Turkish Cultural Center In Milwaukee Opens As Istanbul Protests Continue


Turkish-Americans in Wisconsin are celebrating a new symbol of cultural growth in the state, but an ongoing protest in Istanbul may dampen some of the celebration here.

The Turkish-American Society of Wisconsin opened a cultural center in the Milwaukee suburb of Greenfield over the weekend. It follows the opening of another privately-funded center in Madison a few years ago. Turkey has made international headlines this month for a dispute over a proposed development in Istanbul. Over the weekend, the Turkish government used water cannons and tear gas to force protesters out of Taksim Square, heightening criticism that Turkish leaders are authoritarian. Chicago-based Turkish consul general Fatih Yildiz says no democracy is ideal.

“It’s the case for Turkey as well: democracy is a work in progress for each and every country, including this country. So no one can come up with the idea that we are the ideal democracy.”

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Yildiz says Turkey is on the right track as discussions continue over whether the country should be part of the European Union.

Osman Aydas is president of the Turkish-American Society of Wisconsin. He says many of the 500 or so Turkish-American families in the state would like to boost tourism to Turkey, and trade with Wisconsin.

“We have sister organizations in Turkey – they are like trade organizations, they are doing trade bridge programs – and we are trying to take our friends, here, businessmen from in Wisconsin and take them to Turkey.”

Aydas says he’s sad that the Istanbul protests may be giving some Americans the wrong idea of Turkey, and that he supports the right of people to speak up. He says his native country has been a key peace-keeping ally of the U.S. for many decades and would like to keep that relationship strong.

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