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6/6/2024 Armenia/Azerbaijan  (International Christian Concern) — The 2024 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) underlined the ongoing Azerbaijani destruction of Armenian Christian heritage in Artsakh. This comes as USCIRF recommended that the State Department name Azerbaijan as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), a designation under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which applies to “countries that commit systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” 

The USCIRF report cited three historic sites of Armenian heritage in the Shushi province of Artsakh, which has now been reintegrated into Azerbaijan. In October and November 2023, Azerbaijan damaged the archeological remains of the 1838 Meghretsots Holy Mother of God Church, the Yerevan Gate Cemetery, and the Ghazanchetsots cemetery, according to satellite imagery published by Caucasus Heritage Watch, an investigative institution supported by Cornell University. Likewise, International Christian Concern (ICC) recently reported on the Azerbaijani destruction of a church and an entire village also in the Shushi province of Artsakh. 

This shows that Azerbaijan has continued its push to erase the presence of Armenian cultural and historical monuments. After the fall of Artsakh in September 2023, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention — a U.S.-based non-governmental organization (NGO) — denounced that Azerbaijan indicated it had “genocidal intent against Armenians and particularly against Armenians in Artsakh” and called the continuing destruction of Armenian churches and other historical monuments in Artsakh a “cultural genocide” intending “to erase the historical presence” of Armenian heritage in the region. 

ICC published an analytical brief exposing the connection between the Azerbaijani campaign in Artsakh and the Ottoman policy to eradicate the Christian peoples within its empire more than a century ago. Further, it added that “the fall of Artsakh is another chapter in a long history of Islamic belligerence against Christianity, following centuries of Islamic persecution and dispossession of Armenian Christians.” 

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