U.S. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) offered strong condemnation of the Azerbaijani massacres in Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabad and spoke out in support of the democratic right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh in powerful statements issued in commemoration of these crimes, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The complete text of the statement by Representative Cicilline is provided below.
“Today we commemorate the 26th Anniversary of the horrific Sumgait Pogroms. On February 27, 1988 organized mobs of Azerbaijanis aimed at killing and driving Armenian Christians living in Sumgait from their homes. Armed with sticks, axes and iron rods, they attacked Armenian men, women and children by breaking into their homes and brutally beating and killing them just because of their ethnicity. Despite Sumgait’s 30 minute proximity to Baku, police allowed the pogroms to go on for 3 days, during which Armenians were burned alive and thrown from windows.
These acts were merely a continuation of the Azerbaijani authorities’ unswerving policy of racism towards Armenians and ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population, with unpunished killings and deportations.
The Sumgait massacre is a black mark on history and sadly, this event sparked further violence as Armenians would be targeted less than 9 months later in Kirovabad and again in Baku in 1990.
The Azerbaijani Government has shamefully continued to undermine prospects for a lasting peace in the Southern Caucasus, recently in 2012, pardoning an Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov who brutally murdered Armenian military officer Gurgen Margaryan during a NATO-sponsored Partnership for Peace exercise in 2004. Safarov confessed and was convicted in Budapest for brutally axing Margaryan while he was sleeping. Safarov never showed remorse for the murder and stated that he wished he had killed more Armenians. Immediately after his pardon Safarov received a promotion in the Azerbaijani military, an apartment, and years of back pay for his time spent in prison.
For more than 20 years, the people of Nagorno Karabakh have fought and died for their independence. From the earliest days of its formation, the Republic’s freely elected governmental bodies have helped build an open democratic society through transparent elections and it is critical that the United States support their independence and autonomy.
As we reflect on these horrific outbreaks of ethnic violence, I join with Armenians in Rhode Island, and across the world in remembering these victims and renewing our commitment to justice, independence and finding lasting peace.
I am proud to say Rhode Island was the first state in our nation to pass a resolution to recognize the Independence of the NagornoKarabakhRepublic and set an example for other legislatures to follow, like Massachusetts, Maine and Louisiana. The time has come for the United States Congress to do the same.”