LOS ANGELES–During the past two weeks, Armenian National Committee-Western Region chapters of Orange County, San Diego and Riverside County held meetings with Congressional representatives and discussed issues of concern to the Armenian-American community.
Members of the Armenian National Committee of Orange County on August 24 met with Congressman Ed Royce at his District Offices in Fullerton, CA. Armenian National Committee members Ara Malazian, Chris Guldjian and Alex Der Alexanian met with Congressman Royce to express the gratitude of Orange County’s Armenian community for Congressman Royce’s ongoing efforts toward recognition of the Armenian Genocide and his co-sponsoring of House Resolution 106.
Discussions centered on the issues still facing the passage of H.R. 106 in both Houses of Congress, including the perceptions by some in Washington, D.C. that Turkey is still a vital ally in the war against terror and the war in Iraq. In a recent piece titled, “Turkey on the Edge” Congressman Royce wrote about the dangers facing secularism in modern Turkey. In his commen’s, Congressman Royce observed that, “The steady rise of a radical brand of Sunni Islam in Turkey is cause for concern. Islamic brotherhoods, such as the Nurcu and Fettullahci, have used loopholes in secular law to set up extensive private educational systems;Many secularists believe that these schools are the madrassas of Turkey and fear that they may be a Trojan horse for radical Islam”.
“As an American I feel that the decline in religious tolerance and the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Turkey represents a true threat. It is more important now than ever that the United States seek out friendly and reliable allies, such as Armenia, in trying to promote regional stability in the Caucuses,” commented ANC-OC member Ara Malazian.
Other issues discussed included the position taken by some powerful members of the Jewish lobby including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith International, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs opposing the passage of H.R. 106. Although the ADL has finally admitted that the acts committed by the Ottoman Empire were tantamount to Genocide, the ADL still remains opposed to legislation formally recognizing that crime as Genocide. “The Armenian community is no longer battling the Turkish lobby alone on the Genocide issue in Congress, it is also battling some of the most powerful lobbies in the United States to press for passage of H.R. 106”, stated Ara Malazian.
The meeting closed with ideas and suggestions for strengthening Armenia’s economy and democracy in Armenia. With the illegal blockades of Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan, an inability to trade with the United States via Iran and the civil war in Georgia, Armenia is essentially landlocked and unable to effectively develop the import/export aspects of the economy.
Congressman Royce welcomed the discussions about the strengthening of economic and political ties with Armenia and offered his assistance in helping to promote the process. Following the meeting the ANC members met with Congressman Royce’s District Representative, Yeghig Keshishian, to review other steps that can be taken to help with the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the bringing greater stability and prosperity to Armenia.
The ANC-WR Community Relations Director Haig Hovsepian joined Inland Empire ANC activist Ana Boyadjian to meet with Nathan Miller, District Representative for Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA-44) at the Congressman’s Riverside district office. Boyadjian and Hovsepian updated Miller regarding the status of H. Res. 106, the Armenian Genocide Resolution, as well as the Riverside area Armenian community.
Boyadjian expressed the community’s appreciation for Calvert’s continued leadership as an early and steadfast cosponsor of the resolution. Hovsepian noted that as a California Republican, Calvert’s support of H. Res. 106 sent a strong message to his colleagues that this measure enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress.
This past January, Boyadjian worked with the ANC-WR office to organize a letter writing campaign to Congressman Calvert regarding the resolution. During the course of the campaign she collected over one hundred letters in which constituents expressed their support of the resolution. Due to the successful campaign, Calvert joined over 150 of his colleagues at that time as an original cosponsor to the resolution.
Boyadjian also discussed the latest developmen’s with the local Armenian community including the local Armenian school. She urged the Congressman to join the community for upcoming Armenian community events, particularly those supporting the work of the school to help continue educating Inland Empire children about the richness of the Armenian cultural heritage.
“The ANC-WR is pleased to continue to work with Mrs. Boyadjian as we build this working relationship and open lines of communication with Congressman Calvert,” said Hovsepian. “The growing Armenian community here works diligently to keep the Armenian culture alive and ensure that it becomes a vibrant contribution to the communities of the Inland Empire.”
Congressman Ken Calvert represents the 44th District of Southern California which encompasses western Riverside County and parts of Orange County. Calvert is a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Resources Committee.
In Chula Vista, the ANC San Diego County chapter met with Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA-51). ANC-Western Region Community Relations Director, Haig Hovsepian joined ANC SDC activist and Filner constituent, Jack Bournazian to discuss the status of H. Res. 106, the Armenian Genocide resolution, as well as US-Armenia relations.
Bournazian thanked the Congressman for his early support of the resolution and urged the Congressman to support stronger relations between the US and Armenia. Bournazian discussed a recent visit of his to Armenia and noted the great economic potential and civil society growth. He argued that the United States should continue to increase its support of Armenia as it has demonstrated strong democratic and economic growth since its independence in 1991. Hovsepian also noted that Armenia’s strong democratic and economic credentials rivaled that of its neighbors and many of the former Soviet states.
Both Bournazian and Hovsepian expressed their concern regarding continued efforts by the United States Administration to lower aid to Armenia while increasing aid to Azerbaijan. Military aid parity was a cornerstone of the agreement with the Administration when Congress granted the President the right to waive Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. The act prevented aid to Azerbaijan so long as it maintained a blockade against Armenia. The increasingly corruption-riddled, dictatorial regime in Azerbaijan has repeatedly threatened to forego diplomacy and resort to military force to wipe out the de facto independence of Nagorno-Karabagh.
Filner reiterated his continued support for the Armenian Genocide resolution and urged the community to continue to pressure the Democratic leadership to move the resolution forward through the House of Representatives. The Congressman also said he would raise the matter with Speaker Pelosi once the session resumed in September.
“We are happy to work with the ANC of San Diego County in its efforts to keep connected with its elected representatives,” said Hovsepian. “Thanks to concerned constituents like Mr. Bournazian, Congressman Filner knows that support of H. Res. 106 and stronger US-Armenia relations are a priority in his district.”