President's Message By Ergün Kırlıkovalı
Dear Turkish Americans and Friends of Turkey:
We mourn the passing of ATAA founder and former president Ali Ferda Sevin, a visionary leader, a fellow activist, and a friend. Ali Ferda Sevin held a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the Robert College, Turkey, and an M.S. from Louisiana State University in 1954. He retired as a Director at the Office of Environmental Policy, Federal Highway Administration in 1990. Mr. Sevin served many years as a board member of the American Turkish Association of Washington, D.C. (ATADC), and is one of the founding fathers of ATAA. He served as the first Secretary General of ATAA, first Vice-President from 1984-86, and as President from1990-92. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and four children, Selma, Eda, Alan, and Erol. We will miss him.
Month of June was dominated with fighting back anti-Turkish resolutions in the U.S. Congress by educating lawmakers on Turkish and Turkish Cypriot History and an ATAA-Delegation trip to Turkey for the first meeting of Turkish NGOs around the globe organized by YTB (Yurtdışı Türkler Başkanlığı.)
A joint letter, signed by the presidents of America’s leading Turkish and Turkic-American grassroots organizations was sent to the U.S. Congress expressing our concern about ten racist, ill-informed, anti-Turkish and anti-Muslim resolutions that are put before both chambers of the American legislature in the last few weeks or months.
Here are those unfortunate resolutions:
H.Res. 180: Demands that Turkey to interfere in an ecclesiastical matter, with total disregard for the Turkish Constitution and secular character of the Republic, and in favor of one religion (Christianity) over others.
H.Res. 304 & S.Res. 399: Both level the discredited political claim of genocide against and convicts without trial, Turkey of the crime of a bogus genocide
S.Res.392: Ignorantly accuses Turkey and Turkish people of destroying Turkey’s Christian heritage, with total disregard for Turkey’s phenomenal tradition of tolerance over the past millennium.
H.Res. 506 & S.Res. 196: Needlessly criticizes a policy that has already changed in favor of opening the Halki seminary, which unfortunately did not bring along a corresponding legislation to uphold the human rights of the persecuted Turks/Muslims of Greece.
H.R. 2597: Fueled by partisan concerns, promotes inequality to benefit a tiny group of Greek Cypriot Americans who claim property on the island of Cyprus, and seeks to reverse existing American judicial precedent.
H.Res.676: Ignorantly and prejudicially accuses Turkey and Turkish people of colonizing the island of Cyprus, forgetting about the island’s millennium of Turkish past.
S.Con.Res.47: Racist in spirit and word, overtly seeks to deny Turkish Cypriots their ethnic, religious and sovereign rights.
H.R. 3131: Dishonestly and deceitfully implies that Greece recognizes Israel’s right to exist, but that Turkey does not—totally oblivious to the facts that the Jews of Greece were persecuted in a manner comparable to that of Nazi Germany’s during Hitler’s reign (Remember Selanik?) and that Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Even if all the goodwill one can muster is marshaled, one still cannot really talk about honest mistakes here, because the same fallacies are repeated over and over as if undisputable facts. The net impact of these coordinated and evil attacks on Turkish culture, heritage, and history by a series of hostile resolutions currently pending is to reveal ethnic and religious discrimination fueled by racist bias against Turks and Muslims. These frequent resolutions, replete with inaccuracies, omissions, and misrepresentations, utilize a condescending tone, and are openly promoted by, if not also drafted by, anti-Turkish and anti-Muslim ethnic lobbies. Could the same sponsors from same districts with large Greek and Armenian constituencies be a coincidence? Is it too hard to see that these disturbing and menacing resolutions are offensive to Turkish Americans and Muslim Americans, not to mention the Republic of Turkey, a staunch U.S. ally and a key global partner of the United States? Why shoud American justice and fairness take a walk when it comes to dealing with Turkey in the U.S. Congress? Why do some politicians habitually keep pitting one ethnic group against the other? Should not legislators stand for higher principles, like harmony, tolerance, and peace?
