In the last few weeks, a dozen Members of Congress released statements and made speeches on the House floor in commemoration of the 26th anniversary of the anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku, Azerbaijan, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).
“On this tragic anniversary, when we mourn the loss of those innocent lives, we are mindful of the ongoing conflict in Nagorno Karabakh and recurrent incidents of inciting rhetoric by Azeri political leaders and continued military clashes along the border,” stated House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA). “It is critical that Azerbaijan’s leaders refrain from provocative statements and commit to fruitful negotiations for a lasting peace in Nagorno Karabakh,” Royce said.
Beginning in Sumgait in 1988, and spreading to the cities of Kirovabad in 1989 and Baku and 1990, armed mobs of Azerbaijani citizens took to the streets targeting Armenian residences and destroying Armenian-owned businesses while Azerbaijan security services stood by. As a result, thousands of Armenians were injured and countless more fled their homes, effectively cleansing Azerbaijan of its Christian Armenian minority.
As a wave of pro-Azerbaijan lawmakers has tried to bolster the autocratic regime in recent years, the Assembly has been working to educate Members of Congress and the public about the Armenian pogroms that took place. As previously reported, the Assembly distributed its report “SUMGAIT: The Public Record” to Congress and continues to work with the Armenian Caucus on this critically important issue.
Drawing parallels between events from 25 years ago, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) recounted that “This month also marked the 10th anniversary of the heinous murder of Armenian Army Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan at a NATO training camp in Budapest, by Ramil Safarov, a Lieutenant of the Azerbaijani Army.” “Safarov used an axe to hack Margaryan to death while he was sleeping,” Sherman said, and “after being convicted of murder by Hungarian courts, he was transferred to Azerbaijan where he was immediately pardoned and given a hero’s welcome.” According to Sherman’s statement, “Several Azerbaijan government officials have hailed Safarov’s actions as patriotism. This is unacceptable, and the international community should hold Azerbaijan accountable for this,” he said, illustrating how Azerbaijan’s leaders have pushed a discriminatory and intolerant agenda toward their Armenian neighbors.
“On behalf of the entire Armenian American community, I thank Senator Kirk and Representatives Royce, Schiff, Sherman, Pallone, Eshoo, Clark, Cicilline, Cardenas, Chu, Sanchez, and Peters for their principled stand on human rights issues and for sending a strong message to Azerbaijan about its anti-Armenian policies,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.