BRUSSELS—Member of European Parliament from Cyprus Costas Mavrides hosted a conference on Wednesday titled “The forgotten refugees: What Happened to the Armenians of Baku?” in the European Parliament. The conference was co-organized by the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy and the Mission of the Republic of Armenia to the European Union.
The keynote speakers were British humanitarian Life Peer, former deputy speaker of the House of Lords Baroness Caroline Cox, eye-witnesses Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, an American-Armenian author and human rights advocate, as well as David Babaev, a lecturer at Université Libre de Bruxelles. The latter are both survivors of the Baku pogroms.
In attendance were Members of the European Parliament, European Parliament advisers, students, representatives of the civil society and missions of various EU member states, as well as Belgian citizens who are survivors of Baku pogroms.
In his opening remark, EAFJD President Kaspar Karampetian welcomed the participants and emphasized the importance of addressing the issue of the anti-Armenian pogroms, in particular in the premises of the house of European democracy. “In its resolutions of 1990, the European Parliament unequivocally condemned the pogroms perpetrated against the Armenians by the Azerbaijani authorities, namely in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku,” stated Karampetian.
Member of European Parliament Costas Mavrides announced that he had decided to host the event, because of his own experience as a child who had to flee for his life after the Turkish invasion in Northern Cyprus in 1974, among other reasons. “Remembrance is not about revenge but forgetting is unforgivable because it would lead us to the same crimes,” emphasized Mavrides.
His Excellency the Ambassador of Armenia Tatoul Markarian reminded attendees that the anti-Armenian massacres in Azerbaijan were the first mass killings and ethnic cleansings in the post-Cold War Europe.
During their testimonies, Astvatsaturian Turcotte and Babaev shared their personal stories and what they witnessed as refugees fleeing Baku. “We spent months hiding in our apartment, hoping that the violence against Armenians would end. But it never ended. We left everything behind and fled. We barely escaped, but we survived. Many of our neighbors and family friends were not so lucky,” said Astvatsaturian Turcotte. Babaev underlined that the killings and pogroms in Sumgait and Baku had not come out of thin air, noting that the ground was already fertile. “These atrocities: violence, intimidation, rape, murder and burning people alive should not stay unpunished,” remarked Babaev.
The Baroness Caroline Cox pointed out that the genocide of Armenians continued in Baku, Sumgait, and Nagorno-Karabakh, and needs to be recognized so that it does not continue with impunity.
The guest speakers stressed that the Azerbaijani authorities still systematically incite and perpetuate Armenophobia as a state policy in Azerbaijan, a policy witnessed by the victims of Baku pogroms. They concluded by acknowledging the important role of the European Union as a soft power promoting dialogue, peace, and human rights.
The speeches were followed by a lively question and answer session, where the guest-speakers addressed questions asked by attendees, including Azerbaijani participants.
European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy