Anar Kerimov: "Karabakh will regain its reputation as a center of peace, love and high culture"
The current counter-offensive operation of the Azerbaijani army is, among other things, the liberation of a huge number of cultural and historical monuments from the occupation of the Armenian Armed Forces, although very, very many of them have been turned into ruins for 30 years under the control of the occupation forces. So, on the eve of the Azerbaijani flag was hung on the Khudaferin bridge, a symbol of the connection between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Turkic peoples of the Azerbaijani provinces of Iran. In this regard, Vestnik Kavkaza talked about current events in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with First Deputy Minister, Acting Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan Anar Kerimov.
- Mr. Kerimov, first of all, how should we assess the missile attacks that are carried out from the territory of Armenia on civilian objects and the civilian population of Azerbaijan, including three strikes on such a large historical and cultural center as Ganja, where damage was caused to a Muslim shrine, a memorial to the Imamzade complex?
- Thank you for your question. First of all, may Allah rest the souls of our citizens who died as a result of the next act of aggression by Armenia, launched on September 27. I wish the injured a speedy recovery. I think that the real nature of the occupation policy of Armenia is becoming clearer and clearer to the world every day.
The day after the humanitarian ceasefire declared on October 10, the Armenian armed forces committed a war crime, subjecting the residential areas of Ganja to heavy rocket fire, thereby once again demonstrating to the world their terrorist orientation. These atrocities, both October 11 and October 17, claimed the lives of many civilians, including children - a terrible crime against humanity. Apparently, the supporters of the occupation in the leadership of Armenia see in rocket attacks on civilians and cities far from the front as a way out of the situation of defeat, because our army is rapidly advancing and destroying the military infrastructure of the invaders of the Azerbaijani land. It is clear that these terrorist acts will not be able to break the resolve of our people, closely rallied around the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, to exercise the right to return to their lands and achieve justice.
Yes, indeed, terrorist acts against ancient Ganja affected not only the civilian population, but also historical monuments. It is well known that Ganja, the second largest city in Azerbaijan, in 1918 was the cradle of democracy and the first capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic - the first democratic republic in the Muslim East. The people of Azerbaijan formed the first democratic institutions in the historical buildings of this particular city.
As a result of rocket attacks, the Ganja gymnasium of the 19th century was damaged, which educated such historical personalities as the first Prime Minister of the ADR Fatali Khan Khoysky, the second Prime Minister Nasib bey Yusifbeyli, the Minister of Internal Affairs Khalil bey Khasmamedov, the Minister of Health Khudadat bey Rafibeyli, the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Hasan Bek Agaev. Unfortunately, the terrorist policy of official Yerevan, as a result of which the first prime minister of Azerbaijan was killed in 1920 with a shot in the back, continues 100 years later. The ancient cultural center, which gave the world such geniuses as Nizami Ganjavi and Mehseti Ganjavi, came face to face with terrorist missile strikes.
The Muslim shrine of Imamzade is not only our national treasure, but also an important monument for the entire Muslim world. There are Imamzade complexes in different parts of Azerbaijan, where the graves of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad are located. Ibrahim, the son of the fifth imam Muhammad Bagir, was buried in the Ganja Imamzad. This religious monument, located on the territory of the Ganja State Historical and Cultural Reserve, not only proves the antiquity of Ganja, but also testifies to the role of the city in Islamic civilization.
The leaders of the Muslim, Orthodox, Jewish and Catholic communities, who have always emphasized that the friendly atmosphere of coexistence and tolerance in Azerbaijan is a model for the whole world, spoke in 2016 at the opening of this monument after restoration work. Unfortunately, both this magnificent memorial complex and the nearby cemetery were damaged by rocket attacks.
In addition, one of the rockets fell near the one and a half century Orthodox Church of Alexander Nevsky and damaged it. For those who organize such acts of terrorism, there is nothing sacred, they do not recognize either the norms of international law or universal human moral values.
- Has Azerbaijan turned to international organizations for the protection of monuments in connection with the "cultural genocide" that was carried out by the armed forces of Armenia against Azerbaijani historical monuments?
- Oh sure. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is not only a great tragedy, but also a war crime. Historical monuments clearly show us the stages of development of civilizations, demonstrate national moral values and preserve historical memory. Everywhere in the world, people have a responsibility to be vigilant in protecting cultural heritage, and responsible authorities must organize their protection. Acts of systematic mass vandalism against our cultural heritage, which is under occupation, were repeatedly mentioned at various international forums, including UNESCO meetings. The world community has always been informed about the plundering of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan by the invaders, which is a gross violation of the provisions of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1970 Paris Convention on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property. Unfortunately, here we saw serious gaps in the mechanisms of practical control over the implementation of the relevant conventions.
I would also like to note that the Ministry of Culture has sent an official appeal to the leadership of UNESCO, ISESCO, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and other leading world organizations specializing in culture in connection with the military aggression that began on September 27. The Ministry regularly informs the relevant world organizations about the ongoing aggression, encourages them to adequately assess the events and take measures at the international level.
At the same time, the Ministry of Culture through the website and social networks launched a campaign called "Karabakh is the cradle of our culture" and brings to the attention of the general public the facts about the intentional destruction of our cultural and historical monuments by the occupiers in the occupied territories.
- What are the data on the number of destroyed monuments of history and culture in the occupied lands of Azerbaijan for the whole time?
