Sumgait Pogroms Are Continuation of 1915 Genocide, Says ARF Leader

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Thousands of Armenia’s marched Wednesday to the Dzidzernagapert Genocide Memorial in Yerevan to pay commemorate Armenia’s who were massacred by Azeri forces in Sumgait years ago. The procession was organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Nigol Aghbalian Student Organization. On February 27, 1988, mobs of Azeris began attacking and killing Armenia’s living in the industrial city of Sumgait in Azerbaijan. Elite Azeri forces–known as OMON–began going door to door and killing men, women and children, in some cases the brutality escalated onto the city streets. Soviet Azerbaijan authorities turned a blind eye to violent attack and the ethnic cleansing campaign initiated by the Azeri authorities of the day. The perpetrators who broke in Armenian homes followed lists containing names of those who lived there. They were armed with iron rods, stones, axes, knives, bottles and canisters full of benzene. According to witnesses, some apartmen’s were raided by groups of 50 to 80 persons. Similar crowds–up to 100 people–stormed the streets of the city. There were dozens of casualties. According to final but still incomplete data, the number of murdered Armenia’s is estimated at 53, mostly burnt alive after assaults and torture. Hundreds of innocent people were wounded and disabled. Many women, including adolescent girls, were raped. More than 200 apartmen’s were raided, dozens of cars burnt, numerous shops and work places looted. On February 28, a small contingent of relatively unarmed Soviet interior troops entered the city and unsuccessfully attempted to quell the rioting. The situation was finally defused when more professional military units entered with tanks and other armored vehicles one day later. As a result about 18,000 Armenia’s of the town fled to Armenia and Russia. More than 200 young people, political, public figures, deputies, intellectuals took part in the procession Wednesday. They laid wreaths to the memorial to the Armenian martyrs who perished in Sumgait. In remarks made at the gathering, ARF Supreme Council of Armenian chairman Armen Rustamian said that the civilized world should recognize the Sumgait massacres. "The barbarities committed 19 years ago were the result of Azerbaijan’s hostile policy toward Armenia’s. This was the continuation of the Genocide committed in 1915." Writer Zori Balayan declared that the Armenian people should not only remember its victims, but also should continue to demand restoration of justice. "Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian policy fits into the logic of chauvinism and extremism," he said.

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