March 17, 2013

A bridge from the US to the Turkic world

Arzu Kaya Uranlı

I was at the third convention of the Turkic American Association (TAA) and the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists’ (TUSKON) mutual event: the annual Turkic American Convention (TAC) in Washington, D.C., last week.

The event started with a cruise on the Potomac River on Tuesday evening then continued all day long at the Marriott Hotel on Wednesday.

TAC is the largest annual meeting that concentrates on empowering political, social and economic relationships between Turkic countries.

The theme this year was “energy, trade and development.” It focused on improving the existing partnerships between the Turkic world and the US and increasing economic cooperation and new opportunities between those countries.

TAA is the largest national Turkic organization in the US. It represents six regional federations, 200 community association, cultural centers, business associations, education institutions and private schools. Also, TUSKON is the largest nongovernmental business organization in Turkey. It consists of federations, 176 business associations, 45,000 businesspeople and 120,000 companies.

Although TAA is a very young non-profit umbrella organization that was established only three years ago, it organizes amazing events to bring the Turkic world and the US together.

In 17 years in the United States I’ve never witnessed such an impressive Turkic American event. At the event there were eight US senators and 50 congressmen, while there were eight members of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), seven from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and three mayors from Turkey.

They made very inspirational speeches. Many positive remarks were made during the two-day program concerning Turkey’s remarkable economic progress and its growing importance in the Middle East as a unique Muslim democratic country -- a model for Muslim countries in the Middle East

US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher from California expressed how he felt about the status of Turkey and the Turkish people in the US: “One hundred years ago Turkey was known as ‘the sick man of Europe,’ but now the whole world thinks it is terrific.“

Rohrabacher said: “Over the last 24 years, Turkish people have been very quiet and have never argued their case in the US. In those years we never heard Turkish voices in Washington, D.C. I don’t know if they were embarrassed about something. However, now they are confident, and they assert their needs, and they say what they want as equals. Turkish Americans in the US and the Republic of Turkey are both doing a wonderful job nowadays. I am glad you are active.”

There were also memorable remarks from many US senators and congressman from various states. They indicated that the Turkish American communities in their regions take an important role in the economic and political relationship between Turkey and the US. Also, they contribute greatly to the cultural fabric. Many of them have visited Turkey, and after those trips their belief in the Turkish American relationship has grown stronger.

Participants from parliaments in Turkey and Turkic countries and local politicians from İstanbul, Antalya, Rize and Turkey and businessmen from Turkey and Turkic countries said that since Turkey has changed its economic policies and opened its economy to the world, there has been a tremendous change in Turkey that has made Turkey a leader of the Turkic world.

Bülent Keneş, editor-in-chief of Sunday’s Zaman, participated in one of the events as a speaker and talked about the effect of “soft power” on Turkey’s rapid development. Mr. Keneş mentioned the elements of soft power that Turkey has used very successfully in recent years and how this progress affected Turkey’s confidence in Europe and Middle East.

While Mr. Keneş was summarizing how Turkey has improved since the reforms of the Turgut Özal government in 1980, he also pointed out that civil society in Turkey, especially the Hizmet movement, has made a very important contribution to this progress. Keneş said, “Hizmet led to Turkey’s active presence in more than 150 countries around the world and has made a very crucial contribution to Turkey’s progress.

In conclusion, it was great to hear all those wonderful remarks about Turkey from very important politicians from the US and the whole Turkic world. It clearly shows that a new era has started for the Turkic world in the 21st century. Turkey has worked hard for this result, but we still have much more to do to maintain this progress. TAA’s meeting is proof that we have much to look forward to in the future.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 17 March 2013, Sunday
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