Unit 1: Who
are lobbyists & what motivates
Unit 2: Turkey's image abroad.
Unit 3: History of Turkish communities worldwide & reasons for a weak Turkish lobby.
Unit 4: National & ethnic interests:
Anti-Turkey lobbies, misrepresentation of facts & defamation.
Unit 5: The Turkish lobby dilemma in the
United States as a case study.
Unit 6: Problems encountered by Turkish
lobbies in the EU, Germany, France & worldwide.
Unit 7: Current Turkish lobby
issues & the role of public
Unit 8 What can be learned from powerful
lobbies such as the
Unit 9 New approaches to educating &
informing Turkish lobbying groups.
Unit 10 Media relations, advertising & professional communications
Unit 11 Initiatives for individuals & public
Unit 12 Initiatives for
communities, campaigns, &
Unit 13: Fund-raising, public relations,
& what can be done domestically.
Unit 14: Turkish lobbies undergo
a period of transition: The need to strengthen old &
Unit 15: Long-term strategies & lobbying in
the post-September 11 era.
I. OUTLINE FOR UNIT 5: The Turkish lobby dilemma in the
United States as a case study.
1. Why countries and ethnic groups lobby
a. Disadvantages of the
b. Funding campaigns and laws
that regulate contributions and spending.
2. Tensions within the U.S. political system.
a. The importance of coalition
building for ensuring long-term policies that enhance stability and
II. EXERCISE, ACTIVITIES & PROJECTS
( See History of Orient www.silkroutes.net
2006 USA-TURKEY Economic &
Business Affairs / ATC Conference Topics
2006 USA-TURKEY-ISRAEL Relations (TURKISH & ENGLISH)
lobby: Issues of concern to the & Hispanic Congressional Caucus &
lobby: Issues of concern to the & Black Congressional Caucus &
● Albanian lobby:
Issues of concern to the Albanian lobby & advocacy groups
● Arab/Muslim lobby:
Issues of concern to the Arab/Muslim lobby & advocacy groups See Unit 2 History
● Pro-Israel/Jewish lobby:
Issues of concern to the Pro-Israel/Jewish lobby & advocacy groups
● Armenian lobby:
Issues of concern to the Armenian lobby & advocacy groups
Lobby: Issues, Links & News on
Turkish Lobbying Issues CLICK HERE
(Türkiye-ABD İlişkileri) Web-Reyting.Net
Cultural & Lobbying Activities
Cultural & Lobbying Activities
American Turkish Council
conference held in Washington March 26-29 2006, under
the auspices of the American-Turkish Council, the Turkish-U.S. Business
Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Council (DEIK) and the American
Friends of Turkey)
Campaign of Turkish-American
Oz Bengur www.OzBengur.com
● US Politics:
Ethics & Lobbying Reform:
Lobby reform &
Unit 1 & Unit 15
Türklerinin Türk-Amerikan iliskilerindeki yeri nedir?
Türkleri, Türkiye ile ABD arasindaki iliskilere nasil bakmaktadir?
Türkleri, Türkiye-ABD iliskilerinde nasil bir gelecek öngörmektedir?
Türk lobisi var midir? Varsa, ne tür faaliyetlerde bulunmaktadir?
Türkleri, toplum olarak ABD'de nasil bir gelecek beklemektedir?...
● What types of lobbying
and advocacy groups, campaign finance activities, exist in Turkey & are
they similar to those in the U.S.?
do foreign governments, multinational corporations, or NGO's, lobby in Turkey
(formal or unseen lobbying tactics) & what type of lobbying regulations &
laws exist in Turkey to keep track of their activities?
to the U.S. what role do PR firms & international lobbying groups play in
IV. BACKGROUND MATERIAL
There is a need to monitor U.S. domestic and foreign policy for the
interests of both Turkey and the U.S. Because of the political importance of the
U.S., its leadership role in international organizations, and the strength of
its economy and military, most countries of the world have hired professional
lobbying firms to work on their behalf in Washington, D.C. Their aim is to have
influence on the U.S. political system in favor of the nation that is lobbying,
given that American foreign policy decisions affect virtually every country.
Some of these countries seek to influence U.S. public opinion, and employ PR
companies for publicity, and take opportunity of the know-how and expertise of
specialists who can employ shrewd lobbying tactics. Ethnic communities, whose
members may not all have integrated into American society, retain strong ties to
their country of origin and play an important role in
lobbying. In many cases, these ethnic communities coordinate
activities with the lobbyists hired by foreign countries.
What is the TURKISH LOBBY? The general definition of the Turkish lobby
consists of two lobbying groups. The first group is made up of
lobbyists that are hired by the Turkish government in Washington, D.C. The
other group refers to the Turkish-American community in the U.S., which is
estimated to be somewhere between 300,000-400,000. It is estimated that
only 50,000 to 80,000 Turkish-Americans vote in the U.S. elections. The community is
represented by many Turkish-American organizations which have been
established in different states of the U.S. (some associations are based
on different interests, such as cultural, business, medical, scientific,
or educational). In 1979, when the Assembly of Turkish American
Associations (ATAA) was established in Washington, D.C., many of these
organizations became members of the ATAA, enabling it to serve as an
umbrella organization. The ATAA has represented the Turkish community in
the capital, in federal and state governments, and interacted with the
media and the pubic. Because a large percentage of Turkish-Americans live
in the northeastern U.S., especially near New York State, the Federation
of Turkish American Associations (FTAA), based in New York City, has been
active in coordinating grassroots activities.
