WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the Armenian Assembly of America’s (Assembly) 2018 National Advocacy Conference, over 100 meetings took place on Capitol Hill discussing key issues of concern from the watershed democratic developments in Armenia and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide to Azerbaijan’s incessant and deadly cease-fire violations and Turkey and Azerbaijan’s dual blockades, among other issues.
Activists hailed from 15 states – Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Notably, over 30 delegates participated from the western regions of the United States, coming from California and Arizona. As a result of these meetings, more Members joined the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, including Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and some co-sponsored H.Res.220, a resolution affirming the Armenian Genocide.
“As a new Member of the Armenian Caucus, I am joining a strong bipartisan group of my colleagues to better understand the relationship between the United States and Armenia. This caucus is an important opportunity to advance our shared economic and cultural ties, both in San Diego and across the country,” Rep. Peters told the Assembly.
In addition, several Members withdrew from the Turkish and Azerbaijani Caucuses after meeting with constituents.
“Being up on Capitol Hill was invigorating. It was wonderful to see the support from various Members of Congress,” said the Assembly’s Southern California Regional Council member, James Melikian. “We had great meetings and I believe we made a positive impact for U.S.-Armenia relations,” he continued.
“As a student at Georgetown University, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with esteemed members of Congress and delve into the political process. It was an extremely productive experience, and I learned a lot about what it takes to bring about real change and solutions in our political framework,” stated Peter Vosbikian III.
“I’m fired up,” stated the Assembly’s Ohio State Chair, Ara Bagdasarian. “This was a truly remarkable conference and gala. I am so glad that I was able to participate and see members of Congress and their staff face-to-face. My commitment to the issues is even stronger. With our continued collective effort and momentum, we will see the Armenian Caucus grow to over 200 Members.”
“The Assembly’s National Advocacy Conference was simultaneously educational and motivational. Our meetings on the Hill were fast-paced and comprehensive. On behalf of my friends representing the Assembly’s Arizona delegation, I was happy to see that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema joined the Congressional Armenian Caucus as a result of our meeting. I am eager to help further the Assembly’s advocacy initiatives on the ground in Arizona,” stated the Assembly’s Arizona State Co-Chair, Dede Krikorian.
In addition to the Armenian Caucus and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, the Assembly also continued to advocate for robust assistance to Armenia, especially in the wake of the recent democratic advances. The U.S. provided an additional $14 million in assistance in support of Armenia’s political transition, and, shortly after the Assembly’s National Advocacy Conference, announced plans to provide an additional $20 million beyond what had been requested for Armenia.
“This was a wonderful experience. The speakers were insightful, the reception at La Vie was fun and relaxing, and the Gala was star-studded, but most importantly for me was the camaraderie we all felt spending the day on Capitol Hill. Meeting in person to discuss the recent democratic changes in Armenia and urging more U.S. support to help Armenia was very rewarding. Our group from Arizona met with the staff of ten House Members, and with the Armenian Assembly’s help, hopefully made a small dent towards the passing of H.Res.220,” stated Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program alumna Ramona Lee Melikian.
“The Armenian Assembly’s integral and comprehensive approach to voicing Armenian issues and furthering Armenian American relationships is inspiring,” stated Narek Sevacheryan, a young professional from New York City.
“The training session was informative, as was the role playing. The next day we had non-stop meetings with Members of Congress and raised key issues, which was a real highlight. I’m already looking forward to the next conference, and will encourage my peers to join me,” stated the Assembly’s Northern California Regional Council member David Ojakian.
Activists were also armed with breaking news. That day, the U.S. Department of Justice issued an indictment for a scheme to cover up the fact that Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company, SOCAR, footed the bill for a 2013 Congressional delegation to Azerbaijan in violation of House Ethics rules. The Assembly had previously highlighted this, as well as “The Azerbaijani Laundromat” scheme, as part of its efforts to expose Azerbaijan and Turkey’s surreptitious influence in Washington.
“All three days were impressive, impactful, and fun – from the reception at The Kreeger Museum to the informative Conference panels to the Hill meetings and the Gala dinner honoring Mrs. Annie Totah, an exemplary champion and advocate for the Armenian community,” stated Bryan and Valina Agbabian of San Francisco. Valina serves as the Assembly’s California State Chair. She also represents the Assembly on the San Francisco Bay Area’s Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee, as well as on the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California, which was formed in 1997 to purchase, protect, and preserve the Mount Davidson Cross.
Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill was the culminating activity of a busy week organized by the Armenian Assembly to encourage the Armenian American community and activists to become engaged in Washington.
Click here to see more photos from the Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, as well as photos from the National Advocacy Conference, Gala honoring Annie Simonian Totah, and the Sponsor Reception at The Kreeger Museum.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.