WASHINGTON—Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, issued the following statement Friday to commemorate the 22nd Anniversary of the Sumgait Massacres.
“Mr. Speaker, this Sunday will mark the tragic anniversary of the massacres that took place against Azerbaijani citizens of Armenian heritage in February of 1988, in the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan. This 3-day rampage, carried out by Azerbaijani nationals left dozens of Armenians dead, a majority of whom were set on fire alive after being beaten and tortured. Hundreds of innocent people received injuries of different severity and became physically impaired. Women, among them minors, were abused. More than 200 apartments were robbed, dozens of cars were destroyed and burned, dozens of art and crafts studios, shops and kiosks were demolished, and thousands of people became refugees.
“Mr. Speaker, these crimes were never adequately prosecuted by the Government of Azerbaijan, and most of its organizers and executors were simply set free, many of whom are presently members of the Azeri Parliament. Despite the attempt by the Government of Azerbaijan to cover up these crimes, enough brave witnesses came forward to give an accurate account of the offenses.
“The Sumgait massacres are just another in a long line of Azerbaijan’s aggressions against the Armenian people. The events in Sumgait were preceded by a wave of anti-Armenian rallies that shook the city in February 1988. Almost the entire territory of the city, with a population of 250,000, became an arena for mass violence against its Armenian population.
“The attacks also marked the beginning of a larger campaign of ethnic cleansing targeting the Armenian people, culminating in the war launched against the people of Nagorno Karabakh. The war claimed nearly 30,000 lives and left over one million refugees in both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The continued hostilities in Azerbaijan and the military aggression against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh in 1992 through 1994 led to the disappearance of a 450,000-strong Armenian community in Azerbaijan within a span of just a few years. As this April marks the 95th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we also pause to remember the crimes committed in Sumgait and the pogroms conducted against the Armenian people in Azerbaijan.
“Mr. Speaker, this anniversary reminds us yet again of the historical injustice the Armenian people have faced, unfortunately, throughout their history. As we join with the Armenian people and all people of goodwill in remembering these atrocities, I strongly urge Azerbaijan and Turkey to cease their blockade and aggressive posture against the Armenian people and work to achieve a lasting peace. It is time for the United States to do all that it can and to use its geopolitical influence to send a message that ethnically charged genocides, illegal blockades of sovereign nations and the constant harassment of the Armenian people will not be tolerated.”