PASADENA—Leaders and supporters of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region met with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a maverick who has challenged the status quo with respect to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
In addition to ANCA-WR leaders, the meeting with Congresswoman Gabbard included several local government officials and religious leaders who shared their personal insights on the plight of Armenians in Syria and Iraq and how U.S. actions in the region in support of “moderate rebels” has yielded disastrous results for Christians and other ethnic minorities, such as Yezidis and Kurds, across the Middle East.
“It was refreshing to hear such a clear and cogent perspective from Congresswoman Gabbard on what is really going in the Middle East and how America’s foreign policy in that region is failing to reflect our very own American values,” shared ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian. “Congresswoman Gabbard’s voice on foreign policy is an important one – because she is asking many questions that need to be asked – like why Turkey was permitted by the United States to aid and abet ISIS and how the U.S. Department of State continues to make America beholden to an autocratic leader like Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Hovsepian added.
While Congresswoman Gabbard does not have a large Armenian American constituency in Hawaii – she has taken an interest in Armenian issues – and shared with ANCA-WR leaders and community representatives that she will be co-sponsoring the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Con.Res. 220) being advanced by her Republican colleague from the State of Michigan, Congressman David Trott.
The meeting with the ANCA-WR and community leaders was arranged by Glendale City Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan and included the participation of His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy, Reverend Berdj Djanbazian of the Armenian Evangelical Union, Father Armenag Bedrossian of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy and Raffi Kendirjian of the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund.
Gabbard has made national headlines over the past several years with respect to her outspoken criticism of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and her strident support for then-Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. In a colorful moment during the last Presidential campaign, the Congresswoman was – as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee – disinvited to the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Nevada for urging that Senator Sanders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hold more debates. The decision to disinvite the Congresswoman was reportedly made by the then-Chair of the Democratic National Committee – Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). Congresswoman Gabbard also made national headlines when she recently visited Syria and continued her effort to inform her congressional colleagues of the dangers posed with America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other countries that are flooding the Middle East with arms and radicalized terrorists.
Following the meeting with community leaders, Congresswoman Gabbard was graciously hosted by ANCA National Board member Aida Dimejian and her husband Hovig at their home where attendees had the opportunity to meet the Congresswoman and discuss issues of mutual concern with.
Tulsi Gabbard is a native of Hawaii and was elected to the Hawaii State Legislature in 2002 when she was just 21 years old, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. A year later, she joined the Hawai‘i Army National Guard to serve Hawaii and our country. In 2004, Tulsi volunteered to deploy with her fellow soldiers, becoming the first state official to voluntarily step down from public office to serve in a war zone. She served two tours of duty in the Middle East, and she continues her service as a Major in the Army National Guard. In between her two tours, Tulsi served in the U.S. Senate as a legislative aide to Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), where she advised him on energy independence, homeland security, the environment, and veteran issues. While working for Senator Akaka in 2007, Tulsi graduated from the Accelerated Officer Candidate School at the Alabama Military Academy, where she was the first woman to finish as the distinguished honor graduate in the Academy’s 50-year history. Tulsi was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and again assigned to the 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion of the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard—this time to serve as the Military Police Platoon Leader.
In 2010, Tulsi Gabbard was elected to the Honolulu City Council, serving as Chair of the Safety, Economic Development, and Government Affairs Committee and Vice Chair of the Budget Committee. In 2011, she visited Indonesia as part of a peacekeeping training with the Indonesian Army. Tulsi was elected in 2012 to the United States House of Representatives, serving Hawaii’s 2nd District. She is one of the first two female combat veterans to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, and its first Hindu member.
Now in her third term in Congress, Gabbard serves on both the House Armed Services Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices and supporters around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
YEREVAN—The government of Greece on Thursday granted a six-month temporary residency permit to Turkish-Armenian author and intellectual Sevan Nisanyan, who escaped from a Turkish prison earlier this month after serving three out of a 17-year sentence for violations of a construction code.
In an interview with Armenpress on Tuesday, Nisanyan had indicated that he had sought asylum from Greece saying, “I have always thought of Greece as my second or third homeland. It is a very beautiful and civilized country. I’ll be very happy to spend the new phase of my life there.”
On July 14, Nisanyan left the minimum security prison on a furlough and never returned. He took to social media to say that “bird flew away.”
Nisanyan told the Turkish press at the time that, “I thought that three and a half years was already enough. It was time to take a breath. That’s it. And I made the decision to leave the territory of the state control by taking advantage of Turkey’s shortcomings.”
