WASHINGTON, DC — The predominantly Muslim nation of Azerbaijan has landed on a persecution advocacy group’s list of the worst countries for Christian persecution over its policies toward neighboring Armenia.
The United States-based International Christian Concern (ICC), which tracks the persecution of Christians worldwide, released its 2023 Persecutors of the Year report this week.
The publication lists Azerbaijan among the top 10 nations hostile toward the faith. The list includes Nigeria, North Korea, India, Iran, China, Pakistan, Eritrea, Algeria and Indonesia.
Sandwiched between Turkey and Iran, Azerbaijan has warred with Armenia for decades over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which consists of as much as a 98% majority Christian population, most of whom identify as Armenian Apostolic, according to ICC.
The two nations have entered into conflict at least twice over the last century, but following a months long blockade earlier this year, Azerbaijani forces commandeered Nagorno-Karabakh, a self-known to Armenians as Artsakh, in September.
The region was previously controlled by ethnic Armenians as the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent state internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijan’s end game is clear: to rid its borders of Christianity either by forcing the Armenian people and their faith out of Azerbaijan or destroying the people and historical sites,” the report states.
ICC highlights the language employed toward Armenians by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, who “uses derogatory rhetoric, such as barbarians, rats, and vandals, to describe and dehumanize the Armenian people.”
“Armenia as a country is of no value,” he tweeted “It is actually a colony, an outpost run from abroad, a territory artificially created on ancient Azerbaijani lands.” Aliyev said in 2012.