“Mr. Speaker, just as we cannot allow the first genocide of the twentieth century to fade into history, the memory of the victims of Sumgait must not be forgotten either.” – Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
WASHINGTON– In a series of floor speeches over the past two weeks, Members of Congress have condemned Azerbaijan’s aggression against the Armenian populations in Sumgait (1988) and Baku (1990), reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) each offered moving remarks printed in the U.S. Congressional Record, condemning the brutal attack on Armenians by Azerbaijani forces and organized mobs in Sumgait from February 27-29, 1988, and also in Baku in 1990.
“The 3-day massacre in the winter of 1988,” explained Rep. Schiff, “resulted in the deaths of scores of Armenians, many of whom were burnt to death after being brutally beaten and tortured. Hundreds of others were wounded. Women and girls were brutally raped. The carnage created thousands of ethnic Armenian refugees, who had to leave everything behind to be looted or destroyed, including their homes, cars and businesses.”
Citing gruesome testimony by survivors describing the Azerbaijani pogroms, Rep. Speier noted: “’Tenants were dragged from their apartments. If they tried to run and escape, the mob attacked them. The mob used metal rods, knives and hatchets, after which bodies were thrown into the fire.’ But shockingly most of the Azeris who committed these horrific acts and their accomplices in government were not brought to justice.”
Rep. Pallone explained that “The Sumgait massacre is but one example in a long line of Azerbaijan’s aggression and hostility against the Armenian people. Just two years later, the disappearance of a 450,000 strong Armenian community in Azerbaijan was witnessed. While Azerbaijan claims that events in Baku were about the liberation of Azerbaijani people from the Soviet occupation, the truth is that Mikhail Gorbachev had to send Soviet troops to the Azerbaijani capital to stop the mass killings and deportations of Armenians organized by the Government of Azerbaijan.”
Rep. Costa spotlighted the U.S. response to the Sumgait massacres, stating “Within months of the Sumgait massacres, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Amendment 2690 to the FY 1989 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (H.R. 4782) in July 1988, concerning the Karabakh conflict and calling on the Soviet government to ‘respect the legitimate aspirations of the Armenian people.’ The amendment also noted that ‘dozens of Armenians have been killed and hundreds injured during the recent unrests.’”
Rep. Eshoo detailed the very personal connection she has to Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing campaign, stating, “My own family members 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. Yet 96 years after the slaughter, Congress has yet to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. Without our recognition and our forceful condemnation, the cycle of violence will continue.”
Earlier this week Members of the U.S. House joined with Nagorno Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Georgi Petrossian in commemorating the Sumgait and Baku pogroms at a Capitol Hill observance of these crimes. Petrossian explained that, “On February 20, 1988, the people of Karabakh expressed their will, and utilizing the relevant legal framework, petitioned the Soviet authorities of the time to resolve the Karabakh issue. The events in Sumgait took place exactly eight days later. To this day, Azerbaijan argues that Sumgait and Baku were a chapter in their struggle for independence from the Soviet Union and that Armenians were somehow hindering that effort. The Bible says that there is no secret which can be hidden permanently, and God willing, the truth and the perpetrators of these heinous crimes will one day be brought to light and justice.”
The Foreign Minister went on to note that the Sumgait massacres were the beginnings of broad ethnic cleansing efforts in Azerbaijan that the Azerbaijani government intended to extend to Karabakh as well. “Every person, every nation, has the right to live free; every person, every nation has the right to defend itself,” noted Petrossian. “The people of Karabakh asserted that right – that God-given right – and will never give it up.” Representatives Pallone, Eshoo, Elliot Engel (D-NY) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) were among Congressional leaders participating in this solemn commemoration.
The 23rd Anniversary of the Sumgait massacres and the ensuing Azerbaijani onslaught against the Armenians throughout Azerbaijan, including the Baku pogroms of 1990, were marked worldwide with protests and observances held in Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Lebanon, Russia, Syria and the United States, in addition to Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.
To learn more about the Azerbaijani pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait and Baku, read the ANCA fact sheet.