Preserving the Historical Record in U.S. Congress on 1988 Anti-Armenian Pogroms in Sumgait
Updated: Aug 20
The following statements were made by Members of the U.S. Congress to commemorate and preserve in the historical record the 1988 anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku, Azerbaijan. Every year, Members of Congress rise to remember the brutal persecution of Armenians in Azerbaijan, events which ultimately led to the independence movement of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.
IN REMEMBRANCE OF SUMGAIT, KIROVABAD AND BAKU MASSACRES
— SPEECH OF HON. BRAD SHERMAN OF CALIFORNIA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2014
• Mr. SHERMAN. Mr. Speaker, 26 years ago today was the first day in a three-day pogrom perpetrated against the Armenian residents of Sumgait in then-Soviet Azerbaijan. Although official figures reported 30 deaths, it is believed that hundreds were murdered and injured as a result of the pogrom.
Just a week before the violence erupted, the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh voted to unify region with Armenia –the beginning of the Karabakh movement. In the days immediately after this vote Azeri civilians and local officials in the city of Sumgait held rallies calling for “death to Armenians.”
On the night of February 27, 1988, Armenian residents in Sumgait were targeted and indiscriminately raped, mutilated and murdered. Calls for help from Armenians were ignored by local police and city officials. Journalists were shut out from the area. The violence raged on for three days before Soviet troops were able to put an end to the pogrom.
Witnesses of the horrific massacres later testified that the attacks were planned, as civilians had gathered weapons and the exits of the cities were blocked in advance to prevent Armenians from escaping. The homes of Armenians were marked so that the Azeri mobs could easily target them.
Unfortunately, the perpetrators of the pogrom succeeded in their ultimate goal–driving out Armenians. Fearing more violence, Armenians fled Sumgait. Later that year, another anti-Armenian pogrom occurred in Kirovabad, Azerbaijan from November 21st to 27th, which also forced hundreds of Armenians to flee the region. In January of 1990 violent mobs targeted the Armenian community of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.
I would like to honor the memory of Armenians killed in the pogroms of Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku. If we hope to stop future massacres, we must acknowledge these horrific events and ensure they do not happen again.
This month also marked the 10th anniversary of the heinous murder of Armenian Army Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan at a NATO training camp in Budapest, by Ramil Safarov, a Lieutenant of the Azerbaijani Army. Safarov used an axe to hack Margaryan to death while he was sleeping. After being convicted of murder by Hungarian courts, he was transferred to Azerbaijan where he was immediately pardoned and given a hero’s welcome. Several Azerbaijan government officials have hailed Safarov’s actions as patriotism. This is unacceptable, and the international community should hold Azerbaijan accountable for this.
Recognizing the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenians from Azerbaijan is an important step. However, we need to do more–we need to demonstrate to Azerbaijan that the United States is committed to peace and to the protection of Artsakh from coercion.
We must call for an end to all threats and acts of coercion by Azerbaijan’s government against the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.
Congress should strengthen Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act by removing the President’s ability to waive U.S. law prohibiting aid to Azerbaijan because of its continuing blockade against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. In 1992, Congress prohibited aid to Azerbaijan because of its continuing blockade against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. However, in 2001, Congress approved a waiver to this provision and administrations have used the waiver since then to provide aid to Baku. Azerbaijan should not be provided aid from the United States as long as they continue a policy of threats and blockades against Artsakh.
I urge the Administration to remove all barriers to broad-based U.S.-Nagorno-Karabakh governmental and civil society communication, travel and cooperation.
26TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE HORRIFIC ATTACK AGAINST ARMENIANS
— HON. ANNA G. ESHOO OF CALIFORNIA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Thursday, February 27, 2014
Ms. ESHOO. Mr. Speaker, the 27th of February marks the 26th anniversary of the horrific attack against Armenians in the town of Sumgait in Soviet Azerbaijan . Dozens of Armenians were killed and hundreds more were wounded. During the pogrom, Armenian women and children were raped, people were set on fire and beaten to death, while police stood by unwilling or unable to intervene.
The violence touched off a broader attack against Azerbaijan’s ethnic Armenians, ultimately resulting in a war with Nagorno-Karabakh in which tens of thousands of people were killed. The conflict remains unresolved today and the military blockade of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic continues. The pogroms precipitated a massive refugee situation displacing hundreds of thousands of people, virtually eliminating Azerbaijan’s once-significant Armenian population.
