BOISE, Idaho — The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) announced last month that it successfully defeated House Concurrent Resolution 37, which attempted to praise Azerbaijan’s interfaith tolerance and positive multiculturalism. The ANCA-WR led an advocacy initiative and mobilized Idaho’s local Armenian-American community to defeat the measure in less than 48 hours.
“The quick defeat of Idaho’s resolution in praise of Azerbaijan is a testament to the strength of American democracy and yet another example that our well-organized grassroots efforts will have a stronger resounding effect than that of a foreign paid lobby,” said Elen Asatryan, executive director of the ANCA-WR. “We are proud that the State of Idaho has joined the states of Hawaii, Colorado, California and others to reject the dictatorial regime of Azerbaijan, which is known for its oppression of citizens, press and its persecution of Christian communities.
“A dictatorship that has destroyed more Christian monuments than ISIS and is the world’s fifth most censored country should not be praised for anything, let alone interfaith tolerance.”
HCR 37, sponsored by Representative Thomas Dayley, was introduced by the Idaho House State Affairs Committee on February 11. Once alerted to the resolution, ANCA-WR immediately alerted the local Armenian American community, submitted testimony to all House members in opposition to the resolution and called upon all members to encourage the withdrawal of this resolution. The complete statement by the ANCA-WR opposing the resolution can be found at www.ancawr.org/Idaho.
The Idaho House State Affairs Committee confirmed that the controversial measure had effectively been withdrawn killed.
“The sponsor of the resolution has requested that I hold the bill and not have a hearing on it,” stated Representative Thomas Loertscher, chairman of the committee, in an email. “That is what will happen and it will not advance and will not be considered for any further action.”
Local activists and ANCA-Idaho Chair Liyah Babayan, who is a well-respected entrepreneur and human rights defender in Twin Falls, commended joint efforts to defeat HCR 37.
“In coordination with the ANCA-WR, we have successfully organized opposition to this mockery of a resolution via phone calls, emails and quick action,” Babayan said.
Babayan, herself a refugee from Baku, Azerbaijan met with members of the State Affairs Committee and shared personal stories of persecution at the hands of Azerbaijan. Idaho lawmakers were appalled that they had been misled to believe that Azerbaijan was a utopian society.
Another human rights activist in Idaho, Jo-Ann Kachigian, received the following explanation from her lawmaker as to why the resolution was introduced in the first place: “I think it was well motivated, but with lack of information. [The sponsor] thought that unlike many of the other Islamic nations in the area Azerbaijan had a peacefully coexisting situation among Muslims, Christians and Jews which should be highlighted, but had not considered the Armenian history and had inadequate information on the Christian minorities there. I am not sure where he got his initial information, but I don’t think there was any underlying commercial motive.”
ANCA-WR also mobilized over 90 activists in Idaho, many of whom, with a moment’s notice spoke directly with their lawmakers and received assurance that they would not only vote against HCR 37, but would personally appeal for it to be withdrawn. The numerous calls and emails generated by the ANCA-WR and local residents caused legislators to educate themselves on Azerbaijan’s actual human rights record.