By Rashid Shirinov
Hearings dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Sumgayit events, promotion of economic ties between the State of California and Armenia, and the outflow of California's investments from Turkey were organized by the Armenian lobby in the California State Senate in Sacramento.
Despite the continuous efforts of the Armenian lobby in California, where about one million Armenians live, as well as its spending of big money on various senators, only two of 40 members of the Senate of California attended the event. They were Senator Scott Wilk, whose wife is an Armenian, and a long-time patron of the Armenian lobby Senator Anthony Portantino.
Immediately after receiving information about the hearings, active members of the Azerbaijan Cultural Society of Northern California and the Azerbaijani American Cultural Association, including Hamid Azeri, Samir Lutveliyev, Anar Usubov and others, joined the event.
During the hearings, a representative of the Armenian lobby, claiming that he lived in Azerbaijan and witnessed the Sumgayit events, made slanderous statements against Azerbaijan and presented the Sumgayit events of 1988 in a fictional version. Senators Portantino and Wilk supported him and tried to indulge the Armenian lobby.
Following the hearings, according to the procedural rules, comments were made and questions were asked. A young member of the Azerbaijani community told Senator Portantino: “You talked about the Sumgayit events, although the instigators of those events were brought to justice. One of them is an Armenian whose surname is Grigoryan. However, the perpetrators of the terrible crime against humanity committed in 1992 by the Armenian armed forces in Khojaly against peaceful Azerbaijanis are still unpunished.”
The Azerbaijani asked Portantino why he did not mention these facts in his speech. "Do you intend to hold hearings on the Khojaly massacre?” he added. The member of the Azerbaijani community called on the senator not to treat the issue unilaterally. Confused Senator Portantino said he would consider this issue.
Khojaly, the second largest town in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, came under intense fire by Armenia from the towns of Khankendi and Askeran already occupied by the Armenian armed forces on the night of February 25-26, 1992. As many as 613 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in the massacre, and a total of 1,000 people were disabled. Eight families were exterminated, 25 children lost both parents, and 130 children lost one parent. Moreover, 1,275 innocent people were taken hostage, and the fate of 150 of them remains unknown.
Another representative of the Azerbaijani community, noting that he hails from Karabakh, and the fact that as a result of Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan, more than one million Azerbaijanis were expelled from their homes and their rights were grossly violated, asked: “What can you say to one million people who wait for their return to their lands?” Senator Portantino refused to answer the question.
Armenia broke out a lengthy war against Azerbaijan by laying territorial claims on the country. Since a war in the early 1990s, Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions. More than 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and over 1 million were displaced as a result of the large-scale hostilities. To this day, Armenia has not implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions.
Then another representative of the Azerbaijani community, a student of the University of California, Berkeley, asked the senator why he demonstrated a one-sided approach to the issue and gave the floor only to the Armenian side instead of listening to the opinions of both sides.
Another representative of the Azerbaijani community told the senator that the current rulers of Armenia and those with whom the senator meets during his trips to Armenia are the people who once perpetrated massacre against thousands of peaceful Azerbaijanis.
Other members of the Azerbaijani community, including a witness of the Khojaly genocide Anar Usubov, urged the senators not to treat the issue in a one-sided and biased manner. Citing the facts about the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Khojaly genocide, they brought Azerbaijan’s fair stance to the attention of the attendees.
Leaders of the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Assembly of America, which are the leading organizations of the radical Armenian lobby in the U.S., taking the floor, tried to help Senator Portantino get out of the difficult situation, but instead of that, they further exposed themselves with their confusing arguments.
Although Portantino said he would answer the questions of the members of the Azerbaijani community after the speeches, he did not express any attitude to the questions until the end of the event and completed the hearings using general phrases.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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