Dozens of Armenian American activists participated in the ANCA-ER’s third installment of its advocacy workshop series—“ANCA 360 & What’s Next”—led by ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian on Monday evening, July 19. Through this initiative, activists—both seasoned and newly engaged—have been given the opportunity to learn and sharpen their skills while rededicating themselves to Hai Tahd.
Hai Tahd encompasses a diverse set of activities that align to advance a single goal: the viability, survival and security of the Armenian nation. Simply put, it is the essence of being Armenian. It is striving to live in a country where the government combats all forms of inequity, including speaking honestly about the Armenian Genocide. But, it’s not about advocacy alone. Hai Tahd is Armenian music, dance, language, history, traditions—preserving our past and creating a better future. It’s honoring the ideals of our ancestors and starting new traditions for generations yet to come.
The ANCA’s grassroots model is only made possible by recognizing the true resource— the passion within each Armenian. “Our asset is in each of your hearts; there is something in your lives that either lit that fire or kept it burning—to keep you interested and devoted to the cause,” said Hamparian. The ANCA is the vehicle that directs this fire toward tangible aims— whether it be advocating for the enforcement of Section 907 or increasing humanitarian aid to Artsakh. Hamparian discussed the significance of organization and noted that “Armenians advocate in an environment of an unusual level of resistance,” highlighting the importance of rallying behind common priorities.
In the grave situation of Artsakh, Hamparian delved into the challenges faced in Washington. Although the people of Artsakh suffered an immeasurable loss, the US State Department clings to this false notion that it is a “conflict.” The use of this term creates a two-sided situation, which inevitably influences the dynamic at play. Hamparian explained that with a “conflict,” mediation is the proposed solution “with no tilt toward the party who suffered most grievously.” Without the clear realization that it is, in fact, a crime, justice is unattainable.
This false narrative influences military aid in the case of Section 907. Thus, a priority of the ANCA is to zero-out military aid to Azerbaijan by strengthening Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act. In this case, military aid directly strengthens their military and sends a dangerous message: that the United States is conducting business as usual. Hamparian explained that with this stance, the United States “emboldens Aliyev and Erdogan,” genocidal dictators who are continuously killing thousands of Armenians and clearing indigenous lands. The ANCA is attempting to realize this agenda item through multiple methods, like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the appropriations process. With the advancement of Azerbaijani forces into Armenian territory, the need to zero-out military aid is ever so pertinent.
Simultaneously, securing robust US aid to Artsakh is a matter of great importance. The current action item urges representatives to support $250 million in US aid to Artsakh to help the over 100,000 people displaced following the Artsakh War and call for $100 million in US aid to Armenia.
In the case of Armenia’s prisoners of war (POWs), the initial US policy was to refer to these individuals as detainees. With continued pressure, they came to be referred to as POWs, a term that offers rights and protection under the Third Geneva Convention. POWs are not to be abused and are supposed to be released when fighting ceases; under no circumstance are they to be treated as commodities. In this arena, the ANCA continuously pushes for the passage of H.Res.240, which calls for the immediate release of Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians.
Strong US-Armenia relations continue to be a relevant aim of the ANCA, particularly emphasizing Armenia’s security and survival. Hamparian touched on the importance of coalitions and partnering with groups like the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) and In Defense of Christians (IDC) to further our priorities and provide each other with alternate platforms—essentially working towards checking Turkey’s influence.
Hamparian also addressed the next chapter after the US’ formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide. With the passage of H.Res. 296, S.Res.150 and President Biden’s statement, the primary goal is locking in recognition—essentially institutionalizing it. Following the Library of Congress’ correction of the subject heading ‘Armenian massacres’ in October 2020, for example, thousands of libraries will now refer to the events of 1915 as what they were—a genocide. In continuing this work, we must “leverage this recognition and transform it into restitution,” said Hamparian. Weeding out denial is a notoriously slow process, and we must remain active in our fight.
The ANCA-ER will be continuing its advocacy workshop series on August 2 with “Advocacy 101.” Representatives from local ANC chapters in the region will be presenting. First time participants must register in advance.