(Los Angeles, CA)—The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) hosted a sold-out Awards Banquet/Gala in a historic show of support for the homeland in the wake of the Second Armenian Genocide perpetrated by Azerbaijan against the Armenians of Artsakh. The Gala, which took place on Sunday, November 12, 2023 at The Omni Los Angeles Hotel demonstrated the potential of the largest and most organized community in the Armenian Diaspora in forming a unified front as the homeland faces an existential threat from Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Representatives and leaders from virtually every Armenian community organization attended and supported this year’s ANCA-WR Gala, including the Western Diocese, Western Prelacy, Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun, Western U.S.A., the Armenian Democratic League (Ramgavar Party), the Armenian Cultural Foundation, Homenetmen Western US, Hamazkayin, the Armenian Missionary Association of America, the Armenian Educational Foundation, AGBU, Tekeyan Cultural Association, the Armenian American Museum, the Pan Armenian Council, the Armenian Assembly of America, the Unified Young Armenians, ANCA-Professional Network, several local ANCA-WR and ACF chapters, several Armenian and US media outlets, the Consulate of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles, and coalition partners including Jewish World Watch and Asian-American National Committee.
The program started with a moving rendition of the American and Armenian National Anthems by Ms. Alene Aroustamian. After more than 45 elected officials from federal, state, county and city offices and dignitaries were introduced, welcome remarks were made by Gala Committee Co-Chairs, Lina Davidian, Esq. and Christine Magarian, Esq., followed by the invocation delivered by Very Rev. Zareh Sarkissian of the Western Prelacy, Very Rev. Yeremia Abgaryan of the Western Diocese, and Rev. Hendrik Shanazarian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.
The program continued with a video presentation in honor of 2022 ANCA Western Region Freedom Award honoree Dr. David Babayan, who has been illegally kidnapped by Azerbaijan since late September 27, 2023 along with other officials of the Republic of Artsakh.
Conveying the organizational message, ANCA-WR Board Chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq., stated, “Now more than ever, we know that Armenia can only survive if it is left in peace. But we also know that true peace entails not only the absence of war – but the presence of justice. And that justice, for us, includes accountability for crimes against humanity by both Azerbaijan and Turkey; secure borders; the right of Artsakh Armenians to return to their ancestral home; an international protectorate to ensure their safety, freedom and preservation of culture; and the safe return of all prisoners of war and unlawfully detained persons. Here in the United States, as American Armenians, it is our right and indeed our duty to demand that our government move beyond supportive rhetoric to solid action to achieve this justice. We need the U.S. foreign policy establishment to recognize that in its efforts to ensure a just and sustainable framework for peace in the Caucasus, it is in the U.S. strategic interest to give Armenia a viable option for strategic realignments, and to actually be a genuine ally whose support for Armenia is tangible, steadfast and reliable.”
In furtherance of its efforts to better understand the urgent needs of our Homeland, the ANCA-WR invited a delegation from the besieged province of Syunik, Armenia, the leaders of which were introduced to great applause: the Mayor of Kapan, Syunik’s capital city, and surrounding communities, the Honorable Gevorg Parsyan; the Mayor of Goris and surrounding communities in the Syunik province, the Honorable Arushan Arushanyan; and Dr. Arman Tatoyan, former Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, founder of the Tatoyan Foundation Center for Law and Justice, and 2021 recipient of the ANCA-WR Human Rights Champion Award.
ANCA Western Region Board members Anahid Oshagan, Esq. and Sako Berberian welcomed LA City Mayor Karen Bass who introduced LA City Council President Paul Krekorian with the 2023 ANCA Western Region Advocate for Justice Award. In her remarks, Mayor Bass stated: “We served together in Sacramento… He was a leader in Sacramento, in the State Assembly…I want you to know that Paul made sure that everyone in the state legislature understood the history of the Armenian Genocide.”