The Turkish-American community can be divided into two groups: those who
have come from the Turkish Republic, and those who have come to America
from areas outside Turkey, such as Cyprus, the Balkans, the Caucasus and
Central Asia. The approximate number of this community is 500,000-600,000
(only a small percentage are U.S. citizens, but are often referred to as
There are many reasons why Turkey and the Turkish community have not had a powerful or effective lobby in
the U.S. Some explanations are quite simple, such as the small number of
Turkish-Americans compared to other ethnic lobbies, the failure to understand
the impact of PR activities, a lack of resources, and simply not having a common
cause (as other ethnic lobbies do) which drives them to develop methods of influencing the U.S. system
to benefit their ethnic interests. But other reasons are more complex, and have to do with
competing foreign interests which have led anti-Turkish lobbies to go so far as to
mislead U.S. lawmakers (this is because most legislatures are
not foreign policy experts and lack specific information on particular issues).
It was not until the mid-1970's, that the Turkish-American
community realized that because they were outnumbered by members of
anti-Turkish lobbies, both the American people, and Turkey were being subject to
pressure and policies that were not always in their common interests (there are about 2
million Greek-Americans/Greek Cypriots, 1 million Armenian-Americans, and a
growing Kurdish lobby).
In comparison to anti-Turkish lobbies, the Turkish
lobby has one important advantage: Turkey's strategic location.
It is often said that a member of Congress's top
priority is getting re-elected to office (and that elected officials complain
that they spend as much time fundraising as they do governing). There is also a
well-known saying that money is the mother's milk of politics. Money talks, and money wins elections.
Because the extremely small Turkish-American community in the U.S. has limited
resources and remains outside the
political system, it has not been able to play a role in the financing of
campaigns. Money is needed for active campaigning in highly competitive
contests for: costly communications media, television,
advertising, printing, public opinion polling, staff, organizing volunteers,
fund raising, hiring
political specialists and legislative consultants, and direct-mail appeals
designed to raise more money.
In the U.S. fund-raising is an activity whose purpose is to
encourage voluntary contributions of money to political candidates,
public-interest groups, educational institutions, health-care organizations,
political or religious groups, social-welfare groups, arts and humanities
organizations, and other entities. Many organizations acquire their funds from
private sources, but mostly from business corporations, foundations, and
endowments. Because in the U.S. the government plays a smaller role in
supporting services, fund-raising is of significant importance than in many
other countries. Charitable donations (by individuals or other entities) may be
deducted from federal income tax, subject to restrictions. There is a strong
tradition of donating in the U.S. with its roots in tithing. Many donors make
small contributions on a regular basis. Television and public radio stations
regularly broadcast fund-raising campaigns. For nationwide campaigns,
professional fund-raising staff are employed, who periodically use mail and
direct-contact campaigns. Fund-raising which takes place at the local level is
usually organized by nonprofessionals. These activities also encourage community involvement.
Individuals in the U.S. can give $2,000 to each federal candidate per election and
$5,000 to each Political Action Committee (PAC) or state or local party per
election (federal candidates are candidates for president, vice president,
or Congress). Federal party organizations can receive $25,000 per year from
an individual. Money is not the only way to contribute to federal campaigns.
"In-kind" contributions to campaigns can consist of services, materials,
discounts, or even a space for the candidate to speak. Funds known as "hard money" go directly to support the
election of a candidate. "Soft money" is also used to fund campaigns, but it
is not subject to most campaign laws and is more controversial. The rules
regulating the disclosure of soft money are lenient. It is often used in
issue-oriented advertisements which support a candidate without directly
saying "Vote for this candidate."
For information about campaign finance regulations:
Click here to see contribution limits
For information about U.S. presidential elections:."
As a result of new campaign reform legislation, there are many aspects
of legislation that need to be noted by anyone wishing to study in detail
U.S. campaigns, such as; Issue advertising: Non-profits, unions,
corporations are prohibited from paying for broadcast advertisements if the
ads refer to a specific candidate and run within 60 days before a general
election, or 30 days before a primary. Such ads can be paid for only with
regulated hard money through political action committees (PAC's).
Special interest skeptics are worried about the power
foreign lobbies have to pressure the American government for legislation
favorable to their client nations. They often cite a warning from George
Washington to "beware of foreign entanglements." They also stress that although
Thomas Jefferson and the First Amendment upheld the right of any person or group
to "petition the government for a redress of grievances," many lobbying
activities today exceed the boundaries of Jefferson's original intentions (which
grew out of the British government's refusal to listen to the grievances of the
American colonists, and brought on the American Revolution).
To some observers, a worrying trend in the U.S. is the defiant
attitude some ethnic groups have taken (one recent example was in
Florida when tension escalated in the Hispanic community after a judge ruled that Elian Gonzalez must be returned to his father
in Cuba, resulting in an armed raid to take the boy by force).
There are other signs of societal tension due to smoldering discontent which
have sparked unexpected
and spontaneous incidents (such as after the beating of a black man by
police). The Watts riots in Los Angles in 1965, and other recent violent
outbursts in communities (some between racial, religious, and ethnic groups) are
evidence of unrest among dissatisfied groups who claim to have a sense of being neglected or
discriminated against. Adequate responses to violent outbursts have always been
a problem for authorities in any country.
