21 September 2022, Yerevan
In the autumn of 2020, in violation of the 1st and the 33rd Articles of the United Nations Charter on Peaceful Settlement of international disputes, the Republic of Azerbaijan unleashed a war against the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). With the support of Turkey and the involvement of Syrian mercenaries, Azerbaijan occupied an essential part of the territory of Artsakh, and on November 9th 2020, a tripartite (the Republic of Armenia, Republic of Azerbaijan, Russian Federation) Declaration on the end of hostilities was signed. However, even after that, Azerbaijan, arbitrarily violating the provisions of the mentioned statement, invaded about 50 square kilometers of the territory of the sovereign Republic of Armenia and continues to carry out new provocations against Armenia and Artsakh with the use of force. During the war, many internationally recognized crimes against humanity were recorded and, until today dozens, according to some data, more than 100 prisoners of war and civilians are tortured in inhumane conditions in the prisons of Azerbaijan.
Continuing the policy of ethnic cleansing, destruction of Armenian cultural heritage, and forced evacuation of the Artsakh Armenian population, Azerbaijan during the recent months has undertaken yet another provocation of psychological terrorism against Artsakh.
In the current situation, Azerbaijan’s policy of changing Armenian toponyms and regular actions aimed at replacing the Armenian toponyms of the Republic of Artsakh with Azerbaijani toponyms on international platforms, in particular, on “Google Maps”, “Yandex” and other websites, are vivid manifestation of Armenophobia. Depriving the settlements of Artsakh of Armenian toponyms, the authorities of Azerbaijan are trying to erase the traces of Armenianness from that region, not only in the physical domain but also in the virtual domain. It is impossible to call this policy anything other than racism.
As a result of the actions of the Azerbaijani administration after the 44-day war, the “Google Maps” Company changed the Armenian historical names of many settlements, cities, villages, and towns in Artsakh, even the name of the capital Stepanakert and the names of some streets, in the digital maps, simultaneously adding Azerbaijani names, violating the inalienable right of the local population to name their settlements in their own language.
With those actions, they grossly violated:
- Fundamentals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular the2nd and the 7thArticles of the Declaration;
- Provisions of the1st Article of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of December 16, 1966, according to which: “All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely define their political status and freely ensure their economic, social and cultural development“;
- The 1stArticleof the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of December 21, 1965, according to which “racial discrimination” shall mean “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”;
- The 14thArticle of the European Convention on Human Rights of November 4, 1950, according to which: “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or another opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or another status“.
The Aliyev dictatorship, by rejecting the inalienable right of self-determination of the Armenian population of Artsakh, strives to destroy the democracy of Artsakh by all possible means. The removal of Armenian toponyms from digital maps is one of the means to achieve that criminal goal, where the “Google Maps” Company acted as a tool for the implementation of that Armenophobical operation. The changesof the Armenian toponyms of Artsakh are impermissible and illegal interventions, which grossly violate the rights of self-determination, identity, cultural heritage preservation and development of the Armenian population of Artsakh and insult the dignity of the local Armenian population.
The authorities of Artsakh, in particular, the Human Rights Defender Mr.Gegham Stepanyan have officially warned the “Google Maps” Company about the inadmissibility of making such changes months ago, explaining the Illegality of Azerbaijan’s demands and urging them to refrain from fulfilling them.
Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Armenian National Platform:
•Condemns the illegal, racist actions of the Republic of Azerbaijan against the Armenian population of Artsakh and notices that the criminal administration of that country has a recorded experience of influencing international political processes through corrupt means;
• Urges the “Google Maps” Company to immediately remove the illegally added Azerbaijani toponyms from the digital maps of Artsakh and restore all Armenian toponyms of the Artsakh Republic, as well as, taking into account the complexity of the situation, freeze the automated systems for editing them until the legal status of the Artsakh Republic is determined with the support of the OSCE Minsk Group.