THO Team

Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) , a non-profit organization working to promote discussion and dialogue around issues of importance in the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship as well as Turkey’s role in the international community.

Ali Cinar

President, Turkish Heritage Organization and Senior Diplomatic Journalist

A Turkish American, Cinar has dedicated much of his life to Turkish American causes and joined THO to help advance U.S.-Turkey relations. He has served as the President of the Federation of Turkish American Associations (FTAA) as well as the Northeast Vice President of the Assembly of Turkish American Association. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke praised Cinar’s leadership of the FTAA, noting that under his leadership, “this Federation has become a well-known and respected institution in our community.”
Ali Cinar has  been in journalism since 2002 starting with Turk of America Magazine ( which is the first Turkish-American magazine in the U.S. 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.  ( ) He has been broadcasting for Turkish TV Channels such as CNNTurk as a journalist since 2018.

He also has been writing articles and news for the Turkish Journal since 2011. He is a credentialed reporter with the United Nations,NYPD and the U.S. State Department and has been published in international publications including Washington Post, World Affairs, Washington Times, U.S News, SAIS (John Hopkins University Publication), The Hill, Daily Caller,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.
Ali Cinar was testified at the U.S. Congress on Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee in 2016 and 2017. 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 recently also 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 and Center of Professional Ethics.

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.
Savannah Lane

Executive Director, Turkish Heritage Organization

Born in Houston, Texas and raised in Richmond, Virginia Savannah Lane found her passion for politics and understanding the realm of international advocacy at a young age when she became Virginia’s inaugural ANNPower Fellow (a program created by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright). Through this program Savannah was exposed to leaders from around the world and worked with mentors as an ANNPower national grant winner.

Savannah went on to study Foreign Affairs/Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Virginia, serve as a Resident Advisor and work for Senator McCain’s reelection campaign doing research surrounding foreign policy issues.  Savannah continued her work in the political realm as a program associate at a political consulting firm working in digital media, social media, outreach, event planning and fundraising. 
Through Savannah’s extensive service and advocacy work she won the title of Miss Virginia 2015 in the Miss America Organization and worked in media realms with Dick Clark Productions, national nonprofits, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, the American Heart Association and more. Through this opportunity Savannah won talent and Quality of Life award designations for her service and commitment to the community. 

Savannah recently moved to Washington D.C. after she was one of eight women selected from across the country to serve as a Star Fellow for Running Start in Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s congressional office. Through Running Start, a nonpartisan nonprofit promoting women in politics, Savannah honed her communication and strategy skills, mentored and trained to run for political office and advocated for women in underrepresented fields. 

Savannah is eager to use her unique experiences and passion for international relations to help promote an understanding of the importance of Turkish and American relations through her role at the THO. 

Hollace Matthews

Research and Policy Analysis

Hollace is an undergraduate student in International Relations, French, and Economics at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. Hollace is president of her university’s Model United Nations club and has a deep interest in foreign policy, languages, and international diplomacy. Additionally, through her travels in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, Hollace has gained an appreciation for the importance of international relations and cultural diversity. 

Hollace is passionate about issues relating to international security, economic relations, and foreign affairs. Hollace is currently a participant of The Washington Center’s Spring Internship Program, where she hopes to acquire practical skills and understanding to aid in her professional development and future work in foreign relations. As an intern for the Turkish Heritage Organization, Hollace looks forward to gaining knowledge regarding the bilateral relationship between the United States and Turkey and its importance in today’s world. 

Crystal Staebell

Research and Publications

Crystal Staebell is a recent M.A. graduate of Bogazici University and a graduate of American University studying International Relations in the Middle East. A first-generation Turkish-American, she has focused much of her research on Turkish democratization and aims to learn more about modern political thought. During her time in DC, Crystal has interned at a variety of institutions, including the Cato Institute and the Turkish Coalition of America. She is concurrently working as an Administrative Coordinator for the International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS) and is living in Brussels. 

Lauren Ghantous

Publications and Events

Lauren Ghantous is a senior at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, a Broward College alum, and a born and raised Floridian. Lauren is currently studying International Relations with a focus in the Middle East and Muslim World Studies at FIU. At her university, she is a part of their UNICEF and IGNITE clubs and is studying Arabic as well. Lauren is interested in policy-making, conflict and peace building, women’s issues, and international affairs. She hopes to gain a deeper understanding to foreign policy and affairs during her time at the Turkish Heritage Organization before going on to earn her master’s degree in International Relations.

Chris Garcia

Research and Logistics

Chris Garcia is currently in his last semester as an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire. Chris is working on completing his B.S. in Homeland Security with a double minor in Global Studies and Terrorism Studies. He is passionate about international development, humanitarian aid, and global security, and is delighted by the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to a larger conversation about US-Turkish relations. Through his time with the Turkish Heritage Organization, Chris hopes to take a strong first step into the field of international relations and development.

Anyssa El Manfaa

Research and Policy Analysis

Anyssa's fascination with nuclear energy and her passion for defense/security studies has led her to pursue a career in the federal service as a nuclear material and regional security specialist. In preparation for this role, she engaged in post-nuclear recovery research in Hiroshima, Japan as a 2018 Benjamin A. Gilman scholar. In 2019 and 2020, she was selected as a Critical Language Scholarship recipient for Turkish. Through C.L.S., she has earned proficiency in Turkish and Azerbaijani. She is currently an undergraduate and Jack Kent Cooke scholar at Swarthmore College. When Anyssa is not busy exploring new topics, she likes to draw cartoons and share discussions on all topics, ranging from Minecraft to philosophy. Anyssa loves fencing and is an avid Renaissance-fair goer. 

Danielle McDonald


A senior at Montclair State University, Danielle McDonald is an international student who was born and raised in The Bahamas. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a double minor in French and Global Security & Diplomacy. She is also a candidate for the Master’s in Law & Governance program at her university. On campus, Danielle is the Vice President of the International Student Organization and is genuinely passionate about languages, cultural diversity and engagement. In 2019, Danielle engaged in social justice research in Paris, France which was a significant component for her French-language proficiency. Her interests lie with issues relating to international development, human rights, and humanitarian emergencies. Danielle is ecstatic about her internship at the Turkish Heritage Organization as she advances in her professional development and aims to gain a deeper understanding of US-Turkey relations and the scope of foreign affairs.