WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chair Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Vice Chair Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) issued statements in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). Invited by the Armenian Caucus leadership, a delegation from Artakh (Nagorno Karabakh), led by President Bako Sahakyan, are in Washington, D.C. for a week-long working visit, where they will be able to meet and speak with Members of Congress regarding strengthening the U.S.-Artsakh relationship.
Rep. Pallone said on the House floor: “On February 27, 1988, up to 200 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 these innocent individuals. For three decades, Azerbaijan has taken steps to cover up these crimes against humanity and dismiss the atrocities at Sumgait. Even more disturbing is that perpetrators of these events and similar violent attacks have since been lauded as national heroes.” He added: “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 by renewing our commitment to achieving a collective and lasting peace.”
Beginning in Sumgait in 1988, and spreading to the cities of Kirovabad in 1989 and Baku in 1990, armed mobs of Azerbaijani citizens took to the streets targeting Armenian residences and destroying Armenian-owned businesses while Azerbaijan security services stood by. The Sumgait pogrom was widely reported and roundly condemned, but the violence was never contained. Increasingly, anti-Armenian forces acted with impunity and the pogroms spread across Azerbaijan, leading to the military campaigns of the late 1980s to 1994 to deport the Armenians of Artsakh, until a cease-fire agreement was signed by Azerbaijan, Artsakh, and Armenia. Since then, the cease-fire agreement has been violated on a daily basis, and in April 2016 Azerbaijan resumed full-scale warfare for four days before it was prevailed upon to halt its aggression.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the pogrom against the Armenian residents of the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan. On February 27 1988, and for three days following, Azerbaijani mobs assaulted and killed Armenians. The violence left hundreds of Armenian civilians dead and injured, women and girls were raped, and some victims were burned alive. Thousands were forced to flee their homes, leaving behind their belonging,” Rep. Schiff informed his colleagues on the House floor. “The pogroms came about as the result of years of vicious, racist anti-Armenian propaganda by Azerbaijani authorities, dehumanizing Armenians. Azerbaijan authorities made little effort to punish those responsible, instead attempting to cover up the atrocities in Sumgait to this day, and denying the government role in instigating the killings. Indeed, even today, racist propaganda against Armenia and Armenians is prevalent in Azerbaijan,” he continued.
On February 28, Rep. Costa stated: “This week marks the 30th anniversary of the pogroms against people of Armenian descent in Sumgait, Azerbaijan. Yet, the violence and hatred of the pogroms failed in suppressing the Armenian people. Their dedication to self-determination burned on, and their refusal to sacrifice their freedom inspired democratic movements across the Soviet Union. To the thousands of Armenian Americans living in our San Joaquin Valley – and to Armenian people living throughout the world, l stand with you. We must continue to advocate for the protection of human rights and democratic freedoms, for the Armenian people, and for all.”
This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Artsakh’s Liberation Movement that was sparked in 1988 by the spreading threat of the pogroms. Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Co-Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) provided remarks to commemorate this anniversary and congratulate the people of Artsakh.