“Azerbaijan once again spreads slander at an official level, trying to make other nations serve for the solution of its own problems,” said Ashot Sargsyan, Head of the Department of Ethnic Minorities and Religious Affairs of the government staff of the Republic of Mountainous Karabagh, in response to the statement of Mubariz Qurbanli, Chairman of the Azerbaijani State Committee on Religious Organizations Affairs, that Armenians have destroyed numerous Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Aghvan (Caucasian Albanian) (*) monuments in the "occupied territories."
"All the monuments in Artsakh have been protected, regardless of their origin or religious affiliation. Unlike Azerbaijan, we preserve and reconstruct antiquities, but we not eliminate them. The mosques of Shushi and Aghdam (Akna) till remain as excellent examples. They are Muslim cultural and spiritual values, and we respect them. Otherwise, why do these mosques still exist?," he said, adding that there have been many examples of Armenian monuments vandalized, as well as graves desecrated and completely destroyed by Azerbaijanis.
"Bulbul Oglu also visited his father's house in Shushi, and was impressed to see how it had been preserved," Sargsyan noted, adding that the Armenians of Artsakh have lived peacefully side-by-side with Russians, Greeks, Jews, Azeris, Georgians, Persians and other nations, but today only the Russian and Greek communities are officially registered as organized communities in the country.
"By the way, I would like to focus on another important fact: in the midst of the Artsakh war, in 1992, the Supreme Council adopted a law that Artsakh ethnic minorities could not only avoid military operations, but also, if they wanted, the state could provide transportation for their secure transfer to Yerevan. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani side was sending representatives of its country’s ethnic minorities to take part in military operations, and there are many proven facts about it," he stressed.
In the interview with “Artsakhpress,” Slava Sargsyan, Head of the Department of Monuments’ Protection and Research of the Government's Tourism Office of the republic, said that this is not the first time that Azerbaijan has made such an absurd statement.
"In Artsakh, both Muslim and Christian monuments are protected equally. If so wishes, one can see with his own eyes that the Azerbaijani side spreads slander," Sargsyan added. He also clarified that there are no Jewish monuments in Artsakh, because there hasn't been a Jewish community here. With regard to Aghvan monuments, Azerbaijanis distort the facts and certainly, by using the word “Aghvan,” they mean Armenian ancient monuments.
"Since Soviet times, Azerbaijanis have presented all Armenian historical monuments in Artsakh as Aghvan, to show that Armenians are only newcomers.
And this absurdity has been performed in such an illiterate way, that for example 200 Armenian inscriptions on the walls of the monastery of Gandzasar were interpreted as “Aghvan," Sargsyan mentioned, adding that even Armenian cross-stones (khachkar) in Akna with inscriptions and ornaments were translated by Azerbaijanis as “khachdash” and considered Azerbaijani monuments.
"Artsakhpress," February 21, 2009 (artsakhpress.am)
(*) The news agency used the expression "Afghan" in its report, instead of "Aghvan," which is the correct way to transliterate the Armenian «աղուան», corresponding to the Caucasian Albanians ("Armeniaca").