Mr. Speaker, as people of conscience, this is a remembrance we must all engage in. For me, it is also a very personal remembrance. My own family fled the slaughter of the Armenian Genocide under the Ottomans, and when we learned of the massacres against Armenians in 1988, we saw history repeating itself. These vicious acts of murder, targeted at ethnic groups, must be forcefully condemned whenever and wherever we see them.
Without our recognition and our forceful condemnation, the cycle of violence will continue. Even today, Christians and other minority groups are being driven from Syria by extremists, and the once large and diverse ethnic mosaic there is all but eradicated. Without our attention and action by the world community, there will be no end in sight.
Today, Mr. Speaker, let us remember the Armenians who lost their lives in Azerbaijan 26 years ago. And then let us take up the work that our principles demand of us, standing united against ethnic violence, discrimination, extremism and brutality, wherever we find it.
RECOGNITION OF THE 26TH ANNIVERSARY OF POGROMS AGAINST ARMENIANS IN SUMGAIT
SPEECH OF HON. TONY CÁRDENAS OF CALIFORNIA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2014
Mr. CÁRDENAS. Mr. Speaker, today I recognize the twenty-sixth anniversary of pogroms against people of Armenian descent in Sumgait, Azerbaijan, and call for long-overdue justice.
On February 27th 1988, Sumgait was the scene for organised anti-Armenian violence, leading to the death of more than thirty Armenians, with hundreds more gravely injured. Armenians were attacked and maimed for three days. Despite Baku’s 30-minute proximity to Sumgait, police failed to react, allowing the brutality to continue.
This brutality took many forms and was well-documented. On May 22nd 1988, The New York Times reported Armenians being “hunted” down and gave an account of a pregnant Armenian woman who had been disembowelled so that the unborn baby could be mutilated. Two months earlier, The Washington Post gave accounts of an Armenian skinned alive and a woman being raped and murdered after her breasts were cut off. These atrocities were highlighted by the Members of Congress at the time, who condemned this state-sponsored massacre against Armenian civilians.
The failure to act by the Azerbaijani authorities and our failure to compel action has resulted in a tidal wave of animosity towards the Armenians, which manifests itself in several ways. Azerbaijani forces east of Karabagh continue to disregard the ceasefire established after the Karabagh war in 1994. Ramil Safarov, who decapitated an Armenian Lieutenant while he slept during a NATO-sponsored training program in 2004, returned home as a hero and was held up as “an example of patriotism for the Azerbaijani youth” by the Commissioner for Human Rights of Azerbaijan, Elmira Suleymanova. All the while, Ilham Aliyev continues his brazen rhetoric; consistently declaring Armenians as the national enemy in an effort to unite the Azeri public.
The hatred towards the Armenians is unrelenting, even at the expense of the freedom of their own people. When 75 year old Alcram Ayslisi–one of Azerbaijan’s most celebrated writers–had the temerity to consider the conflict from an unbiased perspective, he was subjected to a witch hunt that would not have looked out of place in medieval Europe. His books were burnt. He was stripped of his national literary awards, and, most worryingly, a high ranking politician had promised $13,000 to anyone who could cut off his ear.
I call upon all of my colleagues and fellow Americans to join me in condemning the continued violence and injustice, and continue efforts to ensure that these atrocities never repeat themselves.
HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ED ROYCE SPEAKS OUT TO COMMEMORATE ANNIVERSARY OF SUMGAIT POGROM — FEBRUARY 28, 2014
Twenty-six years ago, violent mobs surrounded the sea-side village in Sumgait, Soviet Azerbaijan and terrorized its inhabitants through a violent and brutal pogrom. In the following days, these roving bands systematically targeted ethnic Armenians on the streets and in their homes, viciously attacking and killing hundreds.
On this tragic anniversary, when we mourn the loss of those innocent lives, we are mindful of the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and recurrent incidents of inciting rhetoric by Azeri political leaders and continued military clashes along the border. It is critical that Azerbaijan’s leaders refrain from provocative statements and commit to fruitful negotiations for a lasting peace in Nagorno-Karabakh.
