GLENDALE—The Divest Turkey movement, originally founded in 2014 by the Armenian Youth Federation-Western US and the All Armenian Students Association on university campuses statewide, and partnered on the political front by the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region, has been renewed with the recent introduction of AB1320 by California State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, along with co-sponsors Assemblymembers Laura Friedman, Jesse Gabriel, Phillip Chen and Senator Scott Wilk.
On April 3, 2019, in Sacramento, the State Assembly’s Committee on Public Employment and Retirement will consider the bill which calls for the divestment of California public funds from Turkish government controlled financial instruments, ensuring taxpayer funds are no longer used in a manner to aid and abet Turkey’s century-long obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide.
“We welcome the re-introduction of this bill by Assemblymember Nazarian following last year’s unanimous passage in both State houses and Governor Brown’s last minute veto as yet another stepping stone towards the end goal of the Divest Turkey movement,” remarked ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq.
“This is a multifaceted issue and we are constantly evaluating all possibilities to ensure that the State of California and other stakeholders do not indirectly embolden or fund the Turkish government’s human rights abuses or the denial of the Armenian Genocide. We will continue to use all resources at our disposal, including mobilizing grassroots support and educating legislators and other stakeholders to ensure passage of this bill,” added Hovsepian.
The Divest Turkey movement found its origins on University of California campuses statewide, where the AYF-WUS and All-ASA diligently worked to secure unanimous passage of resolutions calling for divestment of $74 million invested by the UC Regents in Turkish government issued bonds.
As one outcome of this movement, at the moment all nine undergraduate student governments of the UC system have passed resolutions calling on the UC Board of Regents to divest from the Turkish government. After months of preparation of financial documents to justify the fiduciary needs to divest alongside the ample ethical, moral, and political reasons to do so, all nine UC schools, including Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz voted overwhelmingly to divest by December 2016, representing the will of a combined 238,000 UC students.
“Collaborating with the ANCA-WR has allowed us to further strengthen and amplify our voice, especially in the political realm,” said the AYF-WUS Executive Director Rafi Orphali. “There is still a lot of work ahead in ensuring that no public funds are invested in the denialist, repressive Turkish government, and we are determined more than ever to see this mission through in a united and coordinated fashion.”
More recently, a joint ANCA-WR and AYF-WUS delegation traveled to Sacramanto to meet with state officials to discuss current divestment efforts.
In 2018, then AB1597 gained momentum when it passed in Senate Appropriations and the Senate Public Employment & Retirement Committee in early August and Senate Judiciary Committee in June. In September of the same year, the bill passed by a unanimous vote in both the California State Assembly and Senate, only to be vetoed at the eleventh hour by then-governor Jerry Brown.
Prior to the passage in these various committees, the ANCA-WR worked with the AYF to present the measure as well as the Divest Turkey initiative to the University of California Board of Regents during the session of the Investments Subcommittee. The Divest Turkey measure was placed on the agenda of this Investments Subcommittee following a hearing in February of the Senate Select Committee on California, Armenia and Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art and Cultural Exchange chaired by Senator Anthony Portantino where testimony was provided by members of the AYF and Jagdeep Bachher, Chief Investment Officer, UC Vice President of Investments.