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Over 50 Members of Congress Sign Bipartisan Letter Opposing F-16 Sale to Turkey

Florida Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL) Sign Armenian Caucus Letter

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian American community welcomed a bipartisan letter, spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), addressed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, rejecting the recent proposal by Turkey to purchase Block 70 F-16 fighter jets as well as mechanical upgrades to F-16s from the United States.

The February 4, 2022 letter states in part: “Approving this proposal would reward President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for ignoring both Turkey’s alliance commitments to the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the vast human rights abuses his regime continues to commit at home and abroad.”

In addition to Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Bilirakis, Florida Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL) also signed the letter.

Turkey has destabilized multiple regions around the world, including the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, North Africa, and particularly the South Caucasus, when F-16s were used against the Armenian people during the 44-day war in Artsakh in the Fall of 2020. Turkey deployed its lethal and armed unmanned aerial vehicle, the Bayraktar TB2, to cause irreparable damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure, which was confirmed by satellite images.

The letter continues: “The purchase of advanced fighter jets from the United States for Turkey’s military arsenal…will more likely lead to further death and destruction in the region at the hands of his [Erdoğan] military.”

Erdoğan also continues to “jeopardize American national security” by utilizing the Russian-manufactured S-400 missile defense systems, which can expose “important tactical information about U.S. weaponry and military operations to Russia,” in an attempt to “pit the United States and Russia against each other.”

The letter highlights Erdoğan’s human rights abuses in Turkey, the suppression of civil society, the promotion of unfair elections, and the restriction of freedom of speech, leading to the detainment of a Turkish journalist last week who was arrested for reportedly insulting Erdoğan.

The letter concludes: “We strongly urge you to reject Turkey’s request for new F-16s and modernization kits and take immediate action to hold the Erdoğan regime accountable. The United States must not provide any further support to Turkey’s military until President Erdoğan takes tangible steps to halt his destabilizing actions and violations of international law at home and abroad.”

“Florida Armenians applaud Reps. Bilirakis, Deutch, Diaz-Bolart, and all of the letter signatories for taking this important, principled stand as Erdogan’s Turkey continues to prove that it is no longer the reliable ally and partner of the United States that it once was,” stated FLArmenians.com Editor Arsine Kaloustian.

Joining Congressmen Pallone and Bilirakis on the letter are Reps. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Katie Porter (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Valadao (R-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Susan Wild (D-PA).

ICHRRF Issues Official Statement Recognizing the Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON, DC – On February 1, 2022, the International Commission for Human Rights and Religious Freedom (ICHRRF) released the following statement in support of the remembrance of the Armenian Genocide:

“As an organization founded on the principles of universal brotherhood, cooperation, mutual respect, compassion, and respect for basic human rights and religious freedom, the ICHRRF is fully committed to promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms as the critical values connecting Humanity. Hence the organization stands for upholding the dignity of victims of genocide and other atrocity crimes and pursuing justice for these acts.

“During the first World War, the Ottoman Turkish Islamic Caliphate systematically annihilated around 1.5 million Armenian Christian citizens. It is sometimes called the first genocide of the 20th century. The Armenian Genocide took place more than 100 years ago. However, the systematic killing of civilian men, women and children is not just in the past.

“ICHRRF applauds the US President Joe Biden’s decision to officially recognize the 1.5 million Armenians who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide during World War I. This is a much wanted initial bold step towards acknowledging the truth, history, and invaluable support for all the victims of hatred, religious atrocities, ethnic cleansing and systematic annihilation campaigns against vulnerable communities around the globe.

“Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Caliphate Empire still denies this crime against humanity. Thirty-one countries, so far, have recognized the Armenian genocide and urged Turkey to take responsibility for this heinous crime. However, many nations refuse to recognize the killings as genocide, fearing a fallout in the strategic alliance with Turkey. We urge Turkey, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and other countries that deny Armenian genocide to step up to the stark historical facts and stop indulging in shameful genocide denial for political convenience. It is imperative for all societies to openly acknowledge complicated national history to prevent group-targeted violence from happening anymore in 21st century.”

ICHRRF is a US-based non-profit organization focused on promoting human rights, religious and philosophical freedom and a polycentric worldview through continuous monitoring, education, policy research and collaboration.

Last month, the ICHRRF hosted FLArmenians.com Founder Taniel Koushakjian for an online presentation on “The Armenian Genocide and its Continued Denial by Perpetrators” as part of ICHRRF’s #SpeakingUpSeries on human rights and religious freedom.

New Poll Finds More Armenians Feel Country is Going in the Wrong Direction

By Harut Sassounian

Syndicated Columnist

The Washington-based International Republican Institute’s public opinion poll, conducted November 22-December 5, 2021, measured the Armenian population’s views on political, economic, and security issues. The survey was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The poll revealed a key finding: 46% of the population thinks that “Armenia is headed in the wrong direction,” while only 34% thinks that the country is headed in “the right direction.” This indicates that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s often-repeated boast that he enjoys “the people’s mandate” is not necessarily so. This is a significant shift from the 54% of the votes the Prime Minister’s political party received in the June 20, 2021 parliamentary elections. More importantly, the number of those who think that Armenia is headed in the wrong direction increased from 20% in May 21, 2021 to 34% in July 2021 and 46% in December 2021.

