2010-03-01 11:12:00

ArmInfo. U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., Co-Chairman of the Congressional
Caucus on Armenian Issues, issued the following statement Friday to
commemorate the 22th Anniversary of the Sumgait Massacres:

"Mr. Speaker, this Sunday will mark the tragic anniversary of the
massacres that took place against Azerbaijani citizens of Armenian
heritage in February of 1988, in the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan.

This 3-day rampage, carried out by Azerbaijani nationals left dozens of
Armenians dead, a majority of whom were set on fire alive after being
beaten and tortured. Hundreds of innocent people received injuries of
different severity and became physically impaired. Women, among them
minors, were abused. More than 200 apartments were robbed, dozens of
cars were destroyed and burned, dozens of art and crafts studios, shops
and kiosks were demolished, and thousands of people became refugees.

Mr. Speaker, these crimes were never adequately prosecuted by the
Government of Azerbaijan, and most of its organizers and executors
were simply set free, many of whom are presently members of the Azeri
Parliament. Despite the attempt by the Government of Azerbaijan to
cover up these crimes, enough brave witnesses came forward to give
an accurate account of the offenses.

The Sumgait massacres are just another in a long line of Azerbaijan's
aggressions against the Armenian people. The events in Sumgait were
preceded by a wave of anti-Armenian rallies that shook the city
in February 1988. Almost the entire territory of the city, with a
population of 250,000, became an arena for mass violence against its
Armenian population.

The attacks also marked the beginning of a larger campaign of ethnic
cleansing targeting the Armenian people, culminating in the war
launched against the people of Nagorno Karabakh. The war claimed nearly
30,000 lives and left over one million refugees in both Armenia and
Azerbaijan. The continued hostilities in Azerbaijan and the military
aggression against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh in 1992 through
1994 led to the disappearance of a 450,000-strong Armenian community in
Azerbaijan within a span of just a few years. As this April marks the
95th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we also pause to remember
the crimes committed in Sumgait and the pogroms conducted against
the Armenian people in Azerbaijan.

Mr. Speaker, this anniversary reminds us yet again of the historical
injustice the Armenian people have faced, unfortunately, throughout
their history. As we join with the Armenian people and all people of
goodwill in remembering these atrocities, I strongly urge Azerbaijan
and Turkey to cease their blockade and aggressive posture against the
Armenian people and work to achieve a lasting peace. It is time for
the United States to do all that it can and to use its geopolitical
influence to send a message that ethnically charged genocides,
illegal blockades of sovereign nations and the constant harassment
of the Armenian people will not be tolerated."