According to a statement on the website of the US Embassy in Azerbaijan, Ambassador Morningstar – like his predecessor Matthew Bryza – was denied access to the Djulfa cemetery.
Since my arrival in Baku as Ambassador, I have made an effort to become more familiar with this wonderful country, its people and history. Most recently, I traveled to Nakhchivan… It has been an opportunity to see this country’s diverse cultural heritage up close, an experience that I think is important for anyone coming to live and work in Azerbaijan.
The history of the region is a difficult one. The Nagorno Karabakh conflict resulted in thousands of deaths and severely altered the physical landscape of the region, including sites of historical, religious and cultural significance.
When I was in Nakhchivan, I discussed at length with local authorities one such site in Julfa, where, according to evidence from credible sources, an ancient Armenian cemetery was desecrated or destroyed. I regret that the authorities, citing security reasons, made it impossible for me to visit the site and personally see what is there.
Despite being denied access to Djulfa, Ambassador Morningstar sees light at the end of the tunnel:
I am nevertheless heartened by stories of efforts to protect each country’s heritage. Today in Baku, for example, I visited the Armenian Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator, where I learned about the church’s history and the preservation of books and manuscripts in the Armenian language.
Ambassador Morningstar’s interest in preservation is laudable, but he seems to miss the point of the intentional destruction of Armenian monuments in Azerbaijan. The reason why the church in Baku he visited has been preserved is because, unlike medieval Djulfa, it was built in the 19th century. Official Azerbaijan claims that Armenians appeared in the Caucasus in the 19th century (despite Armenians’ thousands of years of rich history in the region).
Incidentally, Ambassador Morningstar’s statement was originally released through the Azerbaijani media. The Embassy promptly responded to our request for official confirmation of the statement and shortly after posted it online.
Armenoids and Nushik Tati made an Armenian music video last year about Djulfa (Jugha) and its destruction. Thank you to Emil Sanamyan from the Armenian Reporter for sharing the video with us. You can watch it at http://youtu.be/_mjm4qCLHwQ or below:
According to the “Article History” tab for the Britannica Encylopedia Online entry on the region of Nakhichevan (now part of Azerbaijan), Britannica’s associate editor Laura Etheredge changed the name of the region from the international and Armenian term, Nakhichevan, to the official Azerbaijani toponym Naxçıvan on August 18, 2010.
Britannica hasn’t changed so far Nakhichevan to Naxçıvan on Britannica Kids.
Britannica has used the term “Nakhichevan” for at least a hundred years.
It is unfortunate that Britannica is aiding Azerbaijan’s campaign of erasing Nakhichevan’s Armenian roots by changing the indigenous name of the region.
We are a volunteer-powered project, and are proud to have the guidance of a great team of specialists and human rights activists, listed at http://www.djulfa.com/about/ and below:
- Dr. Lucy Der Manuelian: Arthur H. Dadian and Ara Oztemel Professor of Armenian Art and Architectural History, Department of Art and Art History, Tufts University
- Steinar Gil: Norwegian diplomat and philologist; Ambassador to Azerbaijan at the time of Djulfa’s destruction
- Dr. Dickran Kouymjian: Haig & Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian History and Art, Emeritus, Director of Armenian Studies Program, Emeritus, California State University, Fresno. Member of the National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Armenia
- Jora Manoucherian: President of Research on Armenian Architecture – USA
- Dr. Ian McIntosh: Director of International Partnerships and Projects at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Senior Editorial Advisor to Cultural Survival Quarterly, The World Report on the Rights, Voices and Visions of Indigenous Peoples
- Dr. Anahit Ter-Stepanian: Professor of History of Architecture, Russian Modernism, and Art and Revolution at Southern Connecticut State University; Professor of Art History at Sacred Heart University
Several newspapers mentioned us in their report on the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s satellite documentation of Djulfa’s destruction.
In particular, the California-based Asbarez Newspaper reported on December 8, 2010:
“Azerbaijan’s war against indigenous Armenian heritage in Nakhichevan cannot be justified in any way–including by the gridlock in the negotiations over the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that fought for independence in the early 1990s from Azerbaijan precisely so that a destruction similar to Djulfa’s would not take place there,” Simon Maghakyan, the founder and project Manager at the Djulfa Virtual Memorial and Museum (www.djulfa.com), said today in a widely circulated email to media and advocacy groups.
