Mr. SHUSTER. Mr. Speaker, as the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, I rise today to join with the people of Azerbaijan to commemorate the tragic events of ``Black January.''
On January 19, 1990, approximately 26,000 Soviet troops stormed Azerbaijan's capital city of Baku in tanks and armored vehicles. That night, the Soviet military bulldozed innocent Azeris and opened indiscriminate fire on peaceful demonstrators, including women and children. According to Azerbaijani sources, as a result of these merciless acts 131 people were killed, 611 were injured, 841 were arrested, and 5 went missing.
The Human Rights Watch report ``Black January in Azerbaijan'' states that ``among the most heinous violations of human rights during the Baku incursion were the numerous attacks on medical personnel, ambulances, and even hospitals.'' The report concludes that the violence used by the Soviet Army constituted an exercise in collective punishment and that the punishment inflicted on Baku by Soviet soldiers may have been intended as a warning to nationalists, not only in Azerbaijan, but in other Republics of the Soviet Union.
In their honor, every January 20, thousands gather in Martyr's Cemetery in Baku to honor the dead and the nation's commitment to independence and freedom. In doing so, it is clear the victims of ``Black January'' did not perish in vain.
Far from crushing the spirit of Azeris, the atrocities of Black January instead consolidated the rising independence movements in the country and united the Azerbaijani nation in its quest for freedom. Today, Azerbaijan is a critical and strategic ally of the United States and is preparing to celebrate 20 years of diplomatic relations with the United States.
It is my honor to thank the Azerbaijani people for their friendship and to offer my thoughts and prayers to the families of those who gave their lives for the independence of Azerbaijan. I encourage my colleagues to visit the very moving memorial to Black January in Baku that honors the memories of those killed in these attacks by the Soviet military and to join with me today in standing with Azerbaijanis as they commemorate this tragedy.