House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) was joined by fellow Committee colleague Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA) in commemorating the 26th anniversary of the Azerbaijani pogroms against the Armenian population of the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait, and condemning the ongoing violence and intimidation fostered by the government of President Ilham Aliyev, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Twenty-six years ago, violent mobs surrounded the sea-side village in Sumgait, Soviet Azerbaijan and terrorized its inhabitants through a violent and brutal pogrom. In the following days, these roving bands systematically targeted ethnic Armenians on the streets and in their homes, viciously attacking and killing hundreds,” stated Chairman Royce. “On this tragic anniversary, when we mourn the loss of those innocent lives, we are mindful of the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and recurrent incidents of inciting rhetoric by Azeri political leaders and continued military clashes along the border. It is critical that Azerbaijan’s leaders refrain from provocative statements and commit to fruitful negotiations for a lasting peace in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Rep. Sherman explained the imperative of commemorating the pogroms in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku, stating, “If we hope to stop future massacres, we must acknowledge these horrific events and ensure they do not happen again.” Rep. Sherman went on to note, that “Recognizing the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenians from Azerbaijan is an important step. However, 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.”
Rep. Cardenas noted that “the failure to act by the Azerbaijani authorities and our failure to compel action has resulted in a tidal wave of animosity towards the Armenians, which manifests itself in several ways. Azerbaijani forces east of Karabagh continue to disregard the ceasefire established after the Karabagh war in 1994. Ramil Safarov, who decapitated an Armenian Lieutenant while he slept during a NATO-sponsored training program in 2004, returned home as a hero and was held up as ‘an example of patriotism for the Azerbaijani youth’ by the Commissioner for Human Rights of Azerbaijan, Elmira Suleymanova. All the while, Ilham Aliyev continues his brazen rhetoric; consistently declaring Armenians as the national enemy in an effort to unite the Azeri public.”
Rep. Eshoo explained that “without our recognition and our forceful condemnation, the cycle of violence will continue. Even today, Christians and other minority groups are being driven from Syria by extremists, and the once large and diverse ethnic mosaic there is all but eradicated. Without our attention and action by the world community, there will be no end in sight.”
Rep. Clark noted that “like the persecution of too many peoples before it, the lessons of Sumgait must not be forgotten. As diverse families of the Commonwealth, and as Americans, we have a moral obligation to promote tolerance and justice, and we have a duty to recognize the atrocities that have kept us from our common goal.”