The Armenian servicemen defended the positions of Mekhakavan (Jabrayil) with weapons and songs. The church of Jrakan was the spiritual trench of the soldiers.
“The Jabrayil Church was of great importance to all servicemen. We always went up to church, prayed, sang,” Narek Khachatryan, student at the Yerevan State Conservatory after Komitas, says.
This is one of the last hymns sung in the church before the Azerbaijani vandalism
. Narek sang it with his comrade-in-arms, opera singer Gagik Khachaturyan, who died in the war.
“The church was of exceptional importance in terms of geographical location: Islamic states were in 10 km to the south, 20 km to the east. And the Islamic world began to stretch for thousands of kilometers. It was the first Christian church when viewed from the Islamic world, and the last Christian church when viewed from our side,” Deacon Loris Andreasyan, pastor at Armed forces of Armenia, says.
Azerbaijan has been rejecting ‘Cultural ceasefire’ since the first day of the war, moreover, it is trying to destroy and desecrate Armenian monuments, distort historical facts, erase Armenian traces at the highest level.
“Since the First Artsakh War, since our movement, we always said that our challenges are not spiritual, they are not religious, but we see that for them it is not only religious but they also feel hatred towards the cross, religion, the Light. They avoid and are afraid of the cross,” Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamyan, Primate of the Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, says.
Recently the savage hand of Azerbaijan has reached the churches of Mekhakavan, Mataghis, the monument to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, the Patriotic and Artsakh wars in Shushi. Aliyev tried to distort the history of the Armenian church in Tsakur.
Many monuments were moved to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin to save the rich cultural heritage of Artsakh from Azerbaijani vandalism. Soldiers fighting in the war saved some valuable pieces. The famous ‘khachkars’ (cross stones) from Dadivank were moved to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin with the hope and faith of their return.
The issue of preserving Armenian culture is in the diplomatic field. Yerevan presented the issue to international partners. Everyone welcomed the UNESCO proposal to send an observation mission in November 2020, whereas Azerbaijan did not respond for a long time. Instead, an anti-UNESCO campaign launched in the country, and Baku accused the organization of being biased.
“Today we have a situation where there is a consensus minus one. A UNESCO mission was supposed to be sent to Nagorno-Karabakh in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Armed Conflicts adopted in 1954. However, Azerbaijan is again politicizing it, again preconditions, artificial difficulties, starting from where to visit, distortion of the names of shrines, again Azerbaijan is not honestly involved in the process,” says Arman Khachatryan, Head of the Department of Multilateral Policy and Development Cooperation of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Secretary General of the Armenian National Commission for UNESCO.
The goal of the UNESCO mission is to protect the endangered Armenian heritage and to establish additional international monitoring. Azerbaijan should allow, if not the Armenian side, at least international experts to visit and register the monuments.
“A church cannot be an illegal structure, it is a place of prayer, it is a sanctuary, if it is demolished, and it disappears, saying it is illegal then it is a matter of values. Yes, in all directions, it is one of the elements of the agenda, there will be a session of the executive council, we will raise the issue,” Arman Khachatryan says.
Armenia has submitted the facts of destruction, desecration and distortion of historical and cultural monuments in Artsakh to the European Court with an interstate complaint. The Armenian side included it in the interstate complaint, presented it as an expression of anti-Armenianism.
“On September 27, when we applied for an interim measure, not to target any civilian object, including historical and cultural objects, the European Court upheld our application. It is still in force at the moment, that is, the measure has not been abolished,” says Liparit Drmeyan, Head of the ECHR Representative Office in Armenia.
“I dream of seeing that church restored again,” says Narek Khachatryan.
Narek Khachatryan considers these Azerbaijani aggressions a torture of faith. Azerbaijan is trying to erase what is impossible to erase. And now he sings instead of his dead friends, too.