BY ASBED BEDROSSIAN
JULFA–Nakhichevan (ANN/Groong)–Visitors to St. Stephen’s church in northern Iran Friday confirmed that demolition of Armenian monumen’s across the river Arax in Julfa–Nakhichevan appear to have halted.
Earlier this month first-hand reports emanated from northern Iran that Armenian Khachkars–Stone Crosses–were being loaded on flatbed train cars and transported away from the old Armenian Julfa cemetery.
The news disturbed Armenia’s throughout the world and His Holiness–Catholicos of all Armenia’s Karekin I–applied to the Secretary-general of UNESCO Federico Major to stop the desecration. Armenian authorities also applied to Azerbaijan’s president–whose office denied any knowledge of the activities.
But Arpiar Petrossian–who sent the first witness reports to ANN/Groong two weeks ago–was not convinced. "The regular use of the state owned–state operated railroad makes [this] banditry–unknown to the authorities–very improbable," he said.
Varujan Arakelian–who was in the area this past week–said that the machinery and the crews which had been working at demolishing the old Julfa cemetery two weeks ago were no longer there–and there seemed to be no evidence that anyone had worked there for almost a week.
Arakelian also reported that the destruction he observed was more extensive than previously believed. He observed that many displaced stones were still on the ground–fallen. No further information could be obtained from locals.
On December 9–the BBC reported that the permanent representative of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in Baku–Hasan Zeynalov–dismissed not only concerns over the destruction of Armenian monumen’s and accused Armenia’s of fabricating these stories–but also claimed that "Armenia’s have never lived in Nakhichevan–which has been Azerbaijani land from time immemorial–and that’s why there are no Armenian cemeteries and monumen’s and have never been any."
Petrossian was nevertheless relieved at the sight of the empty cemetery. "Although it is still too early for any conclusions–the mere knowledge that for the moment there is no destruction there–is quite welcome," he said.
Arakelian will be traveling to the United States soon–and is scheduled to meet with Karekin I personally. He will present new documen’s and facts about both Julfa and the Red Monastery of Astabad. A report will also be sent to His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia.
Julfa’s cemetery is the largest Armenian cemetery known–unrivaled in the scope–variety and creative art of its Khachkars. It occupies a shoehorn shaped area of 1600 square meters extending from north to south to the river Arax. Estimates around the turn of the century put the number of Khachkars there near 10,000–all in good condition.
Nearly half of these were destroyed in 1903-1904–when the railway construction passed through there without consideration to these historical monumen’s. In the 1970s–only 2700 had survived the years.