Asbarez – With a favorable jet stream speeding their way, dozens of Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) leaders and activists arrived in Washington, DC last week for a two-day Capitol Hill advocacy campaign in support of peace and freedom for Artsakh.
The cross country trip by so many ANCA-WR leaders and activists was inspired by the ANCA Fly-In For #NKPEACE initiative, which drew activists from more than a dozen states to the nation’s capital, where they met with the offices of over 30 U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives, consulted with a broad range of senior foreign policy staff, and attended the annual Congressional event marking Artsakh’s commitment to peace and democracy. The Capitol Hill program, which drew a standing room only crowd, featured powerful remarks by Members of Congress, an address by Armenia’s Ambassador, and a keynote speech by Artsakh’s Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan.
The ANCA Fly In For #NKPEACE initiative was organized in the wake of a Congressional letter spearheaded this Fall by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), and cosigned by over 80 of their House colleagues, outlining three concrete steps to address Azerbaijan’s escalating aggression: Withdrawing snipers, adding observers, and deploying gunfire locator systems. Their letter was addressed to James Warlick, who serves as the U.S. Co-Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group and who was present at the event for Artsakh held on Capitol Hill on December 9, 2015.
“I am so proud of the smart and dedicated team of activists, and especially the youth and student leaders, who joined us on Capitol Hill last week to raise our collective voices – as American citizens – for the rights of the freedom loving people of Artsakh,” shared ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian. “With foreign governments like Azerbaijan and Turkey pumping millions of dollars into their lobbying efforts against Artsakh – it is essential for Armenian Americans of all ages to stand strong on Capitol Hill. We look forward to following up this ANCA Fly-In For #NKPEACE with additional targeted outreach that focus on key elected officials and advance our human rights agenda and to continuing to include the leaders of tomorrow in these efforts,” Hovsepian added.
The ANCA-WR leaders and activists who flew to Washington, DC spent two days meeting with a bi-partisan array of federal officials, including with the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-CA), the Ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Intelligence – Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee – Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) and senior aides for U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), among others. The Capitol Hill meetings held by the ANCA-WR leaders and activists addressed a number of key issues – including the need for the U.S. Department of State to press the Aliyev regime in Baku to stop escalating violence and war rhetoric against the peaceful population of Artsakh and the need for the U.S. Government to support continued U.S. humanitarian and developmental assistance for Artsakh.
Among those joining the ANCA-WR delegation was Christine Dashdemirians, President of the CSUN Armenian Student Association. In 2014 Ms. Dashdemirians participated in the Armenian Youth Federation’s Youth Corps Summer Program, where she spent time teaching children in Armenia and Artaskh. “The ANCA Fly In For #NKPEACE was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had,” she commented. “As a college student that loves to be involved in the Armenian American community, my two days on Capitol Hill were a great way to convey the stories of my students and their families from my AYF Youth Corps experience to members of the House and Senate. In order for Artsakh to receive more aid from the United States, we all need to get active and let our federal representatives know how we feel about this human rights issue. It really is as simple as that,” Ms. Dashdemirians added.
Alina Sakissian, an alumni of the ANCA Leo Sarkisian internship program, remarked about the importance of participating in the ANCA Fly In For #NKPEACE initiative. “This ANCA initiative in support of Artsakh was a remarkable effort because it allowed young people to make a real difference for the Armenian Cause,” Sarkissian remarked. “I was able to witness firsthand the allies and adversaries we have on Capitol Hill. It is not until you are sitting in an office at the United States Capitol, waiting for a member of Congress to discuss Artsakh issues, that you fully realize how necessary these meetings are in order to advance the Armenian Cause and how important the grassroots work of the ANCA is,” she added.
On the evening of December 9, 2015, ANCA-WR leaders and activists joined Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Robert Dold (R-IL) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) at an event marking Artsakh’s independence. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce, was joined at the event by House Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Dina Titus (D-NV), at the observance of Artsakh’s freedom.