Ali Cinar

Ali Cinar

Ali Cinar has been in journalism since 2002 starting with Turk of America Magazine (www.turkofamerica.com) which is the first Turkish-American magazine in the U.S. He was accredited by United Nations in 2007 and State Department in 2010 .He has also half page column called “Agenda in the U.S.” at Milliyet Newspaper that is one of the most well-known Turkish daily newspapers published in Istanbul, Turkey since 1950 ( https://www.milliyet.com.tr/yazarlar/ali-cinar/ ) He was written opeds on Washington Post, World Affairs, Washington Times, U.S News, SAIS (John Hopkins University Publication) and quoted on The Jerusalem Post, NBC News(quotation), The Politico Europe Fox News and many more. He is a member of United Nations Correspondent Association, American Press Association, NY Press Club, Association of Foreign Correspondents in the USA and Society of Professional Journalist. He appeared on PBS News Hour, CBNC, FOX Business, Fox News Radio, Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg Radio, BBC TV, BBC Radio, NewsMax TV, Al Jazeera English, Canada TV, Al Jazeera Arabic, I24 News, Voice of America, France 24, CGTV, SkyNews, CNN Turk, NTV, Haberturk TV, A News, TRT Haber, Ekoturk TV, TRT World and Halk TV. Over the course of his career, Cinar has earned a number of accolades including Leader of the Year by the Assembly of Turkish American Association, One of the Top 10 Most Successful Young People by Junior Chamber International (JCI), and one of the 50 Most Influential Turkish Americans by Turk of America Magazine. Ali Cinar was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2019 and was the youngest Turkish American to receive this distinction in over 30 years.He received a "Community Service Award' by NYPD MT&S. After receiving his undergraduate degree from the Istanbul University, Cinar moved to the United States to continue his education. While completing his master’s degree at the University of New Haven, he worked as a Research Assistant at the Communication Department. During that time he also served as the President of the International Students Association and was awarded the “Outstanding International Student” Award. Cinar has earned various executive certificates from Harvard University, MIT and New York University.

New York Mayor Eric Adams Receives Üsküdar Mayor

Üsküdar Mayor Hilmi Türkmen visited New York Mayor Eric Adams in his office before the Ladies Sultans Exhibition to be held in New York.

 During the visit, Üsküdar Mayor Hilmi Türkmen was accompanied by Turkey's Consul General in New York, Reyhan Özgür.

Üsküdar Mayor Hilmi Türkmen and New York Mayor Eric Adams came together and held a working meeting to continue in Üsküdar. Evaluating the disabled, youth, and environmental issues, the two mayors exchanged ideas for potential collaborations.

New York Mayor Eric Adams, during his mayorship of Brooklyn, made Üsküdar and Brooklyn twin cities and went to Istanbul and visited Üsküdar. Eric Adams, who cares about Turkish-American relations, works closely with the Turkish community in New York and participates in many Turkish-American events.

 

New York Mayor Adams at the Turkish Philanthropy Ball

New York Mayor Eric Adams gave a speech at the ball organized by the Turkish Philanthropy Funds (TPF) at the New York Metropolitan Museum.

TPF, which was founded by the philanthropic Turkish businessman Haldun Taşman in the US to provide charitable services to Turkish society, celebrated its 15th anniversary with a gala dinner at the Metropolitan Museum.

Along with Turkey's Ambassador to Washington Hasan Murat Mercan and New York Consul General Reyhan Özgür, the gala was attended by New York Mayor Eric Adams; Chobani founder and successful Turkish businessperson Hamdi Ulukaya; 75 Main owner, Turkish restaurateur, and new TV star Zach Erdem; Gayrimenkul Investors Association (GYODER) US Representative Çağrı Kanver; and Turkish American community members.

Businessman Hamdi Ulukaya, who was deemed worthy of an award by TPF, gave a speech of thanks, while New York Mayor Adams addressed the participants. In his speech, Adams expressed his love for Turkey and Istanbul.

The Connection Between the Native Americans and the Turks!

When the Turks immigrated to the U.S. has always been a matter of debate. We see that there were migrations from the Ottoman Empire to the U.S. for the first time in the 1860s, either for trade or other reasons. It has been determined that they migrated to the U.S., especially to Michigan and Massachusetts, from Turkish cities such as Bingöl and Tunceli. The reason for this was the job opportunities in Massachusetts's leather, thread, fabric, and shoe factories and the Ford factory in Michigan, where rapid industrialization was happening.

