Azerbaijani Embassy Seeking to Enforce Baku-Style Free Speech Limits on U.S. Congress
WASHINGTON—Members of Congress continued to salute the 25th anniversary of Nagorno Karabakh’s freedom movement this week, with Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Devin Nunes (R-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA) the latest to speak out in support of Artsakh’s quarter century of steady growth as a democratic state and society, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“We want to thank Reps. Chu, Grimm, Nunes and Valadao for joining in Artsakh’s celebration of a remarkable quarter century of freedom,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “In the face of Baku’s war and ongoing aggression, the proud citizens of Nagorno Karabakh have stood strong, building a solid democracy, and fundamentally reaffirming that – despite Ilham Aliyev’s angry tirades – the blessings of liberty that we enjoy as Americans are truly the birthright of all peoples.”
In a joint statement for the Congressional Record, Representatives Nunes and Valadao paid “homage to the Armenian people and particularly the people of Nagorno Karabakh, who bravely struggle to maintain their right to self-determination.” They went on to note: “the Armenians have suffered some of the worst savagery of recent history, from the massacre of more than a million people in the Armenian Genocide, to the cruel repression of Soviet rule, to Azerbaijan’s war against Nagorno Karabakh and the ongoing siege of that region. Through these trials and tribulations, the Armenian people have paid a steep price for their freedom. The hero’s welcome Azerbaijan recently afforded to Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani military officer who murdered a sleeping Armenian officer during a NATO-sponsored program in Hungary, is a stark reminder of the unrelenting hostility Armenians face today.”
New York Congressman Michael Grimm praised the progress made by the fledgling Nagorno Karabakh Republic over the past 25 years. “The Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s steady advances in the industries of banking, agriculture, and telecommunications, provide further testament to their promise as a viable independent partner in the international community,” stated Rep. Grimm. “Coupling this with the United States’ longstanding and unambiguous role as a defender of free people’s right to self-determination across the globe, I hope that my colleagues will join me in commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Nagorno Karabakh liberation movement as part of the promotion of peace, stability, and prosperity in the South Caucusus.”
Congresswoman Chu, who spoke forcefully on the topic once again this year, noted: “In 1991, Nagorno -Karabakh officially declared independence, becoming a democratic state committed to freedom and respect for human rights. Despite dual blockades and threats from neighboring Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh has held a series of democratic elections and continues to work hard to strengthen its economy. I stand with the people of Nagorno-Karabakh in this noble pursuit.”
Embassy of Azerbaijan Seeks to Silence Congressional Karabakh Commemoration
Meanwhile, even as Members of Congress prepare to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Karabakh freedom movement at an event hosted by the Congressional Armenian Caucus next week, the Azerbaijani Embassy and pro-Aliyev groups in Washington, DC have sought to block this event by enforcing free speech restrictions that, while common in Baku, are profoundly foreign to the American democratic tradition.
According to Capitol Hill sources, Azerbaijan Ambassador to the U.S. Elin Suleymanov has urged Members of Congress not to attend the Karabakh celebration. This follows remarks he made earlier this week at the American Israeli Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) Policy Conference, in which he attempted to demonize the Armenian American community, warning supporters of Israel not to “fall under the influence of pro-Armenian lobby groups.”
“This type of strong-arming may stifle free speech in Aliyev’s Azerbaijan, but Ambassador Suleymanov has a lot to learn about America if he thinks his desperate threats will work in the halls of our Congress,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
The Congressional Caucus event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., in the Cannon House Office Building – Room 121 and will feature remarks by the NKR Minister of Youth and Culture Narine Aghabalian. The event is being hosted by the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, with the participation of the Embassy of Armenia, Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, and Armenian American civic organizations.
The ANCA encourages Armenian Americans to call their Senators and Representative to participate in the March 13th Capitol Hill Celebration by visiting: