ATAA is a fast-growing umbrella organization of Turkish American associations throughout the United States, Canada and Turkey, dedicated to pursuing the interests of Turkish Americans and friends of Turkey in Washington and beyond.
ATAA was co-founded by the American Turkish Association of Washington and the Maryland American Turkish Association in an effort to create a national organization representing the Turkish American community.
The first meeting of the ATAA General Assembly was held in May of 1980 in Washington. Delegates from 26 organizations participated and created a coordination committee to write the constitution and bylaws. The bylaws of ATAA were ratified on November 16, 1980 and the first board of ATAA was elected.
Today, the Assembly is an influential and fast growing civic organization that pursues the interests of Turkish Americans and friends of Turkey in Washington and beyond, as well as contributes to the strengthening of relations between the United States and Turkey.
A growing base of individual ATAA members support the work of the Assembly through dues and donations. Financial assistance to the operations of ATAA is also granted from the ATAA Endowment Fund, established to secure the long-term growth of the organization.
To fulfill its mission and objectives, ATAA undertakes a number of activities, such as educational seminars for Turkish American communities on grassroots advocacy and civic leadership; conferences on contemporary political, social and economic issues related to Turkey and US Turkish relations; and cultural events to promote Turkey’s rich traditions, art and heritage.
Working as an information clearinghouse, ATAA regularly publishes reference material on issues that concern the Turkish American community. The Assembly is also the publisher of a quarterly magazine, The Turkish American.
ATAA hosts one of the most dynamic websites on Turkey and maintains and extensive e-mail communication network.
ATAA is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization.
Mehmet Celebi moved to the US in 1988 and received a Bachelor's degree in International Relations and Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mr. Celebi is a co-founder of Arti Bir Group, a group of companies engaged in construction, manufacturing, entertainment and fashion in Turkey and the Middle East. He pioneered several initiatives in Turkey including the first ever Turkish-Hollywood movie and TV Series, where he brought top US celebrities to Turkish television programs. The Group’s live event company is one of Turkey’s largest concert organizers, exclusively representing performers such as Ajda Pekkan, Tarkan and Teoman. In 2009, Mr. Celebi co-organized “Fashionable Istanbul”, Turkey’s first international fashion event featuring top designers such as Roberto Cavalli, and Salvatore Ferragamo. Mr. Celebi has co-founded and/or served on several Turkish-American organizations, including TACA-Chicago (President 2001-2005), ATAA (Midwest VP and Board Member 2001-2005). Since 2008, he has been a Member of the Dean’s International Council at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, where he is working on projects connecting the Turkish academic and business communities. He is a co-founder of the Interfaith & Global Peace Initiative and has served on the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations’ Task Force (2003-2004). Mr. Celebi also serves on the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. During Mr. Celebi’s leadership positions, he worked closely and continues to work with many ethnic communities including Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Arab groups. In 2007, Mehmet joined the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign to have a Turkish voice in the Presidential elections. He was one of the top fund-raisers for the campaign and later became the Regional Co-Chair of the Finance Committee and a Hillary Clinton’s delegate from Illinois-the first Turkish-American to hold that position. Mehmet is fluent in Turkish, English, Arabic and Spanish, and is married with 3 sons.
Ergün Kırlıkovalı was born in Izmir, Turkey. He attended Robert College, Istanbul, Turkey. He received his BS degree in Chemistry from Bogazici University and MS degree in Polymer Science from the University of Manchester, England. He also conducted research on polymers in Holland and Austria. He was employed as a product development and research chemist in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Currently, he is the founding president of his company which conducts research and development on new materials based on interpenetrating network polymers. He found himself in need of promoting and defending Turkish culture and heritage due to a relentless barrage of unsolicited and unjustified anti-Turkish attacks by Armenian and Greek lobbies and others in America. He had written more than 5,000 letters to the editors, news programmers, panelists, politicians, academicians, and other opinion-makers. He also appeared on TV and radio shows and participated in conferences and panels in universities and colleges in an effort to present the other side of the story and fight against discrimination and censorship fostered by a surprisingly racist and dishonest version of history persistently promoted by anti-Turkish lobbies. He has served as president of American-Turkish Association of Southern California, Public Relations Committee Chairman and later Western U.S. Regional Director for the Federation of Turkish American Associations in New York and ATAA in Washington DC. He is married, has one son, and lives in Southern California.
