WASHINGTON, DC – The ANCA Eastern Region gathered hundreds of activists, allies and coalition partners including the Hellenic American Leadership Council, A Demand For Action, In Defense of Christians as well as genocide scholars from across the Eastern Region on Wednesday, February 1 and Thursday, February 2, 2023, in the nation’s capital. They led meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill with one message: end all aid to Azerbaijan as the genocidal blockade of the Berdzor (Lachin) corridor continues. The advocacy days were followed by a protest on Capitol Hill. Hundreds of activists, allies, community members and leaders echoed the message presented during the advocacy days, demanding that Congress put an end to all aid to a genocidal Azerbaijan.
Activists encouraged legislators to co-sponsor and join the bi-partisan Resolution Condemning Azerbaijan’s Blockade of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), led by New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone, California Representative Brad Sherman and leaders of the Congressional Armenian Caucus. The resolution aims to break the brutal blockade that oil-rich Azerbaijan put in place on December 12, 2022, against the 120,000 Christian Armenians living in their indigenous Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) homeland. The resolution, in addition to condemning Azerbaijan’s blockade of the 120,000 indigenous population of Artsakh, also calls for sanctions and cutting all military aid to Azerbaijan and sending robust assistance to Artsakh.
Reflecting on the ANCA Eastern Region’s work ethic, Dr. Ara Chalian, ANCA Eastern Region Board chair said, “We built on our foundation of grassroots activism from the day this attack on our brothers and sisters in Artsakh started, to the last two days where we advocated on Capitol Hill for action that will provide safety and security for our brothers and sisters, to citizens of Artsakh.” Dr. Chalian continued recognizing the power of grassroots activism by stating, “…our team has brought this issue to the halls of Congress, and highlighted how these actions align with the American values and the kind of America that we all believe in.”
The ARF Eastern Region held a protest at Capitol Hill on February 2, 2023 to coincide with the Advocacy Days organized by the ANCA Eastern Region to underscore the demand to cut all aid to Azerbaijan and rally support and coverage for this essential Hai Tahd message and goal in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Artsakh.
“The turnout for the ANCA Eastern Region Advocacy days is a testament to the political power of the Armenian diaspora. Through effective advocacy, we more than doubled the original cosponsors on the anti-blockade resolution during those two days alone,” said Nairi Diratsouian, ANCA-ER Legislative Affairs and Community Relations director and activist.
Representative Pallone, co-chair of the Armenian Caucus, spearheading the anti-blockade resolution offered words of concrete support and action during a protest on Capitol Hill on Thursday. “One of the things that we do at the Armenian Caucus is meet with the State Department and put as much pressure as possible on them to pressure Azerbaijan to stop the blockade. We know that Aliyev wants all of the Armenians out of Artsakh. We know that this is a form of genocide. There is no question about it. We know that all of the excuses being used about environmentalists are just nonsense… We cannot have any peace as long as there is a threat to the people of Artsakh. Artsakh is Armenian. Artskah must remain Armenian,” stated Rep. Pallone.
George Aghjayan, director of the Armenian Historical Archives and a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Eastern United States, reflected on the protest at the Capitol, “I am so very proud of the unprecedented turnout from our east coast community which shows both the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis unfolding and the resolve as a community that our government take action.” Aghjayan concluded with two messages, “To Capitol Hill, we say stop all US aid to Azerbaijan, and to our brothers and sisters in Artsakh we say, stay strong, you are not alone, we are with you.”
In the early morning of December 12, 2022, the Azerbaijani government began an illegal blockade of the Berdzor Corridor, the only road connecting the indigenous Armenian people of Artsakh to the outside world. Since then, food and medical supplies have been almost entirely cut while access to the internet and energy for heat and electricity have been repeatedly shut off. This blockade on the people of Artsakh represents only the latest in a clear pattern of escalation that requires a firm US response to prevent a humanitarian disaster.