“Escape from Turkey is very easy. As you see, all can escape in case of having good amount of money. If you give the money to the security in the structures, you can escape very calmly,”Nisanyan said at the time.
“I got a lot of support and love from my friends in Armenia when I was in prison. There are many people whom I’d like to thank,” Nisanyan told Armenpress.
The Turkish authorities have issued a warrant for Nisanyan’s arrest and have listed him as a fugitive from the law.
YEREVAN—Armenia has signaled that it will pursue an agreement with the United States to abolish double taxation, saying that it is part of economic agenda of the Armenian government. The push for treaty with the US on abolition double-taxation is being spearheaded by the Armenian National Committee of America.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday after the weekly cabinet meeting, Armenia’s Finance Minister Vardan Aramyan said that Armenia will discuss a double-taxation treaty with the United States as it enhance the business climate in Armenia and will expand opportunities for US businesses.
“Armenia has quite recently signed an agreement with Israel [to abolish] double taxation. That signals a very important moment for us. We had so far signed agreements ruling out double taxation with 46 countries. So Israel is now the 47th,” Aramyan added.
“Minister Aramyan’s remarks speak to the heart of this matter. A new U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty will make Armenia more attractive to American investors, removing unnecessary barriers to the growth of bilateral economic relations,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We welcome his leadership and, more broadly, the growing momentum among stakeholders in Washington, DC and Yerevan for a modern Double Tax Treaty and other forward-leaning initiatives to unleash the potential of U.S.-Armenia commerce.”
He said the Armenian government has discussed this issue with American partners and plans to again propose that both governments sign a related agreement, especially since Armenia joined the multilateral convention of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on counteracting the tax base erosion and profit shifting earlier this year.
He explained that Armenia’s participation in the convention ensures that the minimum standards regarding prevention of treaty abuse and amelioration of the international tax dispute resolution process are implemented in all covered tax agreements quickly.
“I think we have more work to do with our US partners, as the issue has been under consideration for 20 years if my memory doesn’t fail me,” Aramyan noted.
YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—A U.S. general overseeing the Kansas National Guard is visiting Armenia for a third time in less than a year shortly after his troops trained more Armenian soldiers as part of growing U.S.-Armenian defense cooperation.
Major General Lee Tafanelli, the Kansas adjutant general, met with Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian on Wednesday. He reportedly pledged to continue training programs for Armenian military personnel mostly serving in a special brigade that contributes troops to multinational peacekeeping missions around the world.
The Armenian Peacekeeping Brigade has received considerable technical assistance from U.S. Army Europe and the Kansas National Guard. In particular, U.S. instructors have been training the brigade’s medical personnel and demining experts. The Armenian military inaugurated a U.S.-sponsored paramedic school in October last year.
Tafanelli’s department reported earlier this week that more soldiers of the Peacekeeping Brigade have undergone training at a Kansas National Guard facility in Salina, a small city in the U.S. state. “The Guardsmen and Armenian soldiers conducted training exercises in the Humvee egress rollover trainer and in the virtual convoy simulator,” it said in a statement.
The Kansas Adjutant General’s Department also released several photographs of the joint exercises held this month.
The U.S. has also helped Armenia to recruit and train more non-commissioned contract officers. As part of that effort, 25 Armenian army sergeants underwent further training in Kansas in August 2016.
According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, Sargsian and Tafanelli discussed these training programs at their meeting. “The American side expressed readiness to continue cooperation in these directions through long-term programs,” read a ministry statement.
Despite its military alliance with Russia, Armenia has deepened defense cooperation with NATO and the United States in particular since the early 2000s. It currently contributes troops to NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and regularly participates in multinational exercises organized by U.S. forces in Europe. U.S. military assistance to Armenia has totaled about $50 million since 2002.
Tafanelli said that U.S.-Armenian military ties are now “as strong as they have ever been” during his previous visit to Yerevan in January. “Each year continues to get better and better with the quality of the engagements and partnership between our two countries,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Tafanelli as well as a deputy commander of U.S. Army Europe, Major General John Gronski, also attended last September official ceremonies in Armenia that marked the 25th anniversary of the country’s independence. A military parade in Yerevan was the main highlight of those celebrations.