The point to be made is that even in a society as
democratic as the U.S., uncontrollable and unpredictable group
formations can quickly get the attention of the government. Spontaneous and
violent political demands by groups have taken place also in France, Spain, the
United Kingdom, Italy,
Eastern Europe, Asia, and in Arab nations (some are due to separatist and
ideological movements but the deliberate use of violence is now being associated
with terrorism). In Latin America, for example, armed interest groups became
active after economic discontent had increased. In general, such groups may not
be well-organized, but often link individuals through class, ethnicity, kinship,
religion, or region. Alienation or frustration have led groups, many of which
feel they have nothing to lose, to attempt to overthrow political systems, or
assassinate leaders. The exclusion or non-representation of groups in the the
political system is seen as a root cause of some of these problems. When open
and regular channels of interest representation are adequate, most political
scientists agree that disorder is less likely. It is believed that groups that
have access to effective nonviolent means of communication are less likely to
resort to violent behavior to convey their demands. In multicultural societies
with old and emerging ethnic groups, there is the risk that the hostilities felt
in far-away lands across the globe can bring unrest to these communities that
have ties with these areas.
The Turkish lobby should be more focused on drawing attention to U.S.-Turkish
interests, coalition building and finding common cause with other lobbies. The
Hispanic, Asian, and Arab-Muslim American lobbies will be more powerful in the
future, so long-term strategies should be planned. Cooperation already exists
with the Jewish/pro-Israel lobby. The African-American community is also
becoming more concerned with developments in the Middle East and Africa. One of
the issues of concern to Turkey (which could be a motivating factor for
coalition building) is how to fight terrorism while not turning the Muslim world
against America and the West. A new congressional caucus, or coalition launched
by the Muslim-Arab lobby, could be devoted to ensuring that Islam does not take
the place of Communism as a new enemy. An other issue of concern
is preventing Iraq from sliding into civil war and preventing the radicalization
of extremist groups. A lobbying coalition could bring to attention the fact that
Western security depends on Iraq maintaining its territorial integrity and
becoming a stable nation.
On the subject of Iraq, due to the weakening of ties between numerous allies and
the mishandling of U.S.-Turkish
Turkey has not been able to closely
cooperate, advise, and consult with the State Department and the Pentagon. In
addition to the tensions resulting from a lack of cooperation,
U.S.-Turkish relations have been strained
due to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and the region, the death of
innocent civilians, and attacks on Turks and foreigners. Statements made
by Turkish officials regarding U.S. operations in Felluja-Iraq (which were
likened to a genocide), and to Israeli operations against Palestinians (which
were described as state terrorism) have heightened tensions. In March 2003, relations
had already been damaged
as the U.S. prepared for war and a Turkish parliamentary vote rejected the deployment of
U.S. troops in order to open a northern front from Turkish soil on Iraq.
Relations and trust were further shaken after a July 2003 raid in northern Iraq
forces detained Turkish soldiers (the incident was one of the
most damaging to the Turkish-U.S. alliance because of the treatment of Turkish
soldiers while under detention).
There are many issues of
vital importance that a well-informed Turkish lobby could contribute to
resolving. Most of these issues are related to the role Turkey can play in the
region. Turkey should be better able to communicate concerns to U.S. policymakers, especially regarding the potential destabilization of
the Middle East, growing
anti-Americanism, Kurdish separatist terrorism, and the need to revive the peace process
for the creation of a Palestinian state. Turkey
can contribute more to
helping Americans do an honest assessment of the problems the U.S. is facing in
post-war Iraqi nation-building in order to create a realistic stabilization and
reconstruction plan, and to prevent Iraq
from falling under extremist ideology, or facing civil war.
Future of U.S. Foreign Policy?
Until the end of WWII, the U.S. generally followed an isolationist policy,
fearing foreign entanglements and avoiding involvement in affairs overseas.
Since the end of WWII the U.S. has grown increasingly involved in international
affairs, although U.S. support for international organizations has varied. The future of U.S. foreign policy, and the role of global U.S.
leadership, is being debated around the world.
Examples of various issues of concern to the Turkish
the U.S. :
--A draft bill praising the Turkish government's efforts for a solution in
Cyprus and backing pledged efforts by the U.S. administration and the EU to end
international isolation of Turkish Cypriots was blocked at the very initial
stage of legislation in the U.S. Congress due to efforts by the Greek-Greek
Cypriot lobby. As reported in October 2004, the draft had been presented by the head of the
congressional Turkey caucus,
Congressman Robert Wexler (Democrat-Florida).
--Kurdish lobbying groups seeking self-autonomy in an enlarged
region of Northern Iraq.
--Annual Armenian letter writing campaigns and other lobbying activities calling for April 24 to be a nationwide Armenian genocide
remembrance day. (Armenian-Americans have used various methods to pressure
America to make the Turkish government accept responsibility for the genocide of
1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman government during World War 1.
Armenian-Americans are presently building an Armenian genocide museum in
Washington, D.C. Turkey rejects a genocide took place under the Ottomans, rejects responsibility for reparations,
and has documented evidence that 1.5 million Armenians did not live in the
region in 1915. Turkey also maintains that politicians and legislators should
not, and cannot, take the place of historians. Armenian-Americans also seek to
have bills passed in each state of America, and are lobbying state
For further reading:
Click here for a history of lobbying in the
Click for U.S. Senate glossary
Click for terms used in Congress
Birleşik Devletleri'nde Lobi Faaliyetleri, Nisa Bayramoğlu. Dış Politika
Enstitüsü. Ankara. 1985.
--Amerikada Siyasal Yapı - Lobiler ve Dış Politika, Tayyar Arı, Alfa
Basım, Istanbul, 1997.
--Lobicilik, Müjde Ker Dincer, Alfa Basım, Istanbul, 1999.
