It is hard to believe that Azerbaijan has so quickly forgotten its own history, starting with the horrific events that took place from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, 1988, in the city of Sumgait, 16 miles away from capital city of Baku. During this three-day period, violent, rioting mobs of ethnic Azeris attacked and killed Armenians both on the streets and in their homes — while the police observed and let the events unfold and medical personnel refused to treat the victims. These days entered the history under the name of “Sumgait pogroms.”
Azerbaijan doesn’t seem to recollect that soon after the Sumgait pogroms, more Armenian citizens suffered the results of government-orchestrated violence, and in November 1988, the Kirovabad pogroms unfolded. Azerbaijan also has forgotten that after months of riots in January 1990, the violence reached Baku, the capital where I was born and lived, the city which prided itself on tolerance, multiculturalism, diversity and peace. For a span of a week, the Armenian citizens of Baku were tortured and killed. The violent mobs traveled from home to home, attacking only Armenian households. These massacres were orchestrated by the Azeri government, and the only reason they were stopped was the entry of the Soviet forces into Azerbaijan.
The very people who brutally tortured and killed innocent Armenians are now honored by the Azeri government as heroes who stood up to Russian oppression in the turn of events they call “Black January.” This was not a “Soviet attack against innocent civilians,” as they now claim. It was a delayed measure by the Soviet forces to stop the ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Baku.
Azeri leadership continuously attempts to rewrite history instead of drawing lessons from it. It continues to make heroes out of murderers, just as it did in the recent pardon of an ax murderer, Ramil Safarov, who brutally killed an Armenian colleague in his sleep during a NATO study program in Hungary.
ANNA ASTVATSATURIAN TURCOTTE