ALTADENA, Calif. — On Friday, May 24, the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Metro Los Angeles Chapter was pleased to host a community-wide meet and greet with Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA-27), a five-term Member of the US House of Representatives whose district encompasses a wide stretch of southern California’s San Gabriel Valley, and includes sizable Armenian-populated cities such as Altadena, Arcadia, Monrovia, Pasadena, South Pasadena, and Sierra Madre, among others. Congresswoman Chu serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and on the House Small Business Committee, in addition to chairing the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, which advocates for the needs and concerns of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities throughout the United States.
Held at the TCA Beshgueturian Center in Altadena and jointly organized by the Armenian Assembly of America and the TCA Metro LA Chapter, the meeting commenced with a warm welcome by TCA Metro LA Chapter Chairman Carl Bardakian, who acknowledged Rep. Chu as the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress. During his welcome statement, Bardakian shed light on the first Armenian American elected to Congress, namely the late Steven Derounian, who was elected in 1952 and served constituents residing on New York’s Long Island for six terms. Notably, due to his valor overseas during the second World War, US Army Captain Steven Derounian was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with oak leaf. Bardakian introduced Mihran Toumajan, the Assembly’s Western Region Director, who thanked over two dozen leaders of Armenian American community organizations for attending, and saluted Rep. Chu for her steadfast support on issues of concern to her Armenian American constituents. Toumajan introduced former California State Assemblymember and founder and CEO of California Consulting, Inc., Steve Samuelian, who praised Chu not only for her stellar record on Armenian issues in Congress, but also during her service as a Member of the California State Assembly (2001-2006) and the California State Board of Equalization (2007-2009). Samuelian requested that meeting participants briefly introduce themselves and their respective organizations prior to inviting Rep. Chu to deliver her prepared remarks.
Chu conveyed how honored she was to reconnect with long-time friends as well as new leaders of the Armenian American community. She highlighted her solid record in favor of official Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide and emphasized her original co-sponsorship of House Resolution 296 (H.Res.296), introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-28) in April 2019, which affirms the United States’ record on the Armenian Genocide. H.Res.296 currently has 100 bipartisan co-sponsors. Further, Rep. Chu shed light on her support for robust FY2020 US assistance to the Republics Armenia and Artsakh, including $70 million in economic development, democracy strengthening, and military aid to Armenia, in addition to $20 million for Armenia’s exemplary role as a regional safe haven for over 25,000 refugees from Syria, and $10 million to Artsakh for de-mining purposes and health rehabilitation services, as well as for pro-peace mechanisms delineated in the Royce-Engel initiative of the previous 115th Congress. Moreover, Congresswoman Chu stressed her support for the Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution (H.Res.190), which encourages unfettered transportation, communication, meetings, and other direct contacts between officials of Artsakh and their counterparts at all levels of government in the United States, in addition to the direct participation of the Artsakh government with respect to its security and status during negotiations within OSCE and other institutional frameworks. Finally, in partnership with her colleague Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA-30), Rep. Chu vowed to continue the fight to realize a US-Armenia bilateral treaty to eliminate double taxation for Americans conducting business in Armenia and vice versa.
During a brief question-and-answer session, and bearing in mind Armenia’s recent democratic transformation, as well as free, fair and transparent December 2018 Parliamentary elections, participants encouraged — and Chu accepted — the idea of a Congressional Armenian Caucus-led visit to Armenia and Artsakh should the opportunity avail in 2019. Specifically, attendees shed light on multiple international conferences taking place in Armenia in October 2019, including the World Congress on Information Technology (wcit2019.org), the first Aurora Forum (auroraforum.com), and the inaugural “Forest Summit: Global Action and Armenia” jointly organized by the Armenia Tree Project and the American University of Armenia’s Acopian Center for the Environment (armeniatree.org/en/forestsummit).
An important topic of discussion with Chu centered on Azerbaijani authorities’ penchant for intolerant behavior towards Armenians, with the Aliyev regime’s most recent manifestation of bigotry meted upon professional footballer of Armenian descent, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who plays for the Arsenal Football Club in the English Premier League. Mkhitaryan’s Arsenal squad faces the Chelsea Football Club on the 29th of May during the UEFA Cup / Europa League final match held in Baku, Azerbaijan. Moreover, community leaders expressed their outrage about the racist behavior of Azerbaijan’s authorities not only with respect to Mkhitaryan, but also towards dozens of British Armenian soccer fans of both teams, who, due to their “ian” or “yan” ending surnames, will not be allowed to enter Azerbaijan to view the UEFA Cup final. Finally, meeting participants reminded Rep. Chu that the government of Azerbaijan’s policy of blacklisting individuals also extends to non-Armenians who have visited Artsakh, including to Congressional colleagues like former Rep. David Valadao (R-CA-21), and current Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-6) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2), who traveled to the Republic of Artsakh in 2017 for fact-finding purposes.