Representative Adam Schiff on Monday issued a statement marking the 34th anniversary of the Sumgait Massacres by Azerbaijan and in marking the occasion urged for the release of all Armenian prisoners of war.
Below is the text of Schiff’s statement.
Yesterday, we marked the 34th anniversary of the Sumgait and Baku pogroms. Beginning on February 27, 1988, and for three days following, Azerbaijani mobs assaulted and killed Armenians – leaving hundreds of civilians dead and injured and women and girls were raped. Some victims were thrown from windows and burned alive. Tens of thousands were forced to flee.
After two years, it was estimated that only 40,000 of the 250,000 Armenian residents of Baku remained in Azerbaijan. On January 13, 1990, organized Azerbaijani mobs turned on them, too, killing hundreds and injuring many more.
The pogroms came as a direct result of years of vicious, racist anti-Armenian propaganda by Azerbaijani authorities, dehumanizing the Armenian residents of Azerbaijan and laying the groundwork for mass violence. Azerbaijani authorities made little effort to punish those responsible, instead attempting to cover up the atrocities and deny the government’s role in instigating the attacks.
As we reflect on yesterday’s anniversary, we honor the victims of this ghastly injustice and pledge to speak out against hatred so that history will not repeat itself. But tragically, more than three decades later, that is exactly what has happened. Beginning on September 27, 2020, and over 44 days, Azerbaijani forces once again targeted and murdered innocent Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, and displaced tens of thousands more. Today, Azerbaijani aggression against the people of Armenia and Artsakh continues. Armenian soldiers are still illegally detained and subject to torture while thousands of civilians still live in danger. Religious and cultural Armenian sites that have fallen under Azerbaijani control are under constant threat.
These are the horrific consequences when aggression and hatred grow unchecked – and it is why, whether these crimes against humanity occurred one year, thirty years, or a hundred years ago, we can never allow them to go unrecognized. More than that, it is why the United States must fully step into its role as a defender of democracy and peace around the world. We must not relent in our calls for the safe and unconditional release of the remaining Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians, for the end of U.S. assistance to the Aliyev regime, and for stronger efforts to support democracy in Armenia and a free, independent Artsakh.
So let us pause to remember those who suffered in the atrocities of the Sumgait and Baku programs. But let us also recommit ourselves and our nation to doing everything we can, today, to bring liberation to our Armenian brothers and sisters abroad, once and for all.
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