March 23, 2015, Washington, D.C. – The 5th Annual Turkic American Convention & Business Summit took place on March 17-19, 2015 in Washington D.C. The convention began by an informal Welcome Breakfast at Turkic American Alliance headquarters on March 17, at 9:00 AM ET. Drawing more than 100 guests, the breakfast was followed by the Grand Opening of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group’s Washington D.C. Broadcasting Center.
Guests reconvened at the TAA headquarters to participate in the grand opening at 1:00 PM ET on Tuesday, March 17. Distinguished guests were invited to speak at the ceremony which was being broadcasted live to Turkey and the rest of the world. Distinguished guests underscored the importance of journalism and praised Samanyolu Broadcasting Group for the strides it has made in the 22 years since its inception.
TAA formally welcomed the guests to the convention at 5:30 PM ET on March 17, at the Welcome Reception hosted at the Russell Senate Office Building. Autria Godfrey of ABC7 News served as the Mistress of Ceremonies. Senator Roger Wicker (Mississippi) and Senator Martin Heinrich (New Mexico) were keynote speakers during the event, while Senators Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Angus King (Maine), Tim Kaine (Virginia), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), Bob Menendez (New Jersey), John Boozman (Arkansas), as well as Representatives Robb Wittman (Virginia’s 1st), Pete Olson (Texas’ 22nd), Jim Himes (Connecticut’s 4th), Charlie Dent (Pennsylvania’s 15th), Mike Honda (California’s 17th) and Brenda Lawrence (Michigan’s 14th) took the podium to share their thoughts with the audience.
Guests reconvened on the morning of March 18, at 8:00 AM ET for a business breakfast meeting at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally, Executive Director of SelectUSA was the keynote speaker at the breakfast, while Representative Paul Tonko (New York’s 20th), board member of TACC, Gokhan Ozkok, and Vice President of Tuskon, Ahmet Ciger, also took the stage to make some remarks.
Throughout the convention, guests from around the world, accompanied by business leaders from the U.S. and TAA Member Federations and Councils, had meetings with U.S. Government officials and Members of the U.S. Congress. The convention culminated with the Gala Reception at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. on March 18, at 6:30 PM ET.
Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southern and Central Asian Affairs, Richard E. Hoagland was the keynote speaker at the Gala, while numerous other distinguished guests were given a chance to address the crowd that filled the Willard room within a few minutes of doors opening.
Overall, the 5th Annual Turkic American Convention & Business Summit hosted over 800 guests, from as many as 15 different countries and all corners of the United States. In total, more than 100 Members of the U.S. Congress participated in the meetings and other activities within the convention. TAA also had the pleasure of hosting numerous distinguished guests from abroad, including Former Georgian Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Roman Gotsiridze, Vice Chairman of U.S. India Investors Forum, Munaj Gursahani, National Chairman of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kiprono Kittony, Chairman of Jaiz Bank of Nigeria, Umaru Mutallab, Members of Parliament from Mongolia, Khurelbaatar Chimed and Sainkhuu Ganbaatar, Members of the Grand National Assembly, Ilhan Isbilen, Aykan Erdemir and Enver Erdem, as well as numerous ambassadors to the U.S. and many others.
Overall, the 5th Annual Turkic American Convention & Business Summit was a great success, thanks to event organizers, Turkic American Alliance, Turkic American Chamber of Commerce and TUSKON; sponsors – Samanyolu TV, Today’s Zaman, Nema Food, Clear Chair Store, Best in Town: Restaurant Equipment, Buy 4 Store, DonerG, Design: Furniture and Lab Systems, Sanoxy, UniMed, ALP Insurance and Financial, Cabinet Distribution Center, Cluo Energy, Pera Construction, United Granite and USA Cabinet Store; and of course, our most eminent guests.
March 19, 2015, Washington D.C. – Representatives of Ahiska Turks from all over the United States came to Washington, D.C. to participate at the 5th Annual Turkic American Convention & Business Summit between March 17 and March 19, 2015. More than 80 Ahiska Turks from Seattle (WA), Colorado, Springfield (IL), Louisville (KY), Houston (TX), Arizona, Dayton (OH), Wheaton (IL), Hagerstown (MD), Philadelphia (PA), Charlotte (NC) and Atlanta (GA) came to D.C. and took part in various activities throughout their stay in Washington D.C.