In addition, the Kansas National Guard has been assisting Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations. Emergency Situations Minister Davit Tonoyan praised that assistance when he met Tafanelli on Thursday. In a statement, Tonoyan’s office said the two men discussed ongoing training courses for Armenian firefighters and rescue workers organized by the Kansas Guard and the British military.
The ten-day courses began on July 18 at two different locations in Armenia. The statement said Tonoyan and Tafanelli will visit both venues on Thursday and Friday.
BY ALIK OURFALIAN
What would you do if you were bleeding out on a crowded street, but nobody paid attention to your cry for help? If hundreds of people were walking right by you, but nobody cared enough to help? If the person who stabbed you was walking among them, but nobody confronted him? If you had no home, no friends, no place to go?
Would you accept your fate and die alone? Or would you do anything you could to save yourself?
Just forty years ago, the Armenian people were bleeding out. Two generations removed from the genocide, yet our wounds were still deep. Our home was taken from us. We lived in foreignness. Our basic human rights were overlooked.
At the same time, our people watched as Germany was punished for the Holocaust. But who, after all, speaks today of the genocide of the Armenians?
What about us? What about our rights? We pleaded and protested. We appealed to the world and the United Nations. Nothing worked. The world remained silent. Turkey continued its campaign of denial. The Armenian Question remained unresolved. Nobody seemed to care.
It’s difficult for today’s generation to fully grasp what it meant to live in that time, in that situation. We may still live in foreignness today, but we have a homeland. We’ve grown up knowing that an independent Armenia is a plane ride away. We don’t know what it means to yearn for a homeland.
The period of armed struggle, like the Bank Ottomans and Khanasor Expeditions before it, brought the Armenian Question to the world stage. An imperative step in our history, it made the world care about our Cause, so that today, we have a voice. So that we can continue fighting for our Cause, through whatever appropriate means we have.
Ara, Sarkis, Setrag, Simon, and Vache gave their lives. They made the ultimate sacrifice, and that’s not just empty rhetoric. What’s more important than life? They hadn’t lived life. They were around 20 years old. But they didn’t care about material life and all its glories. They cared about the Armenian nation. They cared about the Armenian Cause. They died for a homeland they had never seen, so that we can see it today. They died to make the world care about us, about our Cause. Because they cared so much about our Cause.
Now they live eternally, forever immortalized in our history. They exemplify sacrifice and dedication of the highest degree, the courage to take on the entire world.
As we sing their songs, let us remember that everything they did, they did for us. So that we could see the homeland they never saw. We cannot let their memories die in vain. We will not let their memories die in vain.
«Կ’երդուենք անբիծ պատուովը ձեր ընդարձակել պայքարը մեր»:
BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
“This is not suicide, nor an act committed by insane people. This is a sacrifice at the altar of freedom.” So read a statement issued by the Armenian Revolutionary Army on July 27, 1983, after five of its members—Setrag Adjemian, Sarkis Aprahamian, Vatche Daghlian, Ara Kerdjelian and Simon Yahneian—made the ultimate sacrifice for the Armenian Cause when they blew up the Turkish Embassy in Lisbon Portugal, saying, “we have decided to blow up this building and remain under its rubble.”
“The note from the ARA said it had resorted to ‘armed struggle’ because peaceful means for ‘the pursuit of our just cause’ had failed. ‘The wall of silence build around our cause was too thick to be pierced.’ The ARA said it carried out the attack because ‘Turkey and its allies refused to recognize the Genocide of Armenians,’” Asbarez wrote in its July 30, 1983 issue in covering the Lisbon 5 news.
On social media, pictures of the Lisbon 5 with a note saying “we will never forget” or “your memory will always shine” are abound. On this day, we bow our heads to these heroes and proclaim our unwavering commitment to their ideals and beliefs.
Perhaps, however, this day should serve as an opportunity for each of us to reflect on the sacrifices we have made for our nation and our cause and assess our efforts—individual and collective—in advancing the just aspirations of the Armenian Nation. After all, theirs was the “ultimate sacrifice.” While most of us are not inclined to take such drastic steps to advance the Armenian Cause, the Lisbon 5 should serve as an impetus to make a sacrifice, for without it nothing can be achieved.
A recent humbling experience, which rendered me speechless, took me back to July 27, 1983, when topping the evening news was the story of our heroic Lisbon 5, which sent chills down my spine, while, at the same time, filling me with pride and conviction.
