May 2018 | Photos contributed | By Rebecca Pirayou
This story is part of a larger collection of articles covered during the first annual Assyrian National Policy Conference, held on Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, May 19th in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. – On Thursday May 17, attendees of the Assyrian National Policy Conference took to Capitol Hill to advocate for Assyrian political and economic initiatives.
“Our hope for the outcome of these meetings and for the policy conference overall is to raise the visibility of Assyrians in the diaspora,” said Jon Koriel, Executive Vice President of the Assyrian American Association of Southern California (AAASC) and an organizer of the Assyrian National Policy Conference. “By showing our strength and our numbers, we may help those Assyrians living in the Middle East.”
The conference kicked off at three congressional house office buildings near the U.S. Capital, the Rayburn, Cannon, and Longworth buildings, as participants heard from elected Congressional officers including California Representative Jeff Denham.
Rep. Denham, who represents California’s Assyrian-heavy 10th District including Stanislaus County, spoke of the bipartisan Assyrian Congressional Caucus that he leads alongside California Rep. Juan Vargas. The caucus aims to raise awareness among both representatives and the general public about the Assyrian struggle in the Middle East.
Reps. Denham and Vargas, along with Texas Rep. Randy Weber and Illinois Rep. Randy Hultgren, also submitted a resolution to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, titled H. Res. 741, that details restructuring of the Nineveh Plains.
Conference participants later volunteered to lobby on behalf of Assyrians in the Middle East.
Assyrian representatives from Los Angeles met with a number of Congressional representatives California Congressman Brad Sherman and his staff. AAASC President Ramond Takhsh and Director Peter Warda also spoke with California Congressman Steve Knight.
Meetings were scheduled with various members of the House of Representatives and the Senate or their staff members, including Michigan Rep. John Moolenaar and Hawaii’s Rep. Tulsi Gobbard, along with staff members of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.
“The political process here in America is long. I think that us raising the visibility in D.C. will have long-term effects moving forward.” – Jon Koriel
Participants encouraged Congressional representatives to join the Assyrian Congressional Caucus, a move that would formalize the caucus in the Senate. The Assyrian American National Federation’s (AANF) advocacy priorities were also discussed at length, including the creation of a Nineveh Plain Province, the protection of vulnerable communities and rehabilitation of the Nineveh Plain, repatriation of Assyrian refugees, and pushing for the U.S. support of the KRG as conditional.
“Our job post conference is to return to our communities and continue these conversations with our representatives and senators in the areas we live,” Koriel said. “We must remember that all politics is local and our work always starts at home.”
While Assyrian representative and California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo could not attend, a member of her staff spoke on her behalf.
Learn more by visiting the Assyrian National Policy Conference on Facebook.