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Tennessee Panel Rejects Pro-Azerbaijan Measure


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#1 Yervant1

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 11:06 AM

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Tennessee Panel Rejects Pro-Azerbaijan Measure

 

March 25, 2014

State Legislators Defeat Bill that Undermines the Right to Self-Determination of the People of Nagorno Karabakh

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—A key committee of the Tennessee House of Representatives rejected, today, an anti-Armenian resolution initiated by pro-Azerbaijan forces, once again dealing a serious setback to Baku’s efforts to undermine the independence of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, reported Armenian National Committee of America – Eastern Region (ANCA-ER).

Richard-Flyod-300x225.jpg 

ANC TN leader Bearj Barsoumian with TN State Government Committee Member Rep. Richard Floyd

HR 145 lead sponsor Representative Joe Towns (D) introduced a motion to move the resolution forward, but none of his committee colleagues offered a second in support. Committee Chairman Ryan Haynes declared the motion failed. Tennessee becomes the fourth state in less than two months to reject deeply flawed pro-Azerbaijan measures, joining Hawaii, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

“We welcome today’s decision by the Tennessee House of Representatives State Government Committee to stand strong against the Azerbaijani Government’s efforts to mislead state legislators about the good people of Nagorno Karabakh and their commitment to peace,” said Steve Mesrobian, ANCA Eastern Region Board member. “We are particularly proud of ANC Tennessee and Armenian American activists throughout the state, who spoke forcefully in support the rights of our brothers and sisters in Artsakh. We look forward to broadening our relationship with Tennessee legislators and find areas of cooperation on a broad range of Armenian American concerns. “

In the weeks leading up to committee consideration of the measure, ANC Tennessee leader Bearj Barsoumian rallied Armenian Americans throughout the state to oppose the resolution, with activists meeting with over a dozen state legislators, educating them about the Republics of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade and aggression against the historically Christian states. In many cases, Tennessee Armenians traveled for over two hours from around the state to share their concerns with Tennessee House leaders, including Majority Leader Gerald McCormick ®, Minority Leader Craig FitzHugh (D-TN), State Government Committee Chairman Ryan A. Haynes ® and Vice-Chairwoman Sheila Butt ®, Committee members Johnny Shaw (D), Deborah Moody ®, Bob Ramsey ®, Billy Spivey ®, Richard Floyd ®, Mike Carter ®, and other legislators including Rep. Rick Womack ®. Several of the activists attending the meetings, including Erik Grigoryan, fled the 1990 Baku pogroms, and have found safe-haven in the state of Tennessee.

Bearj_Deborah_Moody-300x225.jpg 

ANC Tennessee leader Bearj Barsoumian with TN State Government Committee member Rep. Deborah Moody

Tennessee ANC and community members also met with the lead sponsor of HR 145, Rep. Joe Towns (D), shared stories of the horrors of the Baku pogroms and urged him to reconsider his support for the bill. Rep. Towns refused, paving the way for a Committee defeat of the measure.

“Today’s vote was proof-positive that our democracy is not for sale, as our legislators joined with those in Hawaii, South Dakota, and Wyoming in standing up for truth and against Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev’s campaign to export anti-Armenian hatred to our shores,” said ANC Tennessee leader Bearj Barsoumian. “It was particularly inspiring to work with the broad range of Armenian American grassroots advocates here in The Volunteer State and across the country–all bound by a deep commitment to Artsakh freedom.”

Upon the January introduction of the measure, the ANCA-ER issued an action alert urging Tennessee advocates to speak out against HR 145. In the days leading up to the Committee vote, the ANCA-ER reached out to all members of the Tennessee House of Representatives cautioning them about any affiliation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s brutal dictatorship.

The ANCA-ER noted a disturbing pattern of activity, where “to win over U.S. legislators and clean up its image, last year alone, Azerbaijan spent huge sums of money flying former Obama Administration officials like David Plouffe, Jim Messina and Robert Gibbs and over 150 U.S. legislators–including some from Tennessee–on expensive junkets to its capital, Baku.”

