WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) today commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Azerbaijani pogroms against the Armenian population of the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait, and condemned the ongoing atmosphere of violence and intimidation being fostered by the government of President Ilham Aliyev, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“The history of the past quarter century has been one of Artsakh’s enduring democratic triumph over relentless Azerbaijani government aggression, blockades, intolerance, and war. We look to American leaders, revolutionary heirs to the world’s greatest independence movement, to help support and sustain the proud victory of a free people against foreign tyranny, against massacres, outright war, economic blockade, ongoing sniper attacks, and, now, a Baku-led international campaign to demonize each and every Armenian on the planet,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We join with Armenians in New Jersey, California and across the nation in thanking Congressman Pallone and Congressman Schiff for continuing to raise their voices in support of a peaceful, democratic, secure, and sustainable resolution that will end Azerbaijani threats against the free citizens of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.”
In remarks submitted to the Congressional Record, Representative Pallone reminded his colleagues, “it was on the evening of February 27, 1988, that hundreds of Armenians were brutally murdered, some burned alive and others thrown from windows.” Pallone went on to explain that the Sumgait pogroms were the beginning of decades of violence, fomented by successive Azerbaijani government leaders. “For more than two decades, authorities in Azerbaijan have attempted to ignore and cover up these crimes and have instead fostered hatred toward the Armenian people. In an affront to basic senses of justice, the Azerbaijani government recently pardoned Azerbaijani military officer, Ramil Safarov who was sentenced to life in prison in Hungary for murdering an Armenian military officer during a NATO-sponsored training program in 2004. I continue to be outraged by this promotion of violence against innocent Armenians,” stated the New Jersey legislator. Rep. Pallone went on to urge the immediate reincarceration of Ramil Safarov by the Aliyev government.
In additional to citing Azerbaijani brutality in Sumgait and Safarov’s murder of Armenian Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, Rep. Schiff cited the Aliyev regime’s recent crackdown against 75-year-old Azerbaijani writer Akram Aylisli. “According to a report in the BBC, ‘[h]is books have been publicly burnt. He has been stripped of his national literary awards. And a high-ranking Azeri politician has offered $13,000 as a bounty for anyone who will cut off his ear. Aylisi’s crime?’ – in his short novel Stone Dreams, he dared to look at the conflict between Azeris and Armenians from the Armenian perspective,” explained Rep. Schiff. “With these disgusting acts, the Azeri state reminded the whole world why the people of Artsakh must be allowed to determine their own future and cannot be allowed to slip into Aliyev’s clutches, lest the carnage of Sumgait a quarter century ago serve as a foreshadowing of a greater slaughter,” concluded the legislator.
The texts of both Congressional statements follow.
As in past years, the ANCA has launched an online grassroots letter writing campaign educating Senators and Representatives about the victims of the Sumgait and Baku pogroms, and urging them to both celebrate Artsakh’s freedom and stand up against Azerbaijan’s continued aggression. Armenian Americans are encouraged to contact their legislators by using the ANCA Webmail system — http://www.anca.org/action_alerts/action_disp.php?aaid=62404591
From 1988 to 1990, the Armenian population in Soviet Azerbaijan was the target of racially motivated pogroms against Armenians in the cities of Sumgait (February 27-29, 1988), Kirovabad (November 21-27, 1988) and Baku (January 13-19, 1990).
At the time, Members of Congress condemned these premeditated and officially-sponsored attacks against Armenian civilians and passed amendments and resolutions demanding respect for the democratic aspirations of the people of Nagorno Karabakh.
These pogroms set the stage for two decades of aggression by Azerbaijan, during which it launched and lost a war against Nagorno Karabakh, and later used its oil wealth to buy a massive military arsenal that its leaders, to this day, vow to use to renew their attempts to conquer a Christian people that has lived on these lands for thousands of years and, after great challenges, has flourished in freedom from Soviet oppression for more than 20 years.
For a detailed ANCA overview of Azerbaijani aggression against its Armenian population in Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku as well as concrete ways Congress can assist in the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict, visit:
Statement by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone
February 28, 2013
Mr. Speaker, again this year I stand to recognize an important period that remains a strong reminder that we must continue to address violent human tragedies whenever they occurred. The American and Armenian people use this time of year to recommit themselves to preventing any further violence. We do this because we mark the anniversary of the Sumgait pogroms where hundreds of Armenians were murdered as a result of long-running hostilities directed towards the Armenian people.
