A video circulating on social media this week appears to show Azerbaijani soldiers desecrating Armenian graves in Nagorno-Karabakh, adding to growing accusations of similar crimes.
The footage surfaced on Thursday amid reports by Armenian state media that Azeri armed forces have allegedly “destroyed, damaged or desecrated” several Armenian historical and cultural monuments, including “the graves of Armenian soldiers,” in the disputed region in recent days.
Uploaded to the video-sharing app TikTok and published by the Armenian news site Panorama.am, the footage appears to show two Azerbaijani soldiers kicking an Armenian headstone until it falls over. The two men are dressed in army fatigues and one carries a rifle slung across his back. The tombstone they desecrate bears the image of a cross, indicating that the gravesite is Christian. Armenia is majority Christian, while Azerbaijan is majority Muslim. Additional graves visible around the two soldiers also appear to have been damaged.
“The incident reportedly took place in Karvachar, which is known in Azeri as Kalbajar; this district was recently handed over to the Azerbaijani Armed Forces earlier this week,” Al-Masdar News reported on November 26.
The two sides agreed to a Russian-brokered peace deal on November 9 to halt fighting over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Clashes over the territory – ruled by Armenian-majority separatists since 1991 but legally belonging to Azerbaijan –began on September 27. Under the terms of the peace agreement, Armenia was forced to surrender some territory it held outside of Nagorno-Karabakh’s borders, including the western Kalbajar district where Thursday’s video footage was reportedly filmed.
A report by Armenia’s state-run Armenpress confirmed on Thursday that Azeri soldiers have recently desecrated Armenian gravesites in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, seeming to support the video’s authenticity.
“Both in the course of active military operations and after the ceasefire agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia signed on November 9, the representatives of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan has deliberately targeted Armenian historical and cultural monuments, objects of special historical or cultural value, destroying, damaging or desecrating them [sic],” the report stated.
The Office of the Prosecutor General of Armenia told the state news agency that it had received “factual information” that “during the period from September 27 to November 9, 2020, the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan, by regularly targeting artillery shells, damaged Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi city, Azerbaijan, as well as later desecrated the church with various inscriptions on exterior and interior walls.”
“Other historical and cultural monuments … [including] the monument devoted to the victims of the Great Patriotic War in the village Avetaranots, the cross-stones placed in different settlements of the Republic of Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh], the graves of Armenian soldiers and the monuments devoted to them became victim of such ‘behavior’ of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” the Armenian prosecutor general’s office added.