A group picture of supporters of the motion, with Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Holly J. Mitchell in the middle

LA Board of Supervisors Adopt Motion Demanding Release of Armenian Hostages

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By Kevork Keushkerian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, January 9, the agenda for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor’s meeting included an item demanding the immediate release of Armenian hostages held captive by Azerbaijan. The motion was put forward by Supervisor Kathryn Barger and was co-sponsored by Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell. I and a group of concerned Armenians, including community activists Margaret Mgrublian and Alice Bedrosian, were there to address the Board in support of the motion, which then was passed unanimously. The text of my speech follows.

 

Honorable Lindsey Horvath, Chair and Board Members of the County Board of Supervisors and fellow residents of Los Angeles County,

My name is Kevork Keushkerian and I am a member of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, representing District 5. I am here to support the Motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Holly J. Mitchell, demanding the immediate release of Armenian hostages held captive by Azerbaijan. The Armenians in Azerbaijani captivity include the democratically-elected three former presidents of Nagorno-Karabakh, the parliamentary speaker, and several former government ministers.

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The motion, with a five-signature letter to be sent to the [US] President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of the Treasury, urges the Biden Administration to impose Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act violations on Azerbaijan for the illegal detention, torture, and extrajudicial killing of Armenian POWs and hostages, and to suspend all United States military and economic assistance to Azerbaijan.

As a reminder, it is a fact that Armenians have lived peacefully in Nagorno-Karabakh for 3000 years. The Armenians call this regional homeland Artsakh. The Soviet Union created the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region within Azerbaijan in 1924, when over 94% of the region’s population was Armenian.

In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Azerbaijan declared its independence from the Soviet Union and in 1992, Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence from Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, this demand for sovereignty by the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh was not recognized by any nation.

In 2020, Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, Armenia’s centuries old arch-enemy, launched a military assault against the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. This resulted in a 44-day conflict in which the government of Azerbaijan invaded and eventually occupied a big portion of Artsakh, including Nagorno-Karabakh’s second largest city Sushi. As a consequence of this war, 4,000 young Armenian soldiers gave their lives and many others were wounded.

In 2023, Azerbaijan launched another full-scale military assault on Nagorno-Karabakh, determined to reclaim the entire enclave and force the Armenian population out of their ancestral homes. Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian leaders had no choice but to accept a ceasefire, put their weapons down, and abdicate their powers. In the aftermath, more than 100,000 Armenians of Artsakh fled to neighboring Armenia and asked for asylum.

It is unheard of that former democratically elected government officials of a formerly sovereign region be captured by invaders, put in prison and charged with treason, while the entire world turns a deaf ear.

On behalf of the Armenian population in the Greater Los Angeles area, I would like to thank the Supervisors for their bold action in demanding the release of the Nagorno-Karabakh leaders. Your understanding of the situation, compassion for the falsely imprisoned government leaders, and care for the Armenian population in the County of Los Angeles is deeply appreciated. Thank you one more time and God bless you all.

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