GLENDALE, CA – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) continued its outreach on the West Coast – including Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah – energizing Assembly members and supporters, and securing results.
Assembly district meetings yielded results with Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) cosponsoring H.Res.296 (the bipartisan Armenian Genocide resolution), and Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) agreeing to join the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.
As previously reported, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) also joined the Armenian Caucus after meeting with constituents Drs. Alice and Ara Apkarian. In another meeting with Rep. Porter, Assembly Board of Trustees member Lisa Kalustian, along with the Armenian Assembly delegation, including the Pastor of St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church of Costa Mesa, Archpriest Fr. Moushegh Tashjian; Assembly Southern California Regional Council (SCRC) member Helen Haig; Assembly Orange County Regional Committee Co-Chair Sosy Hachigian; 2019 Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program participant Mihran Markarian; constituent Alec Wansikehian; Mher and Sasoun Tcholakian, and Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan, thanked the Congresswoman for joining the Armenian Caucus and co-sponsoring H.Res.296.
The Assembly’s outreach continued with district meetings with Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), as well as the offices of Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT) and John Curtis (R-UT). These meetings provided an opportunity to educate Members of Congress on policy priorities for Armenian Americans, including U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
Tucson, Arizona-area meetings included the participation of the Assembly’s Arizona State Co-Chair Peter Akmajian, Esq. along with Assembly members and activists John Achoukian; Artie and Margaret Ehramjian; World War II veteran Arthur Ehramjian; Ed George; and Dr. Ara Arabyan, an Associate Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and the Director of the Engineering Design Program at the University of Arizona.
Phoenix, Arizona-area meetings included longtime trustee of St. Apkar Armenian Apostolic Church Deacon Stephen Ovanessoff, M.D.; AGBU Arizona Chapter Chairman Kirk Kaprelian and his daughter Shoushana Kaprelian; Gigi Laurent-Wyvill; Cara Matigian; Ann Andonyan, M.D.; Tammy Krikorian Gabel; and David Kouyoumjian.
In conjunction with the congressional meetings and for the second consecutive year, the Assembly served as a co-sponsor of Scottsdale Community College’s (SCC) Genocide Awareness Week and St. Apkar Armenian Church’s 2019 Genocide Awareness Program. During this year’s SCC Genocide Awareness Week, academic presentations on the Armenian Genocide were delivered by Taner Akçam, Ph.D. (Professor of History and the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian, and Stephen & Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University) and by Barlow Der Mugrdechian (the Berberian Coordinator of the Armenian Studies Program and Director of the Center for Armenian Studies at Fresno State University).
St. Apkar’s Genocide Awareness Program took place on April 24, 2019 and included a memorial prayer service at the Armenian Genocide Monument located on the SCC campus. The service was led by St. Apkar Pastor, Rev. Fr. Zacharia Saribekyan, and included heartfelt remarks about the undeniable veracity of the Armenian Genocide by Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ), a co-sponsor of H.Res.296.
As part of the Assembly’s outreach efforts in Arizona, Mr. and Mrs. Kirk and Zhanet Kaprelian generously hosted a dinner in Scottsdale, during which Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny and Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan briefed attendees on the organization’s advocacy priorities and the Assembly’s 2019 National Advocacy Conference set for September 16-17 in Washington, D.C. During the Assembly’s 2018 National Advocacy Conference, seven Arizona-based Armenian Americans enthusiastically took part in conference sessions and a full day of advocacy on the Hill.
The Utah congressional meetings were led by the Assembly’s Utah State Chair Narine Sarkissian, and included the participation of local activists Miriam McFadden, Hovig Megerdichian, Eleonor Balasanian, Garine Bekearian, Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program alumna (2017) and intern coordinator (2018) Milena Davtyan, and Western Region Director Toumajan. As part of the Assembly’s outreach efforts in Utah, over 50 community activists attended an interactive town hall briefing on advocacy priorities held at the Arbat Banquet Hall in Salt Lake City, which was delivered jointly by Ardouny and Toumajan. Assembly leaders thanked Armen Galstyan, the owner of the banquet hall, for his thoughtful and generous hospitality during the community briefing.
Ardouny and Toumajan also provided a briefing at St. Geragos Armenian Apostolic Church in Las Vegas where they were welcomed by the Parish Council and Pastor, Very Rev. Fr. Sasoon Zumrookhdian. In addition to Hayr Sasoon and church trustees, briefing attendees included Archpriest Fr. Nareg and Yeretzgeen Paitsar Matarian; Assembly Nevada State Committee members Ara Tcholakian and scholar Rafael Oganesyan; Assistant Professor-in-Residence of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Dr. Nerses Kopalyan; and high school students who are members of the St. Geragos Armenian Church Youth Organization (ACYO).
Meanwhile in Sacramento, Western Region Director Toumajan testified before the California State Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, while Assembly SCRC member Helen Haig testified before the California State Senate’s Standing Committee on Judiciary about the moral and economic merits of the “Prohibited Investments: Turkey” bill (AB 1320). Introduced and principally authored by California State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, the bill would prohibit California’s public employment retirement agencies – CalPERS and CalSTRS – from making new investments or renewing existing investments in Turkish government-issued and controlled debt securities and bonds.
On July 2, AB 1320 was approved with eight Senate Judiciary Committee Members voting in favor, one abstention, and no opposition. Having been approved the previous week in a hearing conducted by the CA State Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee, AB 1320 now moves to the CA State Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Assembly Western Region Office was also pleased to help put together two Armenian American community meet and greets with elected officials from the greater Los Angeles area. Along with the Southern California Armenian Democrats, the Assembly co-organized a meeting with the recently elected Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in Glendale. Organized jointly by the Assembly and the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Metro Los Angeles chapter, representatives of over 13 different Armenian American organizations sat down at a roundtable discussion with Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), a staunch supporter of Armenia and Artsakh. At the meeting, Rep. Chu awarded the Armenian Assembly with a certificate of congressional recognition for its work.
“I would like to thank the Armenian Assembly’s members and supporters for their hard work and dedication. Together, we continue to make important strides. We will continue our advocacy work to further strengthen U.S.-Armenia relations and Armenia’s burgeoning democracy. I look forward to seeing grassroots activists participate in this year’s National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C.,” stated Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan.
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.