Azerbaijanis Vandalize Statue of Stepan Shahumyan in Stepanakert
Azerbaijan persists in its state policy of cultural destruction in Artsakh even after the complete depopulation. The latest target of this campaign was the statue of Stepan Shahumyan, a significant social and political figure of the Armenian SSR (Fig. 1). In early November 2023, reports from international Telegram channels documented the toppling of the statue of Stepan Shahumyan in the occupied Stepanakert square (https://t.me/zangezuravtonomia/47400?fbclid=IwAR07pAtP6CKc_FrmbiSKSu6F-L0_wqFUPDaTZSeXe7Y654D__BNDb4nFZes).
It is worth noting that the statue had also been targeted by the Azerbaijani armed forces during the 44-day war in 2020. This is evident from the explosion that occurred one meter away from the statue in Stepanakert Square and the visible traces of bombing on the pedestal of the statue (Figs. 2, 3, 4).
The bronze statue, standing at a height of 2.5 meters, was crafted by sculptors Suren Stepanyan and Adibek Grigoryan (Fig. 5). The accompanying pedestal, measuring four meters in height, was constructed from local marble. The statue was officially unveiled on May 1, 1957 (https://www.facebook.com/107981241688057/photos/a.108127288340119/156399656846215/?type=3&locale=hi_IN).
Azerbaijan not only breached the principles of inviolability of cultural values during military operations, including military necessity, differentiation, proportionality, and prevention of harm, but also violated the provisions of the Hague, Geneva, and international humanitarian law concerning the protection of cultural values in occupied territories.