Anyway, you can find all of our calls to action at ATAA site and at PaxTurcica’s website. We want you to “educate” your elected official by sending carefully crafted messages with a few clicks. This little move that will only take a few seconds of your time, I believe, is something you owe to your heritage and to future generations.
That said, we can now focus on what may perhaps be better described as the “Creation or Formation of the Turkish Diaspora”. Turkey's Prime Ministry Directorate For Turkish Expatriots & Kinship Communities (Başbakanlık Yurtdışı Türkler ve Akraba Topluluklar Başkanlığı: “YTB” ) has organized a global conference of community leaders from all continents, in Ankara, Turkey, during June 7-8, 2012. Seamlessly and professionally conducted, this two day event was the first meeting of the Turkish and Turkic NGOs around the globe. President Kemal Yurtnac and his team of 200+ professionals at YTB deserve a heartfelt congratulations for conducting a first class event.
I led the following 8-member strong ATAA Delegation to this momentous occasion:
Ergün Kırlıkovalı, President ; Gunay Evinch, Past President; Esra Ugurlu, Treasurer; Feridun Bek, member of BOD and presidne tof TACAM; Dr. Vega Sankur, Prtesident, ATASC; Dr. Javid Huseynov, member of BOD, ATASC and President, PaxTurcica; Prof. Coskun Bayrak, member and founding president of FOTIA; and Brian (Hasan) Turk, member (see photos below in that order.)
Deputy Prime Minister bekir Bozdag opened the successful conference and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc closed it. Below, you see DPM Arinc shaking hand with Dr. Ata Erim, the president of World Turkish Congress and a supporter of ATAA, just before shaking my hand.
In the two days, six ministers addressed the conference. In the order of appearance, they were: Minister of Relations with European Union Egemen BAĞIŞ, Minister of Customs & Commerce Hayati YAZICI, Minister of Labor and Social Security FARUK ÇELİK , Minister of Family & Social Policy Fatma ŞAHİN, and Minister of Youth & Sports Suat KILIÇ . All came with at least four of the most improtant directors of their ministries answering questions on the spot, without having to resort to “I will research it and get back to you.”
There was a high level exchange of ideas on policies and projects. I asked two questions to DPM Arinc:
1) Can we have an English language TV, to be launched by TRT and easily accessible by everyone around the globe, to continuously educate and inform viewers on matters related to Turkish history, heritage, and culture? DPM Arinc’s director for Turkish Radio & Television (TRT), Ibrahim Sahin, responded by saying that they were working on just such a project and that we would see the results soon.
2) Can we have all the books and researches carried out by Turk Tarih Kurumu (Turkish Historical Society) placed into the digital realm of the cyber space, so that everyone can easily access them? The justification I put forth was that there was an incredible amount of ignorance in American when it came to matters concerning Turkish history. DPM Arinc’s director for Media & Information ( Basın Yayın Enformasyon Genel Müdürü) Murat Karakaya responded by saying that they will look into it.
ATAA 's vision and mission were presented to YTB officials and both DPMs, as well as at least four ministers, and two live TV interviews (ATV and NTV) were conducted during the two day conference. Renewed emphasis was placed on the involvement of "Young Turks", deeper participation in American democracy, and more effective public advocacy, all of which require educating and motivating our community.
The evening of June 7 was crowned by an exquisite dinner, featuring delectable specialties from “Sultan’s Cuisine”, sponsored by TOBB (Turkish Chambers of Commerce & Commodities Exchanges.) President Rifat Hisrciklioglu was at his element. I was honored to be sitting at the head table with him, Kemal Yurtnac and NOG leaders from Germany, Holland, Belgium, Sweden, and Australia, among others.
All in all, it was a very useful conference when many important thoughts and projects were discussed allowing a healthy cross-pollination of ideas. You will read about other issues elsewhere in this e-Newsletter.
Thank you for your continued support and have a great summer!
Warm personal greetings,
Assembly of Turkish American Associations