Armenians protest California Senate-hosted Azerbaijani delegation

Calls for Karabakh freedom were heard across the California State Capitol yesterday as Armenian Americans from throughout the state converged to protest an Azerbaijani Parliamentary and State Oil Company (SOCAR) delegation visit to the CA State Senate, reported the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region, Asbarez reports.

“The California State Senate is a great seat of American democracy, and certainly no place for grandstanding by representatives of Aliyev’s dictatorial regime,” said ANCA External Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan. “The California Armenian community looks forward to speaking with each and every legislator in the upcoming weeks and at the annual April 15th advocacy event to present the true face of Azerbaijan and strengthen the bonds between the Golden State, Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.”

California State Assemblymen Katcho Achadjian (R), Adrin Nazarian (D), Jim Patterson (R) and Scott Wilk (R) joined the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and ANCA-WR led protest, which included broad participation by the United Young Armenians (UYA), local Armenian Student Associations, the ANCA Sacramento, St. James Armenian Church Pastor Fr. Asoghig Jamgochian and a cross section of the burgeoning Armenian community in the State’s Capital. ANCA and AYF Chapters in Southern California, the San Francisco – Bay Area and Central California had bused in activists from the across the state.

“I am proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with Assemblymembers Nazarian, Wilk, and Patterson and Armenian Americans from throughout the State to protest the Azeri government’s aggression and efforts to use its oil wealth to purchase international legitimacy,” said Assemblyman Achadjian. “I would also like to thank ANCA-WR and AYF for helping organize the event.”

Assemblyman Nazarian concurred, noting, “Twenty-five years after Azerbaijan’s attacks against innocent Armenians in Sumgait and the subsequent pogroms in Baku, Kirovabad and Maragha, threats and aggression against Armenia and Artsakh continue. Welcoming representatives of Aliyev’s repressive regime sends all the wrong messages to Baku, interferes with broader U.S. calls for democratic reforms in Azerbaijan, and undermines international efforts toward a peaceful resolution of regional issues.”

The Azerbaijani delegation included four parliamentarians and three representatives of SOCAR. Bay Area State Senator Leland Yee reportedly walked off the Senate floor in protest, when a brief ceremony was held in honor of the Azerbaijani parliamentarians. Diamond Bar Republican Bob Huff introduced the group, praising Azerbaijan’s democratic tradition, followed by remarks by delegation leader Samad Sayadov, who offered glowing praise of the “shared values” between California and Azerbaijan.

“Just one day before their CA State Senate visit, the Aliyev regime used water-canons and rubber bullets to disperse a peaceful demonstration in Baku,” said AYF member, Sevag Tchekidjian. “Those certainly aren’t the values and democratic tradition that California or anyone in the U.S. should be sharing or condoning.”

Later in the evening, several CA State Senators hosted a dinner with their Azerbaijani guests and high-priced Azerbaijani government lobbyists at the Sutter Club, where the Armenian American protest took place. State Senators Marty Block (D), Bill Emmerson (R), Ted Gaines (R), Ted Lui (D), Fran Pavley (D) and Board of Equalization member George Runner and his wife, former Senator Sharon Runner, were reportedly seen entering the Sutter Club during the Azerbaijani Delegation event.

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