Durham mayor rescinds pro-Azeri proclamations after meetings with ANC of North Carolina activists
Members of the Armenian National Committee of North Carolina met with Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal on February 20, 2022. Pictured from left to right: Armen Melikian, Edgar Vardanian, Lilia Schwartz, Artak Vardanyan, and Davit Melikian.
DURHAM, NC – Representatives from the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of North Carolina met with Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal on February 20, 2023, to discuss the harmful proclamations issued by her office.
ANC of North Carolina members Artak Vardanyan, Lilia Schwartz, Armen Melikian, Edgar Vardanian and Davit Melikian educated the mayor on Azerbaijan’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and the impact of pro-Azerbaijan proclamations on humanity, amidst their human rights abuses. At the urging of ANC of North Carolina activists, the mayor rescinded the proclamations, including ones for “Khojaly Remembrance Day” and “Azerbaijan Victory Day,” and thanked the activists for bringing these important issues to her attention.
“We are deeply moved by the warm reception and heartfelt consideration Mayor O’Neal showed to members of the Armenian American community of North Carolina who informed her about the exploitation of proclamations as a propaganda tool by the government of Azerbaijan and its significance in the context of the blockade of Artsakh,” said Vardanyan. “The mayor acknowledged full responsibility for the harmful impact of the proclamations and expressed support for the continued struggle of the Armenian people. I commend the ANCA Eastern Region and our Armenian American compatriots in North Carolina as their dedication to never surrender the fight for Artsakh made this outcome possible.”
Mayor O’Neal not only rescinded the harmful proclamations but also issued a formal apology letter to the Armenian-American community of Durham. In the apology letter, Mayor O’Neal stated, “I would like to extend my sincerest apologies to the Armenian-American community of Durham for the proclamations issued on recognition of and ‘Khojaly Remembrance Day’ issued on January 24, 2022. This proclamation did not meet our City’s mission to make Durham a diverse and safe place to live, work and play, so I have chosen to rescind it. I have previously rescinded the ‘Azerbaijan Victory Day’ proclamation issued on November 8, 2022.”
The letter continues, “The City does not issue correspondence in matters of political issues, campaigns, or in matters that endorse a particular religion. I regret that the issuance of this proclamation has exacerbated this divisive matter in our community. I would like to thank Durham’s Armenian-American community for bringing this to my attention and I am grateful for the amicable relationship between the City and the Armenian-American community. Please accept my apologies for the hurt the issuance of this proclamation has caused.”
The Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region is part of the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots organization, the ANCA. Working in coordination with the ANCA in Washington, DC, and a network of chapters and supporters throughout the Eastern United States, the ANCA-ER actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.