Davit Babayan, the Karabakh foreign minister, claimed that their tombstones are being smashed and used in the ongoing construction of a new highway passing through the Azerbaijani-controlled Hadrut district.
“According to some reports, cemeteries in Hadrut villages are destroyed en masse and their tombstones used for road construction. This is barbarism,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Babayan said Baku is seeking to erase all traces of centuries-old Armenian presence in Hadrut whose ethnic Armenian residents fled their homes during the fighting.
Gegham Stepanian, Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman, said fresh satellite images show that the graveyard of the Hadrut village of Mets Tagher has been “wiped out” by Azerbaijani authorities.
“We can also see similar barbarism in the cemeteries of several other local communities whose tombstones are used as construction materials in the roadwork,” he said.
Azerbaijani forces also control part of the village of Taghavard in Karabakh’s southeastern Martuni district, including the local cemetery. The village chief, Oleg Harutiunian, said that it is also being destroyed.
The Azerbaijani government has not yet commented on the allegations.
Baku was accused last week of vandalizing Karabakh’s largest Armenian church located in the town of Shushi (Shusha) also occupied by the Azerbaijani army during the war.
Photographs taken from nearby hills showed the Holy Savior Cathedral stripped of its conical dome and cross attached to it. Armenia said this was done for “depriving the Shushi Cathedral of its Armenian identity.”
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry denied that, saying that Azerbaijani authorities are simply renovating the church damaged during the war.