That experience happened this past April when I visited our soldiers on the frontlines in Artsakh. They, too, were the same age as Sarkis, Setrak, Ara, Simon and Vatche; and they, too, were making the ultimate sacrifice at the altar of freedom, saying that they would serve in their posts “as long as it was necessary.” These soldiers are not merely protecting the borders of Artsakh. They are defending our homeland—our entire nation. Four months later, I have not been able to put into words and share with my readers that particular experience in Artsakh, but I have had to report on way too many soldiers being killed by Azerbaijani fire. While I don’t know whether any of them were the soldiers I encountered on the frontline, I do know that each of them is now part of the vast and storied pantheon of our national heroes, along with the Lisbon 5 and all those others who have sacrificed their lives for our nation.
July 27 always gives me pause. It is a date that brings out all the weighty issues and forces me to take stock of my actions and my sacrifices for our cause. What I do, or have done, pales in comparison to the “ultimate sacrifice” of the Lisbon 5 or the peril our soldiers on the frontlines face on a daily basis. But their actions provide the impetus for me to do more.
Almost three and a half decades later, the ultimate sacrifice of the Lisbon 5 is still seared in our memories, forever shaking us to our core and humbling us as we go about our daily lives. While we know that their sacrifice was not in vain, let us commit ourselves to make more sacrifices in the name of our cause and the Armenian Nation.
WASHINGTON—Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) – an increasingly influential national voice on foreign policy issues – remains actively engaged with the Armenian National Committee of America in support of a potentially transformative Millennium Challenge Corporation grant for science, technology, engineering and math, commonly known as STEM, education in Armenia’s public schools.
The MCC is an independent U.S. foreign aid agency, established by Congress in 2004 and charged with leading the fight against global poverty. Country-specific programs are selected by the MCC board through a competitive selection process, based on its review of a broad range of merit-based governance criteria. Since its launch, MCC provided over $10 billion in grants, including a grant in 2008 to Armenia for rural roads and irrigation.
“The success of MCC’s recent $140 million STEM-focused grant to the Republic of Georgia can serve as a working template for a similar educational compact with Armenia, which is experiencing a surge in IT-driven economic growth,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian. “A potentially transformative MCC investment of $100,000,000 or more will reduce poverty, create economic opportunity, strengthen U.S.-Armenia ties, and pay dividends for generations to come.”
“Armenia’s first Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, granted in 2006, was a highly successful investment of over $170 million to reduce rural poverty,” said Rep. Schiff. “I believe the time is right for a new compact, focusing on STEM education to help Armenia take the next step towards sustainable economic growth and a growing middle class. In recent weeks, I have enjoyed many valuable conversations with the leadership of the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian embassy on how to move forward on this important project, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with all of the stakeholders to ensure Armenia receives every consideration.”
Parallel to discussions with Congress and the Administration, the ANCA has held talks with U.S. universities interested in partnering on an MCC Armenia compact, along the same lines of San Diego State University’s cooperation with the MCC’s Georgia compact.
Congressman Adam Schiff represents California’s 28th Congressional District – home to the largest population of Armenian Americans in the United States. He currently serves as the Ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and is on leave from the influential Appropriations Committee, where he served on the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee, a key subcommittee that shapes and funds U.S. foreign policy initiatives around the world.
Last year ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian praised past MCC support for Armenia, noting: “As much as the first MCC grant accomplished, there is much more to be done. A second compact holds the potential to deliver a new round of transformative change to Armenia, at a truly pivotal moment in Armenia’s development. Such a future compact could, for example, provide hundreds of millions of dollars to empower Armenia’s public school students with the advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education required in the rapidly evolving 21st Century workforce. Such a grant would add new energy to Armenia’s growing IT sector, promoting the development of an advanced and sustainable Armenian economy fully integrated into the international financial system.”
OTTAWA—The Armenian National Committee of Canada has launched an online action alert calling on the Canadian government to immediately halt the export of Canadian manufactured weapons to Azerbaijan.
The ANCC urges members and grassroots activist to take immediate action and demand the cancellation of this highly controversial arms deal. The action alert is live on the AYF Canada website and could be accessed via the following link:
Recently, the ANCC learned that the Canadian government had granted an export permit for the transfer of highly sophisticated military equipment from the Toronto-based INKAS Armored Vehicle Manufacturing over to the Republic of Azerbaijan.
