SANTA FE, New Mexico—The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) along with its newly established ANCA New Mexico Chapter hosted the first Advocacy Days in the State’s Capital in Santa Fe on August 11 and 12, 2015.
The New Mexico Advocacy days were initiated shortly after the community became aware of Senate Memorial 99 and House Memorial 119 which praised the Republic of Azerbaijan as a tolerant nation that has built an “environment that nurtures and promotes the ancient traditions of tolerance and rejects radicalism, extremism and hatred.” The memorials made no mention of Azerbaijan’s human right’s violations or of their history of ethnic cleansing against the Armenian Christian populations living in Baku, Sumgait, and Kirovabad.
Upon learning about the Senate and House Memorials, local community members contacted their legislators to voice their concern only to surprisingly learn that the memorials were passed without knowledge of Azerbaijan, its heinous history and track record, human rights violations, the recent political aggressions that has risen from President Ilham Aliyev Tweets as well as his pardoning of Ramil Safarov.
“Though we were gravely disappointed in the legislature’s lack of oversight on these memorials, we took this as an opportunity to connect members with their constituents in order to educate them about Azerbaijan, Artsakh, Armenia, the Armenian Genocide and issues of importance to the Armenian-American community in New Mexico,” stated ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “We are grateful to our enthusiastic and dedicated community members in New Mexico who made the advocacy days a success and look forward to building on this strong foundation in the months and years ahead, “she added.
During the meetings, discussions were held about the important role states play in holding countries like Azerbaijan accountable for their actions and being vocal in their condemnation of President Aliyev’s imprisonment of journalists and social activists. The successful meetings resulted in Representatives agreeing to thoroughly learn the facts on such issues more carefully before voting on memorials.
“I am so glad to have participated in the Santa Fe ANCA Advocacy Day, which enabled New Mexicans of Armenian heritage to become active participants in the democratic process,” stated Doro Tegnazian, a Santa Fe artist and board member of ANCA-New Mexico. “We spent two days meeting with public officials who were genuinely interested in learning about our community and our concerns,” she added.
The ANCA New Mexico Advocacy Days also created the opportunity for Armenians from around the state to connect with each other, some for the first time. Armenians have lived in New Mexico as far back at the 1880s and have established themselves in different regions of the State of Enchantment.
“I appreciate the open minds and warm hearts we were met with regarding our Armenian American issues,” commented Alexander Mkhitarian, an Albuquerque attorney and board member of ANCA – New Mexico. “The legislators were very attentive and receptive to our discussions and for that they deserve our sincerest gratitude.”
The New Mexico Advocacy Day, led by the ANCA-Western Region Government Affairs Director, Tereza Yerimyan and Community Outreach Coordinator, Simon Maghakyan is the fourth advocacy day that took place outside of California, as the organization held advocacy days in Arizona, Nevada and Texas in earlier months, coupled with its longstanding Advocacy Day in California which brought over 600 Armenian-Americans to Sacramento. The increased advocacy days are a direct result of the ANCA-WR efforts to activate the Armenian American communities within the 19 western region states. The activities generally start with a town hall meeting and providing the local communities with the information and resources necessary to hit the ground running in advocating Armenian American issues.
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.