US Ambassador Denied Access To Destroyed Cemetery In Azerbaijan

April 21, 2011

Ex-Soviet Azerbaijan has again denied international access to the site where the world’s largest medieval Armenian cemetery, Djulfa, existed until 2005.

“On his first official trip outside Baku in his current position,” informs the US Embassy, “Ambassador [Matthew] Bryza sought to travel to Djulfa to investigate the cemetery where Armenian Khachkars were reportedly destroyed in 2005, an act that has prompted protests by the European Parliament, international archaeological bodies, and civil society organizations.” The ambassador’s request to visit Djulfa was denied.

Despite video and satellite evidence of the deliberate destruction of the sacred graveyard, Azerbaijan maintains that ancient Armenian khachkars – intricately carved burial monuments, were not destroyed or that they didn’t exist in the first place.

The craftsmanship of Armenian khachkars is a UNESCO intangible heritage tradition. The largest assemblage of khachkars was at Djulfa, an area now part of Azerbaijan. Every single Djulfa khachkar was reduced to dust in December 2005 to purge the symbol and proof of ancient Armenian heritage there.  My Cultural Oppression in Azerbaijan blog series discussed the scope of this human rights violation in Azerbaijan.