U.S. Senate supports refugee assistance to Armenia, continued aid to Artsakh

The full U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, today – following the lead of Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) – voiced their continued support for direct U.S. aid to Nagorno Karabakh, a program that has, with bipartisan backing, provided humanitarian aid to the citizens of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (Artsakh) since 1998, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The Senate spending panel also recommended funding to support assistance for refugees in Armenia, a major ANCA legislative priority.
With respect to refugee assistance to Armenia, the Senate’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 State and Foreign Operations Spending bill includes the following report language: “The Committee supports assistance for refugees in Armenia, particularly minority groups from the Middle East who have fled persecution and conflict in Syria and Iraq.”
With regard to Nagorno Karabakh, the report language reads: “The Committee recommends assistance for victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in amounts consistent with prior fiscal years, and for ongoing needs related to the conflict. The Committee urges a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The Committee recognizes that Nagorno Karabakh has a per capita landmine accident rate among the highest in the world, and that mine clearance programs have been effective where implemented. The Committee is concerned with territorial restrictions on demining activities in the region and recommends continued funds for, and the geographic expansion of, such programs.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has been an ongoing supporter of demining efforts in Nagorno Karabakh and around the world.
“We very much appreciate the work of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) in supporting continued U.S. assistance to Nagorno Karabakh and backing refugee assistance for Armenia,” remarked ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We value the U.S. Senate’s strong support for demining efforts in Nagorno Karabakh and look forward to working with House and Senate leaders to increase funding levels for Nagorno Karabakh and also to ensure that rehabilitation programs there are fully supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.”
“The ANCA also welcomes the Senate’s acknowledgement that refugee assistance is urgently needed to help Armenia to effectively transition refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq,” added Hamparian.
The Senate Appropriations Committee made a specific recommendation of $24.1 million in aid to Armenia and $10.9 million for Azerbaijan. With respect to the International Military Education and Training program, the Senate spending panel provided $600,000 for Armenia and $1 million in Foreign Military Financing for Armenia.  Overall assistance to Armenia is $3 million more that President Obama’s budget request.
Earlier this year, the ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian submitted testimony to Congress, outlining the Armenian American community’s foreign aid priorities.  The Obama-Biden Administration released its FY2017 budget earlier this year which called for $22 million in U.S. economic assistance to Armenia while maintaining parity in appropriated military aid to both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The White House’s budget proposal did not cite a specific aid level for Nagorno Karabakh and no targeted funding for refugee assistance in Armenia.

Whatever its status, Nagorno Karabakh will never be part of Azerbaijan: Edward Sharmazanov

 

 

 

“Shooting at each other is the alternative to the lack of meetings and negotiations,” Vice-President of the Armenian National Assembly Edward Sharmazanov said.

Commenting on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s latest speech, Sharmazanov said “it was retreat not only from the St. Petersburg meeting, but also the agreements reached in Vienna.”

“There is no need in the implementation of the investigation mechanism on the line of contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops in this stage,” Aliyev said during a meeting with servicemen and military officials in Baku. He sees the mechanism as a way of freezing the conflict.

Sharmazanov said the Minsk Group Co-Chairs should express a stance on Aliyev’s remarks.

Asked whether it’s expedient to continue the meetings, the Vice-President of the National Assembly said: “I’ve always said that negotiations are better than absence of meetings. Shooting at each other is the alternative to the lack of meetings and talks, while peace remains our primary goal.”

In the speech Ilham Aliyev once again hinted at the step-by-step settlement of the Karabakh conflict and declared he would never allow creation of a second Armenian state “on the historical lands of Azerbaijan.” In response to that Sharmazanov said “Whatever its status, Nagorno Karabakh will never be part of Azerbaijan.”

ANCA welcomes Pope’s explicit condemnation of the Armenian Genocide

“Armenians worldwide appreciate the Pope’s explicit condemnation of the Armenian Genocide – as a clear case of genocide – upon his arrival in Armenia,” the Armenian National Committee of America said in a statement.

“Pope Francis – through words and actions – continues to openly challenge Turkey ‘s denial of the Armenian Genocide,” ANCA said.

“By speaking directly and fearlessly about the Armenian Genocide, this time upon Armenian soil – and then making a pilgrimage to pray at the sacred Tsitsernakaberd memorial – the Pope is both strengthening Christian solidarity with Armenia and taking a courageous global stand for truth and justice,” the statement reads.

Addressing the Armenian civil authorities and representatives of the diplomatic corps at the Presidential Palace today the Holy Father recalled the Armenian President’s visit to the Vatican last year for the centenary of the Metz Yeghern (or ‘Great Evil’). He said, “Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples.”

Consumer rights NGOs sue organizers of Eros Ramazotti’s concert in Yerevan

 

 

 

Famous Italian singer and songwriter Eros Ramazotti’s concert in Yerevan was cancelled, but the money for tickets has not been returned yet. The Informed and Protected Consumer NGO has filed a suit against the organizers of the concert, President of the NGO Babken Pipoyan told reporters today. He calledon all citizens, who have bought tickets, but hav not got their money back to join the struggle.

