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Public Statements

Commemorating The Sumgait Pogrom

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Mr. SCHIFF. Madam Speaker, this past Sunday marked the twenty-second anniversary of the pogrom against Azerbaijanis of Armenian descent in the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan. The 3-day massacre in the winter of 1988 resulted in the deaths of scores of Armenians, many of whom were burnt to death after being brutally beaten and tortured. Hundreds of others were wounded. Women and girls were brutally raped. The carnage created thousands of ethnic Armenian refugees, who had to leave everything behind to be looted or destroyed, including their homes, cars and businesses.

* These crimes, which were proceeded by a wave of anti-Armenian rallies throughout Azerbaijan, were never adequately prosecuted by Azerbaijan authorities. Many who organized or participated in the bloodshed have gone on to serve in high positions on the Azeri government. For example, in the days leading up to the massacre, a leader of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, Hidayat Orujev, warned Armenians in Sumgait: ``If you do not stop campaigning for the unification of Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia, if you don't sober up, 100,000 Azeris from neighboring districts will break into your houses, torch your apartments, rape your women, and kill your children.'' Orujev is currently the State Advisor for Ethnic Policy to Azeri President Heidar Aliyev.

* Despite efforts by the Government of Azerbaijan to cover up the events of February 1988, survivors of the pogrom have come forward with their stories. They told of enraged mobs, which threw furniture, refrigerators, television sets and beds from apartment balconies and set them afire. Armenians were dragged from their apartments. If they tried to run and escape, the mob attacked them with metal rods, knives and hatchets before the victims were thrown into the fire. One witness said of a victim, ``He was still moving, trying to escape from fire, but five young men were pushing him hack into the fire with metal rods.'' Others told of Interior Ministry troops, who stood by doing nothing.

* The Sumgait massacres led to wider reprisals against Azerbaijan's ethnic minority, resulting in the virtual disappearance of Azerbaijan's 450,000-strong Armenian community, and culminating in the war launched against the people of Nagorno Karabakh. That war resulted in almost 30,000 dead on both sides and created more than one million refugees in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

* This April will mark the 95th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a crime that Azerbaijan's ally and protector Tukey has devoted enormous political resources to deny. Just as we cannot allow the first genocide of the Twentieth Century to fade into history, the memory of the victims of Sumgait must not be forgotten either.


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