BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Great news came out of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and its student government.
“A Resolution to Divest from the Republic of Turkey to End the Perpetuation of the Armenian Genocide” was passed calling on the University of California (UC) system to rid itself of the $72.6 million worth of bonds and investments it has in the Republic of Turkey.
This is just the beginning. No doubt the UC Regents will first try to ignore, then belittle, this resolution, hoping the whole matter will just blow over. Now, persistence and expansion of the effort are what’s called for. Other UC campuses – Berkeley and San Diego come to mind first because of their significant Armenian student populations – should pass similar resolutions.
But this is not something that should be limited to colleges and universities with lots of Armenians. It is completely consistent with international human rights concerns. Therefore, various groups can join the effort. At UCLA, this was the case. Other student groups supported the effort.
Divestment is an extremely powerful tool. So powerful, in fact, that some aspects of it have been blunted through legal avenues by the authorities. I cannot recall now exactly how. Nevertheless, it is still a very potent weapon against the likes of Turkey which needs external infusions of cash to maintain the rapid rate of economic growth they have been experiencing.
Divestment may not be as strong as it was in the 1980s when it was used to help topple South Africa’s apartheid regime. This is because in those days, the only economic powerhouse was the West, which, when rallied to a cause, could impose its economic will. Now, with players such as China (foremost) and other large economic forces (Russia, India, Brazil, etc.) on the scene, that power is blunted, since the likes of Turkey can turn to those sources of investment funds. China is particularly guilty of “supporting” odious regimes in its endless efforts to acquire raw materials for its burgeoning economy.
Divestment is a generational battle that will require much patience. It is a far more sophisticated and potent version of our “don’t buy Turkish products” campaigns. We should all be supporting our college students as they work on this front. But, we should also be working with our local and state government authorities, pension funds, and other large financial entities (investment firms/mutual funds) to achieve the same kind of divestment, again, with the cooperation of other interested groups.
But, a word of caution. If we expect others to support our human rights, we cannot be perceived as violators of other people’s human rights. I emphasize this because of the news from West Hollywood where just a few days ago, a gay black man was attacked by unknown assailants. Two news reports identified the attackers as Armenians, while another said they were Hispanic. Clearly, things are vague in this case. But, we all know that there are some in our community who harbor ill will towards some groups of people. While it may take time to root out this kind of unjust thinking from our midst, what can be expected immediately is that if Armenians with inappropriate biases care at all about Armenian interests, needs, and goals, they should muzzle themselves and refrain from speaking or acting on their misguided impulses so they do not harm the larger, collective, interests of our nation.
Get out there and spread the good news of Turkish divestment, then work on your hometown to free itself from the blood money emanating from Turkey.