Mehmet Toy received his BS and MS in Electronics and Communications Engineering from Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, Turkiye and Ph.D degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ. He is currently a Distinguished Engineer at Comcast involved in Computer Networking Architectures and Standards. Prior to his current position, Dr. Toy held executive, managerial and technical positions at ADVA Optical Networking, Intergenix, Intel Corp., Verizon Wireless, Axiowave Networks, Fujitsu Network Communications, AT&T Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies. He contributed to research, development and standardizations of Carrier Ethernet, IP Multimedia Systems (IMS), Optical, Wireless and ATM technologies. He published more than 75 articles, four books and a video tutorial in these areas and Signal Processing, including his recent book, Networks and Services. He has three US Patents pending. He served as a tenure-track and adjunct faculty member of Electrical and Computer Engineering Departments of Stevens Institute of Technology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Dokuz Eylul University. Dr. Toy served in IEEE Network Magazine Editorial Board, IEEE-USA and IEEE ComSoc at various capacities. He received various awards from Comcast, IEEE-USA and AT&T Bell Labs, including “Inventor Award” and “Exceptional Contribution Awards”, and was a recipient of scholarships from Turkish Government, TUBITAK and Koc Holdings. He also holds “Docent” title from YOK. He is a Sr. Member of IEEE and Chair of IEEE ComSoc Cable Networks and Services Committee. He is currently President-Elect for ATAA and a member of the Governing Body of ITU-MD, and a Guest Professor of Inonu University, Malatya, Turkiye. Dr. Toy lives with his three sons and wife in Allendale, NJ.
Emsu Gorpe comes from a Turkish-Dutch family background. Prior to moving to the U.S. in 2006, she lived in Turkey, Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia. She holds a B.A. degree in Government and International Politics and a minor in Electronic Journalism from George Mason University. She served as the president of the United Turkish Student Association during her studies at Mason where she organized numerous educational and cultural events to promote Turkish Culture and Heritage. She was honored the “2011 Commitment to Diversity Award” by Project Smile at Mason. She has been an ATAA volunteer since 2006. She supports and takes part in the organization and coordination of cultural, social and charitable activities of the association. In 2011, she received “Community Service Award” by ATAA. Ms. Gorpe currently works in the field of Business Intelligence.
Esra Ugurlu holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Rutgers University and is studying Masters of Business Administration at La Salle University. She has worked in a variety of positions in the retail and financial sectors, including Sterling Bank and Prudential Financial. Currently, she is an independent Financial Advisor/Broker and she represents 46 financial institutions as a broker of financial services. She is a member of the National Association of Women Owned Businesses (NAWBO), National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, and the American Business Women Association. Ms. Ugurlu is currently the Treasurer of Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) and has served as the Chairperson of the Philadelphia Turkish Festival and the Vice President of Social Affairs, Turkish American Friendship Society of the United States (TAFSUS).
Ceren Olga Sayan
V.P. New York Region
(NY, NJ, Canada)
Ceren Olga Sayan grew up in Turkey. She graduated from Saint Benoit French School and studied art restoration at Istanbul University where she became one of the first students to receive a BA degree of Art Conservation and Restoration. She started doing volunteer work at an early age, collecting newspapers for a Nursing Home, working with children in Foster Foster Care in Istanbul, and volunteering on several excavations like Assos, Canakkale and Yumuktepe, Mersin. Since moving to the US 12 years ago, she studied Business Skills and Banking and worked in the export-import field such as jewelry business and cattle export to Turkey. She has been actively involved with many Turkish Americans Organizations such as the Istanbul University Alumni Association, Turkish Women's League of America, Ataturk School of New York and others. She played an outstanding role to build networking between Turkish and American Associations by organizing major events such as Melungeons, Native Americans, and Ahiska Turks Relations. She helped to organize the fundraising for Congressman/Congresswoman in New York. Her goal for ATAA is to help unite Turks to have more political and social power in the US without losing their proud past. She believes in educating the Turkish American Community to be more confident and to build strong relationships in the community they live. She always remembers Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s ideas as the major pathfinder in her goals. Ms. Sayan is currently an assistant teacher in Immaculate Conception Catholic School and volunteers her free time on public school tutoring in Mathematics. She lives in New York and has a son.
