A.S. Council unanimously voted to pass a resolution to urge the UC Office of the President to divest $74 million from the Republic of Turkey last Wednesday. Proposed by the Armenian Student Association, the resolution aims to increase awareness of the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s continued denial, and to ensure student funds are applied to economically beneficial as well as ethical financial decisions.
ASA’s Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee reached out to every senator, met with the majority of the council and gave formal presentations to Earl Warren College and Thurgood Marshall College’s councils. Warren senior and chairperson of the AGCC Seda Byurat recognized the efforts made by students, and the resulting support from nine student organizations and the attendance of affiliates from Los Angeles and Irvine.
“[I] think that the fact that the room was filled at capacity with divestment supporters… made the committee members feel overwhelmingly supported; we had people from UCLA and UCI drive down for the council meeting,” Byurat told the UCSD Guardian. “Overall, there was this sense of unity and solidarity for an issue that affects us all but also is so much bigger than us. Also, reflecting on it now, the committee obviously feels proud that we were able to put in the work to get the unanimous vote, but even more than that we are proud that we were able to tell the story of the Armenian Genocide that all too often does not see the light of day.”
UCSD was the seventh UC campus to pass the resolution. Between January and June 2015, the following UC campuses approved resolutions to divest: Los Angeles, Berkeley, Irvine, Davis, Riverside and Santa Cruz. Within an hour of the resolution passing 25–0–0 at UCSD, the same resolution also passed 21–0–1 at UC Santa Barbara. Armenian Youth Federation Central Executive chairperson Gev Iskajyan explained how these achievements are part of the organization’s larger initiative #DivestTurkey.
“The #DivestTurkey initiative began in order to connect and provide resources for university students and activists on campuses across America to divest all holdings in the Republic of Turkey’s government until reparations for the Armenian Genocide are met and until genocide is no longer a profitable venture,” Iskajyan told The Armenian Weekly.
Though the divestment had full support from A.S. Council, some students felt the circumstances surrounding the Armenian Genocide may have been presented in a biased manner. According to Warren sophomore Irmak Ipekci, an international student from the Republic of Turkey, the Armenian Genocide affected all parties involved, emphasizing that Armenians were not the only ones who were killed.
“It wasn’t just a systematic killing of the ‘defenseless’ group by the ‘powerful’ one,” Ipekci told the Guardian. “It happened in an era when many minorities revolted to gain their independence and resorted to violent acts to do so. Many innocent people died on both sides.”
However, Ipekci admits his education in Turkey never exposed him to the history of the Armenian Genocide until 2007, when Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, a strong proponent of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, was assassinated while residing in Istanbul. Dink’s death followed his appearance in Screamers, a documentary on genocide in modern history, in which he discussed the Armenian Genocide and his three-time prosecution for denigrating Turkishness, under the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Ipekci explained how he saw Turkey’s population act in solidarity with the Armenian community after Dink was killed.
“The Turkish community around me was shocked by such a vile act and showed their support for the Armenian community by shouting slogans such as ‘We are all Armenians’ during his funeral,” Ipekci said. “What I later learned is that acts like these were carried out frequently by both sides because of a perpetual attempt at getting revenge. It wasn’t only Armenians [who suffered] casualties but also many innocent Turks who died at the hands of Armenian militants.”
With the divestment proposal now passed, Byurat described the AGCC’s future plans to celebrate Armenian heritage, over one hundred years after the genocide.
“The point of the Armenian Genocide was to annihilate and destroy a whole culture and ethnicity, but we are still here and still creating,” Byurat said. “Although genocide recognition efforts are still important to us, we want to celebrate our people and especially our artists. We hope to have a display of Armenian culture through the arts type of night at the Loft next quarter.”
In collaboration with the entire ASA and Armenian Youth Federation, the AGCC will expand its efforts to increase recognition of the Armenian Genocide at UC Merced and UC San Francisco, the two remaining UC campuses still financially tied to Turkey, by proposing similar divestment resolutions.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that as a result of approving the resolution, UCSD’s A.S. Council would divest $74 million from the Republic of Turkey. The article has now been corrected to reflect that by approving the resolution, Council is officially recommending the UC Office of the President to divest $74 million from Turkey.