Appeal by the leaders of Azerbaijan's religious confessions on the 30th Anniversary of Khojaly Genocide

to the World's Religious Leaders,
International Organizations,
the Parliaments and the World Community.

In The Name of The Great Creator!

We, the leaders of religious denominations in Azerbaijan, address the World Community on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Khojaly genocide, one of the bloodiest tragedies of the XX century and one of the gravest war crimes against Humanity.

The Khojaly genocide is one of the worst war crimes committed by Armenian military against the Azerbaijani civilian population during Armenia's military aggression against Azerbaijan. A few days before that massacre, on February 17, 1992, Armenian armed forces massacred local Azerbaijani population in Garadagli village of Khojavend region of Azerbaijan, then extended their crimes with unprecedented brutality, and committed genocide in Khojaly with the involvement of the 366th Motorized Rifle Regiment of the former Soviet Army. As a result of the ongoing massacres with the use of heavy military equipment, the city of Khojaly was completely destroyed, 613 Azerbaijanis, including 63 children, 106 women, and 70 elderly people, were brutally killed because of their ethnic identity. With unimaginable cruelty, 8 families were completely annihilated, 25 children lost both parents, and 130 children lost one of their parents. Frenzied soldiery skinned people's heads, cut off parts of their bodies, gouged out the eyes of babies, rip open bellies of pregnant women, buried or burned people alive, and laid mined under some of the dead bodies. Even the civilian population, who tried to escape barefoot in the frosty weather, was not spared, they were persecuted and killed on the roads and in the forests by Armenian military with extreme cruelty. As a result of this inhuman crime, 487 peaceful civilians were seriously injured, 1275 people were taken hostage and subjected to horrific tortures, the corpses were subjected to inhuman affront and outrage. The destiny of 150 hostages, including 68 women and 26 children, is still unknown.

We reiterate to the world community that as a result of Armenia's baseless territorial claims and aggressive policy, 20% of the internationally recognized territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan were occupied for nearly 30 years, the ethnic cleansing, physical and moral terror were carried out against the Azerbaijani people. Humans were expelled from their ancestral lands in Armenia and the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and became refugees and internally displaced persons, their human rights were grossly violated, hundreds of cities and villages, the ancient and rich cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people were destroyed and looted.

Starting from the summer of 2020, Armenia launched another military provocation against Azerbaijan and tried to expand the occupied territories using heavy artillery against various regions of Azerbaijan, peaceful population, and civilian infrastructure under the motto "a new war for new lands." Continuing its war crimes and acts of vandalism, the aggressive Armenian regime launched fire using heavy artillery, banned ballistic missiles, phosphorous and cluster bombs on our settlements situating on both the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and far from the zone of military operations, including large cities as Ganja, Barda, Tartar, Mingachevir, and Gabala. In the sacred Patriotic War, which began in response to the next military provocations of Armenia, Azerbaijan liberated its ancestral lands from the 30-years-long occupation, regained its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and restored the historic justice, in accordance with the International law, UN Security Council Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884.

We bring to the attention of the world community that Armenia, along with its policy of occupation, ethnic cleansing and genocide, has committed during the 30 years of occupation spiritual aggression and genocide against the religious, cultural and historical heritage of Azerbaijan. Muslim and other religious temples in those areas, including Russian Orthodox churches, cultural and historical monuments, and cemeteries, were subjected to Armenian vandalism for many years; Ancient Albanian Christian churches were attempted to be Armenianized. Armenia, which completely destroyed 65 of the 67 mosques in the region, turned mosques into barns, even insulted them by keeping there animals forbidden in Islam, did not hesitate to insult the dignity of the entire Islamic world. Erstwhile developed, large and prosperous Azerbaijani cities of Aghdam, Fizuli, Jabrayil and others, hundreds of villages and settlements were destroyed by Armenia, the existed infrastructure was completely destroyed. At present, foreign guests visiting the country on an observation mission call these places the “Caucasian Hiroshima”, the “City of Spirits”. In the occupied territories, an unprecedented policy of "burnt lands" was applied.

Despite the end of the war and the aggression, innocent people are still being killed in the liberated lands, because Armenia aggressors planted hundreds of thousands of mines both during the 30-year occupation and when leaving Azerbaijan. In blatant disregard for international law and humanitarian principles, Armenia avoids providing mine maps or presents false maps that do not correspond to reality. After the war, Armenian religious leaders issue revanchist statements, calling on their people not to peace that is so necessary for the region, but to a new war. Appealing to the international institutions and religious organizations, political and religious circles of Armenia are spreading false and defamatory information about the alleged destruction of Christian monuments in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan, trying to hide the real truth in order to divert attention from Armenian vandalism in Karabakh.

We, the leaders of religious denominations, declare that the religion-state relations in Azerbaijan, where we operate, are being regulated at a high level, and all the religions enjoy equal rights provided by the state. According to the orders of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev and the personal participation and patronage of the First Vice-President Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, the revival and reconstruction process of Karabakh has been started, including the restoration of the rich cultural and historical heritage destroyed by Armenia, and the restoration and protection of the Muslim and Christian temples have begun as well.

We invite international and religious organizations and religious figures to Azerbaijan to get acquainted here with the real situation in the liberated territories, as well as the exemplary environment of tolerance and multiculturalism in the country. We hope that the relevant international organizations and specialized institutions, by seeing with their own eyes the acts of vandalism committed by Armenia against the historical, cultural and religious monuments of Azerbaijan in the liberated territories, will properly assess these inhumane acts and present the objective reality to the international community.

We regret to note, that behind the lack of timeous legal and political assessment of mass violence, extremism and terrorist crimes in the world there are double standards of some policymakers, religious figures, states and organizations, as well as dangerous tendencies such as religious and racial discrimination. It is our human duty to the souls of the martyrs to inform the world community about Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan and its consequences, the truth about Armenian vandalism committed in the occupied territories in all its scale and horror, especially achieve the recognition of the Khojaly massacre as a genocide. Reiterating to this end, we call on the world's religious leaders, the parliaments, the UN and other international organizations for a fair and objective legal and political assessment of the Khojaly genocide in the same way it was given to the Holocaust, Khatyn, Srebrenica and other crimes against Humanity.

The religious denominations in Azerbaijan declare their support for the end of any military aggression, calls for war and hatred, religious and ethnic intolerance, revanchism in our region, for the establishment of good neighborship, peace and tranquility between states and peoples. Once again, we call on the World's Religious Leaders, International Organizations, the Parliaments and the World Community to mobilize for these high aims and especially call on the Armenian Apostolic Church to promote human values, ideals of peace and reconciliation.

May the Almighty Creator bless us all for good deeds and justice! AMEN!

Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur PASHAZADEH,
Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims' Board

Archmandrite ALEKSIY,
Secretary of Baku and Azerbaijan Diocese
of the Russian Orthodox Church

Head of the community of Mountain Jews in Azerbaijan

Robert MOBILI,
Chairman of the Albanian-Udi Christian religious community in Azerbaijan

Aleksandr SHAROVSKI,
Head of the community of European Jews in Azerbaijan

Baku, February 22, 2022

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