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6/22/2023 Armenia (International Christian Concern) ––A new report by The Armenian Bar Association documenting the ongoing persecution and ethnic cleansing of Christians in Armenia has consolidated information on the direct threat to Christian communities and the clergy. 

In addition to a study from the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Artsakh that documented the horrific circumstances in which Azerbaijani forces butchered civilians, including disabled and older adults, during and after the 2020 war, the report shows the direct threat posed to members of the Armenian clergy. 

The report focuses on the Dadivank monastery, built between the 9th and 13th Centuries, in Karvajar and which Azerbaijan denies is a Christian monastery but a “Caucasian Albanian temple.” The monastery featured prominently in an October 2001 motion passed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in which it was cited as an example of the “destruction of Zar (Tsar) monuments in the Kelbajar region […] which the local Muslim population regard[ed] as a remnant of the Armenian Christian religion and ruined the monastery as it could.” Since April 2021, Azerbaijan has isolated the workings of this medieval center of Armenian Christianity from pilgrims and visitors. 

The authorities, prohibiting pilgrimages to Dadivank, have left only six members of the Armenian Apostolic clergy remaining there – a fact that caused a 27-year-old monk at the monastery to say on the Azadutyun news channel that “we have remained alone with you, Lord” – a phrase that has become an oft-repeated mantra for the working monks. 

The monastic complex is currently protected from physical assault by Russian peacekeepers. Since April 2021, however, the Azerbaijani government has blocked access to Dadivank for pilgrims and worshippers under the pretense of COVID-19 measures and roadworks to try and leverage prospective visitors’ access and thereby extract concessions. Under purported “requests” for reciprocal access to seemingly non-existent mythical sites – a report refers to the locally and historically unknown “Aghbaban” – the monastery’s isolation is further ensured. The isolation of Dadivank has a larger counterpart in the blockade of the Lachin Corridor – the only entry point trade and transportation route for 120,000 Armenians in Artsakh – that has left surgeries and supermarkets sparse, creating “psychological terror” (p. 4) and huge instability for the population.   

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