Wyoming House Votes Down Pro-Azerbaijan Measure

CHEYENNE, WY–By a vote of 35 to 25, the Wyoming House of Representatives recently voted down consideration of a Pro-Azerbaijan resolution (HJ 002), with opponents citing Baku’s repression of free speech and religious intolerance as primary reasons to block the measure.

“We are proud to see the Wyoming House of Representatives join the growing number of U.S. States in standing strong on the fundamental American principles of democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of religion by rejecting such flawed measures,” stated Elen Asatryan, ANCA WR Executive Director. “Wyoming legislators have sent a powerful message to Azerbaijani dictator Aliyev that a partnership with Baku is impossible as long as its oppressive tactics and campaign of hate against Armenians, and indeed all Christians, continues” added Asatryan.

Wyoming joins Hawaii and South Dakota in voting down measures backed by Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev and his mouthpieces in the U.S., attempting to white-wash Baku’s dismal human rights record. Similar measures currently under consideration in other states are facing tough opposition.

Rep. Nathan Winters who led opposition to Wyoming said, “I am against introduction of this bill. Azerbaijan has a repressive and authoritarian government, which restricts freedom of expression and assembly and other religious rights.”

“This government has become more active in controlling religion; fewer and fewer churches can function legally. In 2012, a number of raids on churches and Christian houses were reported. Under 2010 legislation, it is illegal for unregistered churches to meet, yet registration is nearly impossible. Many Christians are unable to find or keep jobs and are watched closely by secret services. By illustration, three men were charged and detained and threatened with criminal prosecution for their faith just last year. While the country is growing in its exploration of minerals, I would not endorse its repression of freedom of expression and assembly,” added Winters.

Rep. Thomas Lockhart was also influential in defeating this measure, saying given Azerbaijan’s negative track record, it would be premature to consider such legislation.

Audio from the Wyoming consideration of the measure is available at: http://youtu.be/KXniXJJCwCo

In February, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian issued an open letter to all U.S. state legislatures urging them to take a stand against foreign interference in American civic life by corrupt Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev. “It is truly a tribute to our great American democratic tradition that even a regime as flagrantly corrupt as Ilham Aliyev’s is allowed to operate freely within our open society, ” explained Hamparian. “But that does not mean that American citizens need to remain silent in the face of meddling by foreign leaders who neither respect our rights nor share our values -especially when they try to export their intolerance to our shores.”

To read the complete text of HJ 002, visit:
http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2014/Introduced/HJ0002.pdf

The Roll Call Vote for HJ 002 is as follows:
Ayes: Representative(s) Berger, Blake, Blevins, Blikre, Byrd, Campbell, Cannady, Coleman, Connolly, Eklund, Esquibel, K., Filer, Freeman, Goggles, Greear, Greene, Kasperik, Kirkbride, Lubnau, Mader, Miller, Nicholas B, Petroff, Zwonitzer, Dn. and Zwonitzer, Dv..

Nays: Representative(s) Baker, Barlow, Brown, Burkhart, Davison, Gay, Gingery, Halverson, Harshman, Harvey, Hunt, Hutchings, Jaggi, Kroeker, Krone, Larsen, Lockhart, Loucks, Madden, McKim, Moniz, Northrup, Patton, Paxton, Piiparinen, Reeder, Semlek, Sommers, Stubson, Teeters, Throne, Walters, Watt, Wilson and Winters.

Contact information for legislators is available at:
http://legisweb.state.wy.us/LegislatorSummary/LegislatorList.aspx

The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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