Ramazotti’s concert was scheduled for April 2t w6, buas cancelled because the Russian organizers failed to meet their responsibilities. The Forpostart Production was the company responsible for the sale of tickets and organization of the concert in Armenia.

The Company had promised to reimburse the ticket priced between May 26 and June 26, but the money has not been returned three days before the deadline.

50 killed in Orlando gay club shooting

A gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State opened fire inside a crowded gay bar and dance club here early Sunday, leaving 50 people dead and 53 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, authorities said.

The deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 followed a clarion call by ISIS to its supporters in the United States to launch attacks during Ramadan, the Islamic Holy Month, which started last week, the CNN reports.

In an audio recording released on May 21, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al Adnani called for “a month of hurt” in the United States as well as Europe.

The attack began at about 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT) on Sunday at the Pulse nightclub. There was an exchange of fire with a police officer working at the club, after which the suspect took hostages, according to the BBC.

At 05:00 a police assault team went into the club after police received text messages and phone calls from some of the hostages. Mateen was killed in an exchange of fire.

Ten of his victims have so far been named: Edward Sotomayor Jr, Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Peter O Gonzalez-Cruz, Luis S Vielma, Kimberly Morris, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice and Darryl Roman Burt II.

US President Barack Obama has described the attack as “an act of terror and an act of hate”.

It was a further reminder of how easy it was to acquire a deadly weapon in the US and shoot people, he said.

“We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be,” said the president, who has campaigned for stricter gun laws. “To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”

Mr Obama has ordered flags on federal buildings to be flown at half mast until sunset on Thursday.

Later the White House said Mr Obama had postponed a joint appearance with the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president, Hillary Clinton.

Armenia, Iran plan to establish visa-free regime

Armenia and Iran plan to sign an agreement on abolishing visas. The Government is expected to approve the conclusion of a corresponding agreement during its upcoming session on June 2.

The agreement is aimed at further development of relations between the two countries, strengthening of mutually beneficial economic, trade and other relations and regulation of the regime of visits of both countries’ citizens.

According to the document, Armenian and Iranian citizens will not need entry visas for a stay of up to 90 days in a period of 180 days. The corresponding authorities in both countries will reserve the right to extend the period of stay.

The signing of the agreement will promote the development of tourism, in both countries and will create favorable conditions for the reciprocal visits of the citizens.

Original manuscript of Armenian Genocide whistleblower discovered in San Francisco

– When a cousin of Diana Hekimian’s in San Francisco mentioned that she had found an old manuscript in the basement of her apartment building two months ago, Hekimian didn’t know what to think.

Then she saw the manuscript. With its faded type, handwritten notes, and photographs taped to the pages, “it looked like a very important document,” she said. So, she brought it to the Armenian Film Foundation for help figuring out what it was.

Hekimian, a founding member of the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance and board member of the Armenian International Women’s Association, had actually just stumbled upon an original copy of one of the earliest reports of the 1915 genocide in Armenia: The Diyarbekir Massacres and Kurdish Atrocities. It was written by British Pro-Consul Thomas Mugerditchian and published in 1919.

People all over the world can get a personal glimpse into Mugerditchian’s life through the testimony of his daughter, Alice Mugerditchian Shipley, which is integrated into the Visual History Archive as part of USC Shoah Foundation’s Armenian Genocide testimony collection. The testimony was originally filmed by documentarian J. Michael Hagopian and collected by the Armenian Film Foundation.

The Mugerditchian family lived in comfort and prestige in Diyarbekir, Turkey, until World War I began and Alice, her mother and siblings were forced to flee. They attempted to stay alive in Kharpert (Harput) until finally deciding to escape through the mountains of Dersim and into Russian controlled Erzincan. Thomas Mugerditchian was still in Diyarbekir when he wrote his report and later served as a diplomat in Egypt. The family was finally reunited in California in 1921.

The Diyarbekir Massacres and Kurdish Atrocities is significant because it was one of the first written reports of violence committed against Armenian men, women and children in May 1914 leading up to the beginning of the Armenian Genocide in 1915, said Carla Garapedian, board member of the Armenian Film Foundation. The acts of violence and persecution against innocent civilians that Mugerditchian describes provide clues that a genocide was about to begin.

“You don’t suddenly attack a population,” Garapedian said.

Mugerditchian’s report is based on his own personal observations as well as accounts from four other witnesses.

The book’s content is truly harrowing. Mugerditchian describes babies being thrown off bridges, entire village populations marched off into the desert and massacred, and rivers flowing red with blood from murdered civilians.

Mugerditchian compiled his report, made four carbon copies (one of which is Hekimian’s) and sent it to the U.S. State Department. It was published in 1919. In 2013, it was translated to English from the original Armenian; it can be purchased on .

