U.S. Turks aim to change image

Washington Times, DC
Feb 17 2008

U.S. Turks aim to change image

By Svitlana Korenovska
February 17, 2008

A Washington-based organization is spearheading a drive to correct
what it sees as common misconceptions about Turkey, hoping to change
how Americans see the massacre of Armenians in World War I and
educate them about Turkey’s role in rebuilding Iraq.

The Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) already has
organized meetings in 11 cities and will continue to tour the United
States with meetings and lectures in an additional 19 cities.

The program, inspired by ATAA President Nurten Ural, aims to teach
Turkish Americans how to be more active citizens and how to defend
and promote themselves in American society.

According to a Turkish Embassy registry, there are about 150,000
Turks living in the United States. ATAA puts the number at 250,000,
counting ethnic-Turkish immigrants from countries other than Turkey.

The assembly, representing more than 60 leading Turkish-American
organizations across the country, sees its main goals as explaining
Turkey’s account of the Armenian massacres and overcoming common
prejudices against Turks.

The effort by the Turkish-American assembly will have to counter a
strong Armenian lobby in the United States. Several U.S. cities –
especially in California, Michigan and Massachusetts – have large
Armenian populations with considerable political influence. One
estimate put the number of Armenian Americans at 1.5 million.

The Armenian lobby won a significant victory in October when, despite
an appeal from President Bush, the House Foreign Affairs Committee
passed a resolution describing the killing of Armenians by Ottoman
Turks as genocide.

As many as 1 million Armenians died at the hands of the Ottoman
Empire during World War I, according to the Armenians, who describe
the deaths as genocide. Turks acknowledge that large numbers of
people died, but they object to the use of the word genocide.

"We are seeking dialogue with Armenian Americans. Rather than
monologue on the Armenian perspective, we want broad and deep debate
regarding all the facts and the law," said Gunay Evinch, the
president-elect of the ATAA.

"I would like to be clear that in no way does the Turkish-American
community or Turkey deny the massacres of Armenians," Mr. Evinch
said.

"We also call for sincere attention to the 1.1 million Muslims and
Jews who perished during the Armenian Revolt, 1885-1919, in the same
area of eastern Ottoman Anatolia and under the same conditions under
which Armenians died. The truth we seek is the complete truth."

The organization also wants Americans and their government to better
understand what Turkey is doing to help the United States in Iraq.

The ATAA points out that Turkey has made large donations to Iraq for
humanitarian purposes and construction work, while helping with
military training and in establishing a dialogue among Iraq groups
and factions.

Mr. Evinch said he worries that the image of Turkish Americans will
be hurt by television shows that depict people of Turkish heritage as
Islamic terrorists.

"There wasn’t one [event] in American history, let alone European
history, when we had Turkish people engaged in Islamic terrorism," he
said.

217/FOREIGN/44180980/1003

http://washingtontimes.com/article/20080

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