Upper (Yukhari) Govhar Aga Mosque: Victim of Armenian Vandalism



Victims of Armenian aggression,ongoing for over thirty years, are not solely Azerbaijani citizens – both military and civilians, but also cultural monuments, holy places and temples, which trace back thousand years ago. Thus, the whole process of separation of Nagorno-Karabakh from the Azerbaijan in favor of Armenia, formally started on 20 February 1988 when Armenian invaded Azerbaijani territory. As a result of Armenian aggression, 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territory have been occupied. Today, it is almost impossible to specify the total number of our religious-cultural monuments that have been vandalized or destroyed as a result of Armenia’s policies of eradicating Azerbaijani cultural heritage in the Nagorno-Karabakh territories occupied by Armenia.

The total length of the border of Azerbaijan is 2657,1 km. Azerbaijan`s land borders are with Russia (390km), Georgia (480km), Iran (765km), Armenia (1007km) and Turkey (15km) and share maritime borders with Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Russia via Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan has a total land area of approximately 86,600km2 in which 20 per cent of it has been occupied by Armenian troop. Although the resolutions (822, 853, 874 and 884) of the UN Security Council which demand unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troop from the invaded territories of Azerbaijan, Armenian authority remains faithful to their aggressive policy on Azerbaijan.

Armenian government took measures to ensure that detailed information about these acts of destruction never reached to the mainstream press through aggressive lobbying. Thus, Armenian diaspora of over a million people has been organized in the west before the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict started. All the works regarding manipulation of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan have done through the media outlets the Armenian diaspora sponsored in a planned manner. For example, “Asbarez”, “Armenian Weekly” and “Massis Post” are Armenian newspapers published in USA. Also, Armenian diaspora in USA can influence to the liberal media outlets while they are working for “Los Angeles Times”, “Washington Post” and “New York Times”. For that reason, Azerbaijani realities and aggression of Armenia have not been disclosed by the western media.

Another obstacle in reaching the international mainstream media on the occupation issue are the double standards of the western media toward Azerbaijan. Despite the fact that Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Azerbaijan has made statements on situation in the occupied territories during his visit to Europe and West, Western press has not covered them nor the fact-finding mission which released facts about the illegal settlements, instruction or renovation works of historical-religious monuments in the occupied territories.

There are historical-religious monuments as determined by the State Committee on Religious Associations in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan are amounted to 403, 67 of which are mosques, 144 are temples and 192 are sanctuaries. The list of historical-religious monuments in the occupied lands were extracted from the book titled StatePreservation of Immovable Historical and CulturalProperties in the Territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The book published by the order dated August 2, 2001, number 132 of Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan together with Academy of National Science.

Vandalism acts by Armenia’s government conducted against our historical and religious monuments have been multidirectional. The monuments reflecting ancient history, national and religious traditions are completely destroyed. One of the victims is “Upper (Yukhari)Govhar aga” mosque. The scripts (translation of the script: Historical and Cultural Monument, “Upper Govhar aga” mosque, 1883, preserved by the state) in Azerbaijani language were engraved on a board in the yard of “Upper Govhar aga” mosque located in Shusha has been deliberately replaced to the new one with scripts in Armenian language. As result of replacement of the board, the following words “Historical and Cultural Monument, Upper mosque, 1883, protected by State” have been written on the board having omitted the name of “Govhar aga” (See picture below).

During the occupation of Shusha city- located in the western part of Azerbaijan- by the Armenian armed forces in 1992, the minarets of “Upper Govhar aga” mosque were destroyed. From May 8, 1992 up to the present day, this mosque remains destroyed.

The Armenian government is trying to pass it off as a Persian mosque by erasing Azerbaijani name of the place of worships (See picture). Unfortunately, Armenia’s agents of influence in Iran were complicit in providing support for these acts of falsification.

