SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) California local chapters welcome the California State Assembly’s passage of AJR 1 condemning Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh.
The resolution was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, with 58 representatives joining as co-sponsors, and the final vote tally standing at 59 votes to zero.
“The passage of AJR 1 is a powerful step towards holding Azerbaijan accountable for its unabated aggression against the Armenians of Artsakh,” remarked ANCA National Board member Aida Dimejian. “We’re grateful to have worked closely with Assemblymember Chris Holden and his colleagues on ensuring the timely passage of this resolution, which calls on the US Government to take immediate action to pressure Azerbaijan to end its cruel and inhumane blockade of Artsakh.”
The ANCA’s California chapters worked closely with Assemblymember Holden, who introduced the resolution, in an effort to reaffirm California’s recognition of Artsakh’s right to self-determination, and urge the Biden administration to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the Armenians of Artsakh. The resolution also calls for the Biden administration to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its aggression by enforcing Section 907 restrictions on military aid to Baku.
“Today, AJR 1 passed the Assembly to the Senate with bipartisan support. The blockade of the Lachin Corridor has endangered the lives of 120,000 Armenians, including 30,000 children who face critical shortages of food, medicine and other vital goods. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to have this measure passed and sent to Congress and the President,” said Assemblymember Holden.
Assemblymember Holden was joined by Assemblymembers Laura Friedman, Wendy Carillo, Lisa Calderon, Megan Dahle, Mike Gipson, Mike Fong, Tom Lackey, Cottie Petrie-Norris, Eloise Gomez Reyes, Luz Rivas and Blanca Rubio as co-authors on AJR 1. Following its successful passage through the California Assembly, the resolution will now be considered before the Senate, where it is being introduced by California State Senator Anthony Portantino, with Senators Bob Archuleta and Scott Wilk as co-authors.
“On behalf of ANCA Pasadena, I express our community’s gratitude to Assemblymember Holden for his powerful leadership in the effort to lift Azerbaijan’s genocidal blockade of Artsakh,” remarked ANCA Pasadena chair Shoghig Yepremian. “Many members of our community are descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide – and we can’t help but see the parallels between that great crime against humanity and Azerbaijan’s attempts to starve the Armenians of Artsakh into extinction. We were glad to work closely with Assemblymember Holden to secure the passage of this resolution through the California Assembly, and look forward to working together with his colleagues in the California Senate to ensure the urgent passage of this crucial resolution.”
Speaking in strong support of AJR 1, Assemblymember Friedman – who represents the largest Armenian-American community in the state legislature – commented on the significance of Artsakh to the Armenian people, and the dire humanitarian crisis unfolding. “Artsakh has been a traditional part of Armenia going back thousands of years. Azerbaijan has mounted an unprovoked war against the Armenian people, using the civilians in Artsakh as cannon fodder – and by cutting off the road which is the primary way to get all manner of supplies into the Armenians living in Artsakh, they have caused a humanitarian crisis in the region for no reason other than to try to remove the Armenians from this historic area,” Friedman remarked. “We in California and the US need to send a very strong message to Azerbaijan and the world community that this type of terror against civilians will not be tolerated.”
Assemblymember Diane Papan, the only American of Greek descent in the California Assembly, also stood in strong support of AJR 1. “The Greeks have stood with the Armenians for a long time – and I concur with Assemblymember Friedman, this [blockade] cannot be tolerated.”
Assemblymember Rivas, who represents a large Armenian community in the San Fernando Valley, urged her colleagues to support AJR 1 – and echoed calls for the US government to take strong action to hold Azerbaijan to account.
Representing Fresno’s vibrant Armenian-American community, Assemblymember Jim Patterson also issued his support for AJR 1. “Fresno is home to a huge number of Armenians, and it has been my joy to represent them here in the legislature, and for eight years as the mayor of Fresno. This is an outrage, and needs to be brought to our attention. I stand with the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who reside in Central California and Fresno – this is something vital to them. Not only because of what is happening in [Artsakh], but because of what is happening in the hearts and souls of the Armenians of Fresno.”
In his closing remarks, Assemblymember Holden reiterated the impact the blockade has had on the entire Armenian nation. “So many people who live in California who are of Armenian descent continue to feel the pressure and pain of a genocide that continues to go on even today – who have family members who are in Armenia and in Artsakh who are hurting. It has risen to the level where the world community needs to speak out – and not just speak out, but take action,” Holden commented. “This resolution calls on our Administration to vigorously intercede and ensure humanitarian aid is delivered to the people of Artsakh.”
AJR 1 was adopted by the Assembly just days after its passage through the Assembly Committee on Judiciary with overwhelming support. During the committee hearing, ANCA San Francisco representative Khatchig Tazian and ANCA Burbank representative Antranik Jarchafjian testified in support of the expeditious passage of AJR 1 – speaking to the dire humanitarian toll Azerbaijan’s 109-day blockade has had on Artsakh’s 120,000 Armenians, and the deeply personal connection between California’s million-strong Armenian community and the people of Artsakh.
The resolution comes amidst mounting pressure in the US Congress on President Biden to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its brazen aggression against the Armenian people. Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), along with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA) and over 80 Congressional colleagues are leading a bipartisan House Resolution (H.Res.108) condemning the blockade and urging immediate action be taken to guarantee vital humanitarian assistance to Artsakh’s 120,000 Armenians, who have been denied access to food, fuel, medical supplies and other vital humanitarian goods for over 100 days in freezing conditions.
Representative Pallone, founding co-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, also recently led a Congressional letter to Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations Chairman Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL) and Ranking Member Barbara Lee (D-CA) calling for an end to US military assistance to Azerbaijan and urging the provision of $50 million in emergency assistance to Artsakh to meet the humanitarian and recovery needs of the region’s 120,000 Armenians, and $100 million in security, economic, governance and rule of law assistance to Armenia.
Since the first day of the blockade, the ANCA and its local chapters have 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 enfolding Artsakh humanitarian crisis.