LOS ANGELES—Members of the Armenian Youth Federation Western US had an early morning Wednesday when some of them attended a 7:30 a.m. breakfast hosted by the West LA Chamber of Commerce to welcome the new Turkish Consul General to Los Angeles, Can Oguz who was being given a stage to meet with members of the West LA business community.
AYF members members attended the event and challenged the new Consul General about Turkey’s abysmal human rights record.
During the question and answer session, the successful Divest Turkey campaign was brought up to highlight the poor conditions in Turkey do not make it an attractive country for investment mainly due to the Turkish government’s continued jailing of opposition activists and journalists, as well as persecution of minorities including Armenians.
The Divest Turkey campaign, which was spearheaded by the AYF, successfully successfully compelled the University of California student body to demand the UC Regents divest over $75 million in Turkish state investments, through resolutions passed unanimously in nine campuses. The campaign became a blueprint for a similar effort in the California State legislature, with the state Assembly voting to divest in Turkey.
In his response, Consul General Oguz avoided tackling the subject head on and instead lay the blame of his country’s woes on the 2016 coup attempt saying that most legal actions by his government were aimed at neutralizing those affiliated with Kurdish organizations.
“We are faced with various terrorist organizations trying to disrupt political ordinance,” noted Oguz in said in response to the AYF member’s inquiry.
“You’re basically prioritizing making money over human rights and morality,” said the AYF member, who was ultimately silenced by organizers of the event.
The Turkish Consul used the podium as an opportunity to emphasize the ties between the U.S. and Turkey as well as garner sympathy for all the issues Turkey is facing as a result of the coup and the increase of Syrian refugees.
It is no secret that relations between Turkey and United States are the worse they have been in decades, with both countries issuing visa bans and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally coming under attack by U.S. officials for his role in an attack last May in Washington where his bodyguards violently attacked protesters. Turkey’s current military campaign against Syria is also widening the rift between Washington and Ankara, which has been cited the worst jailer of journalists and pro-democracy activists.