The California State Senate voted 39-0 on Monday to adopt AJR-1 (introduced by Asm. Chris Holden), reports the Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA-WR), condemning Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of Artsakh and calling upon the United States Federal Government to use any and all tools to compel Azerbaijan to end the blockade.
The passage in the Senate follows the March 30 passage of the resolution in the State Assembly and operates as a unified position by the State of California calling for the protection and security of the Armenian population of Artsakh as it faces unrelenting attacks in Azerbaijan’s ongoing genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing.
The Senators of the 25th and 26th California Senate Districts, Anthony Portantino and Maria Elena Durazo, both made impassioned statements on the Senate floor before the resolution was voted on. The resolution condemns Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of Artsakh and calls upon the United States Federal Government to use any and all tools to compel Azerbaijan to end the blockade. The resolution also calls on the federal government to end military assistance to Azerbaijan, provide humanitarian aid to the people of Artsakh, establish an international peacekeeping mission to ensure Artsakh’s safety and security, and support Artsakh’s self-determination.
Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh has continued for more than two hundred days. Since December 12, 2022, the Azerbaijani government has blocked the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Artsakh to the outside world. One hundred twenty thousand people have been deprived of essential goods, medicine, and food. With schools closed as a direct result of the scarcity of energy and resources caused by the blockade, more than 30,000 children have been deprived of their right to education. The continued terror imposed upon the people of Artsakh by Azerbaijan also extends to intermittent cuts of electricity, gas, water, and communications infrastructure. Further exacerbating the situation, Azerbaijan illegally installed a checkpoint on the Hakari Bridge. More recently, Azerbaijan banned the International Committee of the Red Cross from transporting critically ill patients to Armenia, as Artsakh’s hospitals are unable to provide medical care due to a lack of electricity, gas and medicine. The residents of Artsakh are also subject to daily targeting by Azerbaijani forces, with an ever-growing list of confirmed violations from the Azerbaijani side. The blockade of Artsakh continues to highlight the genocidal ambitions of Azerbaijan’s government in an attempt to force the Armenians of Artsakh from their rightful homeland.
Since the outset of the blockade, the ANCA Western Region has mobilized Armenian-American Community activists across the Western United States through initiatives, including legislative efforts, community campaigns, and town hall meetings. The saveartsakh.org initiative was one of the first efforts to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis, which served as a community letter-writing campaign that called on the Biden Administration to take concrete steps to end the blockade immediately. Separately, the ANCA Western Region activated its coalition partners across several communities, who signed onto a similar joint letter, and spearheaded a letter to President Biden, cosigned by members of the California State Legislature, calling for the United States to exert pressure on Azerbaijan to end the blockade. The passage and adoption of AJR1 will help bolster critical amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act regarding the blockade of Artsakh, which are to be heard by Congress in the coming week.
The ANCA Western Region worked closely with Assemblymember Holden on AJR-1, providing research material, issuing formal letters of support, combating misinformation campaigns by the Consulate of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles, and conducting extensive outreach to members of the California State Assembly and Senate to vote in favor of AJR-1.
“We thank Assemblymember Holden for taking the lead on holding Azerbaijan accountable for its illegal blockade of Artsakh, and we are grateful to each of the co-authors in both the State Assembly and Senate who supported the resolution and to Senators Portantino and Durazo for their unwavering support of our community,” said Nora Hovsepian, Esq, Chair of the ANCA Western Region. “The passage and adoption of AJR1 further embodies California’s commitment to the Armenian Diaspora, but more importantly, it illustrates that the people of Artsakh are not alone in their struggle for freedom.”