Open letter to UNESCO Director-general Audrey Azoulay

Dear Ms. Audrey Azoulay!

Let me express to you my deep respect and confirm once again that the Republic of Western Armenia (Armenia), recognizing and ratifying on March 20, 2018 the UNESCO Charter, fully accepts its provisions and goals declared by the organization – contributing to the strengthening of peace and security through increased cooperation between countries and peoples in the field of education, science and culture; ensuring justice and respect for the rule of law, universal respect for the rights and fundamental freedoms of a person, proclaimed in the UN Charter, for all peoples, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion.

With great respect to you and your work! Thanks to you, very important works are being carried out in order to preserve the cultural heritage of humanity – both tangible and intangible!

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

At the same time, I have to point out that I was deeply disappointed and surprised by the choice of country for holding 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, Baku, and which which reviewed the state of conservation of World Heritage sites and included new sites on the World Heritage List. I had a 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 above, the position of UNESCO to hold sessions and other events in countries whose governments do not prevent the destruction of cultural monuments seems unclear. More recently, the whole world mourned Palmyra and now the whole world is restoring what is still possible to recover from barbaric actions.

Unfortunately, our Armenian monuments can not be restored! They are destroyed, erased in dust!

Numerous historians and journalists confirm the conclusion that various figures in Azerbaijan are engaged in the appropriation and falsification of someone else’s historical and cultural heritage – be it symbolics, music, cuisine, applied art, architecture … and history! There is no proper legal assessment and opposition to these violations and crimes by the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Neither it is still from UNESCO.

Ms. Azoulay, you call for respect for the spirit of the World Heritage Conventions as a driving force of unity, but the leadership of the Republic of Azerbaijan neglects them. How else to explain this uncivilized attitude to the cultural heritage of other countries and peoples? No other than the desire to clear the memory of the people who once lived and built on this earth?
And as if UNESCO employees do not know about it!

I want to remind your speech made at the opening session of that heritage should never be used for purposes of dividing society or opposition of the memory of one group against the other memory. By choosing a country that destroys the cultural heritage of another nation, you involuntarily contradict yourself!

As a representative of culture and art, I am confident that the policies of countries as well as the normalization of relations between peoples and the preservation of world cultural heritage for posterity depends 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 a dialogue around the common good, also because its implementation is guided by scientific expertise that ensures its credibility.”

I believe that it would be reasonable to draw your attention to the fact that the very fact of choosing a country and holding meetings and sessions in a country where entry for ethnic Armenians is de facto impossible, regardless of their citizenship, it may lead to criminal prosecution and prison imprisonment, this deprives journalists, scholars, public figures and ordinary people, who are Armenian by origin, to take part in such meetings.

Such a strange and ill-considered choice is too obvious a direct restriction of rights and impermissible both from a legal and ethical point of view.

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

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

With respect,

Yulia Guyloyan,
Minister of Culture of the Republic of Western Armenia (Armenia)

July 22, 2019

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