Nurten Ural, President ATAA
Allison Block, Advocacy Director, ATAA
ATAA and ATA-SC Visit Ahiska Turks in Los Angeles
During its recent visit to the Los Angeles area, ATAA representatives, along with ATA-SC Board of Directors members, travelled south of Los Angeles to San Diego to meet with a very special part of the Turkish American community there-the Ahiska (Meskhetian) Turks. The ATAA and ATA-SC visitors were welcomed into the home of one family living in San Diego with typical Turkish hospitality and a generous spread of homemade traditional foods.
"We are making it one of our top priorities to incorporate the Ahiska community into the Turkish American community," said ATA-SC President Ahmet Atahan. "We share so much: food, culture, and language-they can add a new dynamic to our organization." ATA-SC members often volunteer to assist the Ahiska community in settling into their new communities.
Who are Ahiska (Meskhetian) Turks?
Ahiska Turks are Muslims who speak a dialect of Turkish, originally from the Meskheti area of Georgia, bordering Turkey. They were deported to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in the mid-1940s by Joseph Stalin where they stayed, until about 1989 when a pogrom against Ahkiskas occurred in the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan. After this, the Ahiskas were evacuated from Uzbekistan, some of which were allowed to return to Georgia, others faced resettlement problems in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia. Those who settled in Russia automatically received citizenship in 1992. However, those that chose to move to the Krasnodar Kraj region were denied many of the rights as citizens with an "undetermined" legal status.
For the last four years, the United States has accepted more than 10,000 Ahiska Turks from the Krasnodar Kraj region as refugees. They have settled in cities across the United States and are eligible to receive US citizenship. Thanks to the generous services of Turkish American organizations, volunteers and refugee organizations, most Ahiska families have been able to build their lives here in the United States.
"They are doing their best to integrate into the United States society. They are learning the language, the systems, the culture ...all of which are entirely different from where they came," said President Nurten Ural, who has worked on projects to assist the Ahiska Turks that settled in the Detroit area.
There are currently more than 600,000 Ahiska Turks settled throughout the world.