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5/23/2024 Armenia/Azerbaijan (International Christian Concern) – Months after the fall of Artsakh, Azerbaijan destroyed the St. John the Baptist Church in the town of Shusi and the entire Karintak village.  

Azerbaijan is also building a large mosque in Karintak, known as Dashalti in Azeri. Both the church and the village were in the Shushi province of Artsakh, which is now integrated into the Shusha province of Azerbaijan following the conquest of Artsakh in September 2023. 

Azerbaijan had conquered the Shushi province during the 2020 conflict over Artsakh. In 2021, an Azerbaijani legislator posted to Twitter/X a photo of Christian clerics praying at the St. John the Baptist Church in Shushi, citing “the national cultural diversity existing in Azerbaijan” and “the atmosphere of ethnic and religious tolerance.” The fall of Artsakh in 2023, however, and the continuing destruction of Armenian Christian heritage proves otherwise. 

The church in Shushi, built by Armenians in 1847, was known in Armenian as St. Hovhannes Mkrtich or Kanach Zham (the green chapel). Azerbaijan destroyed the church and several surrounding buildings during the winter of 2023-2024 according to satellite imagery published by Caucasus Heritage Watch, an investigative institution supported by Cornell University. An image dated from April 2024 shows the rubble where the church and surrounding buildings in Shushi once stood. 

Likewise, imagery dated from April 2024 shows that the entire Karintak village is nearly razed to the ground. Caucasus Heritage Watch, which also published the imagery of Karintak, assessed that Azerbaijan likely destroyed the village to build a new village for Azerbaijani resettlers. In December 2023, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited the building site of the new mosque in Karintak, which is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2024. 

This comes as International Christian Concern (ICC) reported that the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently named Azerbaijan as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), a designation which USCIRF applies to “countries that commit systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” The recommendation to the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government and the State Department follows the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). 

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