- To date, 2625 immovable monuments of history and culture have been registered in the occupied territories, of which only 706 are taken under state protection in accordance with the Decree No. 132 of August 2, 2001 approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On approval of the distribution of immovable monuments of history and culture, protection on the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, according to the degree of their importance. "
Alas, hundreds of cultural institutions of Karabakh rich in monuments have become victims of vandalism, including 927 libraries with 4.6 million books, 808 palaces of culture, clubs and houses of culture, 85 music and art schools, 22 museums and branches of museums with more than 100 thousand exhibits. , 4 art galleries, 4 theaters, 2 concert halls, 8 parks of culture and recreation, more than 700 historical and cultural monuments registered before the Karabakh conflict. Among such monuments are the Khudaferin bridges in 11 and 15 spans in the Jebrail region (VII-XII centuries), the Ganjasar and Khudavand temples (XIII century) in the Kelbajar region, the mausoleum (XIV century) in the Khachin village, Turbatli, in the Agdam region, one of the most ancient settlements people in the world in Fizuli region - Azikh cave, Shusha state historical and architectural reserve.
- In recent days, Armenia has been trying to convince the whole world that targeted attacks were made on the church in Shusha. What is behind these statements?
- You have touched upon a very important point. Behind this provocation of Armenia is obvious the intention to portray Azerbaijan as a radical country and to attract attention and support from the Christian world. The world community knows that for many years Azerbaijan has been the most active defender of values such as dialogue, multiculturalism and tolerance, not only within the country, but also at the global level.
Azerbaijan takes an active part in the restoration of many monuments of world importance. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation, headed by the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva, has restored hundreds of monuments in Azerbaijan and implemented important projects in this direction abroad. The Foundation participated in the restoration of the Louvre Museum in Paris, the catacombs of St. Marcellino and Pietro in the Vatican, the ancient Trapezitsa castle in Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria, the Notre Dame Church in the center of Strasbourg, the Capitol in Rome and other world famous monuments.
In his report to the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in September 2017, entitled "Promoting a culture of peace, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and cooperation for the benefit of peace", UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres highlighted the "Baku process" initiated by President Ilham Aliyev and has been successfully implemented since 2008. Thus, the contribution of Azerbaijan, which since ancient times has served as a bridge between civilizations, to intercultural dialogue at this stage should be considered as an international phenomenon.
The World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, organized every two years by Azerbaijan in cooperation with the UN, the Council of Europe and the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture, is included in the Action Plan for the Protection of Religious Monuments, prepared at the initiative of the UN Secretary General, and approved as one of the key global platforms for promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
Regularly holding events such as the Summit of World Religious Leaders and the Baku International Humanitarian Forum in our country demonstrates Azerbaijan's commitment to the development of interreligious and intercultural relations. Azerbaijan is a natural platform in this area, because there have never been ethnic and religious conflicts in our multinational country. The policy of multiculturalism and tolerance of our state is being successfully implemented and is considered exemplary, as it is based on the social structure of Azerbaijani society. Despite the fact that Azerbaijan is a secular state, religious confessions have never been left without the attention and care of the authorities. Along with mosques, the state is repairing and restoring churches and synagogues, new temples are being built. President Ilham Aliyev annually allocates funds to support the activities of religious confessions. It is no coincidence that the Baku International Center for Multiculturalism was established in our country to coordinate national and religious relations on the initiative of the President of Azerbaijan. Today the subject "Azerbaijani multiculturalism" is taught in many countries of the world.
In turn, the basis of the state policy of Armenia in the field of culture and history is a program to perpetuate the memory of such people as the Nazi accomplice Garegin Nzhdeh, who took a direct part in the most horrible crimes against humanity in the XX century - today they are regarded in Armenia as heroes ... Another serious goal of the Armenian authorities in this area is to consign to oblivion the cultural originality of the cradle of Karabakh culture and one of the main spiritual and ideological centers of Azerbaijani culture - Shusha. It is known that since 1977 Shusha has been declared a historical and architectural reserve of Azerbaijan. Unique architectural ensembles, mosques, fountains, house-museums, monuments to outstanding cultural figures and other monuments in this city make Shusha a real pearl of Azerbaijan. Unable to come to terms with this fact, the Armenian leadership is always looking for an opportunity to encroach on the rich heritage of Shusha.
- How will the restoration of numerous historical and cultural sites located in the Jebrail region and on the territory of other recently liberated settlements be carried out?
- As you know, to destroy a nation, it is not enough to occupy its lands and commit bloody massacres of the population: if the culture of this people continues to live, the nation will surely come to its senses and demand its rights. The occupation regime, well aware of this historical pattern, is pursuing a policy of ruthless aggression against our tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Of course, our ministry is preparing a special action plan to revive the cultural environment in the liberated territories. At the initial stage of this process, an assessment of the state of the monuments that have been subjected to aggression for 30 years will be carried out, and work will be carried out on their restoration and conservation with the participation of relevant specialists.
Under no circumstances the fate of the monuments of Yerevan and Zangezur, completely destroyed, should not befall the Karabakh monuments. We are confident that as a result of the political will of the President, the brilliant victory of our army and the unshakable unity of the Azerbaijani people, all terrorist elements will be finally driven out of these lands and Karabakh will regain its reputation as a center of peace, love and high culture.
We will definitely restore the Khudaferin bridges, these masterpieces of medieval architecture. We will revive the spirit of the city of Shusha! We will return this historic city to its former glory. House-museums of Khurshudbanu Natavan, Bulbul, Uzeyir Hajibeyli, the mausoleum of Molla Panakh Vagif and other significant monuments of culture and history of Shusha will definitely be restored.