Turkic American Alliance greeted the Ahiska guests with a breakfast early at 8:00 AM ET on Tuesday, March 17. Following the breakfast, some of the guests were given a presentation on Washington D.C. and TAA’s activities in the capital of the United States. Later, the guests witnessed the grand opening of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group’s new Washington D.C. Broadcasting Studio, a ceremony which was being televised live to Turkey and other parts of the world. After the ceremony, the guests went to Capitol Hill to meet respective U.S. Representatives and Senators that represent them on the federal level. At 5:30 PM ET on Tuesday evening, they attended the Welcome Reception hosted by TAA at the Russell Senate Office Building.
Ahiska guests started the 2nd day of the convention with a breakfast at TAA’s headquarters on March 18, at 8:00 AM. After the breakfast, President of the Turkic American Alliance, Dr. Faruk Taban addressed the guests to thank them for coming from all parts of the country to add to the diversity at the convention, as well as giving them a preview of what they should expect to come later during the day. Later during the day our guests toured the U.S. Congress, the Library of Congress as well as other landmark destinations throughout the city and participated at the convention’s main event, the Gala Reception at the Willard InterContinental Hotel at 6:30 PM ET. Sarvar Tedorov, an Ahiska community leader took the podium during the gala to share his remarks with the rest of the participants. He thanked the organizers for putting together the event and extended his welcome to all the guests.
On Thursday, March 19, some of the guests that were in Washington D.C. for the 5th Annual Turkic American Convention had the opportunity to attend a briefing at the White House Conference Center, at which they were given information regarding new policy initiatives of the Obama administration, ranging from immigration to healthcare.
Ahiska Turks, also known as Meskhetian, or Meskheti Turks, who speak an Eastern Anatolian dialect of Turkish, are former inhabitants of the region known as Meskheti in Georgia. After enduring forced deportation and intimidation throughout the World War II and Soviet times, Ahiska Turks are now scattered around the globe, but remain primarily in post-Soviet countries. Academics estimate that there are approximately half a million Ahiska Turks in the world today, with almost 10,000 in the United States. The largest Ahiska community in the United States is presumed to be in Dayton, Ohio, where there are as many as 2,500 Ahiska Americans. Other cities with vibrant Ahiska communities are Phoenix, AZ, Salt Lake City, UT, Wheaton and Springfield, IL.
March 19, 2015, Washington, D.C. – Nearly 100 international guests from 15 different countries travelled to Washington D.C. to participate at the 5th Annual Turkic American Convention & Business Summit on March 17-19, 2015. Guests from Azerbaijan, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tajikistan, Tanzania and Turkey arrived at the capital of the United States on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 to take part in the convention, meet their counterparts from other countries as well as from various parts of the world and to build relationships that would foster mutual understanding, cooperation, trade and investment.
Some distinguished guests that made up the delegations from these countries were Kiprono Kittony, National Chairman of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Umaru Mutallab, Chairman of Jaiz Bank of Nigeria, Members of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Aykan Erdemir, Ilhan Isbilen and Enver Erdem, Members of the Parliament from Mongolia, Sainkhuu Ganbaatar and Khurelbaatar Chimed, Vice Chairman of U.S. India Investors Forum, Munaj Gursahani and former Deputy Prime Minister of Georgia, Dr. Roman Gotsiridze.
Guests were greeted with a breakfast at 8:00 AM ET on March 17 at the Turkic American Alliance’s headquarters, during which they were given their schedules and programs for the convention. Later that day, at 1:00 PM ET, some of the guests attended Samanyolu Broadcasting Group’s Grand Opening ceremony of Washington, D.C. Broadcasting Studio. Throughout the day international guests attended meetings at the U.S. Department of State, where they met with American foreign policy officials, as well as Capitol Hill, where they met with U.S. Representatives, Senators and congressional staff. At 5:30 PM ET, guests attended the formal Welcome Reception at the Russell Senate Office Building.
On Wednesday, March 18, international guests met at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for a business breakfast meeting at 8:00 AM ET. During this meeting, they were familiarized with SelectUSA by its executive director, Amb. Vinai Thummalapally. Throughout the day, guests toured Washington D.C., while some continued their meetings with U.S. officials, ambassadors of their countries to the U.S. and elected representatives in Congress. At 6:30 PM ET, guests attended the Gala Reception at the Willard InterContinental Hotel.