Green light turns to yellow in AKP's relations with the US
Last week saw the annual
American-Turkish Council conference in Washington. Turkish and American
business representatives, journalists, politicians and military officers come
together every year in an official forum. What transpired can best be defined
as a bit of business and a bit of international pulse-taking.
MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
Last week in
Washington was the annual American-Turkish Council (ATC) conference. Turkish
and American business representatives, journalists, politicians and military
officers come together every year in an official forum. What transpired can
best be defined as a bit of business and a bit of international pulse-taking.
It is possible to judge
from the organization itself, as well as from statements from the
participants, in which direction Turkish-American relations are headed, and at
what stage they seem to be. If relations are good, there is always high
attendance by the top ranks of American officials; if things are not going
well, though, participation drops and criticism rises. Based on the accounts
of participants this year, people whose word I trust, and also based on the
observations of the Milliyet's Washington representative, Yasemin Congar, the
portrait painted of the current Turkish-American state of relations is fairly
when I add some of the statements made by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff Gen. Peter Pace, who was in both Ankara and Istanbul for unusual
high-level talks recently, as well as consider the speech by U.S. Ambassador
Ross Wilson at Tuesday's TUBC (Turkish-U.S. Business Council) meeting, what I
see is something even more disturbing. And I wanted to share this with
all right in this area during the period when the Justice and Development
Party (AKP) first came to power, in the period preceding the U.S. invasion of
Iraq. The first blow to Turkish-American relations came with the March 1st,
2003 incident in the Turkish Parliament, when the AKP-majority Parliament
voted to reject a bill that would have allowed the United States greater
access to Iraq through Turkey. At least, though, this was a parliamentary
decision and therefore could be perceived as the result of a democratic
process. It was a development that could be explained and that could be met
with understanding. Criticism forthcoming from the United States at this point
was directed more at the Turkish military's General Staff, and at Turkey's
general stance. In time, the damage caused by this blow could be repaired.
And so, the Bush administration didn't hold the AKP responsible for
this development. But the situation is different today. The perception of the
AKP from the U.S. side has begun to change. The AKP has become a party watched
with suspicion, one which has been allocated space on a list of suspects. At
this point, there is not yet a crisis per se in Turkish-American relations.
What there is, though, is something that could be characterized as stomach
pains. The green light, which did not waver just three years ago, has turned
The people guiding foreign policy in the Bush administration are
saying, "There is a feeling that we are not seeing the same thing as Turkey
these days, that there is no deep-rooted sense of trust, and that our shared
goals have not been determined."
The visit by the Hamas delegation to Ankara was the last drop, in
many ways. Despite the fact that a couple of months have passed since it
occurred, the wounds are still fresh. But the Hamas visit is not the only
problem. There are a variety of AKP policies that breed suspicion in
Washington these days. Statements from the prime minister and some AKP members
about Turkish-U.S. relations are managing to strengthen the growing impression
that the party has turned its sights to the East, rather than the European
Superpowers like the United States don't like it when their allies
take very different stances from them. Typically, countries in the position of
being a superpower have the attitude of, "You are our friend, so you must have
the same perspective we do." They are annoyed when different voices emerge.
Turkey is not a satellite belonging to the United States. It is completely
natural that it will have its own policies and that, when necessary, it will
implement these policies. But what has to be paid attention to here is the
fact that we need to calculate what sort of bill we may face at the end of the
road after we have implemented these different policies. As long as the
calculations are correct, there will be no big problems. This is the art of
Let me repeat, there is no crisis in Turkish-American relations,
just tension. These tensions can be conquered if there is action taken and
sensitivity shown, if the situation is taken seriously before things reach a
more serious level. It would not be in the best interests of the AKP, which is
charged with guiding the country and is currently leading Turkey through a
very sensitive economic, political and social period, to enter into a crisis
My terrorist is good, yours is bad: There are
double standards that continue in the face of fighting terrorism. The
Americans have pointed to the Hamas visit and said: "These people have opened
the way to the deaths of innocent people by training suicide bombers, and you,
a country that has suffered so much from PKK terror, extend an official
invitation to them to come to Ankara and accept the position of interlocutor
on their behalf? What kind of mentality is this?" In response to this, the
Turkish side points to Washington's acceptance of Kurdish Diyarbakir Mayor
Osman Baydemir, and says "How is it that you officially welcomed a person who
supports the PKK?" To which the Americans say: "But Baydemir is an elected
politician. And it is under this title that we accepted him." And Ankara's
reply is of course that Hamas, too, like Baydemir, was elected. Even the
Democratic Society Party (DTP) has come forward and given this example, asking
Erdogan why he, a prime minister who met with Hamas, is not meeting with them.
It is a vicious cycle.
Everyone has a different definition of what a terrorist is. It even seems to
get to the point that people say, "If you look at with friendly eyes at the
person I call a terrorist, I will treat the people you see as terrorists as
friends." Sticks are hidden under the robes in this stance. And so you see, no
one is being honest. Everyone is acting according to their own interests. And
double standards appear to reign strong.
ALI H. ASLAN
April 3, 2006
What the 'D' Word Evokes
The organizers of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) conference, which
has brought Turkish and American elite together in Washington for 25 years,
have chosen this year’s main theme as “New Dynamics in U.S.-Turkey Relations.”
Words such as dynamic or dynamism, from the same root, are encouraging.
However, the relatively low level participation in the conference and in the
official/unofficial contacts made on this occasion, did not reflect much of
the desired new dynamics and dynamism.