In a letter addressed to Canada’s Minister of International Trade, François-Philippe Champagne on July 24, ANCC President, Shahen Mirakian said “Such transfers of dangerous weaponry to a rogue states such as Azerbaijan violate the very basic norms of Canada’s arms exports regulations and pose a significant danger to domestic and regional stability”
“As has been demonstrated repeatedly thus far, the Azeri regime is adamant on using such equipment not only to perpetuate regional instability by threatening the peace and security of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), but also to crack down on dissent at home.” added Mirakian.
As a matter of fact, in April of last year, Azerbaijan, armed with then-newly acquired lethal weaponry, initiated the Four-Day War which was the deadliest clash between Armenian and Azeri forces since the 1994 ceasefire, and has been culpable of countless ceasefire violations up to that point and ever since.
By allowing this export of military goods to Azerbaijan, Canada is contributing to the hostilities among Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh. Such decisions are contrary to Canada’s commitment and full support of the OSCE Minsk Group negotiation process and for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“In observance of Canada’s stated priorities and regulations regarding arms exports, namely preserving regional peace and stability, and protecting human rights, we urge the government to not allow the interests and motives of hostile nations trump our shared values of justice and democracy.” concluded Mirakian.
As responsible Canadians and concerned members of the Armenian-Canadian community, the ANCC urges all members and activists to take one minute and send a pre-written email to the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and demand the reversal of this highly controversial and unacceptable decision.
The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Canadian-Armenian grassroots human rights organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Canadian-Armenian community on a broad range of issues and works to eliminate abuses of human rights throughout Canada and the world.
YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Hundreds of Armenians have filed government-backed lawsuits in the European Court of Human Rights accusing Azerbaijan of beheading Armenian soldiers and committing other atrocities during last year’s heavy fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ara Ghazaryan, an Armenian legal expert involved in the unprecedented legal action, said on Tuesday that the Strasbourg-based court has already requested official information from Baku on over 20 of the 359 lawsuits filed from Armenia and Karabakh.
“We expect a just compensation,” Ghazarian told a joint news conference with Armenia’s and Karabakh’s human rights ombudsmen. “It could be both a recognition of the violations [of the European Convention on Human Rights] and subsequent compensation for material and moral damages. But first and foremost, we must ensure that the European Court recognizes that there were violations.”
The war crimes alleged by the plaintiffs stem from the April 2016 hostilities in and around Karabakh which left least 180 soldiers from both warring sides dead. The authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan say that three Armenian soldiers were beheaded by Azerbaijani troops at the time. They claim that one of them, the 31-year-old Major Hayk Toroyan, was still alive when his Azerbaijani captors began cutting off his head.
The headless body of another soldier, Kyaram Sloyan, was handed over to his family and buried on April 4, 2016, two days after the Azerbaijani army launched an offensive at two sections of the Karabakh “line of contact.” The family living in a village in central Armenia received the 19-year-old’s severed head later on.
According to Karabakh prosecutors, 15 other Armenian soldiers had their ears cut off after being killed by Azerbaijani forces.
Another Armenian lawsuit filed in Strasbourg stems from the violent deaths of three elderly members of a family in Talish, a village in northern Karabakh that was devastated by Azerbaijani shelling in April 2016. They were reportedly murdered by Azerbaijani commandos that burst into their home located on the outskirts of Talish.
YEREVAN—Israel wants to develop friendly relations with Armenia, according to that country’s Regional Cooperation Minister, Tsakhi Hanegbi, who told Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Wednesday as he kicked off an official visit to Armenia.
He said that the purpose of his visit was to advance those ties. The two signed a memorandum of understanding abolishing visas for holders of diplomatic passports, as well as one that abolishes double taxation between the two states.
Discussions, spearheaded by the Armenian National Committee of America are underway with Trump administration officials to abolish double taxation between US and Armenia.
The two ministers discussed regional and international issues as well as ways for improving trade and economic relations and increase tourist flows between Armenia and Israel. Recently regular flights between Yerevan and Tel-Aviv were launched.
Prospects for expanding mutually advantageous relations in culture, science and education were also discussed, to which end a cooperation plan in those areas was signed by Hanegbi and Armenia’s Culture Minister Armen Amiryan.
The Israeli minister also met with Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, who said that Armenia was interested in developing economic cooperation with Israel, citing the Yerevan-Tel-Aviv flights as positive step.
While exchanging ideas about intensifying economic and bustiness relations between the countries, Karapetyan stressed the importance of professional exchange and advancement of investment programs in IT, agriculture, public administration, digitization, health care and science sectors.