The Human Rights Defender of the Artsakh Republic Gegham Stepanyan sent a letter to Google, urging not to give in to the Azerbaijani provocations, to ignore the baseless demands presented by Azerbaijan, to refrain from removing the Armenian toponyms and geographical names of Artsakh from the digital maps.
The Ombudsman particularly noted that these efforts of Azerbaijan are another manifestation of Azerbaijan's long-standing policy of depriving the people of Artsakh of their homeland and denying the Armenian identity of Artsakh. He reminded that the aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan against the people of Artsakh in the Fall of 2020, aimed at the seizure of the entire territory of Artsakh and destruction of its people, became the culmination of Azerbaijan's criminal policy.
In order to support its alleged rightfulness of claims over Artsakh, Azerbaijan has been deliberately erasing, destroying, and eradicating any traces of Armenians and Armenian culture and history from every centimeter of the territory under its control.
The true motives behind the request of Azerbaijan to remove Armenian toponyms from maps can be easily defined: Nagorno Karabakh is not just a place name, but a totality of Armenian culture and history. The Armenian toponyms of Artsakh are memories of places, as well as living memories of the people who gave these names to such places. It is well-known that toponyms serve as symbols of regional culture and thus reflect the history, habitat, and environment of a place. Azerbaijan’s request to remove Armenian toponyms from the maps is nothing more than an attempt to create desired reality on the maps․
In the letter, the Ombudsman presented the regulations of international law, which enshrine the right of peoples to freely use and preserve their place names, to inherit from generations. He stressed that international law does not consider toponyms and geographical names to be the property of states, but considers them to be the intangible heritage of peoples.
Gegham Stepanyan noted that the removal of Armenian toponyms will only condone Azerbaijan’s gross violations of human rights of the people of Artsakh and support its efforts aimed at legitimization of the results of illegal use of force.
Appreciating Google’s human-centered approach to use the Armenian geographical names in its maps, the Ombudsman expressed confidence that the company will reject Azerbaijan’s continuing attempt to alter maps and engage in ethnic cleansing.