Perhaps two people who deserved the word “dynamic” most during the
conference were Turkish State Minister Kursad Tuzmen and US Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State Matt Bryza. Because there weren’t any other high level
government representatives, they had to go and fro and deliver speeches here
The interest in the ATC conference is certainly not the only indicator of
Turkish-American relations. But it is also a fact that this platform has been
used for years as a means of showing the strength of relations. Actually,
there is a much better word for describing both this year’s ATC conference and
the current state of Turkish-American relations. That word was used by US
Ambassador to Ankara, Ross Wilson, at the opening of the conference in regard
to Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s cancellation of his visit to Washington for
health reasons: ‘Disappointed’
The word “disappointed” in English is sometimes used to express dismay when
somebody whom you have higher hopes for fails to live up your expectations. It
is also used to convey one’s hearthfelt sadness and regret because something
positive did not happen. American diplomats I talked to insistently emphasized
that the first meaning, definitely, did not allude to Gul. Nonetheless, the
word “disappointed” has kept echoing across my mind throughout last week.
Maybe, because its’ both meanings effectively describe the respective feelings
of US and Turkish governments in recent years...
Though Turkish and US officials, -Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington Nabi
Sensoy and Ambassador Wilson at the top of the list- as required by their
professionalism, have been trying to divert the public’s attention to the
common positive agenda as much as possible, I couldn’t stop my eyes seeing the
things satan exhorted me to see. There is a wide potential for cooperation.
Definitely. However, the problem is how to put it into practice. With the
differences of views, style or priorities on vital issues, the harmony and
cooperation in so many other areas lose much of its value.
In some multiple choice tests, four wrongs annul one correct answer.
Likewise, in the international test arena, you sometimes make such a mistake
that it annuls four of your correct answers. For instance, the Turkish
government’s inviting Hamas to Ankara was such a mistake for Washington. In a
similar manner, the US government’s mistake of not taking a visible action
against PKK terrorist organization in Northern Iraq annuls many correct
answers in its test with Turkey. As a matter of fact, this was the issue that
caused most of the diplomatic encounters among top-level American and Turkish
civilian and military representatives at the ATC panels.
Iraq is the main “focal point” of the US, as expressed by Ambassador
Wilson. Washington sees Turkey has recently been acting much more
constructively in Iraq. However, there is an uncertainty over what kind of
attitude Turkey would ultimately adopt on Iraq unless certain developments to
ease Ankara’s deeply-rooted concerns about the Kurds take place. And this
uncertainty pushes Americans into a mistrust on Turkey. Likewise, the
uncertainty in Iraq, for which they hold US government responsible, perturbs
Ankara and reinforces their anger towards Americans.
America’s second biggest priority in our region after Iraq is Iran. Despite
a consensus on the uneasiness over the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear
weapons, there are serious disagreements over imposing an embargo or launching
a military strike, if necessary. When Turkey has been trying to undertake
independent initiatives and contribute to peace through engagement with Iran,
just as they did with Hamas, Ambassador Wilson could say, “there is no need
for your mediation.” On the other hand, Turkey, which has now become one of
the world’s 20 largest economies wants to jump from the status of a player to
that of a coach. It does not like to be subjected to fait accomplish by US
initiatives aimed at taking complete control over the former Ottoman
territories, including the Black Sea. And although what it confronts is a
global power, Turkey dares challenging it.
In my opinion, this is the latest and most important “dynamic” in
Turkish-American relations. The empire aspirations of both countries clash.
And every step without taking this dynamic into account will continue to pave
the way for “disappointments” on both sides...
THE BIRTH AND GROWTH OF THE TURKISH-AMERICAN COMMUNITY
By Yasemin Dobra - Manço
Istanbul - Turkish Daily News
April 21 and April 22, 2004
Since Sept. 11, the war on terror and the war in Iraq there has been a
greater need for Turkish-Americans to closely monitor U.S. foreign policy for
the mutual interests of Turkey and the United States. However, due to the lack
of institutions devoted to Turkish-American relations, such as think-tanks and
academic centers, many critical issues and viewpoints are not brought to
attention or debated. Due to the small size of the community of Turkish-
Americans and their limited financial resources, they are unable to encourage
the U.S. government to formulate fair and balanced policies that are in the
interests of both nations. Although members of the Turkish-American community
have made great achievements in their professions, their relations with the
media and with U.S. officials are limited. Nor do Turkish-Americans have a voice
in the Republican or Democratic parties.
There are two Turkish-American organizations that merit special attention
for their work to inform and educate the American people about issues of concern
to Turkey and Turkish-Americans. The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA),
located in Washington D.C., and the Federation of Turkish American Associations
(FTAA), located in New York City, have had the difficult job of protecting and
defending mutual interests and of countering biased, defamatory or distorted
information against Turkey and Turkish-Americans.
The difficulties and problems experienced by the Turkish-American
community can be attributed to many factors. One reason is the history of a weak
and passive Turkish-American lobby. The main reason for this is that many
members of the community were born overseas, and were not able to develop the
skills necessary to be involved in complex domestic issues and in the U.S.
political system. Very little research on this ethnic community has been done,
and it is odd that only a few scholars have researched reasons behind the untrue
accusations and negative images that have been created by the self-serving
interests of anti-Turkish lobbies. The community and lobby have thus suffered
because they have not effectively reacted to issues that target their interests.
Turkish-Americans are still trying to devise ways of rapidly responding to
issues as they emerge, as well as strategies that lead to informed involvement
in the political process.
