The Azerbaijani culture minister said Thursday that Armenia should be put on trial and pay compensation for damaging 95% of Azerbaijani historical, cultural monuments during its occupation in Karabakh and nearby provinces.
Anar Karimov spoke to Anadolu Agency about the extent of damage inflicted by Armenia on the region and how Azerbaijan endeavored to fix the destruction.
"Armenia must bear responsibility for the crimes committed against the people, state, culture, history of Azerbaijan," he said.
Karimov said local infrastructure, cultural and historical monuments and even graveyards were damaged and those actions amounted to crimes against humanity.
He said that Armenia adopted "ethnic" and "cultural" cleansing policies against Azerbaijan for 30 years, seeking to erase traces of Azerbaijanis by systematically destroying its cultural and historical presence.
"There were once 706 cultural and historical monuments registered with the state," he said, referring to occupied territories. "We have found that 95% of these monuments have been destroyed."
"They demolished buildings but left mosques alone. (Then) they kept pigs in our mosques with an intentional bid to humiliate the religious feelings of the people of Azerbaijan," said Karimov. "We regard this as a disrespect not only towards Azerbaijan but also to the whole Islamic world."
Now that the occupation is over, one of the main tasks of the Azerbaijani government is to rebuild and revive, said the minister, who noted that Azerbaijan had a "Great Return" project aimed at bringing the cultural identity of the country back to the region.
While the research process led by experts is still ongoing, restoration efforts have also been launched as three mosques and two churches are undergoing restoration in Susha, according to Karimov.
"Unfortunately, the international community and organizations remained silent on this issue and did not give the response we wanted. Double standards emerged after we liberated our occupied territories," he said.
"We have seen that the Islamic cultural legacy of Azerbaijan is of less importance to them compared to that of Christian legacy," he said, adding the organizations expressed concerns about the Christian cultural legacy in Karabakh following the liberation and acted as if the damaged cultural presence of Azerbaijan was not a source of concern.
"We are saddened by this, this is a double standard, which Azerbaijan did not accept," he said.
He said that Baku was working to determine the extent of damage inflicted by Armenia and it would present its findings to international courts once the process was complete.
*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas