Armenian Caucus Vic-Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) released a statement commemorating the Sumgait
Pogrom. This year marks the 29th anniversary of the massacres of
Armenians that took place on Feb. 27-29, 1988.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate the
29th anniversary of the pogrom against the Armenian residents of the town of
Sumgait, Azerbaijan. 29 years ago Azerbaijani mobs assaulted and killed their
Armenian neighbors. 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
The pogroms 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
The assault on ethnic Armenian civilians
in Sumgait helped touch off what would become a direct conflict between Armenia
and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh. 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 Karabakh Republic, causing numerous
casualties. In April of last year, Azerbaijan launched its most aggressive
attack in many years, resulting in the loss of many lives over the course of
three days of intense fighting.
Along with other Members of Congress, I
have consistently called for a direct international response to Azerbaijan’s
aggressive behavior through deployment of international monitors and technology
to monitor ceasefire violations. Azerbaijan’s continued rejection of these
simple steps speaks volumes, but I believe they should not prevent the
installation of these technologies within Nagorno Karabakh. 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
102nd 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 29
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.”