It is a well-known fact that the Armenian people has no historical roots in this region, and therefore there can be no question of the protection of the Armenian heritage in this geography. The issue of UNESCO’s position on the fate of the historical and cultural heritage of the peoples of our region is that of the tragic history of the Azerbaijani people, whose heritage has been vandalized, appropriated and destroyed in the vast territories that are now the Republic of Armenia, as well as in the territories of Azerbaijan that were occupied by Armenia for thirty years.
When Azerbaijan demanded a parallel UNESCO mission to Armenia, the neighboring country was not particularly concerned. Traces of Turkic heritage in Armenia were obliterated irrevocably a long time ago. Hardly anyone today can tell just by looking at it that the main square of the Armenian capital was once the center of a completely different city, which was razed to the ground and paved with asphalt.
Nevertheless, Azerbaijan has set to work in earnest and intends to pursue the historical truth to the triumphant end.
On July 5, a group of Azerbaijani scientists and members of the public sent an appeal to UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay concerning the cultural genocide perpetrated in Armenia against the national, cultural and historical heritage of the Azerbaijani people, in particular, against the ancient Tepebashi quarter of Yerevan. It was discussed during the presentation of the research by historian Sabuhi Huseynov, “The fate of the Tepebashi quarter, the last remaining Azerbaijani national, cultural and historical heritage in Irevan: Destruction and elimination of the historical traces of the heritage of the Azerbaijani people in Armenia”. The presentation was held at the Gulustan Palace, with a demonstration of archival and photo materials, and a viewing of a film about the cultural and historical heritage of the Azerbaijani people in Irevan.
Rizvan Huseynov, UNESCO Associate Professor, Director of the Center for the History of the Caucasus, senior researcher at the Institute of Law and Human Rights of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences:
“During the period of khanates, the city of Irevan consisted of four quarters: Gala, Sheher (Shehri), Tepebashi and Demirbulag. Tepebashi is the only partially preserved quarter of historical Irevan. We know that the historical center of today’s Yerevan was a city built in the Middle Ages by our ancestors, by Azerbaijanis. It was an oriental, Muslim city and it was completely destroyed. Only a small part of it survived—Armenians now call it Kond (distorted form of the Azerbaijani word “kend”, meaning “village”). Some old buildings and even the ruins of an old mosque remain there. However, now the Armenians have suddenly decided to “modernize” the so-called Kond by demolishing the old buildings and thus erasing the last traces of the medieval architecture of Azerbaijani Irevan.
“For this reason, a group of Azerbaijani scientists and experts carried out an enormous work, shot a film, and today we have appealed to UNESCO to save at least the remains of historical Irevan fragmentally preserved in Tepebashi. Let’s hope that the international organization will give this matter due attention and help us stop the destruction of the last vestiges of the true history of the modern Armenian capital. If it happens, there will be a chance to save, preserve and even restore the Tepebashi quarter, part of the heritage of the Azerbaijani history of Armenia and Yerevan, in its original form.”
Interestingly, the current residents of Tepebashi are not embarrassed to show the remains of the Tepebashi mosque to tourists. The local “guides” tell everyone that one can still find several old-time buildings in the quarter, although they call them Ottoman and Persian, carefully avoiding the word “Azerbaijani”. Only 1.5-meter-thick walls remain of the Tepebashi mosque today; the dome collapsed in the 1960s. In the early twentieth century, Armenian immigrants from Turkey moved into the mosque, and their descendants continue to live on the premises of the temple to this day. The Tepebashi quarter is known in history as an arena of bloodshed perpetrated by Armenians during the genocide of Azerbaijanis at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Azerbaijanis still lived in this part of Yerevan in Soviet times. Eyewitnesses say that our compatriots used to gather at the local teahouse, not far from the mosque. That teahouse is long gone, replaced with unauthorized construction. According to some information, the Tepebashi mosque was built by Abbasgulu Khan of Irevan, member of the Irevan city council and a descendant of the khan’s family. Notably, his house, also located in Tepebashi and practically destroyed, is still referred to by local Armenians as the “khan’s house”.
There were two attempts to demolish Tepebashi: one during the Soviet era and another one in the early 2000s. Reconstruction of the heavily populated area, demolition of houses and building a new district required significant funds, which Armenia did not have. Now, there is more and more talk in the neighboring country about the need to redevelop the so-called Kond. It is unlikely that the Armenian government has the money for it. There is, however, a threat of the truth about the destruction of Azerbaijani Irevan coming to light. Yerevan knows that no UNESCO mission will be allowed into Azerbaijan without a parallel monitoring mission in Armenia. The Azerbaijani side will also not allow this monitoring to be conducted in a haphazard, hasty and performative manner.
Our appeal to UNESCO about the Tepebashi quarter is the first signal to the destroyers of history that Azerbaijanis intend to fight on this front, just as on the battlefield, to the end.
Translated from Day.az