Key Committee Blocks Baku’s Bid to Secure Adoption of Anti-Armenian Measures
HONOLULU—The Hawaii legislature on Wednesday publicly debated and then rejected a pair of Azerbaijan-initiated anti-Armenian measures, dealing a high-profile setback to Baku’s well-funded effort to enlist U.S. state legislatures in its increasingly aggressive campaign against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region.
“We want to thank Aloha State legislators, long known for their commitment to tolerance and human rights, for their wisdom in blocking Baku’s efforts to manipulate Hawaii and take advantage of the good name of her citizens,” said Elen Asatryan. “Today’s vote sends a powerful signal that Azerbaijan’s corrupt and undemocratic President Ilham Aliyev – despite all the millions he’s spending on ‘caviar diplomacy’- doesn’t get a vote here in America and certainly doesn’t deserve the right to buy influence in the U.S. government.”
The Hawaii House of Representatives Committee on Veterans, Military, & International Affairs, & Culture and the Arts rejected the two anti-Armenian resolutions during their committee hearing earlier today at the State Capitol, despite the ardent efforts of Committee Chairman Mark Takei, who was an author of the bills. Both profoundly biased and factually flawed measures were reportedly introduced at the bequest of the Azerbaijani government, a major breach of diplomatic protocol, confirmed publicly by State Rep. Rida Cabanilla, who was quoted in “Civil Beat,” a Hawaii publication, as saying that: “The resolutions came from Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to the United States.”
“Civil Beat” further reported that Hawaiians looking for the reasoning behind the introduction of such unlikely resolutions in the State of Hawaii may look trips taken to Baku last May by Reps. Cabanilla and Chairman Takai, who joined more than 300 others from the U.S. at the U.S.-Azerbaijan Convention, courtesy of the Republic of Azerbaijan which spent nearly $8,000 for the two legislators’ visit.
When he was questioned about the trip last summer, Chairman Takai said, “There’s nothing in the Legislature now that would directly benefit Azerbaijan, so it passes the ethics concern.” This contention was clearly unfounded, as the measures under consideration today clearly would have, if passed, directly benefited Azerbaijan.
Despite the resources expended on the measure by the Azerbaijani government, the most persuasive voices of the day belonged to three members of the local Armenian American community, including: Arpine Philian Mar, an 82 year-old retiree, Arthur Martirosian, and Ani Martirosian, an active community leader who was instrumental in organizing her fellow citizens to speak out on these measures.
Following the hearing, during which she had delivered a compelling, comprehensive, and persuasive argument before the Committee, Ani Martirosian said, “I’d like this to be an example for all Armenians – and other underrepresented groups – around the world that our voices do matter. We must stay vigilant to recognize the attempts made to falsify our history, and we need to then take peaceful and meaningful action to counter with the truth. Today was a win for not only us Armenians, but others who are in the minority. For the people, by the people – this is the way our legislative process should work. Let the truth prevail.”
They were joined by a self-identified neutral, Dr. Alexander Telnov, who spoke in a very balanced and forceful way in opposition of the resolutions. “The spirit of ‘aloha’ that we carry throughout the world is completely foreign to Azerbaijan,” argued Telnov, who went on to detail the high levels of corruption within the Aliyev regime.
Noting that the Azerbaijani government spends millions for political lobbying in the United States, while Armenia spends none, he went on to query, “Why do you need to spend so much money to prove your point? That’s because your point is not credible. That’s because the opinions Azerbaijan is trying to instill in the United States and other countries are distortions and untruths.”
At the beginning of the hearing, Chairman Takai appeared confident about the passage of both resolutions. However, after the Committee members took a break to privately discuss the pending legislation, Takai conceded that H.R. 13 would be deferred (not passed). The committee Chairman had unsuccessfully suggested to his fellow committee members that in light of the fact that Hawaii had adopted an Armenia-Hawaii friendship resolution in 2012 and an Armenian Genocide commemoration resolution in 2009, the pro-Azeri resolutions should also be adopted in order to be impartial. Moments later, the Chairman announced that they had also decided to defer H.R. 9.
In the days leading up to the Committee hearing, hundreds had submitted letters and testimony opposing both pieces of legislation, including the ANCA Western Region.
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian issued an open letter to all U.S. state legislatures earlier this week urging them to take as stand against foreign interference in American civic life by corrupt Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev. “It is truly a tribute to our great American democratic tradition that even a regime as flagrantly corrupt as Ilham Aliyev’s is allowed to operate freely within our open society, ” explained Hamparian. “But that does not mean that American citizens need to remain silent in the face of meddling by foreign leaders who neither respect our rights nor share our values –especially when they try to export their intolerance to our shores.”
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.