Less than an hour ago, the California State Senate, led by incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, by unanimous vote of 23-0, passed Assembly member Mike Gatto’s resolution, AJR 32, encouraging Artsakh’s (Nagorno Karabagh) continuing efforts to develop as a free and independent nation and formally calling upon the upon the President and Congress of the United States to support the self-determination and democratic independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR). Though the resolution has officially passed, the finally tally will not be available until early tomorrow morning as Senators absent from the floor during the vote have until the end of the day to cast their vote.
In his opening remarks, Senator De Leon recognized the presence of ANCA WR and ACA in support of the resolution, provided background information on the resolution and the region, and continued on to state, “The ethnic Armenian people of Artsakh have suffered tremendously, dating back to the last century, and continuing into this one – and they deserve a free and independent homeland where they will not be in danger of persecution…California can be a thought leader that seeks to motivate and change our world…With that in mind, I ask you to support democracy, self-determination, freedom, and a peaceful resolution of conflicts and international recognition and recognition of Artsakh.”
His remarks and sentiments were echoed by fellow colleagues Senators Tom Berryhill and Ricardo Lara.
“As Americans, we should understand the desire to be an independent nation, free of tyranny and free to form a government that best reflects our values. It is our own history. Many times on this floor we address the plight of the oppressed and express our desire, as a state legislature, for people to be free and to be able to determine their own destinies. AJR 32 is no different. The peoples of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic did not elect to become part of Azerbaijan in 1921; they were forced into it by the Soviets. It is now their understandable desire to be free. Since declaring its independence Nagorno-Karabakh has held free, transparent and democratic elections. It is fitting that the United States stands behind regions seeking democracy. I urge your Aye vote,” stated Senator Berryhill.
“I rise today to speak in strong support of this important resolution, which encourages and supports the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s continuing efforts to develop as a free and independent nation. The resolution states that this region has historically been Armenian territory, populated by an overwhelming majority of Armenians, and yet was illegally severed from Armenia by the Soviet Union in 1921. Senate District 33 is home to a thriving and vibrant Armenian community – people who have embraced important American values of freedom, democracy, and justice. This resolution asks the President and Congress to extend those fundamental values to the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and encourages their continued development as a free and independent nation. I ask for your support of this important resolution,” stated Senator Lara.
AJR 32 was adopted by the CA State Assembly in May 2014 by a sweeping vote of 70 to 2 under the leadership of Speaker Emeritus John Perez.
“Today, under the great leadership of incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon and Assemblymember Mike Gatto, the State of California stood strong on our nation’s core values of liberty, freedom and independence for the people of Artsakh. We are extremely grateful to the CA Senate for their resounding support of this resolution and Artsakh’s need to develop as a free and independent nation,” stated ANCA WR Chair, Nora Hovsepian. “ We, along with our grassroots, are proud to have worked alongside Senator De Leon and Assembly members Mike Gatto, Katcho Achadjian, Adrin Nazarian, John Perez, and Scott Wilk in making today’s victory possible and thank them profoundly for their unwavering leadership towards advancing a cause that is so dear to all of us,” added Hovsepian.
California is home to tens of thousands of Armenian-Americans who are refugees of pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait (1988), Kirovabad (1988), and Baku (1990), and the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenian population of Azerbaijan. Dozens of refugees from the region, many from the Shahumian district of Artsakh, were present for the historic vote along with representatives from the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region and the Armenian Council of America.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) worked closely with Senator De Leon’s office as well as the author, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Co-Author Katcho Achadjian, and Assembly members Adrin Nazarian and Scott Wilk to garner support for the resolution. In weeks and days leading up to the vote, aside from having their Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan and Legislative Affairs Director Haig Baghdassarian work day-in and day-out with local activists to educate officials about the resolution and the issues in the region, the ANCA WR also activated its grassroots in sending letters and making calls to elected officials, urging them to support AJR 32.
“The passage of this important resolution was a long and challenging journey that started with the introduction of this resolution back in January. We worked so hard to make it move forward, and we are so proud today that the California State Senate stood with me in support of the people of Artsakh in their ongoing quest for freedom, democracy, and independence,” stated lead author of AJR 32, Assemblymember Mike Gatto.
“This resolution couldn’t have come at a better time, given the recent escalated level of violence along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan border, and as our freedom fighters continue to defend their right to live under a government of their own choosing. The people of Artsakh deserve nothing less and need this support now, more than ever before,” stated ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan.
The State of California now joins Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Louisiana in adopting legislation which supports the independence of Artsakh.
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, 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.
Photo Caption: ANCA Western Region with incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, Author of AJR 32 Assemblymember Mike Gatto and Senator Ricardo Lara outside of Senate Chambers after passage of Artsakh Resolution
From Left: ANCA WR Legislative Affairs Director Haig Baghdassarian, ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan, incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, ANCA WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, author of AJR 32 Assemblymember Mike Gatto, Senator Ricardo Lara, ANCA WR Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan