Armenian Assembly of America Submits Testimony to Congress

Requests $15 Million to Armenia for Refugees Forced to Flee Genocide by ISIS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On March 24, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) Executive Director Bryan Ardouny submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs where he outlined nine key policy priorities for the Armenian American community in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

Given Azerbaijan’s blatant ceasefire violations, the Assembly called upon the United States to “directly condemn such actions and avoid engaging in false equivalency between the aggressor and those defending themselves.” The Assembly urged that Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act be fully enforced. “Azerbaijan’s violations skyrocketed to over 30,000 in 2015, and include the inexplicable targeting of a kindergarten in Armenia’s Tavush border region and other civilian areas, not to mention the continual acts of vandalism, such as destroying centuries-old Armenian cemeteries noted for their historic monuments,” Ardouny points out in his testimony. In addition, “the Assembly urges the cessation of U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan does not need it, and America cannot afford it.”

The Assembly testimony also laid out eight additional policy goals and specifically asks for: not less than $40 million in U.S. assistance to Armenia; not less than $5 million to Nagorno Karabakh, especially for the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center; advancing the Nagorno Karabakh peace process; support to Christian minorities at risk in the Middle East; U.S. military assistance to Armenia; assistance to the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia; regional energy security; and reaffirmation of the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.

The destruction of the Armenian heritage of the region by Azerbaijan and the armed violations of the ceasefire parallel the crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which  Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed constitute genocide against Christians and minorities, including Armenians. In light of this, “the Assembly also urge[d] enhanced assistance to Christian and other minority communities at risk in the Middle East, with a particular focus of concern regarding the continued unrest in Syria, particularly the battleground city of Aleppo where Armenian churches and other institutions have come under attack.”

The Administration’s proposed budget envisions nearly $3 billion for migration and refugee assistance. The Assembly recommended that $15 million be allocated for Armenia, which according to The Economist has taken on the third largest number of refugees in Europe as a proportion of its population. “As a host country, Armenia has been absolutely exemplary in terms of the ratio of welcomed Syrian-Armenian refugees to the number of native inhabitants,” said United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Armenia Christoph Bierwirth. Armenia hosts six Syrian refugees per 1,000 nationals – a ratio much higher than many European countries or the U.S., an especially noteworthy effort given the country’s economic circumstance.

Earlier this week, Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Robert Dold (R-IL), spearheaded an Assembly-backed letter to the Subcommittee regarding assistance to Armenia and Karabakh. The letter, which was signed by 33 U.S. Representatives, outlined key priorities regarding U.S.-Armenia/U.S.-Karabakh relations.

In addition to the testimony, the Assembly relayed a message of condolence for the recent attacks in Brussels. “The Armenian Assembly stands in solidarity with the people of Belgium and expresses its deepest sympathies to the victims and families of the latest terrorist attacks, which serves as a painful reminder of all those lost in other senseless acts of terror,” Ardouny stated.

The full Assembly testimony for FY 2017 is available here.

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 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

U.S. Confirms Crimes Committed by ISIS are Genocide

Assembly Urges Obama Administration to Affirm Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that ISIS (Daesh) is “responsible for genocide,” against groups in Syria and Iraq, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. The recognition was prompted by H.Con.Res.75, which includes Armenians as one of the Christian groups persecuted by ISIS.

“We know that in areas under its control, Daesh has made a systematic effort to destroy the cultural heritage of ancient communities آ­- destroying Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches…” Kerry stated.

In his statement, Kerry also invoked one of the criteria of genocide as defined by the 1948 UN Convention.  "One element of genocide is the intent to destroy an ethnic or religious group, in whole or in part. We know that Daesh has given some of its victims a choice between abandoning their faith or being killed, and that for many is a choice between one kind of death and another,“ Kerry said.

"Confronted with harrowing reports of similar crimes and atrocities, U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau in 1915 alerted the State Department and the world to the horrors taking place in the Ottoman Empire, stating that a ‘campaign of race extermination’ was underway against the Armenian people, and urged action to stop the slaughter,” observed Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.

image

“Today, Secretary Kerry responded to the unspeakable crimes carried out by ISIS.  ‘Naming these crimes is important. But what is essential is to stop them,’ Kerry stated. His statement recalls Morgenthau’s warning and the need to act. As President Obama has said, ‘America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides.’ We therefore call upon the Obama administration to also unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide,” Ardouny continued.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) stated today: “This morning, Secretary Kerry declared ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and religious minorities…now that our government is recognizing this crisis, it needs to do more to stop it. I hope the president will seize this opportunity to present a very clear strategy to defeat this enemy.”

image

Earlier this week, the Assembly welcomed passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of H.Con.Res.75, a resolution condemning ISIS atrocities and stated in part: “Whereas the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and associated extremists are committing egregious atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, including Christians (including Assyrian Chaldean Syriac, Armenian, and Melkite communities, among others), Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabak, Sabaean Mandeans, and Kaka’i, among others.”

Click here to watch the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement on March 17, 2016.

Click here to watch the live footage of H.Con.Res.75 on the House Floor on March 14, 2016.

Photo Caption 1 (L-R): U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau and Secretary of State John Kerry

Photo Caption 2: Father Yeprem Kelegian, Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian discussed importance of H.Con.Res. 75 with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)