COMMEMORATION OF SUMGAIT, KIROVABAD AND BAKU MASSACRES – HON. DAVID N. CICILLINE — HON. DAVID N. CICILLINE OF RHODE ISLAND IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Friday, February 28, 2014
Mr. CICILLINE. Mr. Speaker, today we commemorate the 26th Anniversary of the horrific Sumgait Pogroms. On February 27, 1988 organized mobs of Azerbaijanis aimed at killing and driving Armenian Christians living in Sumgait from their homes. Armed with sticks, axes and iron rods, they attacked Armenian men, women and children by breaking into their homes and brutally beating and killing them just because of their ethnicity. Despite Sumgait’s 30 minute proximity to Baku , police allowed the pogroms to go on for 3 days, during which Armenians were burned alive and thrown from windows.
These acts were merely a continuation of the Azerbaijani authorities’ unswerving policy of racism towards Armenians and ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population, with unpunished killings and deportations.
The Sumgait massacre is a black mark on history and sadly, this event sparked further violence as Armenians would be targeted less than 9 months later in Kirovabad and again in Baku in 1990.
The Azerbaijani Government has shamefully continued to undermine prospects for a lasting peace in the Southern Caucuses, recently in 2012, pardoning an Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov who brutally murdered Armenian military officer Gurgen Margaryan during a NATO-sponsored Partnership for Peace exercise in 2004. Safarov confessed and was convicted in Budapest for brutally axing Margaryan while he was sleeping. Safarov never showed remorse for the murder and stated that he wished he had killed more Armenians. Immediately after his pardon Safarov received a promotion in the Azerbaijani military, an apartment, and years of back pay for his time spent in prison.
For more than 20 years, the people of Nagorno Karabakh have fought and died for their independence. From the earliest days of its formation, the Republic’s freely elected governmental bodies have helped build an open democratic society through transparent elections and it is critical that the United States support their independence and autonomy.
As we reflect on these horrific outbreaks of ethnic violence, I join with Armenians in Rhode Island, and across the world in remembering these victims and renewing our commitment to justice, independence and finding lasting peace.
I am proud to say Rhode Island was the first state in our nation to pass a resolution to recognize the Independence of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and set an example for other legislatures to follow, like Massachusetts, Maine and Louisiana. The time has come for the United States Congress to do the same.
OBSERVING THE 26TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNSPEAKABLE VIOLENCE IN SUMGAIT, AZERBAIJAN — SPEECH OF HON. KATHERINE M. CLARK OF MASSACHUSETTS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2014
Ms. CLARK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, today, on the 26th observation of unspeakable violence in Sumgait, Azerbaijan, I proudly stand with the Armenian community of Massachusetts in remembrance and mourning of the loss of innocent lives.
Anti-Armenian aggression in Sumgait in the early months of 1988 gave way to violent death and destruction. Thousands of Armenians were forced to flee their homes as refugees.
Today, the families of those who lost their lives, or were displaced by this violence, still seek resolution and justice.
Over decades, many displaced Armenian families have sought refuge in America, and are now making vital contributions in the Fifth District of Massachusetts. Proudly, our diverse district is home to one of the largest Armenian communities in the nation. Together, our community is a thriving example of strength and perseverance in the face of extreme adversity.
Like the persecution of too many other peoples before it, the lessons of Sumgait must not be forgotten.
As diverse families of the Commonwealth, and as Americans, we have a moral obligation to promote tolerance and justice, and we have a duty to recognize the atrocities that have kept us from our common goal.
HONORING THE VICTIMS OF SUMGAIT — SPEECH OF HON. ADAM B. SCHIFF OF CALIFORNIA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014
Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the twenty-sixth anniversary of the pogrom against people of Armenian descent in the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan, where Armenian civilians were massacred at the hands of the Azerbaijani regime. Beginning on February 27, 1988 and for three days, Azerbaijani mobs assaulted and killed Armenians. Hundreds of Armenians were wounded, women and young girls were brutally raped, and many victims of all ages were burnt to death after being tortured and beaten. The carnage created thousands of ethnic Armenian refugees, who had to leave everything behind to be looted or destroyed, including their homes and businesses. The Sumgait Pogroms were part of an organized pattern, and were proceeded by a wave of anti-Armenian rallies throughout Azerbaijan, which culminated in the 1990 Pogroms in Baku.
These crimes were never adequately prosecuted by Azerbaijan authorities. Despite efforts by the Government of Azerbaijan to cover up the events which occurred in February 1988, survivors of the pogrom have come forward with their stories. They told of enraged mobs, which threw refrigerators and furniture, among other belongings from apartment balconies and set them afire. Armenians were dragged from their apartments. If they tried to run and escape, the mob attacked them with metal rods, hatchets and knives before the victims were thrown into the fire.
