SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A bill that would require the divestment of California public employee retirement funds from Turkish-controlled investments over the country’s denial of the Armenian Genocide is still waiting for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.
The California State Senate passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1597 late last month with a vote of 36-0 (4 abstaining). The California State Assembly voted on the passage of the bipartisan bill last year and consequently approved the Senate’s amendments 69-0 with 11 abstentions.
AB 1597 requires the boards of both the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to liquidate existing investments in Turkey. The agencies must do so within six months of the passage of a federal law that imposes sanctions on Turkey for its failure to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. New investments would also cease.
The bill states that currently the CalPERS has investments in excess of $700 million in bonds directly issued by the government of Turkey. CalSTRS has approximately $70 million in similar investments.
“I am humbled and grateful for my colleagues in the Legislature for joining with me to fight for justice for the 1.5 million Armenian souls who perished in the Genocide,” said Assembly member Adrin Nazarian who introduced the bill. “If Turkey continues to fund Armenian Genocide deniers, they must be financially punished.”
California has a long history of divesting from countries that violate human rights, including South Africa (apartheid policy), Sudan (Darfur genocide), and Iran (international terrorism, human rights violations).
The so-called Divest Turkey bill ensures California taxpayer money will no longer be used in the manner to aid and abet Turkey’s obstruction of justice. The bill is designed to “encourage said government to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and to reach a fair and just resolution of reparations for the survivors…”
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR) has expressed its gratitude to Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D), and State Senators Anthony Portantino (D) and Scott Wilk (R) for authoring and propelling the Divest Turkey bill. “After the concept was conceived and developed by the Armenian Youth Federation and the ASAs to secure unanimous support of all nine UC campuses, we were gratified to work closely with the AYF, the local ASAs, and our friends in the State Legislature toward unanimous votes in both houses and are grateful for the collaboration and unified efforts of all who played a role in its passage,” stated Nora Hovsepian, ANCA-WR Chair.
The provisions of AB 1597 would remain in effect until the Government of Turkey has officially acknowledged its responsibility for the Armenian Genocide as determined by the U.S. State Department, Congress of other relevant federal agency.