Statement Commemorating the 1988 Sumgait Pogroms Against the Armenian Community
I stand in solidarity with the Armenian American community in commemorating the February 1988 Sumgait Pogroms. Thirty-one years ago in the Azerbaijani town of Sumgait, peaceful Armenian residents were brutally targeted on the basis of their ethnicity and subjected to unspeakable crimes. In March 1988, The Economist reported the atrocities and documented the murder and mutilation of pregnant Armenian women and newborn babies in a maternity hospital. Other mainstream media reports from the time speak of Azerbaijani mobs hunting down Armenian families and committing murder, rape and property theft.
The Sumgait Pogroms were the beginning of an escalation of violence against the Armenian minority, with a wave of anti-Armenian violence spreading to Kirovabad in November 1988 and to Baku in January 1990, which culminated in the forcible expulsion of 390,000 Armenians from Azerbaijan and the 1991-94 war over Artsakh (the former Nagorno Karabakh).
In response to the Sumgait and Kirovabad pogroms, Nobel Prize-winning dissident, nuclear physicist and human rights activist, Andrei Sakharov, appealed to the international community to condemn the atrocities and prevent further violence by stating: “Armenian people are again facing the threat of genocide. The events in Sumgait and Kirovabad may be its beginning. This must not be allowed to happen!'' (November 26, 1988, The New York Times)
The government of Azerbaijan must be held accountable by the international community for the pogroms committed against its minority Armenian population, and I will continue to work in Congress to shed light on and learn the lessons of such atrocities.