The ASUCD senate has called for the UC Board of Regents to divest over $74 million from the Republic of Turkey in response to its continued denial of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
Senators appealed the UC Regents May 7 by passing Senate Resolution #15 (SR15), a measure urging the withdrawal of $74,046,600 in investments held by the UC Retirement Plan and UC General Endowment Pool in Turkish bonds and the state-owned Export Credit Bank of Turkey. The resolution further insists that the UC Regents refrain from making additional investments in the Turkish government until it acknowledges the genocide.
The Armenian Genocide of 1915 refers to the Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire’s targeted killing of approximately 1.5 million Armenians during World War I (WWI). A consensus of historians acknowledges the genocide. However, the Republic of Turkey rejects that the Ottoman Turks made any organized attempt to eliminate the Armenians, instead regarding them as war casualties.
ASUCD senator Sevan Nahabedian, author and introducer of SR15, said divestment is an appropriate way to answer the Turkish government’s denial of the genocide and demonstrate that UC Davis will no longer be a party to that denial.
“We have a right to tell the people who are supposed to be representing us [that] this isn’t where we want our money to go,” Nahabedian said.
Similar divestment measures have been passed unanimously at UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine within this year. According to Tamar Tatoian, President of the UC Davis chapter of the Armenian Students’ Association (ASA) and co-author of SR15, UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside are preparing their own versions.
Senate passed SR15 by a split, 10-0-2 vote. Senator Alex Lee was the only senator present who abstained.
“I feel, personally, that student government should not be involved in international affairs,” Lee explained. “While I do support the content of the message, I do not support what it is to student government. If I wasn’t a senator, I’d probably support it.”
Senator Anabiah Syed, who was not present for the vote, account for the other abstention. According to Nahabedian, Syed intended to introduce an equivalent resolution with co-author Arev Markarian before he started writing SR15. Syed also joined roughly 500 others in signing ASA’s petition in support of the resolution.
ASA commemorated the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 24 by staging a “die-in” on the Quad. The commemoration was one of many that took place across the world that week.
Speaking before senate, Tatoian described how the disheartening effect of 100 years of genocide denial has been compounded by the investment of Armenian students’ tuition in the very government perpetrating the denial.
“[Armenian students’] collective consciousness is affected by the knowledge that tuition money we pay is used in Turkey and has great potential to be used to deny the historically indisputable act of genocide that we are standing here in spite of,” Tatoian said.
However, both Tatoian and Nahabedian stress that the impacts of genocide denial have not been limited to Armenian students.
According to Nahabedian, the Republic of Turkey has compromised all UC Davis students’ educations by suppressing scholarship acknowledging the Armenian Genocide and propagating misinformation about the event. He says these actions have enabled books like The Armenians in History and the Armenian Question by Esat Uras—which denies Armenian deaths from forcible relocation as murder and caps the number of Armenian WWI casualties at 300,000—to find their way into the Shields Library.
“Because of the lobbying that the government of Turkey does, thanks to the money that they receive from the University of California, [students] read books like this,” Nahabedian said. “Frankly, they would fail their genocide courses, or any history courses, if they read a book like this and trusted the words that are in this,” said Nahabedian.
ASUCD President Mariah Watson passed the resolution at senate’s May 14 meeting.