Open Letter to the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Odre Azoula

a non-official translation in English

Dear Ms. Odre Azule!

Allow me to express my deep respect to you and once again confirm that the Republic of Western Armenia (Armenia), having recognized and ratified the UNESCO Charter on March 20, 2018, fully accepts its provisions and goals declared by the organization – promoting peace and

security by expanding the cooperation of states and peoples in the field of education, science and culture; ensuring justice and observance of the rule of law, universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, proclaimed in the UN Charter, for all peoples, without distinction of race, gender, language or religion.

I respect you and your labors with great respect! Thanks to you, very important work is being done to preserve the cultural heritage of mankind – both tangible and intangible!

Thanks to the adopted conventions of UNESCO, the international community is uniting to achieve common goals, to preserve the cultural heritage of mankind.

At the same time, I have to note that I was deeply disappointed and surprised at the choice of the country for the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which took place from June 30 to July 10, 2019 in the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in Baku, and which considered the state of conservation of World Heritage sites and has included new properties on the World Heritage List. I crept into doubt about the awareness of your employees, who were supposed to study the country in which they were going to hold the 43rd session.

The Republic of Azerbaijan is a state whose government destroyed and continues to destroy many of the greatest ancient monuments, churches – the cultural heritage of the Armenian people. An eloquent example of this is the fact of the destruction of 89 medieval Armenian churches, 5480 khachkars and 22,700 tombstones, including 400 khachkars in Agulis and the destruction of thousands of medieval original and ancient khachkars of Djuga in Nakhichevan in 2005.

In connection with the foregoing. UNESCO’s position to hold sessions and other events in countries whose governments do not impede the destruction of cultural monuments seems unclear and obvious. Until recently, the whole world mourned Palmyra and now the whole world is restoring what is still possible to recover from barbaric actions.

Unfortunately, our monuments cannot be restored! They are destroyed, dusted! Numerous historians and journalists confirm the conclusion that various figures in Azerbaijan are engaged in the appropriation and falsification of another’s historical and cultural heritage – be it symbolism, music, cuisine, applied art, architecture … and history! There is no proper legal assessment and counteraction to these violations and crimes by the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is still not on the part of UNESCO.

Ms. Azule, you urge respect for the spirit of the World Heritage conventions as a driving factor for unity, but they are neglected by the leadership of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Otherwise, how to explain such an uncivilized attitude towards the cultural heritage of other countries and peoples? Only by striving to purify the memory of the people who once lived and built on this earth?

And UNESCO staff seems to be unaware of this!

I want to remind you of your words made at the opening of the session that the heritage should never be used to divide society or to contrast the memory of one group against the memory of another. By choosing a country that destroys the cultural heritage of another people, you involuntarily contradict yourself!

I, as a representative of culture and art, am sure that both our countries’ policies and the normalization of relations between peoples and the preservation of world cultural heritage for posterity also depend on our high mission – honest, truthful and incorruptible.

You mentioned trust in your speech. “The World Heritage Convention is one of the few forums for dialogue around the common good, also because its implementation is guided by scientific experience that builds credibility.”

I believe that it will be justified to draw your attention to the fact that the very fact of choosing a country and holding meetings and sessions in a country that is de facto impossible for ethnic Armenians to enter, regardless of their citizenship, can result in criminal prosecution and imprisonment for them. conclusion, depriving journalists, scientists, public figures and ordinary people of Armenian descent to take part in such meetings.

Such a strange and ill-considered choice is too obvious a direct restriction of rights and is not permissible from a legal or ethical point of view.

I hope that you and your colleagues will carefully read all the arguments presented and make a reasonable and informed decision so that in the future do not hold sessions and other events organized under the auspices of UNESCO in countries where the fundamental principles of UNESCO and the World Heritage Convention are violated where instead of preserving the cultural heritage of mankind, they are not properly protected, and even destroyed.

I also ask you to conduct an audit related to the validity of the choice for holding meetings and sessions in the Republic of Azerbaijan and other countries, excluding the participation of representatives of a different nationality in the events.

Respectfully,

Yulia Gyuloyan,

Minister of Culture of the Republic of Western Armenia (Armenia)

July 22, 2019 

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