Hamazkayin calls on UNESCO to protect Artsakh’s cultural heritage

In a formal appeal to UNESCO’s Director General Audrey Azoulay, the Central Executive Board of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society has urgently requested intervention to safeguard the cultural heritage of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). The letter, written on behalf of Hamazkayn’s educational institutions, art groups, chapters, and thousands of members worldwide, seeks UNESCO’s immediate intervention in protecting cultural and religious sites, monuments, ancient artifacts, and other evidence of Armenian heritage in Artsakh.

“Furthermore, we call upon UNESCO to hold Azerbaijan, a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, accountable to the fullest level for perpetuating the cultural and human genocide of Armenians in Artsakh,” the letter states. It highlights that numerous Armenian churches, monasteries, and historical sites, some dating back to the 2nd century A.D., have already suffered deliberate desecration or destruction by Azerbaijan.

The letter further emphasizes the urgency of the matter, explaining that the danger is imminent. It mentions that many cultural landmarks in Artsakh are under immediate threat of permanent damage following Azerbaijan’s actions, which began with the invasion in Sept. 2020 and escalated with a final assault in Sept. 2023 aimed at eradicating the Armenian presence in the region.

Azerbaijan’s responsibility as a signatory to the World Heritage Convention is reiterated, and the letter calls for full accountability for the cultural and human consequences of the conflict. It also expresses concerns over Azerbaijan’s actions, including the desecration of Armenian cemeteries and the vandalism of national monuments.

The letter highlights specific endangered cultural landmarks, such as Ghazanchetsots cathedral, Gandzasar, Dadivank, Amaras, Tzitzernavank monasteries, ancient khatchkars (carved cross-stones), lapidary inscriptions, fresco arts, manuscripts, carpets, rugs, and various expressions of Armenian arts, literature, and crafts. It underscores that these historical creations hold significance not only for Armenians but for world culture.

Hamazkayin’s appeal seeks to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Artsakh and calls for action in line with UNESCO’s mission to protect and safeguard global cultural heritage. The organization, which has had an active chapter in Toronto (Klatsor chapter) since 1969, has also shared this appeal with international media outlets to raise awareness and seek support for preserving Artsakh’s cultural heritage.