Updated: Jun 23, 2021
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 their desperation.
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 hero.
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.”