Immigration to the U.S. peaked at the beginning of the 1910s; however, this number decreased strongly toward the end of World War I. With the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, some Turks who had gone to the U.S. came back to Turkey, and the number of those returning to Turkey increased further due to the great economic depression in the U.S.

Even though the history of Turks' migration to the U.S. goes back to the 1900s, esteemed scientists such as Prof.Türker Özdoğan, an academic member of Georgetown University, claim that the Uyghur-originated Turkic groups living in Siberia went to Anatolia as well as the America continent via the Bering Strait in AD 1233. We see that this theory has gained even more seriousness after identifying the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and Y chromosome overlap, which has been proven before. In this article, we discussed whether both the Native Americans and the Melungeons have a connection with the Turks.

Here is what Prof. Özdoğan claims: 

- The Melungeon community, which claims to have a population of close to 2 million in the U.S., is descended from around 10,000 Ottoman Levantines. They were enslaved at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Some of these sailors were used as galley slaves by the Spanish and the English and were later left to fend for themselves in the Americas.

- The Melungeons, trying to hold onto life on the coast of Virginia, retreated to the Appalachian mountains around the state of Tennessee due to the difficulties they experienced from cultural differences with the local community. They then fraternized with the Native American tribes belonging to the Athabascan language group in that region.

- The honorary leader of the Melungeons, Brent Kennedy, who stated that the DNA of the Melungeons and the Anatolian Turks are similar to one another, wrote two books to strengthen the bonds between the two communities when he was still alive and developed close relationships with the Turkish community living in the U.S.

-Brent Kennedy learned about his Turkish origin after taking a DNA test. Kennedy knew he had thalassemia, a genetic disease, and took a DNA test. In the blood samples taken from the nearly 300 Melungeon close friends that he could reach, he found traces of diseases such as sarcoidosis, thalassemia, and Behçet's disease, seen only in Mediterranean peoples and Kennedy, therefore, revealed the bond between his community and Turkey.

- Many scientists are investigating the fact that the Native Americans came to the U.S. from the Central Asian Turkish tribes, mainly from Siberia. Those interested in the arrival of Indians to the U.S. are Scandinavian countries, China, and Turkey. We claim to research when the Central Asian Turkish tribes started arriving in the U.S. One of the most accurate studies is a 700-page book, The Dene and Na-Dene, by Canadian anthropologist Ethel G. Stewart. This researcher asserted that Turks came to the American continent from Central Asia, and their last visit was in 1200 AD. Stewart claims that Uyghur tribes were fleeing Genghis Khan.

-Apart from researching the artistic and cultural similarities between Turks and Native Americans, the etymology matters for this historical research. The most commonly spoken language among Native Americans is the Athabaskan language. We have many words in common with the Native Americans. In particular, Professor Timur Kocaoğlu from Michigan State University has studies indicating that there is a connection between Turkish and Native American languages and that this connection shows itself in terms of grammar, beyond common words. For example, the roots of our essential words, such as air and water, are the same. Our carpet and ceramic motifs are almost identical. Native American religious beliefs are the same as Shamanism.

 -Modern Turks should remember Ataturk's efforts in the language field. Ataturk kept a strong focus on language and spearheaded private research. In particular, there are similarities between the Mayan and Aztec languages and Turkish. Ataturk, Tahsin Mayatepek sent an acting ambassador to Mexico and was instrumental in researching this topic. Later, Tahsin Mayatepek presented Ataturk with a research report and a dictionary on this subject.

Prof. Ozdogan took Native Americans to Turkey three times. He worked with the Turkish World Research Center. Turkey built a hospital for Native Americans in the Navajo region. He has conducted many studies in the educational and cultural fields. Oneida Indians, who earned vast sums of money in many areas, ranging from casino management to trade, showed great interest, especially in products like textiles, plastics, and rugs. However, Prof.Ozdogan felt disappointed when he saw that the commercial, educational, and cultural exchanges between the Indians and Turks are declining. He believes that Turks and Native Indians would work again as soon as possible.

