Denver, Colo. – Only moments before a scheduled vote Thursday, the Colorado State Senate pulled from consideration a controversial measure (Resolution SJR 15-006) which would have, in the presence of a visiting Azerbaijani diplomat, praised “the strategic partnership between the United States of America and the Republic of Azerbaijan,” reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region.
Sources from the State Capitol report the co-sponsor of the resolution, Senator Larry Crowder, agreed to withdraw the resolution from today’s vote schedule. The resolution has been rescheduled for a vote on May 15, 2015; the Legislature however adjourns on May 7 thus effectively signaling its defeat.
Prior to withdrawing the resolution from a vote, however, Senator Crowder took the floor and, in a move that confused many Colorado citizens, acknowledged the presence of Nasimi Aghayev the Consul General of Azerbaijan, paying tribute to a regime in Azerbaijan that is widely criticized as a leading violator of human rights. Aghayev surely expected to return to his office in Los Angeles boasting of a legislative victory in Colorado. No such opportunity was even afforded.
“The speed and power of our grassroots’ mobilization in Colorado against the continued, albeit unsuccessful, attempts from the Azerbaijani lobby to shamefully introduce legislation that blatantly misrepresents facts is a real testament to our community’s and organization’s resolve to pursue truth and justice for our Cause,” remarked ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “We are pleased that Colorado joins Hawaii, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming in affirming that it too is not for sale to the oil-rich and corrupt regime of Ilham Aliyev’s Azerbaijan. We were particularly gratified to see Senator Crowder reconsider and ultimately withdraw the resolution after gaining a fuller understanding of the facts about Azerbaijan’s domestic abuses and foreign aggression,” added Asatryan.
In the days leading up to today’s vote, ANCA-WR worked with local community leaders and activists to alert state legislators about the corrupt and authoritarian regime of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and the country’s gross human rights violations, coverage of which has increased in the American press most recently in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, under the headlines, “A Thuggish Regime Challenges the U.S.” and “The Two Faces of Azerbaijan’s Mr. Aliyev” respectively.
More specifically, on Monday, January 26, 2015, ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan submitted a written statement to the Colorado State Senate voicing strong opposition to SJR15-006, noting the proposed resolution’s blatant misrepresentation of the truth with respect to the Republic of Azerbaijan, U.S.- Azeri relations and the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. On Wednesday January 28th, ANCA-WR also issued an action alert, through which Coloradans were actively writing to and calling State Senator Larry Crowder and key state legislators urging that they VOTE NO on SJR15-006.
Upon learning of the resolution, which includes an incorrect citation that the United States recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, the President of Armenians of Colorado, Sona Hedeshian, along with Colorado constituent Armene Brown and many others quickly reached out to their elected officials urging them to reconsider the vote. “We deeply appreciate that our elected officials took the time to hear our concerns. Hopefully, we will not find ourselves in similar situations in the future,” stated Hedeshian.
Former Colorado State Senator Lois Tochtrop, who has been the leading voice for Armenian Genocide awareness during her long service at the Legislature, joined the Armenian American community in a meeting with Senator Crowder to explain the many inaccuracies in and counterproductive nature of the resolution.
Dr. Ken Touryan, a resident of Denver, Colorado, thanked Colorado Senator Kevin Lundberg and the Republican leadership for carefully reviewing the inaccuracies of the proposed resolution and deciding to effectively withdraw it.
“I was shocked that our Colorado state legislature would even consider honoring a dictatorship that threatens Armenia on a daily basis. The defeated resolution would have contradicted Colorado’s staunch support for Armenian issues going back to WWI, including a 1921 joint unanimous resolution on assisting the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and providing support for the Armenian Republic,” stated an active member of the Colorado Armenian community, Kim Christianian.
“We are grateful to the ANCA Western Region, the Armenians of Colorado and other organizations and individuals that worked with their elected representatives to help prevent the adoption of an erroneous motion in the Colorado State Senate,” expressed Robert Avetisyan, Representative of the Nagorno-Karbakh Republic (NKR) in the United States. “Unfortunately, legislatures across the U.S. are often misguided by biased and one-sided information about Artsakh, which distorts the historical facts and current realities. It is very important that Armenians and all supporters of truth continue sharing objective information regarding the NKR,” he added.
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.