(Los Angeles, California) – Following Artsakh Foreign Minister Davit Babayan’s tour of the United States organized by the ANCA-Western Region during which he was impressed by the spirit and longevity of Diasporan Armenian schools, he urged President Arayik Harutyunyan to bestow the St. Mesrob Mashdots Medal to five schools based in California. Decrees were recently issued by the Republic of Artsakh to bestow the St. Mesrob Mashdots Medal to the Rose & Alex Pilibos Armenian School, Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian High School, Armenian Mesrobian School, Vahan & Anoush Chamlian Armenian School, and Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School.
With the Armenian Homeland facing an existential threat due to ongoing Azerbaijani aggression, the ANCA-Western Region organized and hosted an historic tour of the United States in September 2022 for a delegation from Arstakh (also known as Nagorno Karabakh) spearheaded by Foreign Minister Davit Babayan, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports Lernik Hovhannisyan, and Permanent Representative of Artsakh to the United States Robert Avetisyan. Before arriving to California, the delegation visited Washington, DC where FM Babayan met with Congressional leaders and took part in various policy and public events.
FM Babayan’s Tour of the Western United States:
FM Babayan’s extensive knowledge of the geopolitical landscape of the region afforded an invaluable opportunity for the Armenian American community and American policymakers to understand the current security, humanitarian, and political crisis in Artsakh and the region.
The delegation’s public-facing activities began on Saturday September 24 with the ANCA-WR Grassroots Conference, which included panels and Q & A discussions with hundreds of community members who had an opportunity to ask questions about Artsakh’s current situation, addressing the ongoing threat of cultural genocide in Artsakh, methods for community members to activate and advocate for the survival of Artsakh and Armenia, as well as discussions about the international legal framework through which Armenia fights for the rights and self-determination of its people.
On Sunday September 25, the delegation made an official visit to the St. Leon Cathedral, where it met with Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, and attended mass. Later, the delegation met with Congressman Adam Schiff to discuss ways in which the United States Congress can assist and support Artsakh in the aftermath of the 2020 war by holding Azerbaijan accountable for its war crimes, its refusal to return POW’s, and its acts of cultural destruction. That evening, at the ANCA-WR Awards Gala Banquet, a powerful speech was delivered by FM Davit Babayan, where he was honored with the prestigious ANCA-WR Freedom Award for his tireless efforts and dedicated service to the Armenian Nation.
Throughout the ensuing week, the ANCA-WR organized a robust sequence of meetings with key policymakers as well as community leaders and students. On Monday morning, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger met with the delegation and reaffirmed her efforts to ensure that the County of Los Angeles, which is home to one of the largest Armenian diaspora communities in the world, remained unwavering in its support for the Armenian people in the face of Turkish and Azeri propaganda and state-sponsored Armenophobia. Taking matters further, Barger spoke to the power and importance of the principled stand of the LA County Board of Supervisors in not only ensuring that they never legitimize bad faith actors from Azerbaijan who spread ethnic hatred toward Armenians, and but also uplifting the struggle of the people of Artsakh for freedom. A four-signature proclamation was presented to FM Babayan on behalf of the County. Barger also introduced a motion to direct the Board of Supervisors to send a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and members of the House Armenian Caucus thanking them for their support and recent visit to Armenia.
The motion also called for the board to send a letter to Rep. Adam Schiff and the entire Los Angeles County congressional delegation supporting House Resolution 1351, which asks President Joe Biden to end all assistance to Azerbaijan, expresses American support for Armenia, calls for humanitarian aid for Armenia and people in Artsakh and calls for an immediate end to hostilities initiated by Azerbaijan. The motion unanimously passed, along with a proclamation honoring FM Babayan for his commitment to uplift the Armenian People and represent the Republic of Artsakh with the highest level of distinction and professionalism. Later that day, the delegation visited the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church where a meeting was held with representatives of the Executive Council and clergy.
