ANCA California community leaders consult with Congressman Schiff on breaking Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh

ANCA leaders from across California participate in statewide briefing

Over 40 ANCA national and local leaders consulted with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on ramping up efforts to break Azerbaijan’s Artsakh blockade during a virtual town hall held on February 28th.

GLENDALE, Calif.Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) leaders from across the State of California held a virtual briefing with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) to discuss the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Artsakh as a result of Azerbaijan’s blockade – now in its third month. The briefing included the participation of a broad number of ANCA stakeholders – along with ANCA grassroots leaders across the country – to urge the Biden administration to take immediate steps to pressure Azerbaijan to end its genocidal campaign against Artsakh’s indigenous Armenian population.

“The blockade of the Lachin Corridor, an unconscionable act of aggression by Azerbaijan, has created a humanitarian crisis,” said Congressman Schiff. “Since the beginning of the blockade more than two months ago, innocent men, women and children in Artsakh have suffered through freezing temperatures and rolling blackouts. The United States must use every diplomatic and economic tool at its disposal to end this illegal blockade and cut off all aid to Baku.”

Congressman Schiff continued, “The work of the ANCA, its local chapters and the many members who volunteer their time and dedication is so important and ensures their voices are heard in the halls of Congress. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Armenian National Committee of America to stand with the people of Armenia and Artsakh, as well as the members of the diaspora, and speak out against this violence, demand real action from the US, and bring peace and prosperity to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Congressman Adam Schiff represents the single largest Armenian-American constituency in the United States and has been a stalwart friend and ally of the community throughout his tenure. Having fought over decades for US recognition of the Armenian Genocide, H.Res.296 – authored and introduced by Rep. Schiff in 2019 – was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, with an identical measure adopted in the Senate by unanimous consent shortly after. In his role as chairman of the influential House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Schiff also championed the inclusion of language in successive National Intelligence Authorization Bills mandating the US government to conduct assessments of the threat Azerbaijan posed to Armenia and Artsakh and the impact of US military assistance on the balance of power in the region. Congressman Schiff is the first member of the US Congress to have called for the recognition of Artsakh’s independence, and at President Biden’s last State of the Union address invited Artsakh’s Permanent Representative Robert Avetisyan to attend as his guest in order to draw attention to Artsakh and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade.

Over 30 leaders from ANCA chapters across California, including the ANCA’s San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Fresno, San Fernando Valley, Glendale, Burbank, La Crescenta, Pasadena, Hollywood, Orange County and San Gabriel Valley chapters, participated in the meeting, which also included insights by ANCA National Board Members Zanku Armenian and Aida Dimejian, along with ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan and Programs Director Alex Galitsky.

ANC Artsakh Executive Director Gev Iskajyan, who moved to Artsakh from California a year ago, provided a briefing from the ground on the latest dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in Artsakh. “What we are witnessing in Artsakh is nothing short of a genocide by attrition,” remarked Iskajyan. “As Azerbaijan seeks to starve the Armenian people to the brink of extinction, it is vital the US take tangible action to hold Azerbaijan to account. Congressman Schiff has championed efforts to hold Turkey and Azerbaijan accountable throughout his career, and we look forward to working with him to maximize pressure on the Biden Administration to ensure this blockade is lifted.”

In addition to his powerful advocacy to secure Congressional, and ultimately Presidential, recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Congressman Schiff has recently led efforts to condemn Azerbaijan’s ongoing detention and torture of Armenian prisoners of war (POWs) through the introduction of H.Res.240 – as well as the condemnation of Azerbaijan’s assault on Armenia in September 2022 with the introduction of H.Res.1351. As co-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, Congressman Schiff is also one of the lead co-authors on H.Res.108 – the ANCA-backed bipartisan resolution condemning Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh and calling for an immediate end to US military assistance to Azerbaijan.

ANCA National Board Member Zanku Armenian, ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, and ANC Artsakh’s Gev Iskajyan were joined by a host of ANCA national and local leaders in sharing community concerns with Rep. Schiff during the state-wide virtual town hall.

In response to Congressman Schiff’s decades of advocacy on behalf of Artsakh – ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan remarked, “this is a bipartisan Congressional wake-up call for the Biden Administration to end its unconscionable military assistance program with Azerbaijan. American taxpayers should not be subsidizing Baku’s attempts to ethnically cleanse Artsakh’s Armenians. Thanks to Rep. Schiff’s leadership over the years, the will of Congress is clear. It is long overdue for the Administration to stand with the freedom-loving people of Artsakh and hold Azerbaijan accountable for its brazen aggression.”

During the virtual town hall with Rep. Schiff, ANCA Hollywood’s Lara Yeretsian noted the failure of successive Administrations to deliver reports mandated by statute into the impact of U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan.

During the call, Congressman Schiff fielded a range of questions from local chapter leaders on a number of pressing community priorities. Roxanne Makasdjian of ANCA San Francisco drew attention to the dire implications of Azerbaijan’s state-sponsored anti-Armenian hate speech in the US, citing the hate crimes perpetrated against Armenian community property and school in the Bay Area where the community center was set on fire and the school was vandalized and shot at with guns. ANCA Hollywood’s Lara Yeretsian noted the failure of successive administrations to deliver reports mandated by statute on the impact of US military assistance to Azerbaijan. ANCA Orange County representative Haig Minasian spoke of how USAID has failed to deliver any direct assistance to Artsakh since the 2020 Artsakh War despite congressional mandates, and the community’s disappointment with the Administration’s and USAID’s Samantha Power’s refusal to characterize the blockade as a humanitarian crisis.

“Not a single member of our community is untouched by the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Artsakh today,” remarked ANCA National Board Member Zanku Armenian. “Much of our community are descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide and see what is happening today as a direct continuation of that crime because Turkey and Azerbaijan have not been held accountable. Our community’s extensive grassroots, led by our ANCA local chapters, remain united in common purpose to ensure our government acts immediately to hold Azerbaijan’s dictatorship to account – and we look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Schiff to ensure the Biden Administration honors the pledge he made when he recognized the Armenian Genocide to prevent atrocities whenever and wherever they occur.”

Since the first day of the blockade, the ANCA has been working with the White House, State Department and Congressional leaders – urging them to stop US military assistance to Azerbaijan and to send emergency humanitarian assistance to Artsakh. Thousands have already used the ANCA online portal to call, tweet and write the White House and Congressional leaders to immediately address this growing Artsakh humanitarian crisis.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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