Rep. Schiff Commemorates 28th Anniversary of Pogrom Against Armenians in Sumgait

Washington,
DC –

Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) entered the following statement into the
Congressional Record:

“Mr.
Speaker, I rise to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the pogrom against the
Armenian residents of the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan. On this day in 1988, and
for three days following, Azerbaijani mobs assaulted and killed Armenians. When
the violence finally subsided, hundreds of Armenian civilians had been brutally
murdered and injured, women and young girls were raped, and victims were
tortured and burned alive. Those that survived the carnage fled their homes and
businesses, leaving behind everything they had in their desperation.

“The
pogroms were not an accident. They were the culmination of years of vicious
anti-Armenian propaganda, spread by the Azerbaijani authorities. The
Azerbaijani authorities made little effort to punish those responsible, instead
attempting to cover up the atrocities in Sumgait to this day, as well as
denying the role of senior government officials in instigating the violence.
Unsurprisingly, it was not the end of the violence, and was followed by
additional attacks, including the 1990 pogrom in Baku.

“The
Sumgait massacre and the subsequent attacks on ethnic Armenians, resulted in
the virtual disappearance of a once thriving population of 450,000 Armenians
living in Azerbaijan, and culminating in the war launched against the people of
Nagorno Karabakh. That war resulted in thousands dead on both sides and created
over one million refugees in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“Time
has not healed the wounds of those murdered in the pogroms in Sumgait,
Kirovabad, and Baku. To the contrary, hatred of Armenians is celebrated in in
Azerbaijan, a situation most vividly exemplified by the case of Ramil Safarov,
an Azerbaijani army captain who savagely murdered an Armenian army lieutenant,
Gurgen Margaryan with an axe while he slept. The two were participating in a
NATO Partnership for Peace exercise at the time in Hungary. In 2012, Safarov
was sent home to Azerbaijan, purportedly to serve out the remainder of his
sentence. Instead, he was pardoned, promoted, and paraded through the streets
of Baku as a returning hero.

“The
assault on ethnic Armenian civilians in Sumgait helped touch off what would
become a direct conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karbakh.
And today, Azerbaijan’s dangerous behavior on the Line of Contact threatens
peace and stability in the region. Artillery and sniper fire across the Line of
Contact has become a fact of daily life for civilians in the Nagorno Karbakh
Republic, causing numerous casualties. I have urged the OSCE Minsk Group to
deescalate the situation by ending a policy that equates unprovoked attacks by
the Azerbaijan with the defensive responses of Karbakh and Armenian troops, and
by pressuring Azerbaijan to accept the installation of technological monitoring
devices along the border. The anniversary of Sumgait is a reminder of the consequences
when aggression and hatred is allowed to grow unchecked.

“Mr.
Speaker, this April we will mark the 101st Anniversary of the Armenian
Genocide, an event the Turkish government, Azerbaijan’s closest ally, goes to
great lengths to deny. We must not let such crimes against humanity go
unrecognized, whether they occurred yesterday or 28 years ago or 100 years ago.
Today, let us pause to remember the victims of the atrocities of the Sumgait
pogroms. Mr. Speaker, it is our moral obligation to condemn crimes of hatred
and to remember the victims, in hope that history will not be repeated.”

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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