WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Vice-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, submitted a statement to the Congressional Record honoring the lives of those lost in the pogrom thirty-one years ago.
The full statement is below:
“Madame Speaker, I rise to commemorate the 31st 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.
“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 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.
“The hateful and dangerous Azerbaijani attacks on Armenians is also seen in a horrific crime which occurred 15 years ago last week. At a NATO sponsored training in Budapest, an Azerbaijani Army officers named Ramil Safarov snuck into the room of an Armenian lieutenant, Gurgen Margaryan, and hacked him to death with an axe as he slept.
“For this brutal and despicable crime, Safarov was sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary. Yet after a determined campaign by Azerbaijan’s government, he was extradited to Baku in 2012 where he was greeted not as a criminal but as hero, provided back pay, and promoted in rank. There is no more dramatic illustration of Azerbaijan’s continued posture of hatred and aggression towards their Armenian neighbor than their celebration of a cold-blooded murderer.
“The assault on ethnic Armenian civilians in Sumgait helped touch off what would become a direct conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan which took thousands of lives and dislocated millions more. The anniversary of Sumgait is a reminder of the consequences when aggression and hatred grow unchecked.
“Madame Speaker, in two months we will mark the 104th 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 30 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.”