March 18, 2015, Washington, D.C. – 5th Annual Turkic American Convention & Business Summit commenced with the Gala Reception held at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. The doors opened for guests at 6:30 PM ET and approximately 500 participants filled the room within minutes. The reception was hosted by Lamija Silajdzic from Turkic American Alliance and started with an introductory video about TAA and welcoming remarks from TAA President, Dr. Faruk Taban.
Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southern and Central Asian Affairs, Richard E. Hoagland was the keynote speaker of the event. PDAS Hoagland spoke about the state of relations between the U.S. and Central Asian countries, talked about the New Silk Road Initiative and the benefits it will have for Central Asian countries in the future. Former Ambassador Hoagland also validated the concerns of many regarding the recent issues surrounding Ukraine, and reassured everyone that the United States stands with those countries who struggle for their territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Senator Christopher Coons (Delaware) took the podium to thank everybody for a wonderful event. He urged everyone to look for deeper, more meaningful relationships with one another, as well as expressing his hope for more profound understanding between the nations represented at the convention.
Secretary of State of Maryland, John Wobensmith was also invited to the stage to share his remarks. Secretary Wobensmith praised the even, noting “this event is a wonderful example of how the U.S. can improve business relations with others.” He also presented a Citation, signed by Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan, recognizing the 5th Annual Turkic American Convention.
Congressman Al Green (Texas’s 9th) took the podium to thank the organizers of the event and praised their efforts to build long-term relationships. Robert Aderholt (Alabama’s 4th) welcomed the guests and urged everyone to redouble their efforts in increasing the trade volume between the U.S. and countries represented at the gala. Representative Henry Cuellar (Texas’s 28th) underscored the high participation, saying “[this] shows respect we have for Turkey and the U.S. as great partners.”
U.S. Representative Brendan Boyle (Pennsylvania’s 13th) made a statement by reiterating that he was a “proud supporter of Turkic communities.” Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania’s 8th) thanked the Turkic community in his own district for their supportive constituency.
Representative Doug LaMalfa (California’s 1st) praised the gala and said “[these] positive relationships we are building tonight are very important.” Dana Rohrabacher (California’s 48th) noted that “Turkic people will play an ever more important role in years to come.”
Hakeem Jeffries (New York’s 8th) emphasized the level of relationship between Turkey and the U.S. by saying “what is good for Turkey is good for the United States, what is good for the United States is good for the world.” Representative Bonnie Watson-Coleman (New Jersey’s 12th) stated that she was looking forward to learning about issues that were important to the guests at the gala.
Congressman Bill Keating (Massachusetts’s 9th) gave encouragement to the guests by noting “you are the voices we listen to. We will work together and make Turkish and U.S. economies better.” Alan Grayson (Florida’s 9th) underlined that Turkey represents the future of the Middle East and Central Asia. Congresswoman Robin Kelly (Illinois’s 2nd) also said that Turkey ought to be a role model for the rest of the world.
Some distinguished guests from various countries also took the stage to share their ideas with the audience. Ahiska community leader Sarvar Tedorov noted that justice is really important and that the U.S. has shown its commitment to justice by hearing his community’s concerns. Dr. Joni Apakidze, Rector of the Sokhumi State University, thanked the organizers and the guests for the event. Independent Member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey representing Izmir, Hon. Ilhan Isbilen remarked “we are all aware that the world is need for this kind of gatherings.” Manoj Gursahani, Vice Chairman of the U.S. India Investors Forum, took the stage to thank everybody for organizing a great convention. Ambassador of Uganda, Her Excellency Oliver Wonekha said “I bring Uganda to the relationship of Turkey and the U.S.” Member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey representing Bursa Hon. Aykan Erdemir (CHP – Republican People’s Party) noted that he was glad that he had a chance to participate at the convention. Ahmet Ciger, Vice President of TUSKON thanked the Turkic American Alliance for its efforts to promote dialogue. Member of the Parliament from Mongolia, Hon. Ganbaatar Sainkhu said that his country wished for the handshakes that were happening in the room that night. Her Excellency, Liberata Mulamula, the Ambassador of Tanzania to the U.S.