An interview with Mr. Ergün Kırlıkovalı, Former President the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA)
A.T:The USA or Türkiye – which one of these two countries has gained more benefits from the ATAA activities so far?
The ATAA produced many benefits for both countries. Moreover, being helpful for Türkiye and the United States to better understand each other, our organization has contributed to improvement of relations between our two countries and brought an added value to this field.
A.T:What was the most valuable support received by the ATAA from the Turkish origin citizens of the US? And what about the counter course: would you please tell our readers about the most valuable support provided by your organization to the Turkish community of the USA?
The greatest support provided by the Americans of the Turkish origin has always been their participation in the anti-defamation campaigns initiated by the ATAA to fight against anti-Turkish and anti-Islamic propaganda. Involvement of the Turkish Americans has crucial importance for exposure and neutralization of such vilification campaigns. Concerning the support provided by the ATAA to the Americans of Turkish origin, is the fact that the ATAA has always been their eyes, ears, and voice in Washington DC.
A.T:“Two States of One Nation” is an expression composed to display the brotherhood of Türkiye and Azerbaijan. In our country it was grasped with great love and turned to a proverb. Now, is the ATAA open for the US citizens of the Azerbaijani descent equally as open it is for those of the Turkish origin?
The ATAA believes in the expression “Two States of One Nation” whole-heartedly. We adopted it with the great fervor. Many of our campaigns and projects until now were carried out under the common umbrella of the Americans of both Azerbaijani and Turkish descent. In accordance with the organizational philosophy of the ATAA, we see no difference between Americans of Turkish or Azerbaijani origin.
A.T.: Do you applaud American Turks who manage to find a respectful balance between own traditional cultural values and the equality of all nationalities in the USA? Do you feel different when a person of the Turkish origin builds a joint business or a family with partners of another ethnic entity?
My answer to your first question is yes. Cultural festivals are held all over the USA every year with enthusiastic participation of our Turkish, Azerbaijani and other Turkic brothers. All these people are Americans and are very valuable members of their local society – they work hard, obey the law, pay their taxes, vote in elections, are active in charity work, and participate in every aspect of social life. They are not different from any other American, while, at the same time, they always stay loyal to their own cultural values.
A.T.: Would you please introduce your upcoming activities devoted to the 100th anniversary of the August 30 Victory Day. And what about your expectations from Türkiye itself – what would you like the government and citizens there to prepare for this anniversary?
Every year on August 30, when the summer days are hottest, Turkish Americans organize family picnics at beaches and other recreation areas. At these traditional picnics, we educate our youth on this subject with some holiday-related presentations. Americans of Azerbaijani origin also show great interest in these activities. Turkish diplomats attending these events are asked to make speeches. If the Turkish Government and/or Turkish NGOs could organize cultural summer camps of 2-3 weeks for our American-born children at reasonable prices, it would help our kids to learn more about their cultural heritage.
A.T: It is obvious that Türkiye and Armenia oppose each other on many political platforms. Frankly, they were even enemies once. Now, official relations between these two states are starting to turn from negative to normal. Is it difficult to talk on this issue in the USA?
During last 100-150 years, the Armenians have waged anti-Turkish, anti-Azerbaijani and anti-Islamic propaganda in the USA, and managed to create a negative perception in mainstream America. Of course, Christian churches and missionaries with their anti-Turkish and anti-Islam sentiments, bias, and teachings had a lot to do with this outcome For more scholarly information on this, I recommend the book “Turks in America: The Creation of an Enduring Prejudice” by Prof. Justin McCarthy, who had researched this matter during most of his career. Being Turkish Americans, we constantly fight these smears, slanders, and lies, but often our rebuttal messages appear either shortened format or do not appear at all, censored completely. It is necessary to continue this struggle without getting tired, upset, fed up, or intimidated.
A.T.: What are 3 important issues that, as the head of the ATAA, you would like to touch in Azerbaijani media published in English?
As the former president of the ATAA during the 2021-2013 term, I would like to bring to the attention of our readers the following 3 issues:
1) For the long term: Educate our youth well:
Good education in the USA is expensive. Getting into good universities is not just about being successful in studies. In addition to high grades, it is necessary to be active in social responsibility projects. Young people with high grades, who show leadership skills in social activities I have listed below, will definitely get into the best universities. Also, encourage our successful youth to consider a career in politics.
2) For the medium term: Be more active in your own region:
I would like Turkish and Azerbaijani Americans to be more involved in the US social and political life. I would like them to join as volunteers to charitable organizations around them. I recommend that they help the poor, the homeless, and the disabled, protect animals and nature more actively. I suggest that they show interest in politics, have a good dialogue with the elected officials, support the candidates, join their fundraising and get-out-the-vote campaigns. If we do all these, then Turkish and Azerbaijani communities will be more recognized, better known and loved in America.
3) For the short term: Immediately oppose any unfair, misleading, and defamatory political initiatives and projects:
For example, the initiative no. A4734 pending in the New York State Senate wants the alleged Armenian genocide to be taught in schools along with regular lessons. The draft no. AJR 27 pending currently in the California Assembly wants to add the baseless Greek and Assyrian genocide claims to the baseless Armenian genocide claims. The author, not surprisingly, is an ethnic Armenian politician, Nazarian. There may be other initiatives like these. Before these resolutions pass, write your state senators and other elected officials in your area as soon as possible. Any information you need is available on the internet. Sit down and write, so that politicians realize that you also live, work, pay taxes, and vote in the USA. There is a good saying in our folklore tradition: “A child, who does not cry, is not given a milk.” We will talk, we will write, and we will continue to fight injustice, so that our existence will be discovered. Peace.
A.T.: Thank you very much, dear Ergün bey. May the ATAA’s noble activities be always successful and effective!
All-American Khojaly Rally held in Washington
On the 30th anniversary of the Khojaly Genocide All American Khojaly Rally was held in Washington on Saturday, February 26 near the US Capitol building at the initiative of the members of Azerbaijan- New York Association, Trend reports with reference to State Committee for Work with Diaspora. The Azerbaijanis, as well as the diaspora members of other friendly countries residing in different parts of the US took part in the crowded rally and rose Azerbaijani, Turkish and the US flags…