Joe-Carr-300x265.jpg 

ANC Tennessee leader Bearj Barsoumian with Rep. Joe Carr and activist Erik Grigoryan.

Tennessee news outlets, including Knoxnews.com and News Channel 5, reported extensively about these free trips to Azerbaijan, questioning the reasoning behind them.

The ANCA also shared research done by the ANCA Western Region Near East Relief Committee, which showed the important role Tennessee played in assisting survivors of the Armenian Genocide as part of a United States-wide humanitarian campaign. A fact sheet regarding Tennessee’s generosity of spirit is available here.

 

 



#2 MosJan

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 11:39 AM

looks  like  US  politicians  have found  a new  milking  caw in Azeris



#3 Yervant1

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Posted 16 May 2014 - 10:12 PM

 

CORRUPTION SCANDAL IN U.S.: AZERBAIJANI LOBBY PAYS FOR RESOLUTION THAT FAILED IN TENNESSEE

23:00 16/05/2014 Â" SOCIETY

U.S. state Rep. Joe Towns is accused of receiving bribes from the
Azerbaijani side for promoting resolution supporting Azerbaijan,
reports the American Channel 5.

As the TV channel notes, an oil-rich, predominantly Muslim country
-- where Eastern Europe meets western Asia -- Azerbaijan has been
involved in a decades-old dispute with the predominantly Christian
country of Armenia over territory that both countries claim.

Towns said he agreed to introduce the resolution because Azerbaijan
is a U.S. ally. In the same time he assures that he knew nothing
about the conflict between these two countries.

Armenian immigrant Barry Barsoumian said the Azerbaijani are trying
to change history by going around different states in the United
States passing resolutions. Barsoumian discovered Towns' resolution
and could not believe anyone would ask a Tennessee lawmaker to help
a country known for its human rights abuses and whose leader is seen
as one of the world's most corrupt. "I asked him (Towns-edt.) if it
was Azerbaijani Embassy. He denied it," Barsoumian recalled.

News Channel 5 Investigates looked at Towns' campaign reports and
discovered he introduced the resolution just two weeks after he got
a total of $10,000 in campaign contributions from people out of Texas
with ties to the Azerbaijani community.

The TV Channel found out that in Texas, Houston, a Turkish-Azerbaijani
cultural center operated which connects people who had made donations
for Towns' campaign. Congressman himself denies that these people
asked him to promote a pro-Azerbaijani legislative initiative.

According to the journalists of the TV Channel it is suspicious
that people who live in an apartment in one of Houston's roughest
neighborhoods donated money. Towns couldn't give answer to this
question either.

"When Towns' resolution came up in committee, members of the Armenian
community had already lobbied other lawmakers to kill the bill. The
resolution never even got a vote -- a strange end to what some consider
a strange piece of legislation," the article reads.

Some of the contributors appear to have connections to groups who've
taken Tennessee officials on free trips to Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Towns was supposed to go on one of those trips last year, but he
wasn't able to go.

"Still, he did sponsor another House resolution that essentially
accused Armenia of war crimes. That resolution actually passed the
House on a 93-0 vote. So why would Azerbaijan care about what the
Tennessee House thinks about world affairs? It appears to be part of
an orchestrated PR campaign to show that world opinion is on their
side," the TV channel sums up.

http://www.panorama..../05/16/tenessi/
 


Edited by Yervant1, 17 May 2014 - 08:55 AM.

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#4 Yervant1

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 09:24 AM

FROM BAKU TO NASHVILLE, WITH LOVE

EurasiaNet.org
May 20 2014

May 20, 2014 - 4:55am, by Giorgi Lomsadze

Nashville, Tennessee has apparently become another unlikely proxy
battleground for a war going on a world away -- between Armenia and
Azerbaijan, which both are busy building strategic alliances in the
United States.

If he had known what precarious territory he was wading into, state
lawmaker Joe Towns would have probably thought twice before pushing
a resolution in support of energy-rich Azerbaijan into Tennessee's
House of Representatives. The Memphis Democrat's mission, however,
did not go unnoticed by the ever-alert Diaspora-Armenian community
and eventually resulted in a scathing expose by Nashville-based News
Channel 5.

