Armenian Assembly of America Calls on Washington Firms to Reject “Blood Money” Lobbying

Washington, D.C. – The co-chairs of the Armenian Assembly of America call on Washington lobbying firms to reject business from Azerbaijan, a corrupt autocratic country led by President Aliyev, who inherited his presidency and has no regard for human rights. 

“Instead of flacking for the Aliyev regime whose leader has promised to wipe out the Christian Armenians ‘like dogs,’ these firms need to stop taking blood money from Azerbaijan and Turkey if they have any conscience or sense of American patriotism,” said Board Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian. “Accepting blood money to spread disinformation from the Aliyev and Erdogan regimes to members of Congress and the Trump Administration is immoral and indefensible. These tyrants in Baku and Ankara have imported avowed jihadist terrorists to show the world what attempted genocide looks like in 2020. No amount of K Street whitewashing is going to cover up their records in not only spreading but subsidizing international terrorism replete with more beheadings of Christians,” they added. 

The firms and their other clients, whom we will be calling on to dissociate from the firms, should be ashamed. Azerbaijan’s armed forces have targeted schools, churches, hospitals, urban infrastructure, and residential areas of Artsakh with heavy artillery and sophisticated strike drones. Civilians are paying a steep price in lives.

As leaders, Erdogan and Aliyev stand alone in refusing to observe signed cease-fires, not even allowing the removal of Azerbaijani, Turkish and jihadist fighters dead on the battlefields. In view of these developments, lobbying firms that represent some of America’s leading corporations should not accept blood money from Baku.

News reports disclose that the Azerbaijani government alone admits retaining the services of some of the most influential lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. The lead firm, BGR Group, reported more than $500,000 in fees in 2019. Other firms listed in news stories include the Livingston Group headed by former House Appropriations Committee Chairman and Speaker-designate Robert Livingston, and Stellar Jay Communications. In addition, corporate interests such as BP plc, as well as and former officials and other Americans with undisclosed financial interests, actively carry Azerbaijan’s water in what is commonly referred to as the “Azerbaijan Laundromat.”

Human rights organizations and the U.S. State Department regularly cite the Azerbaijani government for suppressing dissent, and jailing and torturing critics of the government. Reporters Without Borders ranks Azerbaijan 168th in press freedom out of 180 countries that it monitors. 

Further, the U.S. State Department published the following about Azerbaijan’s abysmal human rights record in its 2019 report:

 Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killing; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy; pervasive problems with the independence of the judiciary; heavy restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence against journalists, the criminalization of libel, harassment and incarceration of journalists on questionable charges, and blocking of websites; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom; severe restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; police detention and torture of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and the worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate. The government did not prosecute or punish most officials who committed human rights abuses; impunity remained a problem.

Armenia is a country of approximately 3 million, whose defense budget is about $1.4 billion per year. Azerbaijan has a population three times the size of Armenia and is armed by both Russia and the United States. It spends $7 billion a year on its military. In the attacks that began Sunday, September 27, Azerbaijan has been assisted by Turkey, a country of 82 million, and fully armed with the most advanced weaponry by NATO countries. More recently, Azerbaijan also purchased lethal weapons from Israel, Belarus, China, and South Korea.

Armenia is the oldest Christian nation in the world. Its vulnerability in the face of Azerbaijani, Turkish and jihadist aggression should be a concern to Christians everywhere, and to every citizen of the world who cares about justice and peace. 

“We call upon all good people in the U.S. and around the world to act immediately to save lives,” continued Barsamian and Krikorian. “Lobbyists who spread falsehoods on behalf of a country that denies basic human rights to so many are no better than mercenaries on the battlefield. Decent Americans and all clients of these firms should be appalled at their behavior.” 

Background:

The New York Times reports that “more than half the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have fled their homes,” and that “the Armenians are defenseless against the Azerbaijani drones that hover overhead and kill at will.” 

On September 27, with blatant Turkish backing, Azerbaijan launched an all-out attack against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. This historic homeland of Armenians called the Republic of Artsakh is where Armenians formed the first Christian nation on earth in 301 AD – well before Roman Emperor Constantine began the empire’s transition to Christianity. 

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.

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NR# 2020-35

NR# 2020-35

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