Today the Turkish-American lobby can still be described as an emerging
lobby. Although progress has been made through friends of Turkey in the U.S.
Congress and through the Jewish community and lobby. But the Turkish lobby is
still not very influential. Nor are Turkish-Americans well represented in
mainstream American society, educational institutions or in the media. A great
deal of work needs to be done to create a large informed national
Turkish-American community and to get other ethnic and special interest groups
to promote the objectives and goals of the Turkish lobby. Lobbyists hired by the
Turkish government must also work harder and more effectively to combat those
who seek to undermine and weaken the Turkish lobby.
Over the years the Turkish community has been finding common ground with
other groups and showing interest in issues of concern to other lobbies,
especially regarding trade and business development. This may help in building
coalitions, but the emerging differences of opinion within the U.S. over the war
in Iraq and over how to handle the war on terror, has split various nationwide
lobbies and groups into factions.
Early and recent immigrants
TDN conducted an interview with Dr. Ata Erim, who for decades has been one
of the most active, dedicated and long-serving leaders of the Turkish-American
community. After completing his studies in Turkey, Dr. Erim came to the United
States in 1958 in order to further his medical education. He has been elected
president of the FTAA numerous times since his involvement in the Turkish-
American community, and has just been newly elected president of the FTAA.
TDN discussed with Dr. Erim the composition of the organizations that make
up the Turkish-American community, the Turkish-Turkic heritage in the U.S., and
the size of the community. The FTAA president explained that there are two main
groups that comprise the Turkish-American community: those who have come from
the Turkish Republic, and those from other regions outside Turkey, such as
Cyprus, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Erim further explained,
"Within the FTAA, they operate just as any of our other members and participate
in all our events. Together we make up a community of approximately
500,000-600,000. Only a small percentage have dual nationality, or are U.S.
citizens, but we refer to them all as Turkish-Americans. If more and more could
vote, we would have greater political influence, a stronger lobby, and
contribute more to developing U.S.-Turkish relations. Hopefully one day our
influence will increase as more of them become citizens and there are less
bureaucratic obstacles." He added that all the organizations work together and
want to preserve their cultural heritage and enrich America.
Until recently there have been two major groups of Turkish-Americans. The
first group consists of the early immigrants who came in the late 1800's and
early 1900's. The second group is made up of the recent immigrants who came
after 1950. The difference between the two immigrant groups can be observed in
levels of education and religious practices (with early immigrants being less
educated, more ethnically conscious, and more religious). In general, the more
recent arrivals were better assimilated and were not as concerned with ethnic
preservation as were early immigrants. After these two waves, there is now a
growing group of U.S. born Turkish-Americans, students, businessmen and women
who remain in the U.S. for extended periods. With the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the number of Turkic peoples coming from the Caucasus and Central Asia
has also increased.
The 1950's & 1960's: The big immigration wave
Dr. Erim offered an account of his impressions when he first came to
America and saw no efficiently organized association of Turkish-Americans. It
was in 1968 that he decided to form a Turkish-American Physicians Association in
New York with two doctor friends. He was president of the organization for seven
The newly founded doctor's association began to be involved with the FTAA,
which had been founded in New York in 1956 by four Turkish-American
associations. One of those associations was the Turkish Cultural Association
that was founded in the 1930's by immigrants who came to America at the
beginning of the 1900's. Many of these early immigrants from the Ottoman Empire
were from areas near Elazig and Harput. Dr. Erim remembers in particular Mehmet
Aga from Elazig, who was then active within his very close knit community of
Turks. "They kept their customs and traditions alive. However, they led a very
isolated life, and very few members were involved with the American community.
They even had a cook from Turkey, and some of them never married." Another
founding member of the FTAA was the Turkish Red Crescent, which sought to assist
earthquake victims, and was particularly active in the 1940's after the
devastating Erzincan earthquake that killed over 40,000 people. The other two
founding organizations were the Turkish Aid Society, founded in the 1930's by
Turkish Cypriots, and a Turkish-American friendship society that included
American friends of Turkey.
As Dr. Erim explained, these organizations were not very active because
they functioned very locally. In contrast, today the FTAA has evolved into an
organization that can operate on a state, regional or national level. After the
physician's association formed by Dr. Erim joined the FTAA, "We thought the
newcomers and those who had come previously should be more united and organized.
We also recommended the formation of another organization by engineers and
architects. After 1968, for about two years, we helped to form such groups. Nine
Turkish-American associations soon became members of the FTAA. For example, in
Long Island the Anadolu Club was formed. Then the Crimean Turks Association in
the 1970's," he explained.
Impact of the 1970's: Awakening & a new
Prior to the 1970's, the Turkish-American community in general was
uninterested in political matters, and political activities had been organized
on just a few occasions. When asked which events were significant, Dr. Erim
recalls that it was in 1973 that the first large event was organized to protest
against the massacre of Turks in Cyprus. The massacres, and the Turkish
intervention that followed, galvanized Turkish-Americans into organized action
and also to gather assistance (Turkey intervened in Cyprus in 1974 after the
July 15 coup against the Greek Cypriot president when Greek Cypriots sought to
unite with Greece). Consequently, it was after the mid- 1970's that the FTAA
began to play an important role in the Turkish-American community.
Allegations by the politically motivated Armenian lobby, regarding Turks
and the Ottoman Empire, also led to the beginning of a new consciousness and an
awakening of Turkish-Americans. The killing of Turkish diplomats by Armenian
terrorists, which began in the mid-1970's, also horrified Turkish-Americans.
