NEWPORT BEACH, CAMore than 150 members and supporters of the Armenian Youth Federation turned out at the Pacific Club on the evening of Thursday, March 4, to protest Azerbaijans Consul General of Los Angeles, Elin Suleymanov.
Suleymanov General had been invited by the World Affairs Council (WAC) to speak about Azerbaijans role in the world during a banquet-style event they organize every month. The Azeri diplomat used the opportunity to tout his country as a strategically vital region to the U.S. and other superpowers.
This diplomat spoke for two hours, talking at length about how moderate, peaceful, economically stable, prosperous and wonderful Azerbaijan is, said Vache Thomassian, an AYF member who attended the event to ask the diplomat about Azerbaijans growing war rhetoric against Armenia and Karabakh.
Suleymanov, would have you believe that Armenia today occupies 20 percent of Azeri territory and as an aggressor nation has displaced a million Azeris that no longer have homes. He will have you believe there were massacres that Armenians committed against innocent Azeris and that our people committed murder to live in their own homeland, said Thomassian.
But those are all lies, he exclaimed, speaking to the protesters after the event concluded. Our voices were heard very clearly; the walls are not as thick as they seem and the louder we got, the more nervous he seemed, said Thomassian. The Consul General frequently mentioned his frustration with the protesters. he even paused during his speech, pointed outside and said these people follow me wherever I go.
Protest organizer Caspar Jivalagian said the AYF learned about this event only a week before it happened and in that short period of time we drafted an official letter to the WAC, held a protest workshop, made all the signs and banners, and got the word out to thousands of people.
Incidentally, it was revealed that among the organizations board members was an Armenian-American. Serge Thomassian approached the demonstrators at close of the protest to express his admiration for their efforts, explaining that he had attempted to steer the board away from the decision to invite Suleymanov. Though I was unable to convince the board to drop the speaker, I did manage to secure an event in April to commemorate the Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust, he explained.
The WAC board member also said that because of the protest, what was to be a one-sided lecture became an educational experience for the guests, who learned first-hand about Azerbaijans human rights violations and its denial of self-determination to Nagorno-Karabakh.
This demonstration was a testament to the will of the Armenian youth and sent a clear message to the Azeri consul that we will not allow his administration to spread its war rhetoric and propaganda, whether it be here in Los Angeles, or across the globe in Azerbaijan, said Jivalagian.
AYF Chairman Arek Santikian, who had been inside the event alongside Thomassian, echoed those sentiments.
Our goal tonight was to have a two-front operation with the impact of our questions being bolstered by loud protests against Azerbaijans inhumanity from outside, explained Santikian. After the protests started, there wasnt a single person inside who didnt stop for a moment to think about the credibility of Suleymanovs claims.
Santikian and Thomassian had submitted three questions during the event, all of which were asked to the diplomat. Among the questions was one asking Suleymanov to explain how his government will ensure security for international energy exports in the region when its unwilling to work for peace and constantly threatens to ignite a new war in the region.
The Azeri diplomat circumvented the question, fabricating his own set of facts to support his initial claims about Azerbaijans peace-loving nature, Santikian recalled.
Azerbaijan keeps to all its negotiations and sees them through, unlike many other countries, Suleymanov said during the event. Every country must bear consequences for what they do and if progress is not made to resolve the conflict, terrible things will happen in the region.
These remarks are representative of the reality we face today as Armenians, Thomassian said. We stand at a place in history when Azerbaijan says that a great war is inevitable in the Caucasus almost 20 years after the ceasefire of Karabakh was signed, he continued. We live in a time when Azerbaijan spends more than Armenia spends on its entire budget to buy tanks, to buy jets, to by weapons, bombs and apache helicopters to prepare themselves for a war they will begin.
Though a fragile state of no peace, no war has held over the years, Azerbaijan refuses to cooperate in internationally mediated peace talks with Armenia and instead threatens to take Karabakh by force. On February 25, Azerbaijans Defense Minister, Safar Abiyev, stepped up Bakus war rhetoric, this time threatening to launch an inevitable great war against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The daily recurrence of threats to invade Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh emanating from Baku is what motivated the AYF to mobilize its membership to demonstrate against the event, explained Jivalagian. This is an issue we all hold very dear to our hearts, he said, adding that the protest also sought to remind Suleymanov that the Armenian-American community has not forgotten the massacre of Armenians in Sumgait.
