By Jason KUROSU
Local legislators passed a resolution last week urging the self-determination of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a region currently recognized by the United Nations as part of Azerbaijan, though with a predominately Armenian population and the subject of armed conflict between Armenians and Azerbaijanis for the better part of a century.
AJR32, introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, passed through the California State Senate with a unanimous 23-0 vote. The resolution also passed with a 70 to 2 vote through the state assembly in May.
Among those present at the vote was Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, who spoke in support of the resolution.
“The ethnic Armenian people of this region have suffered tremendously, dating back to the last century and continuing into this one,” said De Leon. “They deserve a free and independent homeland where they will be free from persecution.”
De Leon spoke of the weight the resolution could carry, despite feelings that such resolutions may not matter in the long run, referring to state efforts against apartheid in South Africa or the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in California, “something, unfortunately, our federal government has yet to do.”
“I know that these statements of our collective values as Californians, do matter,” said De Leon.
Senators Tom Berryhill and Ricardo Lara also spoke in favor of independence for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
“As Americans, we should understand the desire to be an independent nation, free of tyranny and free to form a government that best reflects our values,” said Berryhill. “It is our own history.”
Lara described his district as “home to a thriving and vibrant Armenian community, people who have embraced the important American values of freedom, democracy and justice. This resolution asks the President and Congress to extend those fundamental values to the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and encourages their continued development as a free and independent nation.”
Similar resolutions have been passed by political bodies in Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Louisiana and New South Wales, Australia.
Also passed this week was AB 1915, the Armenian Genocide Education Act, continuing local legislative efforts recognizing Armenian issues. Though not recognized by the U.S. government as of yet, several states have passed legislation regarding recognition of the Armenian Genocide in recent years.
The bill would encourage the California Dept. of Education to include materials such as oral survivor and/or witness testimony in the teaching of human rights, the Holocaust and genocide, and for the social science curriculum to include the Armenian, Cambodian, Darfur and Rwandan genocides. The Armenian Genocide would be officially defined as “the torture, starvation and murder of 1.5 million Armenians, which included death marches into the Syrian Desert, by the rulers of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and exile of more than 500,000 innocent people during the period from 1915 to 1923, inclusive.”
By a unanimous 36-0 vote, the California State Senate passed the bill, which will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.
The Armenian Genocide will also be recognized through education with the Los Angeles Community Colleges District’s Month of Commemoration for the Armenian Genocide. April 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Genocide and will be designated as the month of commemoration, as chosen by the L.A. Community Colleges District’s board of trustees.
The board of trustees drafted a resolution at its Aug. 20 meeting, stating, “the board of trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District hereby designates the month of April 2015 as ‘Los Angeles Community College District Month of Commemoration for the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915’ and in doing so will ensure that the Armenian Genocide is properly taught to its faculty, student body, and the community at large through campus-wide educational and cultural events.”
All nine LACCD community colleges will take part, among them East L.A. College, L.A. City College, L.A. Harbor College, L.A. Mission College, Pierce College, L.A. Southwest College, L.A. Trade Tech College, L.A. Valley College and West L.A. College.