However, on another important question, “Do you believe that you or people like you can influence decisions made in our country,” 66% said yes, while 33% said no. This is definitely a positive indication for the authorities.

The next question: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way democracy is developing in our country?” the country was almost evenly split: 51% yes and 47% no.

To the question: “Do you consider our country to be governed in the interest of the majority of people or in the interest of some groups?” 61% said it was governed in the interest of “some groups,” while only 31% said it was governed in the interest of “the majority.” This reflects negatively on the current government.
On the positive side, 66% of the people surveyed said they are “not afraid of openly expressing their opinions,” while 31% said they were afraid to do so.
To the question: “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the work of the following state bodies?” the top approval was given to Pashinyan government’s frequent critic, Human Rights Defender’s (Ombudsman’s) office (68% satisfied vs. 25% dissatisfied); the police (68% vs. 29%); local governments (63% vs. 33%); armed forces (58% vs. 37%); Central Electoral Commission (57% vs. 33%); and National Security Service (50% vs. 41%). The Prime Minister’s office came in 7th place with 49% satisfied vs. 48% dissatisfied. The Armenian Parliament came in 16th place with 31% satisfied and a whopping 67% dissatisfied. This is not surprising as the parliament’s televised sessions frequently show scenes of shouting matches, insults, and physical altercations ending with abrupt orders by the parliament’s leadership representing the Prime Minister’s political party to turn off the TV cameras to hide the disorderly conduct of the rowdy parliamentarians.

Turning to foreign policy issues, those surveyed ranked France on top with 92% as having the best relationship with Armenia. Then came Iran (80%); the United States (77%); China (75%); European Union (69%); Russia (64%); Georgia (58%); UK (47%); other (10%); Turkey (5%); and Azerbaijan at the very bottom with 3%.

When asked “Which two countries were the most important political partners for Armenia?” Russia (57%); France (50%); the U.S. (38%); Iran (23%); European Union (5%); China (5%); Georgia (3%); and India (1%).

In response to “Which two countries are the most important economic partners of Armenia?” Russia again came first with 61%; Iran (40%); (China (29%); the U.S. (16%); France (14%); Georgia (8%); European Union (7%); India (2%); and Turkey (2%).

When asked “Which 2 countries are the most important security partners for Armenia?” the answers were: Russia (64%); France (32%); Iran (31%); the U.S. (26%); European Union (5%); China (4%); Georgia (2%); and India (1%).

“Which 2 countries are the greatest political threat to Armenia?” The survey respondents said: Turkey (90%); Azerbaijan (77%); Russia (15%); UK (3%); Israel (2%); the U.S, (2%); and Georgia (1%).

“Which 2 countries are the biggest economic threat to Armenia?” Survey respondents said: Turkey (68%); Azerbaijan (52%); Russia (17%); Georgia (10%); Iran (4%); the U.S. (1%); China (1%); and European Union (1%).

“Which 2 countries are the greatest security threat to Armenia?” Survey respondents said: Turkey (88%); Azerbaijan (81%); Russia (11%); Iran (2%); the U.S. (2%); Israel (2%); Georgia (1%); France (1%); and UK (1%).

“The relationship with which 2 countries needs to be improved for the development of Armenia?” The survey respondents said: Russia (53%); the U.S. (35%); Iran (29%); France (25%); China (15%); European Union (9%); Georgia (7%); Turkey (5%); Azerbaijan (4%); India (1%); and UK (1%).

The survey then asked if the respondents agreed or disagreed with the following three questions:

  • 73% agreed and 25% disagreed that “Armenia should start a dialog with Turkey and normalize bilateral relations, while pursuing the agenda of recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey.”
  • 70% agreed and 27% disagreed that “Armenia must establish bilateral relations with Turkey by putting forward its own preconditions such as Turkey’s non-hindrance of peace in Artsakh.”
  • 44% agreed and 53% disagreed that “Under no circumstances Armenia should pursue normalization of relations with Turkey.”

Most survey respondents disagreed with Pashinyan that opening roads with Azerbaijan is beneficial to Armenia. When asked: “How will the opening of transport routes with Azerbaijan impact Armenia’s economic development?” 27% gave a positive answer; 59% negative.

The same is true for Turkey. When asked: “How will the opening of transport routes with Turkey impact Armenia’s economic development?” 35% gave a positive answer; 53% negative.

When asked: “How important is the resolution to the Artsakh conflict for the future of Armenia in the next 10 years?” The overwhelming 96 % said “important”; 3% “unimportant.”

The survey asked: “What would be an acceptable solution of the Artsakh conflict?”

  • 35% said: “Recognition of Artsakh as an independent state.”
  • 34% said: “The unification of Artsakh with Armenia as a region of the Republic of Armenia.”
  • 16% said: “Establishment of the status of the Artsakh Autonomous Region within Armenia.”
  • 11% said: “Establishment of the status of Artsakh within Russia.”
  • 1% said: “Maintaining the current status quo.”

When asked: “Is Armenia able to independently defend its borders with Azerbaijan, without the help of any other country?” 46% said yes; 53% no.

Finally, when asked: “Which country would you prefer to assist Armenia in defending its borders?” 47% said Russia; the U.S. (18%); France (14%); Iran (8%); China (2%); European Union (1%); all three Minsk Group countries of Russia, the U.S., France (1%); and NATO (1%).

Whether we agree or disagree, these are the answers that the people of Armenia gave. It reflects their current mindset.