HONOLULU, HI -, Under the grassroots leadership of Hawaii constituents Ani Martirosian-Menon and Arthur Martirosian, Armenian-American activists successfully defeated anti-Armenian House Resolution 9 and House Resolution 13 in the Hawaii State Legislature on February 12.
H.R. 9 declares Azerbaijan as an economically vibrant ally of the United States against the war on terrorism, calling upon the U.S. government to “supports a strategic partnership between the United States and the Republic of Azerbaijan and that the United States administration is urged to strengthen its efforts to facilitate a political settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
H.R. 13 commemorates the Khojaly killings, where Armenians are accused of killing Azeri civilians during the Nagorno Karabakh war; and is equated to the Sumgait pogroms where hundreds of Armenian civilians were massacred by Azeri civilians and forces through brutal and inhumane means during peaceful times.
Aside from the fact that both bills contain inaccurate and fabricated claims, the Azeri lobby has been aggressively campaigning against Armenian interests in light of the passage of several Resolutions throughout the Country including one by the Louisiana State Senate, with the involvement of ACA Louisiana Chairman Vasken Kaltakjian last year in May. The Louisiana State Senate Resolution recognizes the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and expresses support for its development as a free and independent nation in order to guarantee its citizens those rights inherent in a free and independent society.
According to Civil Beat, an independent Hawaiian publication, State Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D-Waipahu) was quoted stating that H.R. 9 and H.R. 13 (which are both authored by Chairman Mark Takei of the Hawaii House of Representatives Committee on Veterans, Military, & International Affairs, & Culture and the Arts) had come from Elin Suleymanov, the Azeri Ambassador to the U.S. The same publication has reported that the Republic of Azerbaijan spent around $8,000 for trips taken by Rep. Cabanilla and Chairman Takai to Baku last May, joining over 300 other legislators from the U.S. at the U.S.-Azerbaijan Convention.
“The introduction of these two bills is a clear example of the lengths that these well-funded Azeri lobbyists will go– even to the point of trying to distort history– to seep their influence into U.S. legislatures and attempt to shape public policy to serve their own interests,” said Sevak Khatchadorian, Chairman of the Armenian Council of America. “I applaud the courage, tenacity, strength and capability of the Armenian-American community of Hawaii and their perseverance towards this important issue. They have proven that when faced with an uphill battle against professional propagandists and biased legislators, even a small group of individuals who are motivated only by justice can prevail.”
With the grassroots efforts of the tiny community of about 50 Armenian-American families, spearheaded by activist Ani Martirosian-Menon and Arthur Martirosian, the unbiased, ground-breaking testimony they provided, along with elderly activist Arpine Philian and Dr. Alexandre Telnov, a scientist who has regularly visited Baku, illustrated factual evidence, citing current events and historical information supported by scholars and brought to reality by personal experience, ultimately persuading the Committee to unanimously vote against the Resolutions. Both Resolutions were deferred, despite unwavering resistance by Chairman Takei and the 120 submitted boilerplate testimonies by those in support of the Resolutions against the 20 testimonies opposing the Resolutions.
“In the end, we defeated these Resolutions because we took a multifaceted approach to our grassroots effort – testimony submission, independent media, presence at the hearing, meeting with state legislators to discuss the Resolutions and by offering real credible sources to counter the lies found within the Resolution,” said Martirosian-Menon. “I sent out daily updates via email to a large group of friends and family who I knew would be willing to help… made a good showing at the hearing (4 of us testifying in opposition, all fitting different demographics) relevant to Hawaii’s usual turn out,” she added.
In a letter addressed to the activists who opposed the Resolutions, Martirosian-Menon thanked all those involved: “Yesterday’s win would never have been possible without the help of the overwhelming majority of you. Every single testimony submitted in opposition made a significant impact… Our concerted effort to stop these Resolutions was grassroots activism in its truest form. Whether you wrote testimony, called your Rep, told your friends about the issues involved, or shared your opinions via social media sites, you were a working part of this. We made a difference yesterday, together as a united front. I wonder, what more can we do?”
Although the Resolutions have been deferred, there is a possibility that they may be reintroduced. “As Armenian-American activists, it is imperative that we keep a watchful eye on these types of Resolutions that work against the interest of progress and peace,” said Khatchadorian. “Each and every one of us has a duty to contact our political representatives, to educate them about Nagorno Karabakh, the plight of the Armenian people and the moral, economic and ethnic strife Armenians in that region have endured at the hands of the Azeri government. We are being challenged by well-funded alternatively-motivated propagandists and we must do everything in our power to ensure that such anti-Armenian pieces of legislation are not passed in the future. The Armenian-American community of Hawaii has demonstrated that through hard work, dedication and collaboration, justice is attainable,” he added.