I ask that my colleagues join me in solemnly commemorating the death of these innocent lives. It was on the evening of February 27, 1988 that hundreds of Armenians were brutally murdered, some burned alive and others thrown from windows. Included in the violence was the rape of women and the maiming of children. Armenians saw their belongings stolen, their shops destroyed and thousands were displaced from their homes. To add to the human tragedy, police turned a blind eye thus allowing the pogroms to go on for three days.
Unfortunately, the underlying hostility that led to the outbreak and continued violence of the Sumgait pogroms continues to survive today. For more than two decades, authorities in Azerbaijan have attempted to ignore and cover up these crimes and have instead fostered hatred toward the Armenian people. In an affront to basic senses of justice, the Azerbaijani government recently pardoned Azerbaijani military officer, Ramil Safarov who was sentenced to life in prison in Hungary for murdering an Armenian military officer during a NATO-sponsored training program in 2004. I continue to be outraged by this promotion of violence against innocent Armenians.
I ask that my colleagues join me in calling on Azerbaijan to fully recognize the Sumgait pogroms and to give an accurate historical account of the events. I also ask my colleagues to join me in calling upon the Azerbaijani government to acknowledge Ramil Safarov as a convicted murderer and immediately take action commensurate with a democratic nation that supports justice under the rule of law. Azerbaijan must break from its current course and take action to create a peaceful future.
As Co-chair and founder of the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus, I know that that the caucus will continue its work to ensure that the basic rights of life, liberty and security are promoted throughout the Caucasus region. We will continue to advocate for a peaceful resolution to conflict in the region. We will continue to call on Azerbaijan to cease its hostilities toward the Armenian people and stand for justice whenever it is violated.
Statement by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Regarding the 25th anniversary of the Sumgait Pogroms
February 28, 2013
Mr. Speaker: This week marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the pogrom against people of Armenian descent in the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan. The three-day massacre in the winter of 1988 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.
These crimes, which were proceeded by a wave of anti-Armenian rallies throughout Azerbaijan, were never adequately prosecuted by Azerbaijan authorities. Many who organized or participated in the bloodshed have gone on to serve in high positions on the Azeri government. For example, in the days leading up to the massacre, a leader of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, Hidayat Orujev, warned Armenians in Sumgait: ‘If you do not stop campaigning for the unification of Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia, if you don’t sober up, 100,000 Azeris from neighboring districts will break into your houses, torch your apartments, rape your women, and kill your children.’ In a cruel twist, Orujev went on serve as Azerbaijan’s State Advisor for Ethnic Policy and later as head of State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations.
The Sumgait massacres led to wider reprisals against Azerbaijan’s ethnic minority, resulting in the virtual disappearance of Azerbaijan’s 450,000-strong Armenian community, and culminating in the war launched against the people of Nagorno Karabakh. That war resulted in almost 30,000 dead on both sides and created more than one million refugees in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In the years since the fighting ended, the people of Artsakh, the region’s ancestral name, have struggled to build a functioning democratic state in the midst of unremitting hostility and threats from Azerbaijan, as well as sniper fire and other incursions across the Line of Contact between the two sides. Hatred towards Armenians is both inculcated and celebrated in Azeri youth, as exemplified by the case of Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army captain who had confessed to the savage 2004 axe murder of Armenian army lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, while the latter slept. At the time, the two were participating in a NATO Partnership for Peace exercise in Budapest, Hungary. After the murder, Safarov was sentenced to life in prison by a Hungarian court and imprisoned in Hungary.
Last August Safarov was sent home to Azerbaijan, purportedly to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Instead of prison, he was greeted as a hero by the Azeri government and promenaded through the streets of Baku carrying a bouquet of roses. President Ilham Aliyev immediately pardoned Safarov and he was promoted to the rank of major and given a new apartment and eight years of back pay.
In recent weeks, 75-year-old Akram Aylisli, one of Azerbaijan’s most celebrated writers, has been subjected to a campaign of hatred. According to a report in the BBC, ‘[h]is books have been publicly burnt. He has been stripped of his national literary awards. And a high-ranking Azeri politician has offered $13,000 as a bounty for anyone who will cut off his ear. Aylisi’s crime?’ – in his short novel Stone Dreams, he dared to look at the conflict between Azeris and Armenians from the Armenian perspective.
With these disgusting acts, the Azeri state reminded the whole world why the people of Artsakh must be allowed to determine their own future and cannot be allowed to slip into Aliyev’s clutches, lest the carnage of Sumgait a quarter century ago serve as a foreshadowing of a greater slaughter.