July 14, 2008
Washington, DC - July 14, 2008 - The Turkish Coalition of America today announced a grant for 10,000 USD to be competitively awarded to a select number of Turkish American associations in a nationwide effort to establish a special outreach and assistance program for the Ahiska Turkish community in the United States.
Ahiska Turks take their names from the historical homeland which is situated within the borders of the current Republic of Georgia . After World War II, Stalin sent Ahiska Turks to exile and forcibly settled them in different parts parts of the former Soviet Union . After the break-up of the Soviet Union , Ahiska Turks once again became unwanted in the former Soviet states. They were withheld full citizenship rights by the new Republics and faced discrimination and persecution. In other words, Ahiska Turks became "heimatlos" in the countries in which they had lived for generations. They lost all their citizenship rights and faced severe discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity and religion. Ahiska Turks are an ancient Turkish ethnic group who are by and large Muslim and speak a Turkish dialect similar to Anatolian Turkish.
The Unites States reached out to this community in 2004, granting a limited number of Ahiska Turks the right to resettle to the United States and become American citizens. Over 10,000 have settled in cities and states across the United States under the assistance of the International Organization for Migration, the US State Department and non profit groups. Over 70 US cities are now home to Ahiska Turkish communities that range from 30 to 200 families. It is anticipated that over 20,000 Ahiska Turks will settle in the United States under this program.
The Ahiska Turkish community's immigration experience mirrors the historical immigration patterns to the US . They fled persecution and discrimination and have come to this country with no language skills and few transferable jobs and skills. Reestablishing their lives in America and integrating into American society poses a great challenge to this community. Many Turkish American organizations and individuals have reached out to this community; however there is still a need for an organized effort across the communities where Ahiska Turks now reside.
The TCA grant may be allocated by the selected Turkish American associations to undertake programs and services designed to meet the needs of the Ahiska Turks in their area, such as:
- Family and individual counseling, general counseling/assistance on getting settled
- Workshops on issues related to citizenship, legal rights, tax, healthcare/insurance, social integration
- English as a second language programs
- Employment and education counseling
- Computer education
- Scholarship funds
This grant can be allocated to provide the services within the Turkish American association and in partnerships with other American non profit organizations and educational institutions.