Confronting Turkey’s Corporate Allies
While heated debates were ongoing regarding H.Res.106 an organization calling themselves the American Business Forum in Turkey (ABFT), issued a press release announcing that it has been lobbying members of Congress to oppose the Armenian Genocide Resolution in the U.S. Congress. On its official website (www.abft.net), this organization boasted of having members and supporters among the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, Xerox, Cargill, and other major US corporations. Thus, it sought to present itself as speaking in the name of corporate America and saying to Congress that big business is opposed to passing the Genocide Resolution.
One of the companies that stuck out in the list of ABFT supporters and members was Ritz-Carlton Hotels. They had their logo put on the website as an official “Supporter” and one of their general managers was listed as an “Alternate Board Member” of the ABFT. The Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) decided to come together to find out whether Ritz-Carlton actually supported the position of the ABFT. A letter was sent to corporate headquarters followed by phone calls and local walk-ins to company hotels in every part of the country where Armenian communities existed. From San Francisco, to Pasadena, to Orange County, to DC, to Boston, and several other major cities, AYF members personally walked in to Ritz-Carlton Hotels around the country and demanded to know what their company’s position was on this troubling matter.
As a result of this activism, Ritz-Carlton contacted the ANCA in early May and informed them that they in no way support the position of the ABFT and certainly do not oppose the Genocide Resolution. What’s more, they withdrew their General Manager from the ABFT board and demanded that the Ritz-Carlton logo be immediately taken down from their website. Similar actions were taken by other companies such as Microsoft and Oracle. Today, if you visit the ABFT site, there are no more corporate logos at all—reducing their veil of their legitimacy to what it really is: just another Turkish website.
This concerted campaign was also extended to various other major companies and led to a series of articles featured in Roll Call, a leading newspaper covering events on Capitol Hill. In March, the paper wrote a piece focusing on the business interests alleged to be opposed to the adoption of the Genocide Resolution. A month later, another article described the ANCA’s ongoing efforts to “poke holes in its corporate-backed opposition” and explained how companies such as Philip Morris, earlier claimed to be leading opponents of the Resolution, have distanced themselves from any resistance to the measure.
Eliciting the threat of economic fallout should the U.S. Congress pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution was one of the leading arguments Turkey and its hired lobbyists planned to utilize. The revelation that major American corporations tied to Turkey, in fact, do not oppose the Genocide Resolution served to effectively neutralize yet another hollow threat emanating from Ankara.
This victory won on behalf of a coordinated AYF-ANCA effort around the country shows that, when put into action strategically, the power of the youth can accomplish a great deal for our cause. It also proves, once again, that the Turkish side is dependent on lies, threats and illusions of legitimacy to back their denial campaign. It is up to all of us to speak the truth and dismantle their false claims every chance we get.