Alihan Karakartal, a voluntary envoy between the Melungeons and Turks in the city of Wise in Virginia, also explained the recent developments in the Melungeon world.

Where did the Melungeon Community's interest in Turks come from, and how did it start?

As you know, the late Brent Kennedy was the one who established the ties between the Melungeon and Turkish peoples. He was a great communicator who devoted a significant portion of his life to identifying his ancestors' geographical, ethnic, and genetic origins. The Melungeons are a genetically complex and richly diverse ethnic group; for this reason, they have experienced polarization—through exposure to researchers who defended differentiating theses—debating among themselves. 

The Melungeons are related to the Turkish people and those with Portuguese, Native American, and Eurasian origins. So, it is a melting pot. Fortunately, the most significant interest in Melungeon research came from Turkey in the '90s. Thanks to Brent Kennedy's good, love, and personal efforts for Turks, excellent relations were established between Melungeons and Turks in those years. Furthermore, Brent's interview with Barış Manço has laid a perfect foundation for a future cultural bridge between the Melungeons and the Turkish people. That was how I contacted him, and I attended the university where he was working. Since I have known Brent Kennedy since 1996, I have had a chance to personally witness many positive developments between the Melungeons and their relatives in Turkey.

Çeşme and the town of Wise became sister cities.

Back then, the diplomatic, touristic, and academic ties Brent established with Turkey were robust. He went back and forth between Turkey and Wise and received lots of attention and love from the people of Turkey. Çeşme and the town of Wise were declared sister cities during those years. A student exchange program was established with Istanbul University, with 4-5 Turkish students visiting each year. If I remember correctly, we also had good ties with Dumlupınar University. One of our teachers, Sami Ferliel, even gave Turkish lessons to Melungeons at the university. The university I graduated from even published an excellent book on the similarities between Ataturk and Thomas Jefferson. Because I was a student at the University of Virginia College at Wise during those years, we had the opportunity to introduce the Turkish culture in this part of the USA as much as we could to the students who come and go every year. Faruk Loğoğlu, the ambassador of Washington then, visited the campus and gave a lovely speech. The student exchange program was an extremely synergetic, rich, and cultural exchange. Until 2008, this allowed many students to graduate from here and go back to Turkey. However, interest in the program slowly died, and the agreement between universities was unfortunately not renewed. Brent's 2005 cerebral hemorrhage was unfortunate in the program's discontinuation.

There had been efforts for tourism as well. Because Brent brought along a massive group of people every time he visited Turkey, there were significant developments in tourism. If Brent hadn't suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 2005, I believe we would be experiencing quite a different reality now. Unfortunately, these works, built on substantial bases at the time, were severely interrupted due to the severe health problems Brent experienced. Everything was exposed to a sort of timeout and momentum loss.

What did Brent Kennedy want to achieve?

The Melungeon research that Brent pioneered has the main motto: "We are one people." Their purpose in saying this was to bring together all Americans with Melungeon origins under one umbrella, in a spirit of brotherhood, rather than based on any ethnic origin. This was because severe polarizations emerged over time among the Melungeons, who represented extremely mixed ethnicities. 

So much so that Brent received academic and personal threats for many years from groups that defended differentiating theses regarding the roots of Melungeons. Although his followers loved and supported him, he was the only person among these theses who defended the genetic link with Turkey. Throughout his life, Brent was loyal to the Turkish nation and had a great interest in and love for his studies and himself, but unfortunately, he passed away on September 21, 2020.

How should the connection between the Melungeons and Turks be revived?

Brent Kennedy worked as hard as a locomotive and managed to accelerate the "Melungeon Train" in the nineties, as it slowly began to find its identity many years ago. He was instrumental in bringing this train to Turkey. Unfortunately, this train is now back in the station. I don't exactly know how this train can be re-accelerated without a friend and ally like Brent, who was almost in love with Turks and defended the "Turkish thesis" with great faith. However, I believe revising the touristic and commercial sides of this equation will mutually benefit both communities.

  • Published in People

A Success Story in the U.S : Dr. Hande Özdinler

Associate Prof. Hande Özdinler, Head of the ALS Research Center at Northwestern University, has become one of the ten best scientific inventors. In a special interview with Journalist Ali Cinar for Turk of America magazine, Dr. Özdinler stated that she started this work for her brother, whom she lost to a cerebral hemorrhage.