Within the community a desire arose to provide the American public, as
well as policymakers, with alternative viewpoints and sources of information.
Turkish-Americans also became more concerned with U.S. public opinion and public
relations campaigns. As a result a need for organized action increased in order
to defend and protect Turkish-Americans and to counter the anti- Turkish
Dr. Erim offered further details adding "In the early 1970's, we sought to
get in touch with other Turkish-American communities and encouraged them to form
associations. They included women's groups, Crimean Turks, Azerbaijanis, Turks
from the Balkans, and communities in Connecticut, Boston and elsewhere in New
Also by the mid-1970's, while Sitki Coskun was Consul General, the Turkish
Center located across the United Nations was purchased. For the first time an
impressive multi-story building could be used as a headquarters from where
activities could be planned, as well as held.
The 1980's: Faced with terror
Throughout the 1980's an even greater effort was made to unite, protect,
and defend the Turkish-American community. Interest also focused on creating an
organized way of assisting and guiding Turkish-Americans who lived in the United
By the early 1980's, Armenian genocide allegations were accompanied by
Armenian terrorism in the U.S. and throughout the world. "Until then we were not
aware of the so called 'Armenian genocide' issue because in Turkey we had not
been taught about such allegations," Dr. Erim said referring to the alleged
genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. At the time Turkish diplomats
were being killed one after another. "The Consul General Teyfik Unaydin was the
one who encouraged us to do something to organize the Turkish- American
community amidst the terror threats," he notes.
"In 1981, we organized a march to condemn Armenian terrorism. The turnout
was very low, at the most 200 people. Many people were afraid to come and feared
being killed by Armenian terrorists. As the killing of Turkish diplomats around
the world continued after 1982, we decided to organize another march to protest
and condemn international terrorism," he recounts.
At the time Americans were fortunate not to have experienced major acts of
international terrorism within the shores of the homeland. The Turkish- American
interest to draw attention to the dangers of terrorism may have singled
Turkish-Americans out, rather than to have helped their assimilation into
mainstream society. Today however, Americans, Turks, and Turkish- Americans are
faced with an entirely new situation.
While discussing plans for the next march Dr. Erim explained, "We started
to contact members of the Jewish community and they advised us that instead of
condemning Armenians, Turks should introduce themselves to the American public
as a Turkish-American community and have a day in honor of this, just as
Italian-Americans, Jewish Americans, or Irish Americans." The Jewish community
to which Dr. Erim refers, pays great attention to U.S. foreign policy and is
also known as the pro-Israel lobby. Though there are many subgroups of American
Jews, this lobby is one of the most powerful, resourceful, efficient, and highly
organized lobbies in the U.S., with many of its well-educated members holding
important positions in leading organizations.
Participation and interest in events kept growing he says and "After the
third year of organizing we called that day the 'Turkish-American Day Parade.'
By gathering Turkish-Americans together we enabled them to be proud of their
Turkish origins in America, and to take be conscious of a sense of their roots.
More and more Turkish-Americans increasingly became aware of the issues that
were of concern to the community."
Because it is believed that diversity enhances America and its cultural
mosaic, since the 1960's ethnic communities in general have become more active
in keeping their culture alive (today there is less pressure for newcomers to
assimilate into mainstream U.S. culture than there was at the time of the early
immigrants -- unlike in France for example, where assimilation is encouraged
rather than multiculturalism.) Due to new technologies, these communities are
also more closely in touch with their country of origin, which can be beneficial
for building bridges.
On the subject of the development of the Turkish-American lobby, Dr. Erim
stated, "Over the years some of our members became involved in lobbying and
began forming committees, because the FTAA cannot be involved in political
The 1990's: Embracing ethnic identity
The 10th anniversary celebration of the first march was held in 1991. "The
turnout was the most impressive ever, with 20,000 participants. This was a great
accomplishment when you consider that we had started out with just 150- 200
people at the first march, and only a few congressmen and political figures who
supported the Turkish-American community, like Jim Moody, Stephen Solarz, and
Joe DioGuardi. As each year passed, we learned how to better organize ourselves
and to learn from our experiences. We began displaying floats, contacting other
ethnic communities, and promoting a variety of cultural events," Dr. Erim said
He continued to describe how one year they brought together leaders of
different religions: a priest from the Orthodox Church, a rabbi and an imam.
Models of a synagogue, church and mosque were also displayed during the parade.
He remarked that once the community began to coordinate their activities with
other organizations from across the U.S., the number of organizations who became
members of the FTAA increased. At present there are 40 organizations that are
members, and according to Dr. Erim approximately four out of five
Turkish-Americans are represented by the FTAA.
"With time we also learned how important it was to have an educated
Turkish- American community. We also learned how to develop contacts with other
lobbies, the most important and influential being the Jewish lobby. We came in
contact mostly with members of the Sephardic community, and with individuals
whose ancestors were from Turkey. Although very few of them spoke Turkish, they
were very much in love with Turkey. On numerous occasions when accusations were
directed at Turks, they stood up in support of Turks and Turkey. We also had
reactions from members of other Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation
League, Bnai Brith, the American Jewish Committee, and the World Jewish
Congress. As a matter of fact, when I established the World Turkish Congress, I
modeled it after the World Jewish Congress," he explained.
In 1988, together with an Ashkenazi Jewish group, the FTAA organized a
symposium at Yeshiva University on "500 Years of Turkish-Jewish Relations." The
speakers all had a very favorable image of Turkey says Dr. Erim and "after this
we began organizing more conferences."
