Armenian Assembly of America Submits Testimony to Congress
Requests $15 Million to Armenia for Refugees Forced to Flee Genocide by ISIS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On March 24, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) Executive Director Bryan Ardouny submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs where he outlined nine key policy priorities for the Armenian American community in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.
Given Azerbaijan’s blatant ceasefire violations, the Assembly called upon the United States to “directly condemn such actions and avoid engaging in false equivalency between the aggressor and those defending themselves.” The Assembly urged that Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act be fully enforced. “Azerbaijan’s violations skyrocketed to over 30,000 in 2015, and include the inexplicable targeting of a kindergarten in Armenia’s Tavush border region and other civilian areas, not to mention the continual acts of vandalism, such as destroying centuries-old Armenian cemeteries noted for their historic monuments,” Ardouny points out in his testimony. In addition, “the Assembly urges the cessation of U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan does not need it, and America cannot afford it.”
The Assembly testimony also laid out eight additional policy goals and specifically asks for: not less than $40 million in U.S. assistance to Armenia; not less than $5 million to Nagorno Karabakh, especially for the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center; advancing the Nagorno Karabakh peace process; support to Christian minorities at risk in the Middle East; U.S. military assistance to Armenia; assistance to the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia; regional energy security; and reaffirmation of the U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.
The destruction of the Armenian heritage of the region by Azerbaijan and the armed violations of the ceasefire parallel the crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed constitute genocide against Christians and minorities, including Armenians. In light of this, “the Assembly also urge[d] enhanced assistance to Christian and other minority communities at risk in the Middle East, with a particular focus of concern regarding the continued unrest in Syria, particularly the battleground city of Aleppo where Armenian churches and other institutions have come under attack.”
The Administration’s proposed budget envisions nearly $3 billion for migration and refugee assistance. The Assembly recommended that $15 million be allocated for Armenia, which according to The Economist has taken on the third largest number of refugees in Europe as a proportion of its population. “As a host country, Armenia has been absolutely exemplary in terms of the ratio of welcomed Syrian-Armenian refugees to the number of native inhabitants,” said United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Armenia Christoph Bierwirth. Armenia hosts six Syrian refugees per 1,000 nationals – a ratio much higher than many European countries or the U.S., an especially noteworthy effort given the country’s economic circumstance.
Earlier this week, Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Robert Dold (R-IL), spearheaded an Assembly-backed letter to the Subcommittee regarding assistance to Armenia and Karabakh. The letter, which was signed by 33 U.S. Representatives, outlined key priorities regarding U.S.-Armenia/U.S.-Karabakh relations.
In addition to the testimony, the Assembly relayed a message of condolence for the recent attacks in Brussels. “The Armenian Assembly stands in solidarity with the people of Belgium and expresses its deepest sympathies to the victims and families of the latest terrorist attacks, which serves as a painful reminder of all those lost in other senseless acts of terror,” Ardouny stated.
The full Assembly testimony for FY 2017 is available here.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.