-Can you talk about your academic projects?

Özdinler Laboratory was established at Northwestern University in 2009 as the first laboratory in the world to study upper motor neurons. Since then, we have been investigating why these neurons are present in the brain and why they show degeneration.

We are gradually solving the death mechanisms and trying to develop appropriate treatment methods.

Our first project focuses on developing medication. We have presented our great invention together with Dr. Silverman; this is promising for patients with motor neuron diseases and especially for ALS patients, as it will be able to heal the motor neurons in the brain. NU-9 can stop motor neuron deaths more effectively than any other approved medication, and this ability resolves four different mechanisms simultaneously. Thanks to this study, our first steps have given rise to a significant advancement in cell-based and mechanism-focused medication development. We are now in the process of presenting this to patients. It is a challenging, costly, and elaborate process. We need financial support and are spending much time looking for that support.

Our second project is about finding biomarkers. With this study, we will be able to pave the way for drug inventions; we will find out which patient requires which drug, and ultimately, we will ensure the recovery of more patients.

Our third project concerns gene therapy. In this project, we will provide direct gene therapy to motor neurons that have died in the brain, enabling them to reap the benefits of personalized medicine and develop personalized healing methods.

We are working on these three main issues.

-What are the pros and cons of being a Turkish academic in the USA?

Scientists in other countries receive much support from their homelands. Joint projects, investments, student exchange programs, and many brilliant projects. Unfortunately, Türkiye does not benefit enough from scientists who have been successful abroad. In the US, it does not matter where you are from or which nationality you have. It can be challenging to become a C-Level executive. However, this can be achieved with an external and reliable support system. Sadly, I do not have such support. Türkiye does not support me. In addition, nobody from Türkiye has given me much help yet. We always receive the required financial support for our work from NIH project funds.

I would not say that being a Turkish academic in the US has many advantages; nevertheless, being an academic here has its benefits regardless of nationality. Doing science, thinking freely, and immediately accessing technological innovations are ensured. In this atmosphere, your race does not have any importance, and we are mainly discussing the projects.

-Can you mention the awards you have received?

First, I received the Best Master's Thesis Award from Bogazici University. At that time, we were doing the first gene cloning studies in Türkiye. Before a PCR machine, we were cloning genes; those were exciting days. Staying up all night in the lab, I was even once in the laboratory for a whole week without going outside. This was how I finished my thesis.

When I was doing my Ph.D., I received the FASEB award, a science award for the poster I submitted. As a post-associate professor, I received the Harvard Center for Neurodegeneration and Repair (HCNR) Award, which was given to two people at Harvard. This was such a difficult one to get, and I became a Harvard Fellow thanks to this; they also provided funds to the lab I was working in for my training.

At Northwestern, I received the NUCATS Translational Innovation and Corner Innovation awards. These prestigious awards are given to individuals who can think outside the box, create new things no one has ever done, and find innovative methods or solutions.

Our goal has never been to receive prizes and awards but to invent. When we receive awards, we just think, "Well, there are people who follow and appreciate our studies."

- What is your advice to young Turkish people?

It's tough to be young in Türkiye these days. They live in a more difficult time than we did. Universities are especially under so much pressure. Boğaziçi University is one of the best examples of this. Conscious, hardworking, productive, brilliant young people should be appreciated and given value. They are the ones who make inventions, ensure development and make the world a better place. Despite all the challenges they are faced with, young people must be resilient and continue to improve themselves. During COVID-19, many good universities moved their classes online and made them publicly accessible. I advise young people to learn and improve continuously. They will eventually see rewards for their efforts, maybe not today, but tomorrow for sure. They should work with a view to the future and invest in themselves.

-What is your goal for the next five years?

I want to see our work pay off in 5 years, and I want to see ALS patients starting to get better. We will finish this fight with ALS, and I would love to celebrate on the day this ends. We should declare that day a holiday for all ALS friends, their children, mothers, and fathers. A festival of the victory of humanity.

And I also would like to open an exhibition for my paintings. I want to sell my images to support students during their studies, and I would like to write, publish books, see the countries I haven't been to and have a fantastic time with my dear friends.

  • Published in Science
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