The Artsakh delegation also met with representatives of the Pan Armenian Council (PAC) of the Western United States, the largest collaborative council of Armenian community organizations including the ANCA-WR, to activate the entire community in support of Artsakh. A Town Hall was organized by the PAC and hosted by the Western Diocese where hundreds of community members were able to hear and interact with FM Babayan.
On Tuesday, the delegation visited Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School, answering the questions of hundreds of Armenian students who also wrote messages of encouragement to Armenian soldiers defending the Homeland. The delegation also visited the headquarters of the Armenian Relief Society Western USA where a productive meeting was held with current and former regional board members about their ongoing relief efforts and projects in Artsakh. That evening, the delegation visited the Merdinian School and met with leaders of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America and the Armenian Missionary Association of America to discuss their ongoing philanthropic projects in Artsakh.
The delegation also met with legislators at all levels of government, especially in municipal offices that serve a large Armenian community. In the spirit of the continued friendship between the Republic of Artsakh and the City of Glendale, on Wednesday the delegation visited Glendale City Hall, where Mayor Ardashes Kassakhian and his Glendale City Council colleagues signed a memorandum of understanding, reaffirming the sister-city relationship between the cities of Glendale and Martuni recently passed unanimously by the Glendale City Council.
On Wednesday evening, FM Babayan gave a powerful presentation and lecture to students and faculty at UCLA in a public event organized by the Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA in collaboration with the ANCA-WR and co-sponsored by the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law, the International and Comparative Law Program at UCLA Law, and the UCLA Armenian Students Association.
The following day, the delegation visited the Montebello Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument, joined by Mayor Kimberly Ann Cobos-Cawthorne and members of the Montebello City Council, where the group discussed past efforts to support Artsakh’s democracy in the face of Azerbaijan’s aggression, and ways to further support the people of Artsakh, especially given the sister-city relationship between Montebello and Stepanakert, the capital of the Republic of Artsakh. This was followed by a visit to Ferrahian Armenian High School, where the delegation had the opportunity to meet with the administration and hundreds of students in a show of support and solidarity.
Later, a meeting was held with California State Senator Anthony Portantino and California Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, two powerful voices in the California State Legislature who have consistently supported Artsakh, where they discussed the current crisis and ongoing efforts to protect the human rights of Artsakh’s citizens and safeguard its sovereignty in the face of Azerbaijan’s ongoing and systematic ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide. That evening, a farewell dinner was held for the delegation where representatives of ANCA-WR Local Chapters, community leaders and donors had a chance to interact with the delegation and reaffirm their support for the people of Artsakh, as FM Babayan expressed his profound gratitude to the community and to the ANCA-WR for inviting and hosting the delegation and for shining a bright light on the plight of Artsakh not only in Los Angeles but also in Washington DC where they made their first stop on this trip, meeting with members of Congress and community members.
The delegation concluded its visit in California with an impactful session at Los Angeles City Hall led by Councilmember Paul Krekorian, a leading voice in support of Artsakh, where FM Babayan offered a powerful address to the City Council of Los Angeles and the entire city about the urgency and importance of the preservation of Artsakh, its people, and its democracy. City Councilmembers offered statements of their continued support, condemning in the strongest of terms Azerbaijan’s ruthless attempts to erase the Armenian people from their Homeland and then unanimously passed a resolution solidifying their position.
Throughout all of his public appearances and private meetings during this delegation visit, FM Babayan repeatedly and emphatically stressed that under no circumstances can the Armenians of Artsakh live under Azeri rule, because forcing them to do so would be tantamount to facilitating another genocide against the Armenian People. He emphasized that Artsakh is an integral part of the Armenian Homeland, that the Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora trinity must be preserved and maximized, and that we must collectively do everything possible to rally international support to save our Homeland. Too familiar with Azerbaijan’s clear intentions to commit genocide against the Armenian people, the ANCA-WR has remained committed to ensuring that the Armenian People are united at a time where the Aliyev regime attempts to fragment Armenia from its most powerful asset: its Diaspora. The ANCA-WR proudly connected community members and policymakers with the delegation in an effort to spread awareness and enact the policy responses needed to ensure the survival of the Armenian Homeland, its People, and its Cause.
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.