I rise today to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the pogrom against the Armenian residents of the town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan. Beginning on February 27, 1988 and over the course of three days, Azerbaijani mobs assaulted and killed Armenians. The violence left dozens of Armenian civilians dead and hundreds injured, women and girls were raped, and some victims were burned alive after being tortured and beaten. Thousands were forced to flee their homes, leaving behind their belongings. Armenian homes and businesses were left to be looted and destroyed.
The pogroms came about as the result of years of hateful, racist anti-Armenian propaganda woven into the very fabric of Azerbaijani society by Azerbaijani leaders, who made little effort to punish those responsible, instead attempting to cover up the atrocities in Sumgait and denying the government’s role in instigating the killings. This unprovoked violence against Armenians was a precursor to subsequent attacks on ethnic Armenians, including the pogroms in Kirovabad, Baku, and the Maragha Massacre.
Time has not healed the wounds of those victimized in the pogroms or their families because three decades later, Azerbaijan’s aggression against the people of Armenia and Artsakh continues.
Beginning on September 27, 2020, and over 44 days, Azerbaijani forces once again targeted and murdered innocent Armenians in Artsakh and displaced tens of thousands more. Azerbaijan’s violence again escalated in September of 2022, when Azeri forces shelled homes in the villages of Karmir Shuka and Taghavard in Artsakh and launched an unprovoked assault on sovereign Armenian territory.
Today, Azerbaijan continues to terrorize the people of Artsakh by blocking the Lachin Corridor — the only road connecting Artsakh to Armenia. Since the blockade on December 12, 2022, the humanitarian crisis in Artsakh has grown more dire by the day, with widespread shortages of food, medicine and other necessities and rolling blackouts amid freezing temperatures. The effect has been devastating to the 120,000 individuals living in Artsakh, including children and the elderly.
These are the horrific consequences when aggression and hatred grow unchecked and when Aliyev’s hostility is met with deafening silence, emboldening him to continue, and expand, his unprovoked attacks on the Armenian people, knowing there will be no repercussions. This is why Azerbaijan considers it acceptable to annihilate Armenians in their historical homeland. We cannot allow violence and crimes against humanity to go unanswered.
The United States must immediately and permanently stop all U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan and impose sanctions. It must also direct U.S. humanitarian assistance to Artsakh, call for the safe and unconditional release of the remaining Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians, hold Azerbaijan accountable for the destruction of religious and cultural sites, and support democracy in Armenia and a free, independent Artsakh.
On this tragic anniversary, as we pause to remember the innocent victims of the pogroms, we are also reminded that despite the trials the Armenian people have faced, it has not broken their faith, determination, and their will to survive in the face of constant threats from Azerbaijan. Today, let us recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to bring liberation to our Armenian brothers and sisters abroad, once and for all.