BOISE, Idaho — A month after defeating a pro-Baku resolution in the Idaho state legislature, the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region visited the Gem State to engage and activate the Armenian community through town halls and meetings.
“We enjoyed meeting our inspirational and strong community of survivors in Idaho and look forward to building our cooperation in advancing our collective cause,” remarked ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “Building on our successes, we will stand by our community in amplifying their voice in the democratic process, especially through our newly-launched chapter in Twin Falls,” added Asatryan.
On March 18, prior to their first town hall in Twin Falls, Asatryan and Community Development Coordinator Simon Maghakyan met with Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s Chief of Staff David Hensley and staffer Katrine Franks to discuss Armenian-American priorities. The ANCA-WR team spoke on the century-long Idaho-Armenian friendship as part of the Near East Relief work for Armenian Genocide survivors, as well as current federal efforts to eliminate double-taxation with Armenia and bring peace to Armenia, Artsakh, and Azerbaijan.
Later that day, Asatryan and Maghakyan met with several dozen members of the Twin Falls Armenian community at the St. Ignatius Orthodox Christian Church. All community members in attendance at the town hall are refugees from Azerbaijan, where they were brutalized due to their Armenian identity and forced to abandon their homes starting in the late 1980s. Determined to become even stronger participants in the American democratic process, the Twin Falls community expressed readiness to launch an ANCA chapter in the area. The following morning, community members gave a tour of their city’s Armenian Genocide memorial plaque, as well as other significant sites in the Twin Falls area, to the ANCA-WR team.
“Thank you to ANCA-WR for organizing our communities to help us further our collective cause, and for uniting us with the greater Armenian diaspora,” remarked ANCA-Idaho chair Liyah Babayan. “We look forward to the newly-launched ANCA-Twin Falls chapter’s strengthening of our statewide efforts to advocate human rights and justice for Armenian Americans living in Idaho. After surviving the crimes against us by Aliyev’s Azerbaijani government, we were scattered by the thousands as refugees throughout the United States and the world. We might be the micro-minority in Idaho, but we impact our State in a major way,” added Babayan, who is a well-known entrepreneur and human rights activist in the Twin Falls area.
On March 19, the ANCA-WR team traveled back to Boise for a meeting with the state capital’s dynamic Armenian American community at the St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. After a fruitful discussion on how to promote Armenian Genocide education among other issues, the ANCA-WR team had a unique chance to see the Armenian Genocide memorial plaque in Boise, as well as take a personal tour of the Anne Frank Holocaust Memorial with long-time human rights advocate and former docent Jo-Ann Kachigian.
“It was good to hear about ANCA-WR’s emphasis on educating people about the Armenian Genocide and the movement to include the topic in history textbooks! Imagine future generations of Americans who are knowledgeable about this critical but little-known historical event. Armenians in Idaho are a minority group, so I take every opportunity to teach others about our unique history,” noted Kachigian.
On February 11, 2016, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee introduced House Concurrent Resolution 37 in praise of Azerbaijan’s “interfaith tolerance,” sponsored by Representative Thomas Dayley. Upon learning about the resolution, ANCA-WR immediately alerted the local Armenian American community, submitted testimony to all House members in opposition to the resolution and called upon all members to encourage the withdrawal of this resolution. The numerous calls and emails generated by the ANCA-WR and local residents, as well as Babayan’s meetings with lawmakers during which she and her mother shared their personal experiences of persecution as Baku Armenians, educated lawmakers on Azerbaijan’s actual human rights record. On Feb. 17, Representative Thomas Loertscher, chairman of the committee, confirmed in an email that the sponsor had effectively withdrawn the resolution.
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.