CA State Assembly Rules Committee Passes Resolution Supporting Artsakh Independence

ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian Testifies in Support of Landmark Resolution (AJR 32); Full Assembly Vote Set for May 8th

SACRAMENTO, CA – Less than an hour ago, the California State Assembly Rules Committee cast a historic vote supporting and encouraging Artsakh’s (Nagorno Karabagh) continuing efforts to develop as a free and independent nation, and urging the President and Congress of the United States to support the self-determination and democratic independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA WR).  AJR 32, introduced by Assemblymember Mike Gatto, was adopted by a vote of 9 yes, 1 no, and 1 member who did not vote and will now move to the full Assembly floor for a vote scheduled for May 8, 2014.

“We are grateful to Assemblymember Mike Gatto for introducing this important resolution calling on the state of California to take a moral stand AJR 32_Rules Committee 125 05-05-14in line with American ideals of self-determination and freedom by recognizing the independence of Artsakh,” states ANCA-WR Chair, Nora Hovsepian, who offered testimony in support of the resolution at the committee hearing. “We look forward to California joining the States of Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts and Louisiana in supporting the righteous quest of our brethren in Artsakh for a life of peace and prosperity on their ancestral lands.”

AJR 32 lead author, Assemblymember Gatto was joined by Co-Author Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (R-CA), Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian (D-CA), Scott Wilk (R-CA) and Cheryl Brown (D-CA) in offering testimony in support of the measure.  Joining Hovsepian in testifying on behalf of California’s over 1 million Armenian American community were Alena Nalbandyan, who hails from the Shahoumian region of Artsakh, and Sevak Khatchadorian from the Armenian Council of America.

The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) has been instrumental in the passage of AJR 32, working closely with Assemblymember Mike Gatto and the Rules Committee to ensure a sound understanding of the facts. “It has been my privilege to work with the leaders of the local Armenian American community and their outstanding representatives on this important resolution,” said Mr. Gatto. The ANCA-WR launched an action alert on this resolution and in a matter of a few days, Armenian-Americans from all parts of California contacted their representatives on the Rules Committee urging their members to vote in favor of AJR 32, in support of the Republic of Artakh’s independence. More than 2,500 letters were sent to the members of the Rules Committee. AJR 32_Rules Committee 126 05-05-14

In his supporting statement for the resolution, Assemblymember Achadjian noted “As Americans we have recognized there is a constitutional right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness which is clearly stated in our Declaration of Independence. We must also support the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in their pursuit of these same rights”, while Assemblymember Brown discussed her recent trip to Artsakh where she witnessed first-hand the people’s “deep desire for self-determination and freedom” and continued with her remarks by noting “all they want is to be free, to have their own self-determination, their own country, with their own president and I don’t know what the issue is…Why can’t we have peace, love and live together? I think that is just absolutely wonderful, if we could do that. People should have an independent nation and be able to vote how they want to vote.”

“Today’s historical hearing on AJR 32 demonstrated the Legislatures will to accurately recognize truth in the face of false adversity. I commend my colleagues for being steadfast in their remarks and for standing on the side of truth, freedom, and democracy. Their solidarity with the people of Artsakh speaks volumes on the progress they have made in their path for self-determination, and their goal for recognition as an independent state. The first-hand testimony of those who survived Azeri aggression in escaping Azerbaijan gave credence as to why this must happen now. Their stories are our stories,” noted Assemblymember Nazarian who made a motion to bring the resolution to a vote after telling the story of his grandparents who were forced out of the region.

Assemblymember Wilk set the record straight and refuted the fallacies presented by the Azeri lobby stating that Artsakh (NKR) is an Armenian region dating back to 189 B.C., it’s religion being Christianity, a people who have had a 3,000 year relationship with the Armenian people, until Stalin placed them with Azerbaijan.  Wilk went on to note that there is no Armenian lobby as stated by Azeri forces, it’s rather a grassroots organization.  “The only lobby present is the Azeri lobby, which takes its oil money to hire lobbyist to go state by state to pass resolutions based on false information.“

“The line is so clear that it demands for us to speak and to speak in a strong voice. I stand with the freedom loving people of Artsakh in support of AJR 32.  We will continue to speak out until Artsakh is free,” continued Wilk.AJR 32_Rules Committee 117 05-05-14

California is home to tens of thousands of Armenian-Americans who are refugees of pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait (1988), Kirovabad (1988), and Baku (1990), and the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenian population of Azerbaijan. These pogroms set the stage for two decades of aggression by Azerbaijan, during which it launched and lost a war against Nagorno Karabakh, and later used its oil wealth to buy a massive military arsenal that its leaders, to this day, vow to use to renew their attempts to conquer a Christian people that have lived on these lands for thousands of years and, after great challenges, has flourished in freedom from Soviet oppression for more than 20 years.

Since declaring independence in 1991, Artsakh has successfully conducted five parliamentary and five presidential elections that have been praised by international observers as free, fair and transparent.  The most recent presidential election held in July 2012 was favorably received by more than 80 international observers from two dozen countries, including the United States.  Election observers included the former Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch and Canadian Parliamentarian Jim Karygianni.

AJR 32_Rules Committee 119 05-05-14On Thursday, May 8th, AJR 32 will be voted on by the full California State Assembly. The ANCA-WR encourages all Californians to take action, by sending a free web mail to their legislators and calling their offices, encouraging them to vote in favor of the self-determination of the people of Artsakh. The action alert will be available online on the morning of Wednesday, May 6, 2014 on the ANCA WR website at http://www.ancawr.org.

“We would not have been victorious today had it not been for the strong leadership in Sacramento and for our grassroots making their voice heard and demanding that their state legislature stand strong on American founding principles of self determination and independence.  More than ever, it is critical for us to continue to reach out to our elected officials and educate them on the issue before Thursday’s vote.  We are proud to provide our community with the vehicle to do so and encourage everyone to take 30 seconds to send an ANCA WR Smartmail to their Assemblymembers starting tomorrow to be found on our website,”  stated Elen Asatryan ANCA WR Executive Director.

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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