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USCIRF Names Azerbaijan a ‘Country of Particular Concern’

Many observers have seen the recent conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia as a revival of the dark days of the Armenian Genocide of the early twentieth century, when the Ottoman government pursued the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, mostly Ottoman citizens within the Ottoman Empire and its successor state, the Republic of Turkey, as well as over 1,000,000 Greek Orthodox Christians and 300,000 Assyrian Christians. The similarity between the Armenian Genocide and recent events was also evidenced in Azerbaijan’s targeting of churches

For more coverage of the persecution of Christians in Azerbaijan, see here.

“USCIRF Names Azerbaijan a ‘Country of Particular Concern,’” International Christian Concern, May 8, 2024:

5/8/2024 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) recently added Azerbaijan to its Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) recommendation list. Countries featured on the CPC recommendation list are the most serious violators of religious freedom.

“USCIRF documented a significant and alarming increase in the number of prisoners arrested on the basis of religion or belief in Azerbaijan in the year,” said USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck at the launch event of the Commission’s annual report. “In addition, authorities are regularly accused of torturing or threatening sexual violence to illicit false confessions from detainees with those perpetrating such violence facing no accountability.”

Azerbaijan, a small dictatorship situated between Russia and Iran, has a long track record of persecuting religious minorities, especially ethnic Armenian Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses. And while most of the population is Muslim, even Islamic worship is tightly controlled by the authoritarian government.

The regime, led by President Ilham Aliyev, has spent years inciting public hatred for the region’s ancient community of Armenian Christians. President Aliyev acted on this hatred when the Azerbaijani military first blockaded and then forcibly took over the Armenian-majority district of Nagorno-Karabakh (also called Artsakh) in September 2023. About 120,000 ethnic Armenians fled their homes to neighboring Armenia over fears of genocide.

Since September, Caucus Heritage Watch has documented Azerbaijan’s campaign of ethnic cleansing of the region as the military has systematically defaced and completely removed numerous Christian structures and monuments, some of them dating back to the Middle Ages….

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