PHOENIX, Ariz.—The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR) and ANCA-Arizona’s two-day Town Hall series from Feb. 16 to 17, followed by an Advocacy Day on Feb. 18, educated and energized dozens of Arizonans of Armenian heritage to advocate for their ancestral homeland. The efforts culminated with recognition on the Arizona State House floor of the Arizona Armenian community, and a tribute to the Republic of Artsakh presented in the State Senate.
“The Armenian American grassroots of Arizona — one of the first communities in the U.S. to build an Armenian Genocide monument on state capitol grounds — have said ‘enough’ to Azerbaijan’s lavish lobbying in the Grand Canyon State,” remarked ANCA-WR chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq. “ANCA will vigilantly continue its mission of guiding local communities’ pursuits of justice for the Armenian Cause – be it Genocide recognition or fighting for the safety and survival of the Armenian homeland, including the twin Armenian state of Artsakh.”
On Presidents Day, Feb. 18, led by senior regional and local ANCA leaders, and joined by the Republic of Artsakh Representative to the U.S., Robert Avetisyan, Armenian Arizonans held dozens of meetings with state lawmakers, including House Speaker Russell Bowers. The advocacy team educated elected officials on issues of concern to the local Armenian community, as well as to put one lawmaker on notice for their absurd praise of Azerbaijan’s “multiculturalism and religious harmony.” The grassroots also meet with U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar’s energetic District Director Penny L. Pew, who traveled to the state capitol to meet with Armenian American constituents, as well as introduce them to state lawmakers who reside in their Congressional District.
“Legislators we met with were genuinely grateful for the time we took to help educate them on the Armenian Genocide and Azerbaijan’s continued genocidal aggression against the Armenian homeland – including April 2016 war crimes, and the 1997-2006 cultural destruction of the entire Christian Armenian heritage of Nakhichevan – where I can trace my ancestral roots,” remarked ANCA-Arizona chair Angela Heisel. “We couldn’t have been more pleased with the response from our elected officials and the opportunity to share with them what is happening today in the Republic of Artsakh and halt the false propaganda spread at our state capitol by the envoys of Azerbaijan’s oil-rich dictatorship. I look forward to helping strengthen our grassroots’ voice in years to come.”
The key highlight of the day was State Sen. Paul Boyer’s introduction of Robert Avetisyan, the Republic of Artsakh Representative to the USA, on the floor of the Arizona State Senate. In his introduction and tribute to the Artsakh envoy, Sen. Boyer stated that, “Despite ongoing aggression and propaganda from the corrupt regime in Azerbaijan, Artsakh has defended its freedom on the battlefield, and continues to develop as a democracy and a vibrant economy, which allows visitors to enjoy beautiful nature and medieval churches of the world’s first Christian civilization.”
Sen. Boyer, a strong advocate of Armenian issues, continued by praising Mr. Avetisyan’s mission in the U.S. to develop cultural and economic ties between the American people and Artsakh.
“So far legislatures of eight U.S. states have expressed support for the freedom and sovereignty the Republic of Artsakh. Today, representatives of our Armenian constituency, including leaders of the Arizona Chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America, are meeting with several dozen lawmakers, and they have invited Mr. Avetisyan as their guest,” Sen. Boyer added.
Later, following the passage of the annual Holocaust awareness resolution, Mr. Avetisyan and the ANCA team, including local volunteer leaders Angela Heisel and Yervant Baltajian and ANCA Western Region’s Denver-based Community Development Coordinator, were introduced in the Arizona State House by Rep. Regina Cobb.
Additionally, Hollywood icon Dean Cain, co-producer of “Architects of Denial,” a documentary that exposes the ongoing Turkish-Azerbaijani efforts to wipe out the Armenian homeland, sent a personalized letter to Sen. Boyer to commend, in part, the latter’s efforts in support of the Armenian community.
Cain’s letter read, “I am sorry that I cannot personally join the Armenian community as they advocate for peace for their ancestral homeland today, but I would like to urge all state legislators in Arizona to watch the documentary film ‘Architects of Denial,’ which Montel Williams and I have co-produced. Our film documents how Azerbaijan has been committing a genocide against Christian Armenians, including beheading civilians and soldiers alike as recently as April 2016.”
“Azerbaijan has been buying influence across the world to cover up its crimes against Christian Armenians, who have lived for centuries on their ancestral land and who declared independence during the break up of the Soviet Union at the same time as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the other former Soviet republics,” Cain’s letter continued. “The courageous Armenians of Artsakh fought and won a war of independence from Azerbaijan and have established a truly democratic state where their people continue to live in fear of Azeri aggression 25 years after a cease-fire was declared. Azerbaijan’s intention to conquer and wipe out Artsakh, one of the twin states of the Armenian homeland, should never be underestimated, and the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination should be celebrated and unequivocally protected. I stand in solidarity with the freedom-loving Armenians of Artsakh as they seek peace and safety from Azeri aggression.”
Preceding the Advocacy Day, regional and local ANCA leaders facilitated the two town halls attended by a large number of Armenian American constituencies. On Sunday, Feb. 17, following the Divine Liturgy, the Armenian congregation of St. Apkar Armenian Apostolic Church in Scottsdale received an update on ANCA priorities and projects, followed by an in-depth presentation by Artsakh envoy Robert Avetisyan on the history and current issues faced by the Republic of Artsakh. On Feb. 16, a similar Town Hall took place at the Armenian Center in Phoenix. Town Hall participants in both cities were urged to advocate for issues for which they are passionate. Following the Town Halls, Avetisyan and ANCA leaders responded to many questions and suggestions posed by local Armenian Americans.
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.