The Sumgait massacres led to wider reprisals against Azerbaijan’s ethnic minority, resulting 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.
In the years since the fighting ended, the people of Artsakh, the region’s ancestral name, have struggled to build a functioning democratic state in the midst of unremitting hostility and threats from Azerbaijan, as well as incursions across the Line of Contact between the two sides, such as the recent murder of yet another Armenian soldier, Hrant Poghosyan, in an unprovoked attack by Azerbaijani troops against Armenian forces. Hatred towards Armenians is both celebrated and inculcated in Azeri youth, as exemplified by the case of Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army captain who had confessed to the savage 2004 axe murder of Armenian army lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, while the latter slept. At the time, the two were participating in a NATO Partnership for Peace exercise in Budapest, Hungary. After the murder, Safarov was sentenced to life in prison by a Hungarian court and imprisoned in Hungary.
In 2012, Safarov was sent home to Azerbaijan, purportedly to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Instead of serving out his sentence in an Azeri jail, he was pardoned, promoted to Major, given back pay and paraded through the streets of Baku in a disgusting and bloodthirsty welcome home.
With these appalling acts, the Azeri state reminded the whole world why the people of Artsakh must be allowed to determine their own future and cannot be allowed to slip into Aliyev’s clutches, lest the carnage of Sumgait 26 years ago serve as a foreshadowing of a greater slaughter. Mr. Speaker, the memory of the victims of Sumgait must not be forgotten, and it is our moral obligation to condemn crimes of hatred, in hope that history will not be repeated.
COMMEMORATING THE ANNIVERSARY OF POGROM AT SUMGAIT
SPEECH OF HON. LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ OF CALIFORNIA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5, 2014
Ms. LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the anniversary of the pogrom that took place in Sumgait, Azerbaijan against people of Armenian descent. A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group. On the evening of February 27, 1988 hundreds of Armenians were massacred in the seaside town of Sumgait in Soviet Azerbaijan. This violence against Armenians continued for three days and resulted in the reported killing of 32 people, with countless others that remain unaccounted for.
It is my hope that by speaking out publicly against atrocities suffered by our brethren around the world, we will help reaffirm America’s commitment to an enduring, peaceful and democratic resolution.
I ask that my colleagues join me in solemnly commemorating the death of these innocent lives. My thoughts are with the Armenian community, especially those that lost loved ones during the pogrom at Sumgait 26 years ago.
NAGORNO KARABAKH AUTONOMOUS REGION OF AZERBAIJAN
— SPEECH OF HON. JUDY CHU OF CALIFORNIA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5, 2014
Ms. CHU. Mr. Speaker, twenty-six years ago, the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region of Azerbaijan petitioned to become part of Armenia. Their desire to determine their own future was met with brutal force and violence that was tragically reminiscent to events preceding the Armenian Genocide.
For the next two years, the Armenian population was the target of racially motivated pogroms. Hundreds were murdered, many more were wounded, and the Armenian community still grapples with the scars from the horrific attacks in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku.
On February 20, 1988, Nagorno Karabakh began its national liberation movement with a resolution to secede from Azerbaijan, and on December 10, 1991, Nagorno Karabakh officially declared independence, becoming a democratic state committed to freedom and respect for human rights. But today, the people of Nagorno Karabakh are still forced to live under the constant threat of violence from Azerbaijan.
As we commemorate the somber anniversary of the beginnings of their struggle, we wish for the peaceful resolution of this conflict and the right of the Nagorno Karabakh people to determine their own future.
COMMEMORATING THE SUMGAIT POGROMS — SPEECH OF HON. FRANK PALLONE, JR. OF NEW JERSEY IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES THURSDAY, MARCH 6, 2014
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate the Sumgait pogroms. The Sumgait pogroms consisted of the murder of hundreds of Armenians, making it a particularly atrocious event in a long history of hostility against the Armenian people. I would like to recognize the anniversary of the Sumgait pogroms and remind all of us that it is our duty to act when a people are targeted with violence. Our commitment to remembering this injustice strengthens our determination to obtain peace.
In 1988, hundreds of Armenians were brutally murdered, some of them burned alive and thrown from windows. Women and children were raped and maimed by Azerbaijani rioters. Apartments were robbed, shops demolished, and thousands of people became refugees. Despite Sumgait’s proximity to Baku, police turned a blind eye to this dire situation, allowing the pogroms to go on for three days. And since that time, authorities in Azerbaijan have sought to erase all traces of these crimes. Yet, the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus is resolutely committed to ensure that those Armenians who lost their lives are not forgotten.
