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Reps Sherman, Dold, and Pallone Offer Statements Marking Sumgait Massacres

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WASHINGTON—The bipartisan Congressional spotlight on Azerbaijan’s pogroms and massacres against ethnic Armenian civilians in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku continued to shine this week as Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) added their voices to those marking the 24th anniversary of the tragedies, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Robert Dold

Over the past month, 10 Members of Congress have issued statements on the pogroms, including Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the Ranking Democrat of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). (To view Chu’s speech on the House floor, visit http://youtu.be/EoQRFC4RKdo.

“Friends of Armenia and human rights advocates from across America thank Congressmen Sherman, Dold, and Pallone for joining with their U.S. House colleagues in marking the Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku pogroms,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We value their leadership in standing up to aggression—past and present—and in working toward a future of peace and justice for the citizens of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, and all the countries of the Caucasus.”

“On the evening of Feb. 27, 1988,” said Sherman, “Armenian civilians living in Sumgait, in Soviet Azerbaijan, were violently targeted in a three-day rampage. Armenian civilians were hunted down and brutally assaulted. Some were raped, and some were burned alive at the hands of rioters.” He went on to discuss the subsequent Azerbaijani attacks against Armenians in Kirovabad and Baku, and noted that remembering is not enough. “We need to do more—we need to demonstrate to Azerbaijan that the United States is committed to peace and to the protection of Artsakh from coercion.”

“We must urge Azerbaijan to cease all threats and acts of coercion against the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh,” he said, and called on the Obama Administration to “remove all barriers to broad-based U.S.-Nagorno-Karabagh governmental and civil society communication, travel, and cooperation.”

Pallone, in his statement, noted that “the need for the government of Azerbaijan to fully recognize the Sumgait pogroms is not only in the interest of historical accuracy but also necessary to ensure a peaceful future. … The specter of violence indeed still looms and many Armenian lives continue to be subject to threats by the Azerbaijani government.”

“President Aliyev recently announced that Azerbaijan is buying up modern weaponry to occupy the Nagorno Karabagh Republic,” Pallone said, and went on to “condemn all intimidations and acts of aggression against the Armenian people.”

“As we remember those who lost their lives in Sumgait,” said Dold, “we must continue to guard against all discrimination, oppression, and targeted violence against ethnic groups around the world.”

Below are the full texts of the Congressional statements.

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Speech of Hon. Brad Sherman of California in the House of Representatives, on Wed., Feb. 29, 2012.

Mr. SHERMAN. Mr. Speaker, this month marks the 24th anniversary of a dark chapter in modern history. During the Nagorno-Karabagh War of 1988-94, Armenian civilians were indiscriminately attacked.

On the evening of Feb. 27, 1988, Armenian civilians living in Sumgait, in Soviet Azerbaijan, were violently targeted in a three-day rampage. Armenian civilians were hunted down and brutally assaulted. Some were raped, and some were burned alive at the hands of rioters. Local police reportedly ignored repeated calls for help by Armenian civilians. The official figure from Soviet authorities, who prohibited journalists from entering the area, was just over 30 people dead and over 200 injured. However, it is believed that more—perhaps hundreds—were murdered by roving mobs.

The Sumgait Pogrom was, sadly, only the beginning.

Despite international condemnation of the pogrom in Sumgait, another anti-Armenian pogrom occurred later that year in Kirovabad, Azerbaijan, from Nov. 21-27. Due to the brutality, the Armenians of Kirovabad and the surrounding areas were forced to flee their homes.

Another crime against humanity occurred yet again from Jan. 13-19, in 1990. Members of the Armenian community of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, were assaulted, tortured, and killed again by violent mobs.

I would like to commemorate the Armenian victims of the Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku massacres to honor the memory of the murdered, and to stop future bloodshed. If we hope to stop future massacres, we must acknowledge these horrific events and ensure they do not happen again.

We will not forget the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenians from Azerbaijan.

But we need to do more—we need to demonstrate to Azerbaijan that the United States is committed to peace and to the protection of Artsakh from coercion.

We must urge Azerbaijan to cease all threats and acts of coercion against the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh.

In 1992, Congress prohibited aid to Azerbaijan because of its continuing blockade against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh. Unfortunately, Congress in 2001 approved a waiver to this provision and administrations have used the waiver since then to provide aid to Baku. Congress should strengthen Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act by removing the president’s ability to waive U.S. law prohibiting aid to Azerbaijan because of its continuing blockade against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.

I urge the administration to remove all barriers to broad-based U.S.-Nagorno-Karabagh governmental and civil society communication, travel, and cooperation.

We must reaffirm America’s commitment to an enduring, peaceful, and democratic resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

***

Speech of Hon. Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey in the House of Representatives, on Thurs., March 1, 2012

Mr. PALLONE: Mr. Speaker, once again this year I rise to mark an important date that remains strong in the memories of the Armenian and American people. It is always with great emotion that I commemorate the Sumgait pogroms where the murder of hundreds of Armenians stood out as a particularly atrocious event in a long history of hostility against the Armenian people.

This anniversary above all reminds us of our duty to act. Year after year, it strengthens our determination to obtain justice and peace.

Beginning on the evening of Feb. 27, 1988, hundreds of Armenians were brutally murdered, some of them burned alive and thrown from windows. Women and children were raped and maimed by Azerbaijani rioters. Apartments were robbed, shops demolished, and thousands of people became refugees. Despite Sumgait’s proximity to Baku, police turned a blind eye to this dire situation, allowing the pogroms to go on for three days.

The truth is that for over two decades, authorities in Azerbaijan have made relentless efforts to erase all traces of these crimes. This state-sponsored denial is an insult to the memory of all men, women, and children who perished on those fateful days; it is a daily affront to their descendants. The Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus is resolutely committed to ensure that those Armenians who lost their lives are not forgotten.

The need for the government of Azerbaijan to fully recognize the Sumgait pogroms is not only in the interest of historical accuracy but also necessary to ensure a peaceful future. The just recognition of these crimes is the first step towards an enduring and peaceful resolution of the regional conflict. Stability in the region is needed now more than ever. The specter of violence indeed still looms and many Armenian lives continue to be subject to threats by the Azerbaijani government. Ceasefire violations by Azerbaijani armed forces at the contact line with the Nagorno Karabagh Republic have shown this to be true. President Aliyev recently announced that Azerbaijan is buying up modern weaponry to occupy the Nagorno Karabagh Republic.

I stand here today to solemnly condemn all intimidations and acts of aggression against the Armenian people. The Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus will do its very best to ensure that basic rights to life, liberty, and security are not violated. May the Armenian people never have to fear again such attacks. Mr. Speaker, I ask that my colleagues stand with me in recognizing the Sumgait pogroms and the needless deaths of so many.

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Speech of Hon. Robert J. Dold of Illinois in the House of Representatives, on Thurs., March 1, 2012

Mr. DOLD: Mr. Speaker, this week it is important that we not forget the 24th anniversary of the tragic pogroms against Armenians living in Soviet Azerbaijan. Driven by the anti-Armenian movement in the region, mobs committed violent human rights violations against Armenians of all ages living in the town of Sumgait. Today, I stand with the Armenian community around the world to remember all those who were taken from their homes and from their families, simply because of their ethnic background. As we remember those who lost their lives in Sumgait, we must continue to guard against all discrimination, oppression, and targeted violence against ethnic groups around the world.

1 Comment on Reps Sherman, Dold, and Pallone Offer Statements Marking Sumgait Massacres

  1. avatar Barkev Asadourian // March 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm // Reply

    Great Idea Perfect Jop Thank you God Help.

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