From: "Katia M. Peltekian" <[email protected]>
Subject: Balancing Hearts and Heads

Nov 1 2008

Balancing Hearts and Heads

Turkish Americans typically vote Republican. This time, they are
divided over which White House candidate should get their ballot.

By Bahar Kader and Melis Ã-zpinar | NEWSWEEK
Published Nov 1, 2008

Engin Inel Holmstrom, a Turkish-born American citizen, has made up her
mind: she will vote for Barack Obama. Holmstrom, a 72-year-old retired
sociologist, has been living in the United States for about 50
years. She supports the Democratic candidate, she says, because the
world needs peace and America has to face its mistakes in Iraq. To
her, a John McCain-win would mean the continuation of the current Bush
administration and serve as a recipe for disaster.

Not all Turkish Americans are as certain as Holmstrom. For the first
time, the community'which has typically tended to vote Republican'is
divided over which candidate to choose. On the one hand, they feel
closer to the Republicans because they feel the GOP has a more
balanced approach to Turkish arguments on issues such as the Armenian
genocide allegations and the dispute over Cyprus. On the other, they
believe a Democratic leader will be better placed to solve the
financial crisis and work toward achieving a more peaceful world. Call
it a case of heads for McCain, hearts for Obama. "Economic improvement
can only be achieved with Obama," says Suduman Curbuz, president of
the North Texas Turkish American Association. Nonetheless, he says,
his group eventually decided to back McCain because of the candidate's
support for Turkey.

Almost 400,000 Turkish American live in the U.S., about 100,000 of
them are expected to vote on Nov. 4. For many, say Turkish community
leaders, the candidates' views on the Cyprus and Armenia issues will
be decisive. Pro-McCain Turks say that Obama has made more promises to
Armenian, Greek and Greek Cypriot lobbies than previous Democratic
presidential contenders'among them, supporting passage of a
U.S. Congressional resolution stating that the Ottoman Empire carried
out genocidal attacks against Armenians in 1915. They also reject
Obama's reference to Turkey as an "invader" of Cyprus after Ankara's
1974 military intervention on the island. "If Obama is elected
Turkish-US relations can be fundamentally damaged," says Kayaalp
Buyukataman, the president of Turkish Forum, a grassroots organization
with 300,000 members worldwide. Buyukataman, a McCain supporter,
believes the 2008 White House election will be very important for
future Turkish-U.S. relations.

Kaya Boztepe, president of the Federation of Turkish-American
Associations based in New York, also believes that most Turkish
Americans will continue to tilt Republican. However, other members of
the community argue that this bloc will be less solid than in the
past. Among them is lawyer Ayla Simon, who feels that Obama will step
back from his support of the Armenian genocide resolution if he wins
the vote. "The White House makes those who are elected to live there
realistic for political reasons," says Simon. "Obama will also support
Turkey [to promote] world peace." Lincoln McCurdy, president of the
Turkish-American Coalition (TCA), is also among those who are not
concerned about Obama's comments on Turkey's need to acknowledge the
Armenian genocide. "[Former U.S. president Jimmy] Carter had also made
comments against Turkey in his General Assembly meeting speeches; but,
when he came to the White House he was reluctant to make similar
comments and he worked to lift military sanctions."

While the Turkish vote may not play a decisive role in any of the
battleground states, Turkish Americans are flexing their political
muscle in other ways. The community donated close to a billion dollars
to the candidates during the primaries and is becoming increasingly
active in its lobbying of the Congressional caucus on U.S.-Turkish
relations led by Florida Democrat Robert Wexler. According to McCurdy,
this is the first time Turkish Americans have played such a strong
political role. "Two states where the highest amount of donations
obtained from Turkish Americans during the primaries were Texas and
South Carolina," he says. "It is not a coincidence that 10 of the
senators in the Turkish Caucus came from Texas and nine from South
Carolina." Turks may not have drawn as much attention in the U.S. as
ethnic blocs like Jews and Greeks, he says, but that could change
after this election.

This article was adapted from a feature in the inaugural issue of
Turkiye NEWSWEEK, which launched in Turkey as NEWSWEEK's newest
local-language edition on Oct. 27, 2008. Turkiye NEWSWEEK is published
in collaboration with the Ciner Media Group.

© 2008