I ask my colleagues to solemnly condemn all intimidations and acts of aggression against the Armenian people. The Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus will do its very best to ensure that basic rights to life, liberty and security are not violated. I also ask my colleagues to join me in calling upon the Azerbaijani government to acknowledge Ramil Safarov as a convicted murderer and immediately take action to bring him to justice for the murder that he committed against an innocent Armenian man.
As co-chair and founder of the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus, I will continue to promote peace and security throughout the Caucasus region. I look forward to the day when the Armenian people never have to fear such attacks.
RECOGNIZING VICTIMS OF THE MASS MURDER OF ARMENIANS — HON. GARY C. PETERS OF MICHIGAN IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Mr. PETERS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to raise awareness of the mass murder of Armenians during the state-sponsored pogroms 26 years ago in Sumgait, Azerbaijan. These ethnically motivated mass killings were an affront to basic human rights and the continued lack of international recognition and acknowledgment represents a grave injustice.
Peaceful demonstrations by Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh, who sought freedom and protested against policies that discriminated against Armenians, were met with violence against the Armenians of Sumgait, who were hundreds of miles away, defenseless, and targeted simply because they were Armenians. Nearby security forces allowed the violence to continue unabated and turned a blind eye to the horrific violence directed against Armenian civilians. True democracies must respect the rights of the minority and the human rights of all residents.
On July 27, 1988, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Amendment 2690, which called upon the Soviet government to “respect the legitimate aspirations of the Armenian people”, and noted that “dozens of Armenians have been killed and hundreds injured during the recent unrest.” The U.S. Senate passed an amendment in July 1988, acknowledging that even the Soviet authorities had described these massacres as a `pogrom’.
Today, I remember the victims and ask this body to join me in honoring their memories.
Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) issued the following statement on Friday, March 7, 2014:
“I join my Armenian-American constituents in Illinois in commemorating the memory of those who perished in anti-Armenian violence in Sumgait, Soviet Azerbaijan twenty-six years ago. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured during three days of horrific violence. The entire Armenian population of Sumgait fled as a result. The perpetrators of these heinous acts have never been brought to justice.
“As we remember the Sumgait victims, I call on the current Government of Azerbaijan to immediately halt its campaign of incitement and hatred against Armenia that threatens to de-stabilize the region. It is deplorable that the President of Azerbaijan would pardon and glorify the convicted murderer Ramil Safarov, who killed a sleeping Armenian soldier while both were on a NATO Partnership for Peace program. I strongly condemn repeated statements from Azerbaijani officials that threaten violence against Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.“
RECOGNIZING THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE SUMGAIT POGROMS –
SPEECH OF HON. JIM COSTA OF CALIFORNIA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2014
Mr. COSTA. Mr. Speaker, today I rise as I do every year in recognition of the anniversary of the pogroms aqainst the people of Armenian descent in Sumgait,Azerbaijan . On February 27, 1988, anti-Armenian forces began killing Armenians and driving them from their homes. Scores of Armenians were killed, hundreds were wounded, and thousands were left as refugees without their homes or livelihoods. The violence went on for three days as Armenian women and girls were viciously raped.
Days before this massacre, the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh began peacefully protesting against the Soviet Azerbaijani oppression and discrimination. From this peaceful protest and the fires of the pogroms arose the spark that started the democracy movement that ultimately brought down the Soviet Empire.
Sadly, anti-Armenian rhetoric and cross-border attacks continue at the hands of the Azerbaijani government. Azerbaijan has consistently obstructed the peace process, walked away from its own agreements, and continued to threaten war. This is unacceptable, and the violence and harmful words must come to an end.
Today, I ask my colleagues to stand with me in remembrance of the Sumgait pogroms, in support of a true and lasting peace in the region, and in recognition of the contributions of Armenian Americans to the San Joaquin Valley I call home and the entire Nation.
#GugrenMargaryan #GaryPeters #LindaSanchez #Azerbaijan #TonyCardenas #NATO #DavidCicilline #JudyChu #NagornoKarabakah #Pogroms #MarkKirk #AnnaEshoo #1988 #BradSherman #KatherineClark #Sumgait #Kirovabad #Artsakh #baku #FrankPallone #Armenian #EdRoyce #AdamSchiff #Armenia