35 years ago, in the industrial city of Sumgait in Azerbaijan, a casual February 26 turned into the beginning of a “hell on earth” for its Armenian residents, who had no idea what was awaiting them for them in the next few days.
Events that unfolded in the Soviet Azerbaijani city of Sumgait from February 26-29, 1988, later became known as Sumgait massacre.
With the encouragement and deliberate inaction of the Azerbaijani authorities, Azerbaijani mobs attacked and killed Armenians on the streets and in their apartments. The attacks left hundreds of Armenians dead, including children, women and elderly, and many more forcibly displaced.
The criminal inaction of the law enforcement bodies led for the violence to continue for three days…
Sumgait was the first pre-planned criminal undertaking by the Azerbaijani authorities against ethnic Armenians aimed at forcibly suppressing the free will of the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) that had declared their decision to exercise their right to self-determination and lead a dignified life on their historical homeland.
The Armenian residents of Sumgait became the first target of Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian policy. The Armenian population of the city was annihilated exclusively for being Armenian. This was despite the city being considered a symbol of internationalism.
The tools and methods of carrying out the massacre became typical for subsequent anti-Armenian violence throughout Azerbaijan. The massacres were preceded by targeted provocations using anti-Armenian sentiments, provocations, rallies and calls to annihilate and expel the Armenians.
Then Azeri mobs of 10 to 50 persons, with pre-made maps, systematically “cleansed” the city of Armenians, with Soviet and local law enforcement and power structures being completely inactive.
The real organisers and perpetrators of the crime were never punished and encouraged by impunity, new pogroms and massacres of Armenians in Baku, Kirovabad and other Armenian-populated areas of Azerbaijan were carried out.
As a result, Azerbaijan was cleansed off its Armenian residents. Half a million Armenians were forcibly driven out of their homes, leaving behind their possessions and property, and to this day, not a single Armenian received any compensation for the loss.
The Sumgait Massacres of 1988, the invasions of Artsakh in 1992 and 2020, and Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade of Artsakh demonstrate that Azerbaijan’s state policy of hatred toward Armenians will not stop until the international community intervenes.
If crimes against humanity and ethnic violence are not condemned or punished, the world becomes a passive bystander, failing to live up to the pledge to uphold human rights and democratic values all over the world.
If the international community does not take a firm stand against those who commit atrocities, it will encourage others to commit heinous acts in the future.
Today, Azerbaijan continues to pursue the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from their ancestral lands in Artsakh, The blockade of the Lachin corridor is a vivid demonstration of the fact.
For the 80th day, Azerbaijan continues to block the Lachin Corridor, despite the International Court of Justice’s order to unblock it immediately. The intent of purpose of this operation is clear to create unbearable living conditions in Artsakh and to displace the remaining 120,000 Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh as well.
Practical steps are needed “to call a spade a spade” and sanction Azerbaijan to prevent future crimes….
Horrific images of the massacre can be seen here.
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