In an investigative piece, the CBS-affiliate claimed that Towns, a
Memphis Democrat, allegedly had accepted $10,000 in campaign donations
from seven supposedly Azerbaijan-linked sources. When confronted by
the station's chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams, Towns could
not coherently explain what motivated him to lobby for Baku-Nashville
friendship or who were the alleged campaign contributors.

Williams implied that Representative Towns' story was a case of
Azerbaijan buying lawmakers in Tennessee to promote questionable
policies.

The reporter's sole commentator, Barry Barsoumian, identified as
an Armenian immigrant and activist, pointed at the suspicious link
between the "strange" resolution, which eventually flopped, and the
murky donors. The concerned Barsoumian also presented the channel
with the Armenian version of the decades-long confrontation between
the Caucasus nations over the breakaway territory of Nagorno Karabakh.

Hot on the topic, the News Channel 5 reporter then began asking
questions about a re-election valentine sent to Azerbaijani President
Ilham Aliyev from the Tennessee governor's office. "Congratulations on
your re-election!" enthused Tennessee State Commissioner of Safety and
Homeland Security Bill Gibbons in a message to Aliyev in 2013, when
the Azerbaijani leader got himself a controversial third consecutive
presidential term, reported News Channel 5. The station did not
hesitate to provide the chorus for international criticism of the vote,
quipping in its headline "Congratulations on your rigged re-election!"

It's unclear how much of this story the good people of Tennessee were
able to grasp, but it's clear to viewers by now that some countries
with exotic names and exotic interests are up to something in the
Music City.

But this is not the first time that Tennessee politicians have heard
tell of the Caspian-Sea country.

Last March, following the example of other state legislatures, the
House of Representatives adopted a resolution commemorating the 1992
massacre of ethnic Azeris at Khojaly in Nagorno Karabakh. The primary
sponsor? Legislator Towns.

Interest in Azerbaijan also has surfaced among the state's nine
congressional representatives. Namely, Rep. Steve Cohen (D) , who
co-chairs the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, and, like Towns, hails
from Memphis. Rep. Cohen has signed onto the Congressional Caucuses
on Turkey and on US-Turkey Relations and Turkish Americans as well.

Azerbaijani and Turkic activist publications also name Tennessee Rep.

John J. Duncan, Jr. ( R ), as a member of the Congressional Azerbaijan
Caucus, although the congressman's site does not identify him as such.

But, as in its home region, Azerbaijan, a relative latecomer to the
US lobbying scene, has its match in this game of influence.

Earlier in May, California, the main population center for Diaspora
Armenians in the US, passed a resolution calling for independence of
ethnic-Armenian-dominated Karabakh, which Azerbaijan is struggling
to reclaim.

Attempts to pass rival resolutions on Karabakh or Khojaly look
likely to continue to pop up in various states. Azerbaijan is trying
translate its growing oil-and-gas wealth into lobbying fodder, while
Diaspora-Armenian communities are committed to keeping Azerbaijani
influence over US politics at bay.

Meanwhile, ordinary US voters are left struggling to make sense of
it all.

-- Elizabeth Owen added reporting to this post.

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/68387
 



#5 Yervant1

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 09:03 AM

POLITICIANS SHILL FOR AZERBAIJAN IN NASHVILLE

Gates of Vienna
July 15 2014

Posted on July 15, 2014
by Baron Bodissey

We've posted quite a bit recently about Islam in Tennessee, with
a special focus on the Nashville area. Those posts have generally
dealt with the actions of various organizations and individuals
associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The following reports also
come out of Nashville, but they lead back to a different source:
the Turkish Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen.

Both investigative reports in the following video uncovered Azerbaijani
influence-peddling in the Tennessee legislature and state government.

