Nita Lowey: Champion of Artsakh Aid

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (Photo: Ralph Alswang/Brookings Institution/Flickr)

With the close of this truly historic session of Congress, New York’s Armenian community will bid farewell to a longtime friend – our own, Bronx-born, Nita Lowey.

During her three decades of remarkable legislative service, she rose to chair the powerful U.S. House Appropriations Committee – one of the most coveted leadership positions in Congress – all the while never forgetting the folks back home.

Her longstanding ties to our community began when she attended Bronx High School of Science with many Armenian Americans from the area. Those ties continued throughout her long service in Washington, DC. My law office and her Rockland district office have been in the same building since Rockland County became part of her district and both she and her staff have been available to meet with me and Rockland County residents of our community, providing her with a chance to stay up to speed on our community’s concerns and for us to share our latest priorities. While we are sad to hear that she will be retiring, we know that only great things await her.

Congresswoman Lowey has consistently backed Armenian American policy priorities throughout her career – particularly those dealing with U.S. foreign assistance programs. She was an early advocate for the Section 907 aid restrictions on Azerbaijan passed in 1992 as well as the direct U.S. aid program to Artsakh (still called Nagorno-Karabakh in U.S. legislation) that was adopted as part of the Fiscal Year 1998 foreign aid bill – supporting de-mining work and rehabilitation services.

With her support, the United States has, since 1998, provided over $40 million in direct assistance to Artsakh, for such venerable causes as maternal health care, clean drinking water, and life-saving demining efforts. Just this past summer, she resisted the Trump administration’s efforts to cut Artsakh aid by shepherding passage of the Cox Amendment to the foreign aid bill, which ensured continued direct U.S. aid to Artsakh.

She also strongly supported the Speier Amendment to increase U.S. aid to Armenia by $40 million for democracy development programs, voted for the Armenian Genocide Resolution (a cause she has long championed), and supported the pro-Artsakh Sherman and Chu amendments.

Sadly – the Artsakh aid program that she helped launch is now under fierce attack by the State Department and Trump administration. This strategic investment in peace – which saves countless lives while creating the necessary environment and conditions for a durable and democratic peace – must be saved, and Congresswoman Lowey’s supportive voice is vital to this effort.

As the Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, no one is better positioned in the U.S. House of Representatives to ensure full funding for this program. And she has many allies in this fight, including Reps. Frank Pallone, Jackie Speier and Judy Chu – who recently returned from Artsakh, where they saw first-hand the benefits of Artsakh aid. The bipartisan Armenian Caucus of more than 100 Representatives stands behind this effort, as do legislators from across the country – who support Armenia, believe in life-saving de-mining, and want to invest in peace for the region.

In recent correspondence, Congresswoman Lowey reaffirmed that “the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have suffered from ethnically motivated violence since the late 1980s,” and shared: “You may be pleased to know that as [then] Ranking Member on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, I have helped make funds available for activities that further a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Now, as she enters her final year in Congress, her Armenian American constituents, friends and supporters turn to her one last time – to help save Artsakh aid.

Our request is as simple as it is straightforward: no less than $10 million in the 2021 Fiscal Year State-Foreign Operations Bill for demining, landmine risk education and rehabilitation programs in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

Only 20 years ago, direct United States aid to Artsakh was considered impossible. With Chairwoman Lowey’s instrumental confidence and leadership, it was made a reality—a reality that has helped and will continue to help thousands of innocent civilians live and work peacefully in their homeland. We now ask Chairwoman Lowey to use the gavel of her position and the immense respect she has earned from her peers to preserve this low-cost, high-impact American investment in peace.

Richard Sarajian

Richard Sarajian

Richard Sarajian is an active member of the Armenian community. He is the former chair of the Executive Council of the Armenian Prelacy Eastern Region and the ARF Central Committee Eastern Region. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of both the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the Armenian National Committee Eastern Region (ANC-ER). He is an attorney in Rockland County NY and lives in Chestnut Ridge NY with his wife Nora Daghlian Sarajian.
Richard Sarajian

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