WASHINGTON–In yet another blow to Khartoum’s genocidal regime, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation this week which would protect the rights of states to divest from Sudan and prohibit U.S. government contracts with companies that disproportionately benefit the Sudanese government, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
The legislation, H.R.180, which was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and shepherded through the House Financial Services Committee by Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA), would also require the US Department of the Treasury to publish and maintain a list of companies or entities whose business dealings directly benefit the regime.
"I am proud of our bipartisan efforts to increase the financial pressure on Khartoum to end the genocide in Darfur, and I want the President to explain why he believes that Americans should not take steps to make sure that our tax dollars and our pension funds are not supporting genocide," said Rep. Lee, the lead sponsor of H.R. 180, which was adopted by a vote of 417 to 1.
"It is time to stop funding the war machine in Sudan," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Evidence of mass slaughter, aerial bombardmen’s, and forced displacemen’s targeted against the African tribes in Darfur require us to take this action. We need to send a clear message to Khartoum that we are not fooled by their half measures and delay tactics and that we are serious about ending this conflict, to do so, we must speak in a language that they will surely understand ‘s the language of economic interests."
In the days leading up to the House vote, the ANCA teamed with the Genocide Intervention Network, Save Darfur, STAND, and a coalition of some 40 anti-genocide organizations in urging Congress to pass the key human rights legislation.
"We join with all our genocide-prevention coalition partners in welcoming House passage of the Sudan Divestment bill," stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We look forward to swift Senate action on the measure and the adoption of a U.S. policy which would ensure that American tax dollars and pension funds do not support Al-Bashir’s genocidal regime in Khartoum."
Vocal opposition to the Darfur divestment measure came from the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), a coalition of 300 U.S. companies engaged in international trade and investment. In a July 26 letter to House Members, NFTC President William A. Reinsch argued that H.R.180 would "threaten to create a complex web of restrictions and regulations that interfere with the Constitutional right given to the President to conduct foreign policy. They will also inevitably cause numerous problems for businesses trying to comply in good faith with inconsistent and in some cases contradictory requiremen’s from different jurisdictions."
The efforts of the NFTC, which includes such well-known companies as Citigroup and Pfizer, are similar to efforts by the American Turkish Council (ATC) and the American Business Forum of Turkey (ABFT) to campaign against Armenian Genocide legislation. In fact, in a March 28th "Roll Call" article, Citigroup and Pfizer were mentioned among a handful of major businesses cited by ATC president Jim Holmes as "working through the Council to stop the [Armenian Genocide] resolution." Other companies, associated with the ABFT, including Phillip Morris, Cargill, and Xerox, have disavowed any connection to that group’s anti-genocide recognition activities, according to research conducted by the ANCA.
In March, the ANCA teamed up with the Genocide Intervention Network in hosting a two-day Capitol Hill advocacy campaign to stop the genocide in Darfur and pass resolutions on the Armenian Genocide (H.Res.106 / S.Res.106). Over 100 activists from 25 states participated in the advocacy days, titled "End the Cycle of Genocide: Grassroots Capitol Campaign."
In Los Angeles, on July 26, the Armenian National Committee – Western Region (ANC-WR) joined with fellow concerned members of the Los Angeles community for a vigil outside the Los Angeles Chinese Consulate. The vigil, organized by local groups including Jewish World Watch and the Olympic Dream for Darfur and the Save Darfur coalition, sought to draw attention to the close relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the central government in Khartoum, Sudan.
The event, taking place during lunch hour in downtown Los Angeles, drew nearly 100 individuals who urged China to use its relationship with Khartoum to help end the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and promote peace in the region. ANC-WR Community Relations Director Haig Hovsepian joined several community representatives in addressing those gathered.
Hovsepian noted that at the outset of the Armenian Genocide which began under the cover of World War One the United States was neutral towards Ottoman Turkey and the US diplomatic delegations throughout the empire were crucial to letting the world know about the genocide as it occurred.
“Today, China stands at a crossroads. It has a choice to make. Will it go down in history as a country that remained silent in its relationship with Sudan and emboldened the perpetrators of genocide? Or will it follow in the footsteps of US Ambassador Henry Morgenthau who confronted the genocidal leadership of Turkey in 1915 to use its relationship with Khartoum to put an end to the genocide in Darfur today?” remarked Hovsepian.
China is a major consumer of Sudanese oil, the revenues from which the Sudanese government uses to pay for arms some of which are also purchased from China. These arms have been linked to Janjaweed militia and other forces complicit in the genocide occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan. Furthermore, China has blocked or weakened UN Security Council resolutions addressing the genocide in Darfur and against Khartoum.
Mary Ashdjian, an ANC activist from Glendale attended the vigil with fellow activist Nairie Mirzayan.
“When there is an opportunity for a powerful nation to take a stand against genocide, it is their responsibility to do so whether it happened yesterday, today or tomorrow. As Armenian Americans, we especially know how important this is,” said Ashdjian
Information regarding Sudan Divestment activities across the U.S. is provided below, based on research by the Sudan Divestment Taskforce, a project of the Genocide Intervention Network.
Sudan Divestment Statistics
Source: The Sudan Divestment Taskforce, a project of the Genocide Intervention Network http://www.sudandivestment.org/statistics.asp
19 States have adopted divestment policies from Sudan. Twelve of these states have passed the Sudan Divestment Task Force model of targeted Sudan divestment: California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont. Seven of these states have developed state specific methods of Sudan divestment: Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon.
18 States have initiated Sudan divestment campaigns. Seven of these states have targeted Sudan divestment legislation currently introduced: Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. Eleven of these states have campaigns awaiting introduction of legislation or are pursuing Sudan divestment by other means: Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
54 Universities have adopted divestment policies from Sudan. From the first University, Harvard, to the most recent, including The University of Minnesota, Wheaton College, Nazareth College, the University of Illinois, Connecticut College, and Lee University in a display of grassroots power, students, faculty and administrators have united to ensure that their schools make conscionable, genocide-free investmen’s.
47 Universities have initiated campaigns to pursue Sudan divestment policies.
9 Cities have adopted divestment policies from Sudan: Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; Miami Beach, FL; New Haven, CT; Newton, MA; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Providence, RI; and San Francisco, CA.
8 International and Religious Organizations have adopted divestment policies from Sudan: American Jewish World Service, Boston Foundation, National Council of Jewish Women, National Ministries, Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers, Union for Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association and United Jewish Communities.
8 Countries have initiated targeted Sudan divestment campaigns. International divestment campaigns currently include Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Germany, the US, and the UK.
5 Companies CHC Helicopter, ABB, Siemens, Rolls Royce, and Schlumbergerhave ceased operations in Sudan (or formalized and publicized a plan to do so), or significantly changed their behavior in the country since the proliferation of the Sudan divestment movement.
Several of the companies have directly and/or publicly cited the Sudan divestment movement as a cause of their actions, while others have mentioned "humanitarian," "political," and even "moral" concerns related to Sudan.