California Assembly panel votes to support Artsakh independence

The California State Assembly Rules Committee on Monday cast a historic vote supporting and encouraging Artsakh’s (Nagorno Karabagh) continuing efforts to develop as a free and independent nation, and urging the President and Congress of the United States to support the self-determination and democratic independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region. AJR 32, introduced by Assemblymember Mike Gatto, was adopted by a vote of 9 yes, 1 no, and 1 member who did not vote and will now move to the full Assembly floor for a vote scheduled for May 8, 2014.

“We are grateful to Assemblymember Mike Gatto for introducing this important resolution calling on the state of California to take a moral stand in line with American ideals of self-determination and freedom by recognizing the independence of Artsakh,” states ANCA-WR Chair, Nora Hovsepian, who offered testimony in support of the resolution at the committee hearing. “We look forward to California joining the States of Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts and Louisiana in supporting the righteous quest of our brethren in Artsakh for a life of peace and prosperity on their ancestral lands.”

AJR 32 lead author, Assemblymember Gatto was joined by Co-Author Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian (R-CA), Assemblymembers Adrin Nazarian (D-CA), Scott Wilk (R-CA) and Cheryl Brown (D-CA) in offering testimony in support of the measure. Joining Hovsepian in testifying on behalf of California’s over 1 million Armenian American community were Alina Nalbantyan, who hails from the Shahoumian region of Artsakh, and Sevak Khatchatourian from the Armenian Council of America.

The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) has been instrumental in the passage of AJR 32, working closely with Assemblymember Mike Gatto and the Rules Committee to ensure a sound understanding of the facts. “It has been my privilege to work with the leaders of the local Armenian American community and their outstanding representatives on this important resolution,” said Gatto. The ANCA-WR launched an action alert on this resolution and in a matter of a few days, Armenian-Americans from all parts of California contacted their representatives on the Rules Committee urging their members to vote in favor of AJR 32, in support of the Republic of Artakh’s independence. More than 2,500 letters were sent to the members of the Rules Committee.

California is home to tens of thousands of Armenian-Americans who are refugees of pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait (1988), Kirovabad (1988), and Baku (1990), and the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenian population of Azerbaijan. These pogroms set the stage for two decades of aggression by Azerbaijan, during which it launched and lost a war against Nagorno Karabakh, and later used its oil wealth to buy a massive military arsenal that its leaders, to this day, vow to use to renew their attempts to conquer a Christian people that have lived on these lands for thousands of years and, after great challenges, has flourished in freedom from Soviet oppression for more than 20 years.

“I stand with the freedom loving people of Artsakh in support of AJR 32. We will continue to speak out until Artsakh is free,” stated Assemblymember Scott Wilk who set the record straight during the hearing and refuted the fallacies presented by the Azeri lobby.

Since declaring independence in 1991, Artsakh has successfully conducted five parliamentary and five presidential elections that have been praised by international observers as free, fair and transparent. The most recent presidential election held in July 2012 was favorably received by more than 80 international observers from two dozen countries, including the United States. Election observers included the former Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch and Canadian Parliamentarian Jim Karygianni.

On Thursday, May 8, 2014, AJR 32 will be voted on by the full California State Assembly.

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