V.P. Mid Central Region
(IN, KY, MI, OH)
Feridun Bek (39) is a Turkish-German-American, who was born in Munich/Germany. He is an executive, working for a global management consulting firm, which supports multibillion dollar companies with developing business strategies, strategic plans and their project implementations. He worked for Volkswagen Group Headquarters in Germany & America, where he wrote the first “Sales Organization Handbook,” which was distributed to over 100 countries & developed a global business management analysis concept. Until 2012, Bek was for two terms the President of TACAM (www.tacam.org) where he managed to organize over 45 advocacy and cultural events/activities and received diverse awards. Currently, he is the ATAA VP Mid-Central (www.ataa.org), the ATAA Chairman for the Trade & Commerce Committee and a board member of the World Turkish Business Council (www.dtik.org.tr). In the past 14 years he supported diverse NGO’s in leadership roles, for example: as ATAA executive board member & Treasurer, Co-chair for the ATAA National Grassroots Committee, Co-chair for the ATAA Armenian Research Committee where he worked with the ATAA leadership to create the strategic plan “Vision 2023” to deal with the Armenian issue, board member of ATA-DC (www.atadc.org). In Germany, he served for six years in the Executive Board of the German/European Atatürk Association (www.he-add.org and www.ataturk.de). He supported and organized the biggest events in Germany, such as conferences with well-known speakers, republic day balls, educational trips and acted as the moderator at these events and presented the Turkish Community many times in the media. He was also the PR manager a Turkish theater group and one of the founders of the Turkish-German Student Organization ITEA (www.itaeonline.de). Bek studied Business Administration of Management in Germany, UK and Turkey and has a post-degree in commercial information technology. He has a Master’s degree for Management from the “Frankfurt Business School of Finance & Management” (Germany) and holds an Executive MBA degree from the “Henley Reading University” (UK).
Gizem Salcigil White
V.P. Capital Region
(DC, MD, VA)
Gizem Şalcıgil White is the founder of Turkayfe.org, aka the Turkish International Digital Coffee House, a social networking website developed to promote Turkey online. Ms. White is also the founder of the “Mobile Turkish Coffee Truck” project which promotes Turkey through engagement and coffee diplomacy. The project which is a volunteer initiative to promote world-renowned Turkish coffee culture and to engage people in “coffee conversations” has been honored in the United States House of Representatives Congressional Record in May 2012. From March 2011 to March 2012, she worked at the Press Counselor’s office at the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C. and currently is working at Turkish Airlines Washington D.C. office as a Public Relations Representative. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Banking & Finance from Bilkent University and a Master’s degree in Global Marketing Communication & Advertising from Emerson College, Boston. Her professional interests include nation branding, international affairs and social media. Ms. White has been donating her time and energy to the Turkish-American community in DC since 2009. Ms. White is the co-chair of the 2012 Washington D.C. Turkish Festival and has been a board member of the American Turkish Association of Washington D.C. (ATA-DC) for two years. She also serves as the Washington D.C. representative of Federation of Turkish American Associations.
V.P. Northeastern Region
(CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT)
Sefer Ozdemir has been active in several community and business oriented groups he started and is successfully continuing to lead. Sefer Ozdemir is the Owner/President of Gentle Movers Franchise, Inc. www.gentlemovers.com, a full service moving and storage company located in Boston. The company under his leadership is considered as one of the best and fastest growing full service moving companies in the area. Sefer Ozdemir is involved in real estate business developing, selling, renting and managing commercial and residential real estate through his www.yourelo.com and www.rentfeefree.com real estate websites. As a community activist, Sefer Ozdemir served as the chairman of N.E. Bosnian Relief Committee (1992-1999), President of Justice international, Inc. (1994 - Current), President of CoYder in Turkey, the Children's Education and Aid Association www.coyder.org.tr (1997 - current), Founder and President of TurkBirDev www.turkbirdev.org(2003 - current) Sefer Bey has recognized the opportunities internet brings when combined with traditional entrepreneurship. He has started the Turkish Entrepreneurs, turkkulturevi and TurkBirdev Yahoo and Facebook groups that have today thousands of members from Boston area, across the US and the Turkish world. Today he is the founder, the main sponsor and the leader of Boston Turkish House www.turkkulturevi.org Financed and realized by Sefer Bey personally, the Boston Turk Evi (Boston Turkish House) is a community center with educational, sports and social facilities and a growing Turkish library. TurKev has so far hosted Turkish Scholars such Prof. Dr. Turkkaya Ataov, Prof. Dr. Oktay Sinanoglu and government officials such as the Boston consulate general Murat Lutem and Turkish Minister Prof. Dr. Veysel Eroglu and others.
V.P. Midwest Region
(IL, IA, KS, MN, MO,NE, WI)
Dr. Erol Yorulmazoglu was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dr. Yorulmazoglu is a board certified medical oncologist/ hematologist and a partner in a large oncology practice in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. While he was studying chemistry and biochemistry in Arizona, he was involved in Turkish American cultural activities. He served as president for a Turkish American organization as well as instructor for Turkish folk dancers. After moving to Midwest he became involved in Turkish American grassroots activities. He is a member of Turkish American Cultural Alliance of Chicago (TACA). He has given lectures on the subject of the alleged Armenian genocide issue. Moreover, he has written numerous articles in response to anti- Turkish attacks by lobbies unfriendly to Turkey and the Turks. For one term he served in the executive committee of ATAA. At present time he is engaged in making Turkish history presentations to Turkish American children under TACA educational program. He is currently working on a project to establish a web site with information on Turkish history and culture. He has written educational articles on cancer for major Turkish newspapers. He has provided voluntary/free medical services in cancer care in Turkey. He published a book on the topic of cancer in Turkey to educate the public. He is married and a father of three children, currently residing in the suburbs of Chicago. Erol is fluent in Turkish, English, Spanish and French.