By 1992, the FTAA transformed the one-day event that was focused on the
Turkish Day Parade, into a week of celebrating Turkish-American heritage.
"Turkish Week" sought to encourage the participation of teachers and professors,
as well as the Turkish-American youth in order to prepare them for the future
and educate them about the truth behind the so-called Armenian genocide, says
the FTAA president. As the years passed, "Turkish Week" evolved into a
month-long "Festival of Turkish Culture." He elaborated, "Many of the organizers
of the events, and the participants, seek and find sponsors from Turkey and we
help them coordinate the planned activities with members of the community." The
Turkish-American community now also includes a growing number of student
2000 and beyond
Other events that have stimulated organized activity by members of the
Turkish-American community include the devastating terrorist attacks on Sept.
11. Once again, the Turkish-American community, which had already suffered great
pain due to the terrorism targeting Turks in the '70's and 80's, was mobilized
against terrorism. Both Turkey and Turkish-Americans showed their solidarity
with America and the victims from around the world. The Turkish- American
community not only organized protests against terror, but also displayed strong
support for the U.S. fight against terrorism. After the series of bombings in
Istanbul in November 2003, the Turkish-American community once again came
together to condemn terrorism. Grief was especially shared with the Jewish
community in Turkey and with Jews from around the world because two of the
attacks targeted the Jewish community. Other issues which have united
Turkish-Americans include U.S. economic and foreign policies, Turkey's planned
European Union entry, Turkish reforms, NATO restructuring, negotiations over
Cyprus, cooperation in the energy sector, and bilateral trade and investment.
As the need for greater cooperation between the two allies grows, and as
U.S. elections are nearing, Turkish-Americans and other lobbies should become
mobilized to work together for international peace and prosperity while
protecting American interests. The worldwide challenges to U.S. foreign policy
might therefore serve in some way as catalysts for solidarity.
However, because certain U.S. policies have caused a rift among allies,
and even within NATO, a study should be undertaken to evaluate the impact of the
war in Iraq on the Turkish-American lobby, as well as on the lobbies of other
U.S. allies, such as France, Spain, Britain, Greece and Italy. A better
understanding of developments would help prevent the estrangement of ethnic
groups and disunity within America due to different views at a time of war.
Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, was a key U.S. ally during
the 1991 Gulf War, and has participated in missions in Korea, Somalia, Kosovo,
and Afghanistan. Turkey has supported the U.S. in its fight against terrorism,
and is awaiting U.S. action to fight terrorists that target Turkey. But despite
a history of shared interests, Turkey's geo-strategic importance, and
experiences in fighting terrorism, the Turkish-American community does not
appear to be united with a strong enough voice that can draw attention to the
many pressing issues that have arisen since Sept. 11. Domestic uncertainties in
Turkey have also made it very difficult for the Turkish lobby to formulate
long-term strategies and maintain consistent positions. At a time when national
security is a mutual priority, a weak lobby is neither in the interests of
Turkey nor America. A more active lobby would be instrumental in strengthening
cooperation between the two allies during this critical period when a lack of
security is igniting a highly volatile region.
Upcoming festival celebrates Turkish-American
Just as in previous years, leaders and members of the Federation of
Turkish American Associations (FTAA) are preparing a month-long Festival of
Turkish Culture that will bring Turks from around the nation to the New York
area. The series of events, beginning on April 23, will include concerts,
cultural programs, exhibitions, conferences, food fairs, crafts displays, and
the performance of a Turkish military band. The 23rd anniversary celebration of
the Turkish Day Parade will be the highlight of the activities planned for May.
Traditionally, many Turks set that day aside to celebrate their Turkish-
American heritage, and exchange news and greetings when they gather across the
United Nations at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. Although the major concentrations of
Turkish-Americans are along the eastern coast, with concentrations around New
York State, the month-long events also attract Turkish-Americans from smaller
communities throughout the U.S.
The events also aim to cultivate cultural exchanges with Americans,
introduce a greater number of Americans to Turkish culture, and indulge in
Turkish delicacies while enjoying Turkish music, dance and art (for more
information on upcoming events see www.ftaa.org).
Members of the Washington-based Assembly of Turkish American Associations
(ATAA) will also be traveling to New York from across America. Among the
numerous Turkish-American organizations operating in the U.S., these two
organizations merit special attention for raising the political conscience of
Turkish-Americans and for educating policymakers and the general public. The ATAA, founded in 1979, is an umbrella organization of 57 Turkish American
associations from the US, Canada and Turkey. Located in the nation's capital,
the organization follows legislative issues and calls on Turkish-Americans to
act at state and national levels against campaigns targeting Turkey and the
heritage of Turkish Americans (to learn more about issues concerning the Turkish
American community visit the comprehensive Web site at
Both the FTAA and ATAA work as sister-associations, seeking to link all
Turkish-American communities while also striving to create an informed
Turkish-American community that can help foster US-Turkish relations and take an
active part in promoting a truthful picture of Turkey in the U.S. The ATAA also
seeks to educate Americans in government, the media, and the public at large
about Turkey. Due to its representative role in the capital, the ATAA holds an
annual convention in Washington, enabling greater visibility for the
Turkish-American community. Under the leadership of ATAA president Ercument
Kilic, ATAA launched a new program to strengthen local organizations by awarding
grants for project proposals that aim to serve the interests of the community.
In cooperation with TUSIAD businessmen's organization, the ATAA also oversees a
U.S. Congress Internship Program for Turkish-American students.