Representatives Schiff, Pallone Commemorate 28th Anniversary of Sumgait Pogroms


(ANCA) Washington, DC – Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) entered the following statement into the Congressional Record:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the pogrom against the Armenian residents of the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan. On this day in 1988, and for three days following, Azerbaijani mobs assaulted and killed Armenians. 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 not an accident. They 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 Karbakh. 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 Karbakh Republic, causing numerous casualties. I have urged the OSCE Minsk Group to deescalate the situation by ending a policy that equates unprovoked attacks by the Azerbaijan with the defensive responses of Karbakh and Armenian troops, and by pressuring Azerbaijan to accept the installation of technological monitoring devices along the border. 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 101st 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 28 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.”

The full text of Armenian Issues Co-Chairman Frank Pallone’s Congressional Record (2/26/16) remarks on the Recognition of the Victims of the Sumgait Pogroms:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the Sumgait pogroms, one of the most horrific attacks against the Armenian people, committed at the hands of Azerbaijanis 28 years ago.

On February 27, 1988, hundreds of Armenian civilians living in the city of Sumgait in Azerbaijan were indiscriminately killed, raped, maimed, and even burned alive for no reason other than their ethnicity. This senseless violence was instigated by hostile, anti-Armenian rhetoric from Azerbaijani citizens and officials against innocent Armenians.

For nearly three decades, Azerbaijan has taken steps to cover up these crimes against humanity and dismiss the atrocities at Sumgait. Even more disturbing is that the perpetrators of this event and similar violent attacks have since been lauded as national heroes.

I condemn these horrific attacks. Tragically, the Azerbaijani government’s approach toward the Armenian people has not changed much since these attacks were perpetrated. In 2016, we hear the same violent rhetoric and witness the intimidation tactics by the Azerbaijani government against the people of Nagorno Karabakh.

If we do not condemn crimes against humanity and allow them to go unpunished and unrecognized we only strengthen the resolve of those seeking to perpetrate these crimes in the future. The Armenian people have known this for too long, as we prepare to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in April.

I will continue to work with my colleagues on the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus to remember the victims of the pogroms at Sumgait and to condemn all acts of violence against people who are targeted simply because of their existence. I hope my colleagues will join me in rejecting violent rhetoric and intimidation and renewing our commitment to achieving a collective peace.

Photo: (L-R) Franck Pallone, Adam Schiff