The Armenian National Committee of Michigan (ANC of MI) hosted its first virtual Town Hall on Saturday, June 27th with Elizabeth Chouldjian, the communications director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Washington, DC office and Bedo Demirdjian, secretary of ANC Lebanon. The meeting was aimed to inform the community about the challenges faced by ANC offices in Washington, DC as well as Lebanon.
ANC of MI chair Dzovinar Hatsakordzian welcomed the participants and pointed out how different Armenian communities are faced with unprecedented hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Artsakh, Armenia and Lebanon, where the Armenian community is struggling amidst financial and political turmoil.
Chouldjian started by emphasizing the role of ANC of Michigan in the fight for the Armenian cause. “ANCA’s strength is in its different offices around the US, its different communities and committees. ANC of MI has always been front and center when it comes to the daily work that the committee puts forth which directly influences the work done in Washington,” she explained.
She continued by discussing the importance of fighting to secure Artsakh aid. “The United States is the only government that sends direct aid to Artsakh. This is the result of the ANCA’s relentless efforts for 20 years. Because of this aid we were able to realize many programs such as Mother and Child program, bringing clean water to the villages, and demining more than 61-thousand mines in 30-thousand kilometers in Artsakh through Halo Trust. Now, the US State Department is caving under Azerbaijani pressure and wants to stop this lifesaving aid. The State Department wants to convince us to substitute this program with what they are calling ‘preparing populations for peace,’ which on paper looks very promising, but when we see that the same State Department is sending 100 million dollars to Azerbaijan to be used to purchase military equipment and cuts lifesaving Artsakh aid, well this is not fair at all,” said Chouldjian.
Moving to her second point, Chouldjian highlighted the ANCA’s efforts to reprogram 25 million dollars in allocated aid to Armenia, to fight the escalating COVID-19 crisis. “Since March, ANCA has been calling on the US government to send that much-needed aid to Armenia,” she said. “The health of our people is paramount,” she added.
She concluded by talking about the victories last year in the Congress and the Senate, where they overwhelmingly recognized the Armenian Genocide, but the work continues. Now, the ANCA is pressing to change the subject heading “Armenian Massacres” to “Armenian Genocide” at the Library of Congress. “The U.S. Congress has overwhelmingly recognized the Armenian Genocide, and we were told the wording will change once that had happened, now they are refusing to change it based on the argument that the president needs to recognize it as well. This is outrageous.” She continued by saying how the wording used by Congress will be reflected in different libraries around the US as well as the world.
In his presentation on the situation in Lebanon, Demirdjian noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Lebanon’s official recognition of the Armenian Genocide. However, planned events between Lebanon’s ANC office and various government bodies, including the Lebanese Ministry, the State Department and the Presidential Palace, were cancelled due to the political turmoil in the region; plans to create a committee of Lebanese journalists, intellectuals and professors who had recently visited Artsakh have also been paused.
What is concerning about the anti-Armenian movement in Lebanon, Demirdjian explained, is that this is not a recent movement. Pro-Turkish and Erdogan-backed groups have been forming in former Ottoman Empire countries for a while now. They are directly influenced by Turkey and its foreign policies. Armenian community leaders have filed an official lawsuit against those groups that had organized anti-Armenian protests, and legal action has been taken. “Different Lebanese youth organizations, and government agencies have condemned this movement and are supporting the Armenian community in Lebanon,” Demirdjian added.
Demirdjian moved on to one of the most pressing matters that the Armenian community in Lebanon is facing today, which is the unprecedented financial and economic hardship. “The community is in very bad shape,” he said. “The schools, organizations, publication houses, and the situation of the people as a whole is alarming. Our churches, centers and different organizations are helping in any way they can to keep the community on their feet. The community is relying on the aid that it is receiving from different Armenian communities around the world, including Michigan. That aid is essential to help our community thrive in this dire situation.”
A question and answer period followed the speakers’ presentations. ANC of MI is planning on hosting future virtual Town Halls to keep the community informed about various Hai Tahd issues.