I am one of the few people on Earth who accept the following news with sorrow: UNESCO has listed three ancient and beautiful Armenian monasteries in the territory of Iran on its World Heritage List.
While I am happy to see Armenian culture getting appreciated and Iran’s tolerance of Armenian Christianity being noted, I hate the fact that I read more behind these simple lines than most people would:
[These churches] are the last regional remains of this culture that are still in a satisfactory state of integrity and authenticity.
One of these churches is part of the ancient Armenian city of Jugha (Djulfa), much of which today exists in the region of Nakhichevan, Republic of Azerbaijan. In September 2007, when UNESCO officials visited northern Iran to survey the Armenian monuments, they were shown a military rifle range across the border in Azerbaijan. That rifle range, until December 2005, housed the world’s largest medieval Armenian cemetery – Djulfa.
UNESCO did nothing to stop or condemn the final destruction of Djulfa. Now UNESCO lists these churches in a silent acknowledgment that the world’s largest Armenian historic site was erased, and in an indirect suggestion to forget about the tragedy.
Instead of listing these three different churches as one protected site, UNESCO should have listed the church at old Djulfa as part of a larger UNESCO site (like they did in 2003 with the Bamiyan valley after the Buddhas were destroyed in 2001) – including that rifle range which was a cemetery only a couple of years ago.