At the invitation of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region in coordination with the Tatoyan Foundation, a delegation of mayors from the Syunik province of Armenia visited California from November 11 to 16.
The visiting officials met with various elected officials and the local Armenian community and provided them with first-hand reports about Azerbaijan’s ongoing threats against Armenia and particularly the border province of Syunik and outlined the conditions on the ground as the region addresses the refugee crisis resulting from the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh.
The Syunik delegation was led by the Kapan Mayor Gevorg Parsyan, Goris Mayor Arushan Arushanyan and Armenia’s former Human Rights Defender Dr. Arman Tatoyan, who is the Founding Director of the Tatoyan Foundation. Tatoyan received the ANCA-WR Human Rights Champion Award in 2011.
Additional delegation members included Irina Yolyan, Deputy Head of Goris County; Zhora Tumanyan, Civil Defense Attache of Goris County; Ruzanna Torozyan and Armen Hovhannisyan, members of the Goris County Board of Supervisors; and Hasmik Harutyunyan, Assistant to the Chief of Kapan County. Joining the delegation in its meetings was Los Angeles-based attorney Garo Ghazarian, CEO of the Tatoyan Foundation USA, as well as representatives of the ANCA Western Region.
The delegation attended the ANCA-WR Annual Awards Gala on November 12 where the Mayors and Dr. Tatoyan were introduced to the crowd and delegation members had the opportunity to interact with public officials, including Congressmembers Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman, as well as hundreds of supporters and activists in our community to discuss issues of concern to Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
During the visit, the Syunik delegation also had separate meetings with California State Senator Anthony Portantino, Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian and Councilmember Nithya Raman, and Glendale City Councilmembers and representatives, where detailed reports about the intricacies of the Second Armenian Genocide in Artsakh and ongoing Azeri aggression were presented by the delegation.
Given the fact that California is a sister-state with Syunik Province, Los Angeles is a sister city with Yerevan, and Glendale is a sister city with Kapan, these meetings were important to set the stage for expanding these relationships and exploring ways in which U.S. government entities can assist in supporting Artsakh refugees.
The Syunik delegation also visited the Western Diocese where they met with Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, and subsequently met with representatives of the Pan Armenian Council Western USA to brief them on the situation on the ground.
A highlight of the week was the delegation’s visit to the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School where they held an interactive discussion with upper class students and faculty.
The delegation’s trip concluded with a successful Town Hall event organized by ANCA-WR, where dozens of members of the community listened intently to their reports on topics including continuous Azerbaijani threats against Syunik, and the situation of Artsakh refugees in the towns Kapan & Goris, culminating with a lively question and answer session.
During each meeting, Dr. Tatoyan presented his latest findings on Azerbaijan’s genocidal assault on Artsakh, resulting in the forced deportation of more than 100,000 Armenians from Artsakh into the Republic of Armenia. Furthermore, Dr. Tatoyan shed light on Azerbaijan’s continued aggression against the sovereign territory of Armenia, especially in the regions of Syunik, Vayots Dzor, and Gegharkunik. Mayor Parsyan and Mayor Arushanyan reported about Syunik’s security concerns, especially amidst the influx of over 5,000 Armenian refugees from Artsakh into the towns of Kapan and Goris, as well as the impact and threat of the potential establishment of a so-called “Zangezur Corridor” being advocated by Turkey and Azerbaijan.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan 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 in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.