Washington, D.C. – Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Sumgait pogrom that deliberately targeted and brutally attacked the Armenian population of the seaside Azerbaijani town from February 26, 1988 until March 1, 1988. This unprovoked onslaught against Armenians was a precursor to additional pogroms against Armenians in then-Soviet Azerbaijan. Over the course of the following years, hundreds of thousands of Armenians were forced to flee the massacres and abandon their properties and belongings.
The pogroms were in response to the exercise of free speech and constitutional rights to reverse a Stalinist decision in the face of the historic elimination of the Armenian people from their indigenous land, even after the World War I-era Armenian Genocide. Many prominent human rights advocates of the 1980s, including Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov, called for Artsakh’s self-determination to protect the Christian Armenians. The Sumgait pogrom, however, was followed by the Baku pogrom, which were both widely reported at the time and are widely ignored today.
Thirty-three years have passed since the slaughter in Sumgait and nothing has changed in the behavior of the Azerbaijani government. It continues its violence and hostilities against the Armenian people. The 44-day war launched last Fall by Azerbaijan against the Armenians of Artsakh – with the full and open support of Turkey – magnified scores of human rights abuses as the two despotic countries, Azerbaijan and Turkey, pounded the Armenian civilian population and defense forces with internationally banned cluster munitions, lethal drones, and white phosphorus bombs.
Azerbaijan is also engaged in a vicious distortion of history. Its government has retained public relations firms to establish “Azerbaijani Day” in the United States on February 26 – the exact date of the Sumgait pogrom – in an outrageous falsification of facts. The Azerbaijani government’s desire to rewrite history and engage in efforts of historical whitewashing replicates Turkey’s ongoing and inexcusable denial of the Armenian Genocide. The patterns of persecution, massacre, and denial are all too clear. The absence of international condemnation of this pattern is the source of the impunity with which the Erdogan and Aliyev regimes continue to suppress human rights in their own countries and wage wars against their neighbors.
Today we remember the lives lost during the tragic anniversary of Sumgait as we condemn the ongoing brutality that Azerbaijan commits daily against Armenians in Artsakh. We call on the U.S. Congress to send emergency humanitarian aid to Armenia – a necessary safeguard for the victims of the 44-day war launched by Azerbaijan and backed by Turkey – and to respond to their human rights abuses.
To take action now and urge the U.S. Congress to honor the victims of the Sumgait pogrom, please click here.
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.