Five Azerbaijani mosques and other religious sites located in and around Nagorno-Karabakh have been repaired in recent years as part of a government effort to preserve the unrecognized republic’s Islamic heritage, a senior Karabakh Armenian official said on Wednesday.
Sergey Shahverdian, the head of Karabakh’s tourism department, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the government in Stepanakert has spent 30 million drams ($83,000) for that purpose since 2008 and plans to finance more restoration work next year.
“All the cultural heritage preserved in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is the property of the Karabakh people,” said Shahverdian. “Accordingly, in restoring monuments, we don’t differentiate with Armenian and Muslim architectural sites.”
In his words, two of the three Shia mosques as well as an Islamic “madrasa” building mostly repaired by the Karabakh authorities are located in Shushi, the disputed region’s second most important town. It was mostly populated by Azerbaijanis before being captured by Karbakh Armenian forces in 1992.
Shahverdian added that the repairs there were also sponsored Arshbishop Pargev Martirosian, the Shushi-based head of the Artsakh (Karabakh) diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church. But he gave no details of that assistance.
Town residents, many of them former Armenian refugees from Baku and other parts of Azerbaijan, seemed divided in their assessment of the restoration effort. “I agree so long as they remain only historial monuments,” one woman told RFE/RL.
“If the Azerbaijanis destroyed our cemeteries and churches, why are we restoring their mosques?” said another.
Also repaired was a mosque in Aghdam, an Azerbaijani town that has been under Karabakh Armenian control since 1993. It is one of the town’s few structures that were not destroyed during and after the Armenian-Azerbaijani war.