The General Secretaries of the National Commissions for UNESCO of 14 African countries visited occupied Shushi

UNESCO, as a supranational organization with a core United Nations mandate for the protection of cultural heritage, has National Commissions in all Member States (see the full list of National Commissions here).

Representatives of National Commissions for UNESCO from 14 African countries (Cameroon, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Mozambique, Kenya, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Uganda, Sierra Leone and South Africa) on September 24 visited the cities of Shushi and Fizuli at the invitation of the National Commission of Azerbaijan for UNESCO. It should be added that their arrival was organized by the Institute of Development and Diplomacy, the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy (ADA University) jointly with the National Commission of Azerbaijan for UNESCO.

The program started on September 24, 2022 and had educational and informational goals. The trainings were carried out by the Azerbaijan ADA University’s Training Program with the aim of developing cooperation relations between Azerbaijan and African countries within the framework of UNESCO, raising awareness about Azerbaijan in the region, as well as implementing programs to restore cultural values ​​in the "lands liberated from the Armenian occupation".

At the opening ceremony held on September 26, the Secretary General of the National Commission of Azerbaijan for UNESCO Seymur Fataliyev, told that Azerbaijan's membership in UNESCO has a 30-year history, and that during the years of membership, their country has played an important role in promoting the principles and values ​​of the organization. The Director of Specialization Programs of the Institute for Development and Diplomacy Nargiz Ismayilova made a presentation and noted that within the framework of the program ending on October 8, the participants will visit the places of Azerbaijani architecture included in the World Cultural Heritage List, as well as the liberated cities of Shushi (included in the provisional UNESCO World Heritage List) and Fizuli.

The group of General Secretaries of the National Commissions for UNESCO from 14 African countries visited Fuzuli for the first time and the “monuments destroyed during the Armenian occupation” located there. Representatives of 14 African countries noted that the mosque in Merdinli village of Fizuli region, created a general impression of acts of vandalism committed against cultural monuments in the occupied territories. Then the guests visited a number of historical and cultural monuments of Shushi, “the cultural capital of Azerbaijan", among which were the busts of Khurshidbanu Natavan, Uzeyir Hajibeyli and Bulbul.

The participants of the program assessed the restoration of the city that suffered from destruction for 30 years as a historical event and expressed their desire to conduct a wide propaganda of the realities they saw in Azerbaijan. The stuff of the Department of the State Reserve of Shushi drew the attention of the guests to the fact that, according to the order signed by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, 2022 was declared the “Year of the City of Shusha” in Azerbaijan to celebrate the 270th anniversary of the city.

Our response

The attempt of presenting Shushi as a city created by the Azerbaijani people, as well as the spread of disinformation within the international community, is another manifestation of the state policy of hatred against Armenians constantly implemented by Azerbaijan. Such a course of action violates the right of the Armenian community (and, in particular, the Armenian community of Shushi) to culture, from which it was forcibly torn away in connection with the deportation and the ban on living its cultural and creative life.

Cultural heritage rights are an integral part of the right to take part in cultural life as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage to Society, Article 1) and everyone, individually or collectively, has the right to enjoy cultural heritage and contribute to its enrichment, and is also obliged to respect the cultural heritage of others as one's own (Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage to Society, art. 4).

In this context, it is obvious that Azerbaijan, destroying and misappropriating the cultural heritage of an entire community, depriving it of the right to live and create in accordance with its own identity, now wants to record the act of appropriation at the international level, violating the fundamental cultural rights of the Armenian community, as defined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration human rights.

The announcement of the historical city of Shushi, which was also an important center of Armenian culture, as a city created by the Azerbaijani community, clearly violates the fundamental principles of the historicity of the city, its authenticity and integrity, arising from the Nara Document on the Authenticity of Cultural Heritage, adopted in Japan in 1994 ( ), as well as from the document adopted by ICOMOS in New Delhi in 2017 ( -new-delhi-document-2017.pdf ). The Nara Document on the Preservation of the Principles of Authenticity states that in cases where cultural values appear to be in conflict, respect for cultural diversity demands acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the cultural values.