PIERRE, SOUTH DAKOTA – The South Dakota House of Representatives today rejected an anti-Armenian resolution initiated by Azerbaijan, effectively dealing a serious setback to a biased and historically inaccurate measure pressed aggressively by Baku’s U.S.-based lobbyists, reported Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR).
Sources from the State Capitol report that following an extensive discussion in the House Republican Caucus on Monday morning, the sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Lance Russell, agreed to defer and ultimately officially withdrew the measure.
“It’s unfortunate this resolution made it this far in our process but the positive side of that is there are now 105 legislators in South Dakota who got a real earful on the plight of persecuted Armenian Christians,” explained Rep. Steve Hickey (R-09), Pastor of the Church at the Gate in Sioux Falls, who was among the vocal opponents to the resolution.
“We are deeply gratified that the elected leaders of yet another U.S. state have stood up to the oil-rich and corrupt President of Azerbaijan’s efforts to export his hateful anti-Armenian campaign to the American heartland,” said Elen Asatryan, ANCA-WR Executive Director. “We share our profound thanks with the proud people and principled leaders of South Dakota, a state that has shown remarkable care and compassion for the Christian nation of Armenia since the Armenian Genocide era.”
In the days leading up to today’s vote on HCR 1020, the ANCA-WR worked with local community leaders and activists to alert state legislators about Azerbaijan’s efforts to use the Khojaly issue to somehow enlist South Dakota in its increasingly virulent campaign against the landlocked and blockaded Armenian homeland.
“Having found safety and the blessing of freedom here in South Dakota – after having been driven from my home by the Azerbaijani government’s brutality – I am deeply thankful that my state legislators, today, took a principled stand against intolerance, lies and hatred,” said Vazgen Mikhayelyan of Sioux Falls, who was among those actively opposing the measure, including Igor Avetisov and Bella Musayelyan.
Similar legislation promoted by Azerbaijan was also defeated in Hawaii following testimony by Hawaii Armenian community members spotlighting the growing democracy in Nagorno Karabakh and ongoing Azerbaijani aggression.
Earlier this month, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian issued an open letter to all U.S. state legislatures earlier this week urging them to take as stand against foreign interference in American civic life by corrupt Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev. “It is truly a tribute to our great American democratic tradition that even a regime as flagrantly corrupt as Ilham Aliyev’s is allowed to operate freely within our open society, ” explained Hamparian. “But that does not mean that American citizens need to remain silent in the face of meddling by foreign leaders who neither respect our rights nor share our values –especially when they try to export their intolerance to our shores.”