Wednesday, January 22

Turkish Cultural Club appeals against ASA resolution to divest from Turkey

The Turkish Cultural Club appealed to the undergraduate student government Tuesday to vote against a resolution drafted by the Armenian Students’ Association calling for the University of California to divest from the Republic of Turkey. (Jennifer Hu/Daily Bruin)

The original version of this article contained an error and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for more information.

This article has been updated at 8:36 p.m. on Jan. 14.

The Turkish Cultural Club appealed to the undergraduate student government Tuesday to vote against a resolution drafted by the Armenian Students’ Association calling for the University of California to divest from the Republic of Turkey.

The resolution calls for the UC’s divestment from the Republic of Turkey because the Republic does not recognize and has not given reparations for the Armenian Genocide, which resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians in the early 20th century and the displacement of the Armenian community.

The Armenian Genocide has been recognized by 42 U.S. states and 22 countries, as well as by the United Nations SubCommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.

In their presentation, Gülnaz Kiper, president of the Turkish Cultural Club, and Mark Bhaskar, a member of the Olive Tree Initiative at UCLA, said they think the language of the resolution creates a divide between the Armenian and Turkish communities.

Later after the USAC meeting, members of the Olive Tree Initiative at UCLA said Bhaskar’s opinions do not represent the views of the organization and he had only attended one meeting prior to the presentation.

“(This resolution is) clearly a racist attempt to drive a wedge between the Turkish and Armenian communities here at UCLA,” said Bhaskar, a second-year political science and Middle Eastern studies student, during public comments.

Members of the Turkish Cultural Club also said they think the existence of an Armenian Genocide has been debated by scholars. Some of the students also said they would not call the killing of 1.5 million Armenians a genocide because no one debating the issue could witness events that occurred in the past.

“This is not a fact,” said Selene Sari, a member of the Turkish Cultural Club, during public comments. “In Turkey and many other nations, scholars are debating (the existence of the Armenian Genocide).”

Kiper, a third-year psychology student and an international student from Istanbul, Turkey, contradicted herself several times during and after the Undergraduate Students Association Council meeting. When asked, she said she did not think she was in a position to say whether the Armenian Genocide could be called a genocide.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal if we do or do not call it a genocide,” Kiper said in response to questions from councilmembers during her presentation. “If you want me to call it a genocide, I will.”

Kiper and Bhaskar said in their presentation that they do not think divestment is a fair decision because they said they think Turkey has a history of supporting human rights. They also said they think the Republic of Turkey, formed in 1923, did not carry out the genocide and that the Ottoman Empire was solely responsible.

“Divestment is an unfair punishment for Turkey,” Kiper said.

Kiper added that she thinks the resolution inaccurately portrays the Republic of Turkey as a country that actively silences speech on the Armenian Genocide.

Some councilmembers voiced concerns about the Turkish students not using the word “genocide” when referring to the Armenian Genocide.

Student Wellness Commissioner Savannah Badalich said she was concerned some of the comments in the presentation were microagressions against some Muslim communities. Badalich also addressed Kiper’s and Bhaksar’s claim that Turkey did not want to recognize the genocide because it was committed by the Ottoman Empire before Turkey became a nation.

Badalich said Turkey should be more willing to acknowledge the genocide if it believes the Ottoman Empire was responsible instead of the nation itself.

Last quarter, the Armenian Students’ Association announced its plan to bring the resolution to the council table, and has since held two town halls to receive feedback on and educate students about the resolution.

Natalie Kalbakian, external vice president of the Armenian Students’ Association, said the club reached out to Turkish students and tried to listen to their concerns. She also said the resolution is not meant to target Turkish students, but rather to criticize the Turkish government for not acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.

“It is upsetting to see that the University of California would be invested in such a government,” said Kalbakian, a third-year political science student.

During a town hall last Thursday, the Armenian Students’ Association invited members of the Turkish Cultural Club and Muslim Students Association to discuss and potentially alter the resolution to accommodate students’ concerns.

Mikael Matossian, a fourth-year environmental science student and president of the Armenian Students’ Association, said that some members of the Turkish Cultural Club and Muslim Students Association left the town hall early before discussing the resolution because they did not feel comfortable at the event.

USAC is set to vote on the resolution next Tuesday at its weekly meeting.

Correction: Badalich is the Student Wellness Commissioner.

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  • Thomas Jans

    Wow genocide denialists at UCLA? I thought the point of going to school was to get an education. At what point is denying the murder of over 1,000,000 people considered hate speech.

  • Troy

    “because no one debating the issue could witness events that occurred in the past.” Oh I see, so I guess we should start our history books from 1920, because who knows what happened before that? we can’t be sure.

  • QnsGambit

    Well, nothing says education like students “feeling uncomfortable”. Our universities, especially prestigious ones, need to make an effort to remind their students that “feeling uncomfortable” is 1. common in the post-school life known as the real world 2. is required when facing controversy 3. leaders distinguish themselves from followers by….wait for it…their willingness to face controversy 4. protest is for the powerless to demonstrate that they are being ignored by the powerful, not for the disquieted amateur scholars.

    Maybe then their education would be worthwhile. If not, wikipedia is as good a place to get advanced knowledge as any nowadays. Have at it, oh future “leaders”.

  • TrueBruin

    USAC thinks it’s the UN and the Daily Bruin think it’s The Times. When will the members of the student government realize that they are not international relations experts, and they are not sitting on some Congressional committee? This is the greatest display of narcissism I have ever seen. It’s one thing to be an actual politician and sit on your high horse, it’s another when you have no real power to change anything meaningful, rather inflate your own ego and pad your own resume without doing one purposeful thing. When will the members of USAC look in the mirror and realize they are all a group of toddlers in tiaras at the pageant show? The irony in this now chain of geopolitical “resolutions” is the creation of unnecessary micro aggressions on campus. Should these topics be talked about, should they be challenged, should student’s voices be heard? Yes. But save it for the classroom. That’s why we’re all here anyway. And as for the Daily Bruin…the integrity of this publication has sunk so far beneath what is considered substantive, even legitimate, journalism, that I doubt citing that you ever wrote for this paper would be considered a positive thing in the eyes of real journalists. Whatever your opinion of this article may be, this, along with every piece of journalism produced from this sham of a paper is utterly and undeniably bias, uninformed, and unquestionably a smear on the face of a great university.