HONORING THE VICTIMS OF SUMGAIT
(Extensions of Remarks - February 28, 2013)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E211]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                    HONORING THE VICTIMS OF SUMGAIT

                                 ______
                                 

                          HON. ADAM B. SCHIFF

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, February 28, 2013

  Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, this week marks the twenty-fifth anniversary 
of the pogrom against people of Armenian descent in the town of 
Sumgait, Azerbaijan. The three-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.'' In a 
cruel twist, Orujev went on serve as Azerbaijan's State Advisor for 
Ethnic Policy and later as head of State Committee for Work with 
Religious Organizations.
   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.
   In the years since the fighting ended, the people of Artsakh, the 
region's ancestral name, have struggled to build a functioning 
democratic state in the midst of unremitting hostility and threats from 
Azerbaijan, as well as sniper fire and other incursions across the Line 
of Contact between the two sides. Hatred towards Armenians is both 
inculcated and celebrated in Azeri youth, as exemplified by the case of 
Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani army captain who had confessed to the 
savage 2004 axe murder of Armenian army lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan, 
while the latter slept. At the time, the two were participating in a 
NATO Partnership for Peace exercise in Budapest, Hungary. After the 
murder, Safarov was sentenced to life in prison by a Hungarian court 
and imprisoned in Hungary.
   Last August Safarov was sent home to Azerbaijan, purportedly to 
serve out the remainder of his sentence. Instead of prison, he was 
greeted as a hero by the Azeri government and promenaded through the 
streets of Baku carrying a bouquet of roses. President Ilham Aliyev 
immediately pardoned Safarov and he was promoted to the rank of major 
and given a new apartment and eight years of back pay.
   In recent weeks, 75-year-old Akram Aylisli, one of Azerbaijan's most 
celebrated writers, has been subjected to a campaign of hatred. 
According to a report in the BBC, '[h]is books have been publicly 
burnt. He has been stripped of his national literary awards. And a 
high-ranking Azeri politician has offered $13,000 as a bounty for 
anyone who will cut off his ear. Aylisi's 'crime?'-- in his short novel 
Stone Dreams, he dared to look at the conflict between Azeris and 
Armenians from the Armenian perspective.
   With these disgusting acts, the Azeri state reminded the whole world 
why the people of Artsakh must be allowed to determine their own future 
and cannot be allowed to slip into Aliyev's clutches, lest the carnage 
of Sumgait a quarter century ago serve as a foreshadowing of a greater 
slaughter.

                          ____________________