Azerbaijan and Turkey have been placed on a Special Watch List for concerns over religious freedom and cultural desecration, particularly in relation to the Armenian people, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2021 Annual Report released last month, the Armenian Assembly of America informed, Mirror Spectator reports via 1lurer.am.

The 108-page report recommended placing both Azerbaijan and Turkey on the “USCIRF Special Watch List” on account of egregious violations of religious freedom in both countries, including “recent violations committed amid renewed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories.”

In the section on Azerbaijan, the report detailed findings in the context of active fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh in late September 2020 that “prompted serious concerns about the preservation of Armenian places of worship and other religious sites in those areas,” including the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi, which was “targeted and shelled” by Azerbaijani forces two times, “resulting in extensive damage to that building and possibly constituting a war crime.”

The report stated that the “recent vandalization and destruction of Armenian cemeteries and gravestones” by Azerbaijan were documented by media outlets.