The protest came days after the 22nd anniversary of the deadly pogroms of Sumgait on Feb. 27, 1988, which marked the beginning of a systematic campaign by Azerbaijans OMON Special Forces to use massacres and violence to forcefully uproot Armenians from Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The events in Sumgait, which came as a direct response to Armenians expression of their right to self-determination in 1988, were followed by equally violent pogroms in the Azeri cities of Kirovabad, Baku and later in the Northern Shahoumian district of Nagorno-Karabakh. The violence against Armenians eventually escalated and Azerbaijan launched a military invasion into Nagorno-Karabakh, sparking a devastating war in the region that ended in 1994 with a ceasefire that left the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic free from Azeri rule.
Diplomats from Azerbaijan tour the world talking about how Armenia is an aggressor nation and that Azerbaijan must defend its territorial integrity from the Armenians.
We know, despite Azerbaijans lies, Karabakh is and always will be Armenian land, and that it will remain independent, said Thomasian. So long as we have the ability to breath and the ability to fight and defend that land, we will defend it, we will remember the massacres that happened in Sumgait and in Baku and we will not forget that 22 years ago pogroms were committed against Armenians that were reminiscent of the genocide.
And we will not forget that people like Suleymanov are touring around the world, that there are defense ministers and presidents in Azerbaijan saying that in ten years there will no longer be a Karabakh or Armenia, he added. We will remember that and keep that in the front of our minds, and we will be there every step that this man takes to take what he says and shove it right back in his face.
GLENDALE, CA-On Sunday February 28, the Armenian Youth Federation hosted a community forum on the Armenian Genocide Resolution led by former Armenian National Committee Western Region Chairperson Vicken Sonetz-Papazian. The town-hall style event is the latest in a series of forums organized by the AYF to educate the public on the proposed measure.
Sonentz-Papazian described the resolution as an important vehicle that raises the profile of human rights issues that are ongoing until today in different ways. He also discussed the evolution of the battle to gain official recognition of the Turkeys crime, from the introduction of the first resolution in 1975 by Rep. Tip ONeil, when the Turkish lobby was unorganized and unable to oppose the bills passage, to the present day situation in which Turkey spends millions of dollars a month to ensure its failure.
This fight against US recognition is among todays greatest ongoing violations of human rights, he explained. The killing ended in 1923, but since that time, there has been a very insidious cover up that has taken many forms, from the eradication of archival evidence to a very systematic campaign to wipe out any trace of an Armenian existence in Western Armenia, he said.
After speaking about the history of the resolution and the political landscape surrounding it today, Sonentz-Papazian led a discussion about ways to get involved to ensure its passage.
My feeling is we are going to make it through committee, but where we go from there depends on all of you, he said, presenting the audience with ways to get involved in
What you can do, first and foremost, is contact your elected representative–and if they are a cosponsor–you need to let them know that we are not interested in moral victories but real victories. We are interested in winning on this and advancing that Armenian case, he said.
The majority of Sundays participants reside in Congressman Adam Schiffs district. Sonentz-Papazian said it was vital for everyone to let Schiff, who is the author of the bill, know that we want him to lead the bill to a victory.
Another important tactic he shared was use of social networks that extend beyond California, into Ohio, Nebraska and Idaho, where there are congressman who dont even know if they are going to be around come the next election.
The playing field is really uncertain now for congressman, he said pointing to the recent election of a conservative male model as the new congressional representative in the largely liberal state of Massachusetts.
Every vote now counts, he exclaimed. Opposition to this resolution is not absolute, there are people in the administration who see the benefits of this resolution passing. But everyone is playing politics with this issue. For that reason we need to be prepared and active.
Sonentz-Papazian closed the forum with a strong call to action, urging the participants to never underestimate their ability to make a difference in the process. Our strength is grassroots and this is a winning formula.