Azerbaijan boasts a rather unsavory form of "democracy", in which
the results of elections are sometimes announced before the votes are
even cast. The current president of Azerbaijan is Ilham Aliyev, the
son of Geydar Aliyev. I remember Aliyev père from the later years of
the Cold War; he was boss of the Azerbaijani SSR until Yuri Andropov
elevated him to the Politburo in the early 1980s.

Azerbaijan is a Turkic-speaking country. It is Islamic, and very
much in Turkey's orbit. Just before the breakup of the Soviet Union,
after Moscow lost control of parts of the imperial periphery, a war
broke out between the Armenian SSR and its Azerbaijani neighbor
over an Armenian-majority enclave within Azerbaijan known as the
Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. The Armenian Christians in
Nagorno-Karabakh had endured centuries of oppression under various
Islamic states before being incorporated into the Russian Empire in
the early 19th century. After the Soviet Union fell apart, they were
determined not to remain under Islamic control, and fought Azerbaijan
until a negotiated cease-fire was reached in 1994. Although technically
still part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh now functions effectively
as an independent state.

The above thumbnail account provides some background for the animosity
between Armenia and Azerbaijan that has surfaced twenty years later in
Nashville. Agents of Azerbaijan seem to have adopted the time-honored
American tradition of buying up selected state politicians. In return,
the bespoke pols help whiten the Azerbaijani political sepulcher
by lauding its president and telling the world what a wonderful and
important place Azerbaijan is.

The shenanigans in Tennessee were enough to make Armenian-Americans
sit up and take notice, and they did some of their own lobbying. You
can hear one of them interviewed in the following video.

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for processing and editing these two clips:

One thing that bothers me about the second report is the
characterization of Fethullah Gulen as a "moderate Muslim". He is at
least as dangerous as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan; he
is just more subtle and patient in his dealings with infidels. He has
spent decades burnishing his suave persona and building his lucrative
empire of charter schools in the United States.

Below are excerpts from the two articles accompanying the TV reports.

>From the News Channel 5 website:

Lawmaker Says $10K Contribution, Resolution Just 'Coincidence'

by Phil Williams Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A lawmaker's $10,000 campaign contribution and
a resolution he introduced this year in the legislature are reviving
questions about foreign influences on Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

Last year, NewsChannel 5 Investigates first revealed how advocates
for foreign countries were taking your lawmakers on expensive junkets.

Now, we've discovered a case of mysterious donors handing out money
for a legislative campaign.

During a hurried legislative session dominated by all sorts of
contentious issues, state Rep. Joe Towns found time to introduce a
House resolution -- HR 145 [pdf] -- calling for national support for
the country of Azerbaijan.

"Let me tell you where it came from -- it actually came from friends
that I know that are from Azerbaijan," the Memphis Democrat told
NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

An oil-rich, predominantly Muslim country -- where Eastern Europe
meets western Asia -- Azerbaijan has been involved in a decades-old
dispute with the predominantly Christian country of Armenia over
territory that both countries claim.

Towns said he agreed to introduce the resolution because Azerbaijan
is a U.S. ally.

"You did not just come up with this one your own?" we asked.

"No, no, no," Towns answered.

"And you knew nothing about the conflict between these two countries?"

"No, I did not."

But Armenian immigrant Barry Barsoumian said, "Those brutal people,
they are trying to change history by going around different states
in the United States passing resolutions."

Barsoumian discovered Towns' resolution and could not believe anyone
would ask a Tennessee lawmaker to help a country known for its human
rights abuses and whose leader is seen as one of the world's most
corrupt.

"I asked him if it was Azerbaijani Embassy. He denied it," Barsoumian
recalled. "But he wouldn't name or tell me what organization was
behind it."

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates looked at Towns' campaign reports and
discovered he introduced the resolution just two weeks after he got
a total of $10,000 in campaign contributions from people out of Texas
with ties to the Azerbaijani community.

"This one was probably in Texas, Houston," Towns said, looking at
his campaign disclosure.

"You had a fundraiser in Houston?" we asked.

"Uh-huh. I've had fundraisers in other places before. That's true."

"Who hosted that fundraiser?"