In his acceptance speech, Council President Krekorian stated, “It’s been my privilege to partner with many of you and ANC for over 30 years to empower the Armenian community. Thanks to our collective work, we are now the most important Armenian Diaspora in the entire world and everyone in the political arena is aware of our issues and care about soliciting our support. But at the same time, we have to be honest. We know that the last 3 years has been excruciating for all of us because of the catastrophe in Artsakh and the continuing genocidal acts of the Butcher of Baku.”
ANCA Western Region Board member Hermineh Pakhanians and Board Advisor Levon Kirakosian, Esq. presented the 2023 ANCA Western Region Champion of International Justice Award to Luis Moreno Ocampo by stating: “Activist. Prosecutor. A living legend of international justice. Luis Moreno Ocampo remains one of the most influential voices of our time in the fight for genocide prevention. Ocampo made history in 2003 when he became the First Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. This past year, Ocampo directed his trademark grit to raising awareness about Armenia and the people of Artsakh, speaking before Congress for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission to urge the United States to intervene in the name of peace and to prevent genocide.”
In his acceptance speech, Luis Moreno Ocampo stated: “The Genocide Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of genocide was the byproduct of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the Holocaust…What happened in Artsakh is a genocide, different from 1915, but a genocide nonetheless.”
ANCA Western Region Board Member Lina Davidian and Vice Chair Raffi Kassabian, Esq. were joined by former Reagan Speechwriter and 2011 ANCA-WR Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Ken Khachigian, to present the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award to Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian by stating: “The diplomatic career of Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian began during President Kennedy’s administration in 1962. Born in New York, Djerejian, who served honorably in the Korean War, was inspired to embrace public service hearing stories of struggle and survival from his father Bedros, whose parents perished during the Armenian Genocide. Highlights of his service include his post as Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, and serving as U.S. Ambassador to Syria and Israel. Djerejian remains a leading expert on national security and foreign policy. One of the hallmarks of his life is his desire to enrich strong foundations for democracy in Armenia to safeguard the country’s future.”
“The United States and the international community must make clear, not only by words– we’ve heard a lot of words– but with deeds, that they will not countenance any infringement on Armenia’s political independence, its territorial integrity, and its sovereignty,” said Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian. “The challenge for Armenians in Armenia and in the diaspora is to work together to ensure that Armenia achieves security through deterrence, and continuing its evolution as a democratic state, providing its people with economic prosperity, social justice, and the rule of law…the task ahead is crucial. Let us work together, in unison, to achieve our noble goals.”
Following dinner, 2023 Summer and Fall interns were recognized for their contributions to Hye Tahd by ANCA Western Region Coalition and Community Development Director Edward Barsoumian and Government Affairs Director Ruben Karapetian.
ANCA Western Region Board Vice Chair Raffi Kassabian, Esq. and Board Member Lena Bozoyan and presented the 2023 Legacy Award (Posthumous) to Dr. Richard G. Hovannisian by stating: “A Giant of Armenian Studies. Dr. Richard Hovannisian has left a luminous legacy that continues to leave a far-reaching impact on the international diaspora community. He was a perfectionist who expected nothing less of his students and his people.”
“My father not only taught his students but learned from them. How I wish Hayrig to his 14 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren, our professor and patriot was here in person today to teach and inspire us as he did throughout his ninety years,” said Ani Hovannisian. “If we really believe, we will continue with our own personal sacrifice to build up the underlying soil, so that ultimately we can dam up the damnation of genocide.”
ANCA Western Region Board members recognized the decades of service Steve Artinian gave to the Armenian community in Los Angeles, including through his service to Hye Tahd as a former ANCA Western Region Board Member. When announcing the new Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award and inviting members of his family to be recognized, ANCA WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq. stated: “When Steve Artinian left us, he could not have imagined the void he would leave behind. To his beloved ANCA Western Region family, Steve was the perfect embodiment of all things pure and good. A humble patriot. A passionate, committed, and an exemplary activist. A visionary who believed deeply in the Armenian Cause.”