The Armenian youth in America has always played a vital role in the Genocide Recognition process and this year is no different said AYF Chairman Arek Santiian. Now more than ever, we need to rally our communities across the United States so that they may, with one voice, call upon their elected representatives to do the right thing and support the Genocide Resolution.
Santikian, for his part, said the AYF is encouraging the Armenian Community to remain informed and engaged to ensure a swift full house floor vote of the resolution.
H.Res.252 calls upon President Obama to reflect appropriate acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. Coming to a committee vote in the Foreign Affairs committee of the House of Representatives on March 4th, supporters of the resolution remain hopeful for a strong victory
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), with chapters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, has grown to become the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization. Inspired by the past and motivated by the needs of the future, the AYF actively strives to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of all Armenian youth. More information about the AYF can be found at: www.AYFwest.org.
GLENDALE, CA–One March 2, AYF members put their mobile phones to use as they called Armenian Americans to garner support for the impeding vote.
Urging the public to call their congressman before the March 4th vote, the AYF reminded the Armenian Community of the importance of civic activism. Leaving their jobs and classes, the participants were eager to bolster support for the measure.
The members of the community are always excited to hear from the younger generation about something they care about remarked Sose Axian, a member of the Glendale AYF “Roupen” Chapter, who participated in the phone banking.
The phone banking is part of the AYF Western Region Teachathon 252 Campaign to educate the community on the upcoming vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Armenian Youth has played a strong role in past efforts to bring the resolution to the full house floor remarked Ishkahn Boghosian, a representative from the AYF. Its important we all remain informed and proactive.
The Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res. 252, will be voted on in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives on March 4th. It calls upon President Obama to reflect appropriate acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide. Coming to a committee vote in the Foreign Affairs committee of the House of Representatives on March 4th, supporters of the resolution remain hopeful for a strong victory
GLENDALE–The Armenian Youth Federation will beprotesting Azerbaijan’s Consul General of Los Angeles, Elin Suleymanov, at the Pacific Club (4110 Macarthur blvd. Newport Beach, CA) on Thursday, March 4 from 6-9pm. Suleymanov will be speaking about Azerbaijan’s role in the world at an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council. The Azeri diplomat will also be discussing Azerbaijan’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
“With this latest event, the Azerbaijani Government continues its decades long campaign to deny self-determination to the people of Nagorno Karabagh, undermining international peace talks with threats of war and an ongoing blockade against neighboring Armenia,” stated protest organizer Caspar Jivalagian. “For this reason, we must stand strong and demonstrate our resolve to stop the lies and propaganda of the Azeri government and to support the peope of Artsakh.”
The protest comes days after the 22nd anniversary of the deadly pogroms of Sumgait on Feb. 27, 1988, which marked the beginning of a systematic campaign by Azerbaijan’s OMON Special Forces to use massacres and violence to forcefully uproot Armenians from Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The events in Sumgait, which came as a direct response to Armenians’ expression of their right to self-determination in 1988, were followed by equally violent pogroms in the Azeri cities of Kirovabad, Baku and later in the Northern Shahoumian district of Nagorno-Karabakh. The violence against Armenians eventually escalated and Azerbaijan launched a military invasion into Nagorno-Karabakh, sparking a devastating war in the region that ended in 1994 with a ceasefire that left the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic free from Azeri rule.
Though a fragile state of “no peace, no war” has held over the years, Azerbaijan has refused to cooperate in internationally mediated peace talks with Armenia and has instead threatened to take Karabakh by force. On February 25, Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister, Safar Abiyev, stepped up Baku’s war rhetoric, this time threatening to launch an inevitable “great war” against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
These remarks, explained Jivalagian, are part of a well-documented pattern of threats and corresponding cease-fire violations initiated by the Azerbaijani Government.
“Concerns regarding Azerbaijan’s destabilizing actions in the region are compounded further when Azerbaijan’s grim human rights record is taken into consideration,” he said, adding that a country threatening to wage war on a democratic neighbor should not be allowed a forum in the United States. “Since Azerbaijan’s representative will be speaking here, we feel it is our obligation as human rights activists to inform the people attending the World Affairs Council event about Azerbaijan’s growing war rhetoric and rampant disrespect of human rights and democracy.”