LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia Dr. Arman Tatoyan has concluded his trip to California at the invitation of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) following a successful two weeks in which he engaged in meetings with community officials, elected officials, media and academic circles to report on the latest developments in the region.
Dr. Tatoyan’s trip began with a meeting with the ANCA-WR Board of Directors and staff to discuss the role of Diaspora organizations and communities in helping to secure the future of the Armenian homeland. During his two-week mission, Dr. Tatoyan also held constructive meetings with community leaders, including Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America; Bishop Torkom Donoyan, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America; the Pan Armenian Council of Western United States; the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Western USA Central Committee, Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA); and H.E. Ambassador Armen Baibourtian, Consul General of Armenia to Los Angeles.
Several meetings with elected officials and government representatives also led to an exchange of concrete solutions and ideas on how the US may use its influence to secure human rights for Armenian civilians and POWs and help facilitate peace in the region, while simultaneously addressing the rising wave of Armenophobia in the US.
Dr. Tatoyan met with Congressman Adam Schiff and discussed the recent Azeri invasion into Armenia’s eastern border, the illegal and dangerous deployment of Azeri forces on the roads between Armenia’s towns and villages, the unlawful detention of POWs and the importance of international pressure for accountability. Dr. Tatoyan thanked Congressman Schiff for his recent statement about the attack and for his unwavering support for justice for the Armenian Genocide and a secure and prosperous Armenia and Artsakh. Congressman Schiff reaffirmed that he will continue working with his colleagues to ensure that Azerbaijan is held accountable for its ongoing war crimes.
Dr. Tatoyan also met with the Lieutenant Governor of the State of California Eleni Kounalakis, San Francisco Board of Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Myrna Melgar and representatives of the San Francisco mayor’s office. He briefed these leaders on Azerbaijan’s latest acts of aggression against Armenia and its incitement and export of Armenophobic violence – noting how this global wave of anti-Armenian violence had reached the Armenian community in San Francisco. Dr. Tatoyan met with the Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, a newly-established agency in the City of Los Angeles focused on addressing discrimination and injustice across the city’s diverse communities. In a meeting with the department’s executive director Capri Maddox, Dr. Tatoyan discussed the threat of hate crimes against the Armenian community emanating from the state-sponsored incitement of anti-Armenian sentiment by the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan – noting the spate of Armenophobic hate crimes across the world, including in San Francisco.
On the media front, the ANCA-WR facilitated interviews for Dr. Tatoyan and RT America, where he discussed Azerbaijan’s incursion into Syunik and the capture of 12 Armenian POWs. Dr. Tatoyan highlighted Azerbaijan’s repeated refusal to abide by ceasefire commitments, the detrimental impact Azerbaijan’s ongoing aggression against Armenia has had on civilian populations and the threat posed by Azerbaijan’s propagation of anti-Armenian sentiments. Individual interviews were also arranged with foreign policy expert and political commentator Hagar Chemali for “Oh My World” and Araksya Karapetyan of KTTV Fox 11 News, as well as Asbarez News, Horizon Armenian TV, USArmenia, PanArmenian television and Zartonk Media.
Dr. Tatoyan’s trip also included a series of meetings with the ANCA-WR’s coalition partners, including Ramond Takhsh, a board member of the Assyrian Policy Institute. Dr. Tatoyan emphasized that as the Human Rights Defender of Armenia, the human rights of Armenia’s minorities – including Armenia’s significant Assyrian community – was an utmost priority. Takhsh thanked Dr. Tatoyan for his diligent work and expressed his profound thanks for Armenia’s role as one of the few safe havens for the Assyrian people in the world today – emphasizing the inextricable links between the Armenian and Assyrian people.
Dr. Tatoyan also visited the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum where he met with leaders of the Jewish-American community, including Los Angeles Holocaust Museum executive director Beth Kean, Serena Oberstein of Jewish World Watch (JWW), Dillon Hosier of the Israeli-American Civic Action Network (ICAN) and Richard S. Hirschhaut of AJC-Los Angeles.
Within the Armenian community, Dr. Tatoyan visited the sites of the anti-Armenian attacks at the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan (KZV) Armenian School and the community center adjacent to the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco. The KZV Armenian school was the site of two separate incidents —a vandalism attack where anti-Armenian graffiti was plastered around school property and a drive-by shooting of school property after hours. The church community center, which housed the offices of the ANCA’s San Francisco chapter as well as other local community organizations, was severely damaged in an arson attack. The northern California leg of his trip culminated with a town hall meeting in San Francisco, where he updated the community on recent developments in Armenia and presented information from his fact-finding missions.
Back in Los Angeles, Dr. Tatoyan headlined an ANCA-WR community town hall in partnership with the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) where he reported on recent developments and fielded a multitude of questions from the audience on a wide range of subjects, from Azerbaijan’s obligations under international law to protect the human rights of civilians and prisoners of war, to the need to establish a demilitarized security zone in the vicinity of villages in proximity to Azerbaijan’s military outposts. Dr. Tatoyan also visited the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School. Pilibos students inquired about the rights of women and children in Armenia, the recent Azeri invasion into the sovereign territory of Armenia and the rights of citizens in bordering villages. Elementary students also prepared handwritten notes thanking Dr. Tatoyan for his selfless work.
The main event of Dr. Tatoyan’s trip was the ANCA-WR’s Grassroots Luncheon on Sunday, November 21st at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where he was awarded the ANCA-WR’s “Human Rights Champion” Award in front of a sold-out crowd for his tireless pursuit of justice for the people of Armenia and the victims of Azerbaijan’s war crimes. Dr. Tatoyan was also presented with commendations by Senator Anthony Portantino on behalf of the Senate of the State of California and by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for his service to the Armenian nation. In turn, Dr. Tatoyan expressed his appreciation for the work of the ANCA-WR, presenting a certificate to the ANCA-WR, as well as to distinguished community members and legal experts Garo Ghazarian, Esq. and Karnig Kerkonian, Esq. for their enduring support of the Ombudsman’s office and for their efforts to hold Azerbaijan legally accountable for its violations under international law.
Dr. Tatoyan participated in a panel discussion with leading international legal experts on the topic of justice and accountability in the wake of the Artsakh war that took place at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and was co-hosted by the ANCA-WR, the UCLA Promise Armenian Institute, the UCLA Promise Institute for Human Rights, and CSUN’s Armenian Studies Department. Dr. Tatoyan was joined in conversation by Kate Mackintosh, executive director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at the UCLA School of Law; Rajika Shah, director of the Genocide Justice Clinic at Loyola Law School; and Karnig Kerkonian, a seasoned international lawyer and legal counsel on Armenia’s case against Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The extensive discussion examined a range of challenges associated with the justice and accountability process, the importance of international monitoring and reporting, a comparative study between the case of Artsakh and other examples of remedial secession and the prosecution of racially motivated war crimes, and the opportunities at Armenia’s disposal to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its violations of international law.
Immediately after his return to Armenia, Dr. Tatoyan embarked on a fact-finding mission to the Syunik province to investigate the crisis situation along the border.