“The loss of Djulfa was a blow to not just Armenian culture, but also to all world heritage,” said Maghakyan.
Maghakyan criticized UNESCO, “the organization charged with protecting our common heritage,” for its “shameful silence” on Djulfa’s destruction and urged action to tell UNESCO that “its unequivocal protest is long overdue.”
Maghakyan provides a more detailed account of the five-year rampage against Djulfa in a special blog post on the Amnesty International’s “Human Rights Now” blog. The post, titled “Cultural Oppression in Azerbaijan can be read here.
UNESCO, the organization charged with protecting our global heritage, responded in February 2011 to our December 2010 petition asking it to hold Azerbaijan responsible for deliberately destroying the magnificent medieval Djulfa (Old Jugha) cemetery by officially discontinuing addition of monuments from Azerbaijan to the World Heritage List.
While the UNESCO letter says protection of Armenian heritage is of “constant concern” and acknowledges having received prior inquiries, it beats the same ineffective drum of calling on Azerbaijan to let UNESCO investigate the site of the cemetery – which is tantamount to inaction since Azerbaijan has consistently denied access to the cemetery and will continue to do so. That’s exactly why the American Association for the Advancement of Science used satellite techonology to investigate the destruction.
It is disappointing to see UNESCO unwilling to condemn the destruction of Djulfa, let alone hold Azerbaijan accountable for it. Very disappointing.
The UNESCO response is available at http://www.djulfa.com/unesco-response-to-2010-dvmm-petition/ and below:
Our founder Simon Maghakyan sent the following reply, available at http://araratmagazine.org/2011/03/silenced-sacred-stones/:
Your expression of “hope” to investigate the cemetery site is worth nothing, given the fact that you will never be allowed to visit Nakhichevan to investigate Djulfa’s (Old Jugha’s) destruction by the government of Azerbaijan which has used a number of excuses to deny access to the cemetery for many years and will continue hindering an investigation at any price.
That’s exactly why the American Association for the Advancement of Science used satellite technology to investigate the destruction, conclusively proving what video material and independent Azerbaijani journalist Idrak Abbasov (who has been abused by the authorities for his work) have already documented – that the Djulfa cemetery has disappeared from the face of the earth.
Instead of expressing false “hope” to be allowed to investigate the cemetery, you should condemn a priceless global heritage’s deliberate destruction documented beyond reasonable doubt.
It is very disappointing that UNESCO doesn’t have the will to condemn the destruction of the world’s largest medieval Armenian cemetery. The government of Azerbaijan has not only silenced thousands of sacred stones which were the proof and symbol of the Armenian heritage in Nakhichevan but has apparently effectively silenced UNESCO as well. I pray that you find the courage to reverse your inaction on this important violation of cultural rights.
Five years after Azerbaijan’s war against defenseless medieval Armenian burial monuments, khachkars, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has released satellite image comparison and analysis where, in the 2009 data, no trace of the Djulfa cemetery remains. We have set up a petition to UNESCO at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/235/907/968/. Please sign it.
Here are the images posted at http://www.djulfa.com/satellite/:
(click on image to enlarge)
In September of 2003 (upper data), the central area of the Djulfa graveyard appears to have sustained significant damage, but the areas to the northeast and southwest remain largely intact. By May of 2009 (lower data), however, the entire area has been graded flat, apparently by earthmoving equipment.
A close-up of the southwestern portion of the cemetery clearly shows the extent to which the area has been scoured. Upper data from 2003; lower data from 2009.
The northwestern area of the Djulfa cemetery in Azerbaijan has also been completely demolished. Upper data from 2003; lower data from 2009.
Global Heritage Fund’s Google Earth-powered Global Heritage Network explores the destruction of Djulfa.
Ambassador-designee-in-waiting Matthew Bryza was grilled by Armenian lobbies in the United States for his muted protest of the destruction of Djulfa when he was in charge of the South Caucasus region.
Next month marks the fifth anniversary of the destruction of Djulfa.
To mark the anniversary, a satellite image comparison and analyses will be published reconfirming the destruction of the ancient cemetery through scientific data. A petition addressed to UNESCO will also be featured.
In the meantime, check out an interesting story on the destruction of Djulfa from a 2009 blog post.