Members of Congress Commemorate Anti-Armenian Massacres in Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku

March 4, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Vice-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) were joined by Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), TJ Cox (D-CA), and Brad Sherman (D-CA) in commemorating the brutal massacres of Armenians in the Azerbaijani cities of Baku, Sumgait and Kirovabad from 1988-1990 and condemning the ongoing violence and intimidation fostered by the government of President Ilham Aliyev, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

See their full statements, shared in alphabetical order, below.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA): As the lines of the Soviet Union were fading, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh were united in a call for a say in their own futures and greater independence from Azerbaijan. This peaceful movement for self-determination and freedom was followed by premeditated and government-sponsored attacks.

Over the next two years, the Armenian population in the territory of Artsakh was repeatedly victim to brutal and racially motivated pogroms, darkly reminiscent of the days of the Armenian Genocide. Hundreds were murdered, thousands were displaced, and the Armenian community – both in Artsakh and in exile – continues to bear the scars from the brutal attacks in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku.

When the people of Nagorno-Karabakh officially declared independence on December 10, 1991, they were met with full-scale war lasting until 1994. Even today, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are still forced to live under constant ceasefire violations by Azerbaijan.

As we commemorate the somber anniversary marking the struggle of the Nagorno-Karabakh people, we wish for the peaceful resolution of this conflict and hope that its citizens will be free to determine their own future.”

Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA): This week marked the 31st anniversary of the ethnic attacks against Armenians in Sumgait, Azerbaijan.

During these horrific pogroms, hundreds of Armenians were wounded and murdered. To date, the government of Azerbaijan has never been held accountable for these atrocities.

Now more than ever these acts of murder must be condemned. We must learn from this mistake in history and continue to advocate for the protection of human rights for the Armenian people, and for all.I’m committed to working with my colleagues on the Amenian Caucus to always remember the victims of the pogrom in Sumgait and to ensure this history never repeats itself.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the Sumgait pogroms, one of the most horrific attacks against the Armenian people committed by the hands of Azerbaijanis 31 years ago today.

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 over 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 by the Azerbaijani government.

It is critical for the United States government to recognize and denounce violent assaults against civilians. That is why I continue to stand with the Armenian people in condemning this horrific massacre. Tragically, the Azerbaijani government’s approach toward the Armenian people has not changed much since the Sumgait pogroms were initiated. We still hear the same violent rhetoric and witness the intimidation tactics aimed at the people of the Republic of Artsakh.

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. It is especially critical to consider this as we prepare to commemorate the 104th 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 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.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA): Madam 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 belongings.

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 officer 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 a 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.

Madam 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. Madam Speaker, it is our moral obligation to condemn crimes of hatred and to remember the victims, in hope that history will not be repeated.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA): I stand in solidarity with the Armenian American community in commemorating the February 1988 Sumgait Pogroms. Thirty-one years ago in the Azerbaijani town of Sumgait, peaceful Armenian residents were brutally targeted on the basis of their ethnicity and subjected to unspeakable crimes. In March 1988, The Economist reported the atrocities and documented the murder and mutilation of pregnant Armenian women and newborn babies in a maternity hospital. Other mainstream media reports from the time speak of Azerbaijani mobs hunting down Armenian families and committing murder, rape and property theft.

The Sumgait Pogroms were the beginning of an escalation of violence against the Armenian minority, with a wave of anti-Armenian violence spreading to Kirovabad in November 1988 and to Baku in January 1990, which culminated in the forcible expulsion of 390,000 Armenians from Azerbaijan and the 1991-94 war over Artsakh (the former Nagorno Karabakh).

In response to the Sumgait and Kirovabad pogroms, Nobel Prize-winning dissident, nuclear physicist and human rights activist, Andrei Sakharov, appealed to the international community to condemn the atrocities and prevent further violence by stating: “Armenian people are again facing the threat of genocide. The events in Sumgait and Kirovabad may be its beginning. This must not be allowed to happen!” (November 26, 1988, The New York Times)

The government of Azerbaijan must be held accountable by the international community for the pogroms committed against its minority Armenian population, and I will continue to work in Congress to shed light on and learn the lessons of such atrocities.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA): Today, we commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Sumgait pogroms, which saw the murder, abuse and eventual expulsion of Armenian Christians living in Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh solely based on their Armenian identity.

The Azeri Government cannot be allowed to continue denying its role in instigating these atrocities and allowing them to continue, especially in light of similar efforts to target Armenians by Azerbaijan today. I hold memories of the Sumgait victims close to my heart, they motivate me to fight for the rights for Armenians and all people.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
1711 N Street NW Washington, DC 20036 | | @anca_dc
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