California State Assembly Recognizes Artsakh’s Independence

On the floor of the CA State Assembly After Vote on AJR 32 From Left: Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, Armenia's Vice Consul to LA Artak Galstyan, Sevak Khatchadourian of ACA, Assemblymember Cheryl Brown, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, ANCA Western Region Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian, Assemblymember Scott Wilk, ANCA Western Region Executive Director Elen Asatryan, NKR Representative to the United States Robert Avetisyan, Assemblymember Mike Gatto

Landslide 70 to 1 Victory Reaffirms California State Assembly’s Commitment to Democratic Self-Determination, Calls for U.S. Recognition of Karabakh’s Independence

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—The California State Assembly, in an overwhelming bipartisan vote, on Thursday called for U.S. recognition of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, marking a major milestone in the growing American movement supporting the national and democratic aspirations of the citizens of this independent and historically Armenian country, reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR).

The historic vote specifically voiced encouragement for Artsakh’s (Nagorno Karabagh) continuing efforts to develop as a free and independent nation, and formally called upon the President and Congress of the United States to support the self-determination and democratic independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. AJR 32 was adopted by a vote of 70 to 1, and will now move to the California State Senate for consideration. Earlier this week, AJR 32 was adopted by the State Assembly Rules Committee by a vote of 9-1.

“Today the people of California, through a nearly unanimous vote by their elected representatives in the State Assembly, stood on the side of freedom and independence for the people of Artsakh. We were extremely proud and gratified to work so closely with Speaker John A. Perez and Assemblymembers Mike Gatto, Katcho Achadjian, Adrin Nazarian, and Scott Wilk in achieving this great victory, and we thank each and every one of them for leading this effort. We look forward to a similar victory in the State Senate, as the ANCA WR continues its day to day efforts in pursuit of every aspect of the Armenian Cause,” stated ANCA WR Chair, Nora Hovsepian who had provided compelling oral testimony during the committee hearing held on Monday, May 5, 2014.

“Today’s overwhelming vote puts the California State Assembly on record in support of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and reaffirms our unwavering commitment to freedom and self-determination for all peoples,” noted Assembly Speaker John A. Perez.

AJR 32 lead author, Assemblymember Gatto introduced the resolution on the floor providing historical background; noting the importance of supporting the self-determination and independence of Artsakh. Co-Author Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (R-CA), Assemblymembers Ian Calderon (D-CA), Tom Daly (D-CA) Adrin Nazarian (D-CA), Scott Wilk (R-CA) and Cheryl Brown (D-CA) joined Gatto in urging their colleagues to support the resolution, each providing heavy.

“Just last month, we worked so hard to make this resolution move forward, and we are so proud today that the California State house stood with me in support of the people of Artsakh in their ongoing quest for freedom, democracy and independence,” stated Assemblymember Gatto.

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. Dozens of refugees from the region, many from the Shahumian district of Artsakh, were present for the historic vote.

Alena Nalbandyan, who lived in Shahumian until the Azerbaijani military assault against Armenian civilians, provided personal testimony during the hearing which resonated with the committee members. “It was very gratifying to be able to share my experience with the members of the State Legislature. Today’s vote represents a validation of the demand for self-determination by all Armenians from Arstakh.”

“This resolution represents a major step in the recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent nation. I would especially like to thank my colleague Assemblymember Gatto for bringing this issue before the Assembly for debate. I am proud the state of California has taken a stance to support NKR’s pursuit of liberty and freedom,” stated Co-Author of AJR 32, Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian.

Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian said, “Today’s historical vote on AJR 32 demonstrated the Legislature’s will to accurately recognize truth in the face of false adversity. I commend my colleagues for standing on the side of truth, freedom, and democracy. Their solidarity with the people of Artsakh speaks volumes about the progress they have made in their path for self-determination, and their goal for recognition as an independent state.”

“It is a special day for Artsakh. As we are preparing to celebrate a triple holiday in Artsakh – the liberation of Shushi, formation of the NKR defense army and victory in WW2, we now have another significant reason to celebrate, which is the support of Artsakh’s freedom and sovereign democracy by one of the strongest states of the United States,” commented Representative of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic to the United States Robert Avetisyan. “We want to thank the California State Assembly for supporting us and our aspiration for freedom and everyone who made this day possible. This decision by the State Assembly of the State of California reiterates that the human rights and liberties are the prevailing values in this world and it only reinforces our determination to move forward and develop as an open and democratic society,” added Avetisyan.

