09/10/2021 Nagorno-Karabakh (International Christian Concern) – Though a ceasefire was signed 10 months ago after a 44-day war, Azerbaijan continues to persecute Armenians, particularly Prisoners of War (POWs). Two Armenian POWs were released on September 7 by Azerbaijan after the soldiers went missing near the border in July. In exchange, Armenia released an Azerbaijani serviceman who was arrested in Nagorno-Karabakh at the end of August.
Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan spoke at a press conference regarding the POW exchange, commented on the brutality of the Azerbaijani military against the Armenians held captive. Ombudsman Tatoyan specifically mentioned the religious freedom violations committed when the crosses of Armenians were taken away forcefully. They attempted to coerce them away from their Armenian heritage by making anti-Armenian and pro-Azeri comments.
Tatoyan also outlined the harsh physical and psychological torture they endured, including the withholding of food and medical care. There were reports of food being tossed on the ground to be eaten or Armenian POWs only having 10 seconds to eat before the rest would be thrown away. Azerbaijani servicemen also would press on wounds until prisoners begged for food or medical care and in some instances, the POWs then faced humiliation in public hospitals. In a particularly gruesome case, one POW was stripped naked and had servicemen pour boiling water on his body and was subsequently beaten, leaving him unable to walk for 21 days.
In addition to threatening the bodily safety of Armenians, Azerbaijan also threatens the countries heritage and Christian values. According to Caucasus Heritage Watch, more than a dozen Armenian churches, cemeteries, cross-stones (Armenian: khachkars), and other cultural sites have been destroyed, damaged, or threatened by Azerbaijan. The majority of the incidents occurred after the ceasefire and take place on land previously inhabited by Armenians before the war. Sushi and its surrounding area and the southern portion of Nagorno-Karabakh have suffered the majority of desecration. Particularly in the south where new roads are being established, Armenian cemeteries are threatened.