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US Adds Azerbaijan to Religious Freedom Watchlist: Concerns After Artsakh Occupation

 Monument Watch | The view of the domes from the north, photo by H. Petrosyan.
Monument Watch | The view of the domes from the north, photo by H. Petrosyan.

The United States has taken a significant step by adding Azerbaijan to its watchlist on religious freedom, expressing apprehensions regarding Christian heritage in the wake of Azerbaijan's occupation of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), an ethnic indigenous Armenian region, as reported by State Department.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, unveiling an annual index of designations, upheld all 12 countries that were on the previous year's blacklist, which includes nations such as China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

The notable adjustment came with Blinken's decision to include Azerbaijan on the watchlist. This designation implies that Azerbaijan stands at risk of joining the blacklist unless tangible improvements regarding religious freedom are observed.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom recently urged the State Department to address concerns regarding the safeguarding of Christian religious sites in Nagorno-Karabakh. The region has seen the mass exodus of nearly its entire ethnic Armenian population, estimated at 100,000 people, fleeing to Armenia.

Apart from Azerbaijan, the nations listed on this watchlist include Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam.

The move to include Azerbaijan on the watchlist shows heightened international concerns regarding the preservation of religious sites and the protection of religious freedom in regions affected by geopolitical conflicts. This decision by the United States amplifies the importance of upholding and safeguarding religious heritage in areas prone to such tensions.


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