V.P. Western Region
(AZ, CA, CO, HI, NV, NM, UT)
Maria Cakiraga was born in 1958 in Medford, Massachusetts. She received a BSME degree from Tufts University, and has worked as an Aerospace Engineer for Boeing and Raytheon. Ms. Cakiraga has received professional awards such as the Silver Snoopy, given by astronauts to the winning nominee (1993) and Launch Honoree, a safety award given by NASA to the winning nominee (1997). She was also one of the first recipients of the "Daughters of Ataturk" award. She has been a member of the American Turkish Association of Southern California (ATASC) since 1982, where she has held many top level positions including Board Member and Treasurer of ATASC Turkish School. Ms. Cakiraga lives in Placentia, California with her husband Turgut Cakiraga.
V.P. North Central Region
(DE, PA, WV)
Cigdem Oktem is an independent management consultant focusing on finance, strategy and organizational development needs of companies. She has 15 years of advisory and management experience working with executives of Fortune 500 companies while at the Corporate Executive Board, SAP and US Bank. Her previous experience also includes working for ATAA in the early '90s. Ms. Oktem holds a BA in Economics with Honors from Swarthmore College and an MA in International Studies and Economics from Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
V.P. Northwestern Region
(AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Ali San was born in Ankara and came to the US in 1963. He earned his BA and MFA degrees at UCLA in Business and Economics, and Theater Arts (Television and Film Production), respectively, at UCLA. Upon graduation, for a number of years, he worked at Channel 5 TV in Seattle as a Producer-Director. He took up a second career in the Environmental Industry and is now a Business Manager for a national Firm, PSC Environmental Services LLC., in Seattle, Washington. Between 1995 and 2010 he was the Project Manager for environmental services PSC provided in Turkey. He is an active member of the Turkish American Cultural Association of Washington State (TACAWA), and has served as its President for two terms. He has also been a Board Member of the Ethnic Heritage Council of the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, he and his family have organized, supported, and participated in many of the TACAWA events such as the annual TurkFest, folk dance presentations at various festivals, Turkish music concerts, and earthquake relief efforts, to name a few. He is married and has two children.
V.P. South/Southwestern Region
(AR, LA, MS, OK, TX)
Dr. Murat Tas received his AAS degree in both Computer Science and Records management from the San Antonio College, BS degree in Occupational Education from the Wayland Baptist University, MBA degree from the Wayland Baptist University and Ph.D. degree from the University of the Incarnate Word. Dr. Tas has been teaching at San Antonio College – Business department since 2001 and has been working as a consultant at the University of the Incarnate Word since 1997. He is one of the founders of ATA (American Turkish Association) of San Antonio. He also actively serves in World Affairs Council of San Antonio and City of San Antonio International Visitors group. He is married to Sevda Tas with two daughters, Melodi Damla, and Melissa Su.
V.P. Southeastern Region
(GA, NC, SC, FL, AL)
Mazlum Kosma worked as an elementary school teacher in Anatolian country side after graduating from Corum Ilkogretmen Okulu. Later on, he studied at the 19 Mayis Genclik ve Spor Akademisi in Ankara and graduated in 1979. He attended ODTU English Preparatory School and started his graduate studies at ODTU, and then came to USA in 1984 to complete his master’s and doctorate in Sports Administration respectively at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1995 to work for Summer Olympic Games preparation. He lived and worked in the 1996 Summer Olympic Village, also assisting Turkish Olympic team. Since then, he has been living in Atlanta, GA and working at Georgia Tech. He has been active in the Turkish-American community; Chair of 23 Nisan Children’s Day Committee, TACAGA-Board Member, By-Law Committee Member, and currently TACAGA-president. As a musician, folk dancer and a folkdance teacher, he represented Turkish culture in many international festivals in Turkey, Europe and in the US, and also conducted workshops on Turkish Folkdance and culture. He founded Turkish Folkdance Group of Atlanta in 1999 and he has been still performing with the group in festivals in Georgia and neighboring states. He has been a member of ATAA since 2005. He has been also a member of the Georgia Council for International Visitors as a Citizen Diplomat and active in Atlanta International Community. He is married to Winnie Kosma with one daughter, Eda. Mazlum and his wife Winnie like ballroom dancing and attending daughter Eda’s concerts.
Kürşad Doğru, Chairman
Bonnie J. Kaslan
Hakan Dakın, Art, Media & Communications Director