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March 23. 2013 9:32PM

Turkish delight

Cultural center opens in Manchester


Posing in traditional Turkish garb are, from left, Esma Atli, Busra Atli, Isabella Cico and Sida Ayyildiz. (Bruce Taylor/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - The aroma of Turkish coffee - and the sound of Irish bagpipes - heralded the opening of the Turkish Cultural Center of New Hampshire in downtown Manchester Saturday afternoon.

The organization's new home, at 530 Chestnut St., will host Turkish language and cooking classes, seminars and book talks, "friendship dinners" and trips to Turkey - which natives spell "Turkiye."

Gov. Maggie Hassan was on hand for the event, cutting a ceremonial red ribbon and proclaiming Saturday as Turkish Cultural Day in New Hampshire. She told the center's organizers, "Your efforts to support the needs of the Turkish community and encourage mutual respect and understanding among all of our people by bringing everyone together in an open dialogue is a shining example of what makes New Hampshire so special.

"Inclusiveness has always been at the heart of New Hampshire's spirit because we understand that when you include the talent and energy of all people in the life of our state, we all get stronger," the governor said.

Nedim Aycaner, a board member of the TCCNH, said there are nearly 5,000 Turkish-Americans living in New Hampshire.

Eyup Sener, president of TCCNH, said the organization has been in existence for about a year. It has already brought investors to the state to research business opportunities here and plans to do so again in the near future, he said.

The group also hosted a trip to Turkey last year in which several lawmakers participated.

State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, praised the group's mission to promote inter-cultural relationships. "Together, we make a tremendous difference in what happens in this nation and in this world," he said.

Nese Togay of Portsmouth, who came to see the new cultural center, said Turkey has a rich history that Americans would appreciate.

"Even Santa Claus' grave is in Turkey," she said, referring to St. Nicholas.

Furkan Kosar, president of the Council of Turkic American Associations, noted this is the 45th such center to open in the United States. He said he hopes that second-generation Turkish-Americans will "serve the American society and give back whatever we have, whatever you gave us."

Kosar also asked Hassan about the proper pronunciation of her surname, which he suggested could sound Middle Eastern.

"It may help to know that it is Irish," she told him, adding, "It probably represents the migration of people from the Middle East to Spain and then Ireland over the last couple of millennia."

Burak Kararti, Turkish consul general in Boston, said America and Turkey share a mutual trust and a common vision "to promote peace, democracy, freedom and prosperity." The two nations stand together on combating terrorism, fighting illegal trafficking and opposing extremism, he said.

At the close of the official ceremony, Patrick Boyle of Durham and Bruce Irwin of Comer, Ga., members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, stepped forward to perform on bagpipes and drums.

The music was a tribute to the Ottoman sultan's decision in 1847 to send funds and cargo ships filled with food to the Irish people during the famine, Boyle said. The two were in town for today's St. Patrick's Day parade.

In an interview after the ceremony, Kararti said he welcomes the restoration of normal diplomatic relations with Israel.

That came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Friday to apologize for a deadly commando raid on a humanitarian aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip in 2010 that left nine Turkish citizens dead.

The apology "was an important step," Kararti said.

"We are friends and we will continue to be friends," he said. "Friends can criticize each other, but we are pleased that now after this apology and conversation, we will be able to normalize our relations."


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