A. Schiff: “Thousands of people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of Armenians were displaced”

Representatives Gary Peters (D-MI), Howard Berman (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) have offered U.S. House floor statements over the past week marking Azerbaijan’s pogroms and massacres against ethnic Armenian civilians in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku. A statement released by Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) informs about this.

These four legislators join with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and Judy Chu (D-CA), who made Congressional statements regarding these massacres earlier this month, and with Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI), who issued a public statement this week marking these human rights atrocities.

“We join with friends ofArmeniaand advocates of human rights from CaliforniaMichiganRhode IslandVirginiaand across Americain thanking each of Members of Congress who has joined with Armenians worldwide in marking theSumgait,Kirovabad, andBakupogroms,” 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.”

In his statement, Congressman Howard Berman, the Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned his House colleagues about “Azerbaijan’s rapidly growing military budget and its increasing bellicosity toward Armenian populated Nagorno- Karabakh.” He cited, in particular, public boasts byAzerbaijan‘s President, Ilham Aliyev, that “Azerbaijan’s defense budget is twenty times larger than it was just eight years previously and larger, in fact, than the entire budget of Armenia.” In closing, Congressman Berman called the attention of his fellow legislators to the “video taped evidence of the Azerbaijani government’s December 2005 systematic desecration and destruction of an ancient Armenian cemetery, including thousands of intricately-carved grave-stones in Djulfa, in a section of Azerbaijan near the Turkish border. I believe our State Department still has not adequately examined this incident, and I call on it to do so.

Congressman Gary Peters, in his remarks, offered last week, educated his colleagues about how, in February of 1988, “hundreds of Armenians were singled out, driven from their homes, and murdered by Azerbaijani rioters. DespiteSumgait‘s proximity to security forces in the capital city, the riots and destruction continued for three days unabated. Credible sources report that hundreds of Armenians were killed or wounded; Soviet officials at the time acknowledged 30 deaths and 200 injured.” He added that, “This tragedy did not go unrecognized at the time. SeveralU.S.Senators rose to speak out against this violence. They sent letters to the government of theSoviet Union. The Senate unanimously passed an amendment urging the Soviet government to respect the aspirations of the Armenian people and urging it to discontinue its serious violations of human rights.”

In his remarks, Rep. Schiff, a lead author of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, reviewed the facts of Azerbaijan’s pogroms, and underscored for his Congressional colleagues that: “These pogroms were only part of a pattern of anti- Armenian activities occurring throughout Azerbaijan setting the stage for two decades of aggression during which the Azerbaijani government initiated a war against the people of Nagorno- Karabakh. Thousands of people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of Armenians were displaced as a result of the fighting. A once thriving population of 450,000 Armenians living inAzerbaijanvirtually disappeared.” Congressman Schiff added that “a cease-fire agreement, brokered in 1994, remains in place today. However,Azerbaijan‘s continued war-mongering, recent cease-fire violations, and dramatic increase of its military budget threaten to destabilize the Nagorno- Karabakh peace talks.”

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, one of two Members of Congress of Armenian heritage, shared with her colleagues that this remembrance was “a very personal remembrance,” adding that, “My own family fled the slaughter of the Armenian Genocide under the Ottomans, and when we learned of the massacres against Armenians in 1988, we saw history repeating itself. These vicious acts of murder targeted at ethnic groups, must be forcefully condemned whenever and wherever we see them. Yet 96 years after the slaughter of Armenians the U.S. House of Representatives has yet to officially recognize the Armenian genocide. Without our recognition and our forceful condemnation, the cycle of violence will continue.”

In a public February 27th statement issued by his Congressional office, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline offered a moving remembrance of the Armenian victims of Azerbaijan‘s pogroms: “More than two decades ago today, innocent Armenian men, women, and children living in Sumgait were subjected to heinous, organized brutality that sought to force them from their homes in Azerbaijan. We remember those victims today, as well as those who were targeted in other pogroms in Kirovabad and Baku. As we remember the victims of these senseless atrocities, let us never forget our responsibility to one another as members of the human race and the importance of standing up to abuse or discrimination wherever it occurs.”

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