Washington, D.C. – Today, the Armenian Assembly of America strongly condemned the shelling of a centuries-old church in Nagorno-Karabakh and urged the international community to take action to end the carnage and save lives.
“The continuing Azerbaijani and Turkish destruction of churches is further proof that, in addition to sanctioning Turkey, the United States needs to apply the plain language of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act to stop funding this behavior with taxpayer dollars and sanction Turkey,” said Armenian Assembly Board Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian. “This attack belies their claims of religious tolerance.”
If there are any lingering questions about what exactly the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is about, they were dispelled this morning when Azerbaijan deliberately struck the Holy Savior Armenian Cathedral of Shushi. The church, which is clearly visible upon a hilltop, cannot possibly have been mistaken for a military target.
Azerbaijan is striving in every fashion to turn the struggle of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh into a religious conflict. Armenians know the true meaning of jihad. They survived its atrocities in the genocide of 1915 at the cost of 1.5 million lives. Nor can the strike upon the cathedral be dismissed as an accident. When the medieval Armenian cemetery of Julfa (located in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan), famed for its thousands of artfully carved cross-stones, was plowed under by Azerbaijani authorities in 2005, there was no shooting or shelling occurring anywhere. It was a deliberate act of vandalism against religious objects at a remote and isolated location of no strategic value.
The shelling of the cathedral of Shushi should also be viewed in the pattern of Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to convert Byzantine Greek cathedrals that had for decades been open for decades to the public as museums into mosques for Islamic worship. The misuse and damage of Christian edifices remains a continuing problem across the entire region.
“We call upon the international community, religious leaders and all people of good will to condemn this egregious attack and to help stop the violence,” stated Assembly Executive Bryan Ardouny. “Now is the time for good people to act and help save lives. Contact your elected officials and make your concerns known,” Ardouny added.
Further, there is no longer any dispute that, in recent weeks Turkey, actively transported jihadists from Syria and Libya to Azerbaijan, in order to give the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh a religious overtone. Nor is there any doubt about the atrocious conduct of the jihadists that Turkey sponsors whether in northern Syria, Libya, or or other troubled spots across the Middle East and North Africa.
The Holy Savior Armenian Cathedral of Shushi has been damaged more than once in the course of the past century. Again and again, Azerbaijanis have targeted this place of worship. The latest shelling follows the incessant strikes of civilian-populated areas, including schools and kindergartens, by Azerbaijani forces seeking to drive out the local Armenian population from their homeland.
After 12 days of brutal warfare, Azerbaijan, which has unleashed strike drones, ballistic missiles, and cluster bombs upon towns and cities across Nagorno-Karabakh, is only escalating the conflict and raising the stakes. With each passing day, Azerbaijan, with the full support and encouragement of Turkey – one of its primary suppliers of military hardware, including killer drones – is elevating the risks and expanding the zone and nature of the conflict. There can no longer be any doubt about Azerbaijan and Turkey’s true intentions: to write another chapter in the expulsion and deportation of the Armenian people from another portion of its historic homeland where they formed the first Christian nation on earth.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.