The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) worked closely with Speaker Perez’s office as well as the author, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Co-Author Katcho Achadjian, and Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian and Scott Wilk to garner support for the resolution. In weeks and days leading up to the vote, the ANCA WR also activated its grassroots in sending letters and making calls to elected officials, urging them to support AJR 32.

“California has always been at the forefront of global human rights issues, leading America and the world on everything from ending Apartheid to, now, supporting democracy and self-determination for the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh,” states ANCA-WR Executive Director, Elen Asatryan. “As Americans we cherish our own liberty and support the right of all peoples to live in freedom and under governments of their own choosing. The people of Nagorno Karabakh deserve nothing less, ” added Asatryan.

Upon passage by the State Senate, California will join Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Louisiana in adopting legislation which supports the independence of Artsakh.

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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  1. Areg said:

    May God bless you all. Long live free and independent Artsakh.

  2. rita said:

    Artsakh should be a part of Armenia, not a independent republic this is pointless! Why not just hand it over to Azerbaijan instead? That would be easier.

    • George said:

      I have been thinking that for a long time too. We fought so that artsakh could be a part of armenia not an independent entity.

  3. Josef said:

    God bless all of you for your hard work we are proud to be American/ Armenian’s and God bless the great state of California!!!

  4. Armenian said:

    The west is not as anti-Armenian as some people would like everyone else to believe…

  5. Hratch said:

    California has always been in the forefront for new and bold initiatives. Hope this becomes a precedent for others to follow.

  6. Garbis Korajian said:

    Why is it so important that the California State Assembly recognizes Artsakh’s independence. What counts most right now is that Armenia recognizes the independence of Artsakh and annex it to the motherland. It was an excellent opportunity and appropriate moment for President Serzh Sarkisian to have taken a step in the right direction and recognize an independent Arsakh while in Stepanakert to mark Victory Day. As an Armenian, I would have liked to see Armenia’s recognition of Arzakh instead of a far away local government, somewhere in the United States, with no significant implication for Armenians. How sad it is that we get excited for all the wrong reason and fool ourselves!

    • Hratch said:

      Because if Armenia were to recognize it, the international community can impose also sorts of sanctions against Armenia. The status quo gives political cover to Armenia as just an innocent bystander. Since the Artsakh government is not internationally recognized they can not be punished for what they don’t have. In other words, if they place sanctions and other restrictions on Artsask that would be tantamount to recognition.

    • Hakop said:

      California is home to the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia.
      so ‘a far away local government, somewhere in the United States, with no significant implication for Armenians’ does not make sense, unless you don’t consider us to be Armenians of course. We hope Armenia clarifies things in the future. There can never be civil interaction with such ignorance. Your comment is alarming and should be treated as such.

      • Garbis Korajian said:

        No matter what the implications are, the issue of unification is paramount and we should bear all costs and see our brothers and sisters in Artsakh unite with the motherland. If this does not happen, Karabakg’s situation will stay in a limbo, like it has done for the last 25 years. Therefore, no matter what the consequences are, Armenia should move forward and unite with Arsakh as one country. Coming to other cities or local governments outside of Armenia recognizing the independence of Karabakh, as an Armenian understand its symbolic implications and feel good. However, time has come for us to look at the bigger picture and see the realization of a larger Armenia. Let’s be honest to ourselves and stop glorifying the small and sometimes not so significant things others do for us. What counts at the moment is that, Azerbaijan comes to terms with the Karabakh issue and Armenia starts working towards unification.

        • Garbis Korajian said:

          Let me also add this as ….”some food for thought.”When I was working in an African country as a consultant in “Good Governance” I had extensive discussions with the Prime Minster of a country in Africa who was my classmate in University. He knew about Armenian history since our university days. As a former liberation fighter, he was also extremely supportive of Armenian and a free Artsakh. Sooner than I realized, one day, I asked him if his government would recognize an independent Artsakh. His respond was….”I certainly would, if Armenia recognizes the independence of Artsak”