ANCA Western Region Board members Lena Bozoyan and Ayk Dikijian, Esq., presented the inaugural Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award to the ANCA Nevada Chapter led by Lenna Hovanessian by stating: “It is the devotion to illuminating issues of importance to the Armenian people that makes the ANCA-Nevada chapter deserving of the inaugural Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award. The ANCA-Nevada Chapter, led by Lenna Hovanessian, Esq. has built vital relations throughout the local community, establishing relationships with elected leaders in Nevada to insure the Armenian people have a voice in their government. It is with pride and enthusiasm that the ANCA-Western Region bestows the inaugural Steve Artinian Visionary Activist Award to the entire ANCA Nevada Chapter, led by Lenna Hovanessian.”
“Ladies and gentleman, make no mistake… while we seek peace, our enemies are waging war. Not the 44 Day War, not the Artsakh Genocide but the political war. Our homeland, our identity, our very existence are under attack. As we have just witnessed, truth has been distorted and weaponized to commit the Artsakh Genocide, almost invisible, with the world’s silent complicity and total impunity,” said Lenna Hovannessian, Esq.
ANCA Western Region Board Advisor Levon Kirakosian, Esq. and Board Member Lina Davidian, Esq. presented the 2023 Vahan Cardashian Award to Michael Mahdesian by stating: “Empathy is one of the greatest hallmarks of the Armenian spirit. As an advocate for the Armenian community and for all who seek justice, Michael Mahdesian has built an inspiring legacy as a champion for human rights. His role in Tom Hayden’s campaign for economic democracy and his post as Bureau Deputy of USAID positively impacted the lives of people on a national and global level. A prominent leader in the Armenian American community in Los Angeles, Mahdesian helped to establish the ANCA as an effective, political advocacy group. For his decades of service as a gracious supporter and advisor to the ANCA and the ANCA-Western Region, and the relentless energy and enthusiasm he brings to his efforts, the ANCA-Western Region is thrilled to honor Michael Mahdesian with the 2023 prestigious Vahan Cardashian Award.”
Congressman Brad Sherman introduced the honoree and presented a United States flag that flew over Washington, DC to Michael Mahdesian for his decades of humanitarian work with USAID and his service to Hye Tahd through ANCA Western Region.
“We need to up our game, and become, in part, the people in those rooms making decisions. Access isn’t enough. …Young Armenians need to work on political campaigns, run for office, make connections outside the Armenian community that will one day be helpful to the community,” stated Michael Mahdesian.
ANCA Western Region Board members Ayk Dikijian, Esq. and Anahid Oshagan, Esq. presented the 2023 Excellence in Media Award to Ellina Abovian by stating: “Throughout her career as a reporter, Ellina Abovian has devoted her efforts at KTLA 5 to inform the public on the growing need for international intervention to stop the horrific attacks against Armenian civilians in Artsakh. Her thoughtful reporting continues to enlighten the public, drawing a clear connection between our local community and the need to recognize the crimes against humanity of the past and present in order to promote national and international security for a peaceful future. For her efforts to ensure Armenians have a voice and are heard with a growing presence in the news, the ANCA-Western Region is delighted to honor Ellina Abovian with the Excellence in Media Award.”
“I am so humbled and so honored for this recognition which means so much to me. As a product of a small, Armenian immigrant family, all I wanted to do growing up was to find a voice and to fit in,” said Ellina Abovian. “I didn’t understand the weight of my responsibility until 2020. Things changed overnight when the war in Artsakh broke out… I was trying very desperately to tell the story of something happening 3000 miles away yet so close to my heart…”
The event was preceded by a press conference for Armenian and non-Armenian media featuring Congressman Adam Schiff, Congressman Brad Sherman, L.A. City Council President Paul Krekorian, and former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo who answered questions from the media and reinforced their calls for justice for Artsakh.
Due to the crisis facing over 100,000 Armenian refugees from Artsakh, the ANCA-WR Board will donate a portion of the event’s proceeds to help meet their needs.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.