“Blue Mosque” in Iravan and “Yukhari (Upper) Govhar aga” mosque in Shusha can be examples of it. Thus, these type of “support” undermine the factual account of the “Yukhari (Upper) Govhar aga” mosque.

The “Yukhari (Upper) Govhar aga” mosque was constructed in 1883-1884 by the architect Karbalayi Safikhan Sultanhuseyn ogly Garabaghi under the order of the Govhar Aga, daughter of Ibrahinkhalil khan. There was a thatched mosque in the place of “Govhar aga” mosque built by Panahali khan. Later, the thatched mosque was replaced to the stoned mosque by Ibrahimkhalil khan in 1768.

Due to poor design of the mosque, it was replaced to the new one with twin minarets under the order of the Govhar aga. It was called “Yukhari (Upper) Govhar aga”. Later, a new second mosque named Shusha mosque –now called “Ashagi Govhar aga” was built under the order of the Govhar aga at end of the XIX century.

Shusha city has been included to the list of world heritage site by UNESCO in 2001. Also, the Armenian government has tried to “armenianize” many of them or otherwise modify them in a way that would defy their historic and national identity.

Monuments belonging to the Muslim religious identity, as well as other cultural sites under occupation are destroyed and profaned.The cattle and other animals kept in the mosques have been filmed by Western photo reporters in recent years. (See picture below).

The pictures belong to the “Agdam Juma Mosque”[1] located in the Aghdam district occupied by the Armenian troops on July 23, 1993[2]


The “Blue Mosque” (Göy Məscid) situated in the Iravan city was attacked with grenades by the Armenians in 1990, and later it was repaired by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1995 under the agreement between Iran and Armenia[3]. Since then, it has been documented as a “Persian mosque”[4]. This fact provides evidence for the way that Islamic heritage of Azerbaijan in the occupied territories has assimilated as a part of the Persian culture.

The picture was extracted from the Armenpress News Agency of Armenia[5]

In so doing, Armenian authority is making an effort to establish a fraudulent Armenian history and to assimilate Azerbaijani national heritage into Persian culture.

“ Yukhari (Upper) Govhar aga Mosque” after the occupation of Armenian troops[6]

According to the theologians of the Abrahamic religions, destroying a monument is deemed as a big sin in all of them. However, Armenians violate dogmatic assertions of Christians by destroying God`s temple.  It is said in the Bible: “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy …” (Bible, Letters: 1 Corinthians 3:17).

Meanwhile, the Holy Koran commands: “And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in places for the worship of Allah Allah’s name should be celebrated? Whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them? It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them except in fear. For them there is nothing but disgrace in this world and in the world to come an exceeding torment.” (Quran, Al-Baqarah 2:114).

Also, the acts of vandalism committed by Armenians are incompatible with regulations by the internationally accepted Hague Convention “for the Protection of Cultural Values in the Event of Armed Conflict” 1954, European Convention on “the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage” 1992, UNESCO Convention on the “Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage” 1972.

The international community should be outraged by the crimes committed against not only Azerbaijani people, but also historic and cultural heritage, and truth itself. One fifth of the Azerbaijani territory is under occupation for almost three decades. As a result of occupation, more than one million Azerbaijani citizens have become refugees and IDPs. We, as a people of Azerbaijan demand an immediate replacement of the board hung on the “Yukhari (Upper) Govhar aga” mosque where Armenian authority tried to eradicate its historical significance. We also demand that UNESCO, OSCE and Organization of Islamic Cooperation take steps to protect Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage, and to investigate and expose these crimes against history.

Rafi Gurbanov

An expert on Intercultural Communicationand Relations

[1] Thomas de Waal., 2003. Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War. Published by New York University Press: USA. New York. (p.286)

[2] Azərbaycan Respublikasının İran İslam Respublikasındakı Baş Konsulluğunun rəsmi internet səhifəsi .2017. Available at: <http://tabriz.mfa.gov.az/news/4/3041> [Accessed on 24 August 2018]

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