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Chris R. Holden
Assemblyman Chris R. Holden. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

New Bill Would Stop State Trusts From Selecting Turkish Investments

Stop Investment in Turkey Act would continue until Turkey acknowledges role in Armenian genocide

By Evan Symon, February 20, 2021 7:19 am

A bill that would halt all new or existing Turkish investments by the state of California was introduced in the Assembly Friday.

Assembly Bill 1019, authored by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), would specifically prohibit state trust moneys, such as the Public Employees’ Retirement Fund and the Legislators’ Retirement Fund, from being used to make additional or new investments or to renew existing investments in investment vehicles issued or owned by the government of Turkey. These measures would stay in place unless the Turkish government adopts a policy to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and bring justice for it’s victims.

AB 1019, if passed, would build on AB 1320, a bill signed into law in 2019 that allowed state-level economic sanctions against Turkey for not recognizing their part in the Armenian Genocide as long there are similar federal sanctions passed against Turkey.

Assemblyman Holden introduced the bill, also known as the Stop Investment in Turkey Act, largely to help  pressure Turkey to recognizing the Armenian Genocide, an ethnic cleansing of Armenians that took place in and around present day Turkey in 1915 and 1916, resulting in over 1 million people killed. The United States did not fully recognize the Genocide until 2019.

“An unrepentant Turkey prevents justice for the families of Armenian Genocide survivors, and makes Turkey a more dangerous country for their minority communities and neighboring Armenia,” said Assemblyman Holden on Friday. “Continued investment in the Government of Turkey signals implicit support for their actions, and it needs to stop. Now is the time for California to stand up for truth and justice for the Armenian Genocide with meaningful action.”

AB 1019 has already drawn much support, most notably from legislators in the Los Angeles-area, human rights groups, and Armenian-American organizations such as the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“The ANCA Western Region is grateful to Assemblyman Chris Holden for introducing this bill,” said ANCA in a statement. “When passed, it will go a long way toward holding Turkey accountable both for the Armenian Genocide and for the continued genocidal policies it has recently pursued in supporting Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia and Artsakh, including its own provision of foreign mercenaries to attack innocent Armenian civilians and ethnically cleanse the Armenian presence from our ancestral Homeland. We look forward to working with Assemblyman Holden and his colleagues to ensure that this bill is passed and signed into law.”

A halt on Turkish investment by California

While there has been no declared opposition against the bill as of Friday, the high number of non-voters from AB 1320 in 2019 may prove that the bills passage may not be all that simple.

“The L.A. area has 200,000 Armenian-Americans, the largest number of Armenians in an area outside of Armenia,” explained Roger Stanhope, a London-based researcher that advises organizations on genocide recognition, to the Globe. “A city outside of Los Angeles, Glendale, which is right by Assemblyman Holden’s district, has a particularly high percentage of Armenian-Americans.

“But the rest of the state doesn’t have those high numbers. Lawmakers there may also be more in favor of Turkey  in other areas and don’t want it to pass, and still others may doubt the numbers from the genocide.

“It will most likely pass, largely because the United States now recognizes it in full. But there’s still enough pull in having Turkey as an ally that it won’t be fully one-sided as many seem to think it will go. We saw that happen before only two years ago in California with all of those non-voters after all. And while Armenians and Armenian-Americans generally love the bill, any Turkish companies thinking of coming into California would probably think twice if this is passed.”

AB 1019 is expected to be moved up to an Assembly committee in the coming weeks.

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