Members of Congress recall anti-Armenian violence in Azerbaijan (UPDATED)

Published: Tuesday February 07, 2012

People fleeing Baku amid anti-Armenian pogroms in January 1990 board a ferry. Photolur

Washington - In recent weeks, eleven members of the House of Representatives have issued statements marking Azerbaijan's pogroms and massacres against ethnic Armenian civilians in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

These members include Representatives Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

"We join with friends of Armenia and advocates of human rights from across America in thanking each of Members of Congress who has joined with Armenians worldwide in marking the Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku pogroms," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  

"In pausing to remember these atrocities we reaffirm our commitment to challenging Azerbaijan's aggression and threats of renewed war, and, more broadly, to protecting the innocent and promoting peace for all the peoples of the Caucasus region."

The full text of the congressional statements are provided below.

Armenian Americans and pro-Armenian stakeholders from across America have encouraged Members of Congress to publicly condemn Azerbaijani aggression and openly defend the independent Nagorno Karabakh Republic's freedom. An ANCA action alert in support of Congressional statements is available on the ANCA website.

From 1988 to 1990, the Armenian population in Soviet Azerbaijan was the target of racially motivated pogroms against Armenians in the cities of Sumgait (February 27-29, 1988), Kirovabad (November 21-27, 1988) and Baku (January 13-19, 1990).

At the time, Members of Congress condemned these premeditated and officially-sponsored attacks against Armenian civilians and passed amendments and resolutions demanding respect for the democratic aspirations of the people of Nagorno Karabakh.

These pogroms set the stage for two decades of aggression by Azerbaijan, during which it launched and lost a war against Nagorno Karabakh, and later used its oil wealth to buy a massive military arsenal that its leaders, to this day, vow to use to renew their attempts to conquer a Christian people that has lived on these lands for thousands of years and, after great challenges, has flourished in freedom from Soviet oppression for more than 20 years.

A detailed ANCA overview of Azerbaijani aggression against its Armenian population in Sumgait, Kirovabad and Baku as well as concrete ways Congress can assist in the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict can be viewed at the ANCA web site.

California Assembly resolution introduced

The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region welcomed the introduction of Assembly Concurrent Resolution 96, introduced by Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes (CA-AD-39-D-Arleta).

The resolution commemorates the massacres of Armenians in Sumgait, Kirovabad (present-day Ganja), and Baku, Azerbaijan on the anniversary of the massacre in Sumgait (February 1988) and calls on the legislature to remember the victims of massacres and oppression of Armenians in Azerbaijan, many of whom barely survived the atrocities and ended up as refugees in the United States, including California.

"I am honored to lead the State Assembly in commemorating the massacre of Armenians in Azerbaijan nearly 25 years ago," said Fuentes. "The Armenian people have demonstrated throughout history that they are true survivors. They have faced persecution and genocide and yet they have once again flourished and have become an integral part of our community in California. We stand together today to acknowledge the atrocities of the past so that we do not repeat them in the future."

The resolution, which should be adopted before the anniversary, on February 27, of the Sumgait massacres, provides the broader context of the issue and how the massacres were part of the widespread, anti-democratic backlash faced by the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh when they voted for independence when the Soviet Union fell.

The Soviet Azerbaijani state and subsequent Republic of Azerbaijan brutally responded to Armenians' call for self-determination, both within and beyond Nagorno Karabakh in Azerbaijan.

With hundreds of thousands fleeing Azerbaijan in the last decade of the 20th Century, many found refuge in California.

"This resolution resonates both from the American and Armenian perspective. As a country founded on the principle of self-determination by people seeking a better life and often escaping persecution in the 'Old World', the United States and its history is an inspiration to the Armenians of Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh," said Armen Garabedian, chairman of the ANCA-WR's California State Affairs committee. "It has become a safe haven and home for those fleeing the massacres in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku as well as an inspiration to those who stayed behind to shape a more secure and democratic future there."

Hundreds of Armenian families who survived the massacres ended up in towns across California including those in the San Francisco, Sacramento, Central Valley, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego County areas. Many of these survivors have put down roots in the state and are giving back to the communities in which they live as established and young professionals.

Those interested in learning more about the resolution and participating in the community's commemoration activities in the State Capitol should contact the ANCA-WR at (818) 500-1918.

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