Members of Congress Commemorate Sumgait and Baku Massacres

U.S. House Representatives Ed Royce, Brad Sherman, Katherine Clark, Tony Cardenas, and Anna Eshoo

Condemn Ongoing Azerbaijani Aggression Against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh

WASHINGTON—House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) was joined by fellow Committee colleague Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA) in commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Azerbaijani pogroms against the Armenian population of the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait, and condemning the ongoing violence and intimidation fostered by the government of President Ilham Aliyev, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“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,” stated Chairman Royce. “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.”

Rep. Sherman explained the imperative of commemorating the pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku, stating, “If we hope to stop future massacres, we must acknowledge these horrific events and ensure they do not happen again.” Rep. Sherman went on to note, that “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.”

Rep. Cardenas noted that “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 Karabakh continue to disregard the ceasefire established after the Karabakh 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.”

Rep. Eshoo explained that “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.”

Rep. Clark noted that “like the persecution of too many 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 recognise the atrocities that have kept us from our common goal.”

The complete statements by the Representatives are provided below.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA): “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.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA): 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.

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA): 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 Karabakh continue to disregard the ceasefire established after the Karabakh 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.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA): 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.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA): Mister Speaker, today, on the 26th observation of the 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 Armenians families have sought refuge in Armenia, 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 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 recognise the atrocities that have kept us from our common goal.

Authors

Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.

*

Top