the Foreign Relations Department of the State Committee on Religious Associations 

© APA | Ali Haziyev, Head of the Foreign Relations Department of the State Committee on Religious Associations 

# 09 February 2022 18:37 (UTC +04:00)

"Regarding the recent biased information spread by some foreign media outlets about the religious policy of our state, we would like to note that Azerbaijan, regardless of its affiliation, respects its religious and cultural heritage in accordance with historical traditions of coexistence, as well as international law," Ali Haziyev, Head of the Foreign Relations Department of the State Committee on Religious Associations told APA commenting on the call of the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

"Of course, it is slander. We and the world community are aware that Azerbaijan has always preserved all religious and historical monuments, regardless of their religious affiliation. Despite the fact that the majority of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim, the remainings of the historically formed churches here are proof of this fact. The Christian Gregorian Church with thousands of ancient manuscripts, as well as the churches belonging to all sects of Christianity are preserved in the center of Baku despite a long-running conflict. The Catholicos of Armenians, who once visited Baku, also witnessed this. Azerbaijan's state policy is based on the principles of multiculturalism and tolerance," he said.

According to the head of the department, any fact of destruction or replacement of any religious and cultural monument in the history of Azerbaijan's independence has not been recorded: "Even during 44 days of Patriotic war, any attack operation to the civilian objects of the enemy, as well as religious buildings has not been carried out by the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan. This fact has been reapproved by foreign journalists.

Unfortunately, those who blame Azerbaijan, turn blind eye to ethnic cleansing and genocide carried out by Armenia in the territories of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years and recognized by the UN, as well as in the territory of present-day Armenia, Armenianization of Azerbaijani toponyms, destruction of hundreds of historical and cultural monuments, mosques and pilgrimages, and humiliation of religious values by keeping animal in the mosques, as well as Gregorianization of the Christian temples belonging to the cultural heritage of Caucasian Albania and Orthodox Church by carrying out the falsification works there".

Ali Haziyev noted that there have been 67 mosques in the liberated territories from the occupation once upon a time, but only 2 of them have left: "One of them is partially safe, another has been repaired under the name of the Persian mosque. This is a kind of act of erasing the heritage of Azerbaijan, falsifying history.

Immediately after the end of military operations, the Azerbaijani government stated that it will restore all religious monuments destroyed by the Armenian Armed Forces in the liberated territories from the occupation. In order to develop the socio-economic development plan of these territories, according to the instructions of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, a restoration process has been launched on the basis of the “Big Return” program. At the same time, Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated at the highest level from various posts that as in all countries, historical religious monuments in our liberated lands from Armenian occupation belong to Azerbaijani heritage and their protection is the responsibility of the Azerbaijani state. In this regard restoration and reconstruction works of mosques and churches in the liberated territories is a visual reflection of all the mentioned.

For instance, along with mosques, the restoration of two churches has also been launched in Shusha. This shows that Azerbaijan does not discriminate against monuments, on the contrary, its respects various cultures and religions and that it sees all religious examples as part of its national-moral values.

In general, we consider that regardless of affiliation, religious and cultural heritage belongs to all mankind.

However, the international community turned a blind eye to all these, instead, they join campaigns serving Armenia.”

The official of the State Committee noted that these crimes committed by Armenians have not been limited to the liberated zone: “Hundreds of historical buildings were also destroyed in historical Azerbaijani land, present-day Armenia or falsified and presented as another temple. For example, we can say Sardar mosque, Shah Abbas mosque, and other mosques. Blue Mosque in Irevan is presented as a Persian mosque today. However, it is also a historical Azerbaijani mosque.

In short, unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan does not discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnicity in its historical and cultural heritage, and is committed to international conventions, including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the other side, which pursues a policy of aggression and denial. Because they have been making changes to our historical and cultural heritage for many years and falsifying its origins, along with the Convention on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1992 European Convention for the Protection of Archaeological Heritage and the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. UNESCO Convention on Human Rights, 1972, etc. grossly violated the requirements of international norms and standards. However, it is disappointing that the international community is not sensitive to this situation. "

recall that the President of the US International Religious Freedom Commission called on the Azerbaijani government to protect places of worship and other religious and cultural sites.