Turkish Heritage Organization
The US-based Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization discussing and promoting dialog for “Turkey’s role in the international community and issues of importance in the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship, as well as an analysis of the NATO alliance and geopolitics of the region.”
The THO has a number of connections to President Erdoğan or organizations supporting the Turkish government. THO’s current president is Ali Cinar (Turkish: Ali Çınar), a columnist for the pro-government newspaper Milliyet, who has also written many articles or op-eds for state-operated TRT World and the pro-government Daily Sabah, where Erdoğan’s family have been board members. In 2015, a Turkey expert at the Center for American Progress think tank warned Hilary Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta that the “Erdogan crew” was investing in Democratic candidates through donations and mentioned Ali Cinar’s name specifically. Cinar has since testified about Turkey before Congress.
The THO’s first and previous president, Halil Danismaz, also has a history of connections to President Erdoğan as:
- He and other THO leaders reported to Erdoğan’s son-in-law and other Turkish officials about the THO’s lobbying efforts.
- Danismaz spoke at a congressional panel about the July 2016 Turkish coup, advocating the Turkish government’s position.
- Danismaz left the THO and US in 2016 after he was interviewed by the FBI about his work for the Turkish government, accusing him of intervening in American politics on behalf of President Erdoğan and working as a secret agent for Turkey.
- Danismaz was a board member of the Turkish American National Steering Committee, whose president at the time was interviewed by the FBI for the same reasons and whose current co-chair is a cousin of President Erdoğan.