"Well, my friends. Friends of mine."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Who in particular?"

"Well, I don't want to get involved in their names because this is
about me," Towns answered. "I don't want to talk about their names
and who they were."

Still, our investigation discovered that a Turkish-Azerbaijani cultural
center in Houston appears to be the common connection for all seven
of the contributors, who reportedly gave either $1,000 or $1,500 each
to Towns' campaign.

"Did the people who gave you the $10,000 ask you to introduce this
resolution?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Towns.

"No, they didn't. Did not," he responded.

"It's purely coincidental?"

"Oh, of course."

But Barsoumian called it "suspicious [that] somebody in Tennessee
would introduce a bill for Azerbaijan and then those organizations
funnel money to his campaign."

One of the contributors listed on Towns' campaign report as having
given a thousand dollars first told us, "That's wrong information. I
don't know anyone from Tennessee."

Later he changed his story, saying "I remember something like that. I
never met him. I did it through my friends, my community."

Adding to the mystery: almost a third of the money supposedly came
from two people who live in an apartment in one of Houston's roughest
neighborhoods.

[...]

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Towns, "You attend a fundraiser and
then suddenly you are introducing this resolution. Do you understand
why someone might be suspicious?"

"I can't deal with people's suspicion," he said. "I don't address
their suspicion. The fact is that it happens all the time."

[...]

So why would Azerbaijan care about what the Tennessee House thinks
about world affairs?

It appears to be part of an orchestrated PR campaign to show that
world opinion is on their side.

Towns said that he hopes it leads to better understanding of all the
countries in that region.

And again, from News Channel 5:

TN Commissioner Offers Congrats For 'Rigged' Re-election

by Phil Williams Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Congratulations on your rigged election!

That's the message that critics say a member of Tennessee Gov. Bill
Haslam's cabinet sent with his letter to a foreign president.

Few people took last fall's Azerbaijani presidential elections
seriously.

The re-election of Ilham Aliyev -- who took over from his own father a
decade ago -- was widely seen by the international community as rigged.

Still, that did not stop Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security
Bill Gibbons from sending a letter on official stationery [pdf]
to Aliyev, offering a hardy "congratulations on your re-election!"

"That was a fake election, that wasn't real election," said Armenian
activist Barry Barsoumian.

Barsoumian noted that a cursory search of the Internet would have
revealed news reports about how Aliyev was suppressing his opposition.

And last year watchdog groups called Aliyev the corruption "person
of the year."

"That should be a shame that a high official in Tennessee with
that kind of position he cannot find out on Internet how brutal
he is, how many people they've got in jail. That is unbelievable,"
Barsoumian added.

Asked if he had any regrets about writing the letter, Commissioner
Gibbons said: "No, no regrets."

The commissioner explained that he wrote the letter of congratulations
at the request of a Memphis city official who's interested in a role
for Azerbaijan at the annual Memphis in May festival, which honors
a different country each year.

"I did it as a result of that request," he said.

"Did you consider that a real election?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates
asked.

"Oh, I can't really comment on the politics of Azerbaijan," he replied.

But Gibbons and an assistant commissioner had joined a group of
lawmakers last year in accepting a junket to Turkey and Azerbaijan,
claiming they needed to learn more about the two countries to do
their jobs.

That trip was financed by groups with ties to the moderate Muslim
cleric Fetullah Gulen.

"Just from a strategic and national security standpoint, it's an
important country to us," Gibbons said.

[...]

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "So you would write the letter
tomorrow if asked to do that?"

"Sure," he answered. "If Memphis in May wanted me to write a letter to
honor any number of countries that may not have perfect democracies,
I would do that."

Barsoumian asked, "Next, if al Qaeda come up here and take them on
trip, are they going to do same thing?"

He added that the commissioner's trip and his letter of congratulations
is more proof about how foreign interests are trying to buy
respectability from Tennessee officials.

"They're trying to buy respect with money and hide their uncivilized
way of government," he concluded.

http://gatesofvienna...-in-nashville//
 






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