In 1983, Shipley wrote her own memoir, , about her family’s story of survival. Hagopian interviewed her for his collection of Armenian Genocide survivor and witness testimonies in 1985.

Hekimian hopes to donate the manuscript to an Armenian cultural institution or museum.

California honors Armenian Genocide victims on 101st anniversary

Massis Post – A delegation of the Armenian Council of America (ACA) participated in the annual Armenian Genocide Advocacy Day sponsored by the California Armenian Legislative Caucus on April 18 at the State Capitol, marking the 101st year of commemorating the Armenian Genocide.

Following a press conference in the morning with members of the Armenian Caucus, H.E. Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America conducted a requiem prayer ceremony on the State Assembly floor. He payed homage to the 1.5 million Armenians who perished during the Genocide and discussed the situation in Nagorno Karabagh condemning the acts of violence against the peaceful Armenian people in Artsakh by the Azeri dictatorship. He proclaimed that one day, Artsakh will be a free and sovereign state.

Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) invited Assemblymember Katcho Achajian (R-San Luis Obispo) to introduce Assembly Joint Resolution 34 (AJR 34) which designates the year of 2016 as “State of California Year of Commemoration of the Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915–1923 and April 24, 2016, as “State of California Day of Commemoration of the 101st Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915–1923.”

AJR 34 calls upon the President of the United States and Congress to formally and consistently reaffirm the historical truth that the atrocities committed against the Armenian people constituted genocide.

Assemblymember Achadjian described the plight of the Armenian people and said that our history exemplifies resilience. Achadjian noted that AJR 34 honors the memory of those lost during the Genocide and reaffirms our commitment to our brothers and sisters in Armenia.

Celebrating the importance of Armenian Americans in the U.S. through their achievements, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) expressed his pride for representing a large Armenian American constituency. “I stand in solidarity with the Armenian community,” added Holden.

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) spoke about Armenian women who were subjugated to shame and ridicule as they were robbed of their dignity by Turks who owned them as property after the Genocide. She emphasized that it is our duty to bring to light this often forgotten issue in Armenian history.

Sharing a personal Genocide survival story about his wife’s family who originated in Van, migrated to Russia and later settled in Iran, Assemblymember Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) urged that all textbooks in California include material discussing the Genocide. He also advocated for AB2650 which urges Calpers to divest from Turkey. He added that Armenians have not only survived, but they have thrived.

Assemblymember Gatto (D-Los Angeles) whose district represents the largest Armenian American constituency in the U.S. stated that it is a privilege to serve in the Armenian Caucus. He urged those in attendance to continue telling the stories of the survivors who are no longer with us. “The survivors have died, but the truth has not died,” added Gatto.

AJR passed unanimously 76-0 on the State Assembly floor.

Following the passage of AJR 34 on the Assembly floor, the Resolution was introduced in the State Senate by State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), where he emphasized the importance of proper recognition of the Genocide not only in the United States and other countries, but the need for the current Turkish government to stop the campaign of denial in order to prevent future atrocities that may occur in other parts of the world.

The Resolution passed the California Senate floor with a vote of 37-0.

Subsequently Senator de Leon introduced deputy Consul-General of Armenia Valeri Mkrtumyan who expressed the Republic of Armenia’s gratitude for the State of California.

The State Capitol had on display educational posters and materials on Armenian Americans in politics who have served in the past and are present, including information about early Armenian American immigrants who settled in California’s San Joaquin Valley making it one of the richest agricultural regions in the nation.

Azerbaijan has suffered a military defeat: Hayk Demoyan

 

 

 

“Azerbaijani suffered a military defeat, as it failed to reach the goals it had posed thanks to our officers and soldiers. Today we hold a trump card given us by the Armenian soldier, and we should use this in diplomacy, as well,” Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, told reporters today.

According to Demoyan, one of the reasons of the Azerbaijani aggression against Nagorno Karabakh is the end of the “oil honeymoon.”

“The military adventurism was not just Ilham Aliyev’s caprice, this means the weakness of the state of Azerbaijan needs to be saved, and at least a small victory on the Karabakh front is the only tool at this point,” Demoyan said.

According to him, it was meant to ensure unity, to create new myths and heroic stories, that cement artificial state and artificial ethnic communities.

However, Demoyan said, Azerbaijan failed to achieve the goals. “The cement
fell to the ground like spot putty,” he said.

“In the current situation the two Armenian states have to come forth with a joint statement outlining our expectations and making it clear what we are ready for. The Armenian side should insist that Azerbaijan must be held accountable for the launching of large-scale military actions, for the unprecedented violation of the ceasefire regime, or whatever it was.”

Demoyan believes it’s high time to review the National Security Strategy. “Nothing has changed in the documents since 2007, while we’re facing a new situation and new challenges today,” he added. According to AGMI Director, the recent developments have changed the situation, and this cannot but affect the negotiation process.