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.


THO Team
Ali Cinar

President, Turkish Heritage Organization

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.”
 
Prior to joining THO, Cinar worked as a businessman and journalist. In his career, Cinar has developed and implemented business programs for top global clients and agent networks. Before joining THO, he held positions with Western Union and Concord Industries. He is a credentialed reporter with the United Nations 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, Hurriyet Daily News, Daily Sabah and Turk of America.
 
Ali Cinar was testified at the U.S. Congress on Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee in 2006 and 2007. He appeared on PBS News Hour, CBNC, FOX Business, Bloomberg, BBC Radio, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, I24 News, Voice of America, France 24, CGTV, SkyNews, CNN Turk, NTV, Habeturk TV, A News, TRT World, Canada 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.
 
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
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President of the International Students Association and was awarded the “Outstanding International Student” Award.
 
Cinar has earned various executive business certificates from Harvard University, MIT and New York University.
Elvir Klempic

Executive Director, Turkish Heritage Organization

Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, raised in Iowa, Elvir’s interest in Turkey was strengthened when he started to work with Turkish-American Community Leaders in the States.  Elvir has worked to ensure Turkey and the United States maintain strong relations and mutual cooperation for a stronger, more democratic, and prosperous world. 

Currently based in Washington D.C., Elvir is a Political Grassroots Strategist.  Previously, he has worked for the Democratic National Committee, U.S. Department of Energy, a number of political campaigns and non-profit organizations, working to build strong coalitions and increase public awareness and participation in U.S. politics. 

Elvir is the Co-Founder of Bosniak-American Association of Iowa, he has also served as a consultant to a number of non-profit organizations around the country, offering advisement on the advancement of underrepresented communities in various capacities. Elvir is an active voice for ethnic communities in Politics and Think Tank world. Elvir has traveled the country speaking at a number of political events on behalf of ethnic communities, including the Democratic National Convention.  

As a Political Grassroots Strategists, in the past Elvir has organized a number of briefings, roundtables, and conferences, from the U.S. Congress to the White House. He has also written for the Huffington Post and German Marshall Fund, and is a frequent media surrogate in Politics, Genocide Denial and Revision of History, Civic Engagement, and Foreign Policy.
Pinar Gezgec

Partnership Manager, Turkish Heritage Organization

Born and raised in Gaithersburg, MD. Pinar Gezgec holds a bachelor’s degree in History with a concentration in the Middle East from University of Maryland, College Park. She has a strong interest in political/ foreign affairs as well as participation and involvement with U.S. and Turkey relations. 
 
Through her position as founder and President of the Turkish Student Association at the University of Maryland, she was able to extensively acquire leadership and communication skills. Additionally, she has worked for the Turkish Coalition of America in Washington, D.C. Throughout her time there, she developed  first-hand knowledge of U.S.-Turkey relations, and was an active advocate in promoting stronger relations between the two nations. With her volunteer work outside of school and work. Pinar took it upon herself to implement and oversee research projects and community events relating to advocacy and foreign policy. 
 
In September 2017, Pinar traveled to Gaziantep, Turkey to visit the Syrian refugee camps and was able to build an interest in working and learning more about humanitarian aid and services provided by Turkish officials. With her educational background and past employment opportunities, she is determined to help THO promote and inform others about Turkish and American relations. 

Savannah Lane

Communications Manager, 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. 

Ipek Ariogul

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Turkish Heritage Organization

Ipek Ariogul was born and raised in Ankara, the political and bureaucratic heart of Turkey. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Bilkent University and was awarded with scholarships during her studies. She then pursued an MA in History, specializing in Turkish-American relations. While a visiting student at Indiana University and experiencing living in the American Midwest, she wrote her thesis about the US-Turkey relations in the early years of the Cold War. 

Upon her return to Turkey, she started her career as a journalist due to her heightened interest in politics and economy following Turkey’s domestic financial crisis. After an intensive training program on journalism at the Ugur Mumcu Investigative Journalism Foundation, she became a correspondent at Hurriyet, one of the most prominent dailies of Turkey. She travelled to many countries, reported on breaking news stories and conducted private interviews with leading politicians, civil society stakeholders, local and international businessmen. She still sees her experience in the press as invaluable.

She has earned various professional certificates on economics as well as policy, communication and negotiation skills through the training of the UK Foreign Office and the London School of Economics. Ipek is also a certified yoga instructor for the last couple of years. She is keen to add value to THO’s work on improving the dialogue and relationship between Turkey and the US in an ever-changing global environment.
Sarah Houston

Contributor, Turkish Heritage Organization

Sarah Houston is a world traveler who is excited to bring her passion for Turkish International Relations and experience as a Fulbright grantee to the Turkish Heritage Organization. During her Fulbright in Turkey, Sarah taught at Balikesir University while establishing a refugee community outreach group that worked with local Syrian and Iranian refugees to facilitate the visa process, preparing them for lives in the US. She also worked closely with the Director of the School of Foreign Languages to create and implement new curriculum, changing the way the University prepares English teachers for future employment.  

Sarah was a Posse scholar at Pepperdine University, where she studied Political Science and Film Studies. As Vice President of the Student Government Association, she founded Pepperdine's first ever Women's Initiative for students, bringing together women's groups from all over campus for speaker events and long term policy change. During her time at University, Sarah was awarded scholarships and grants to study in Buenos Aires, Argentina and work on the ground with widows in India through the White Rainbow Project. 

Sarah’s academic focus is on gender issues and economic development projects for underserved and displaced populations in the Middle East and Europe. In her thesis, What Do Women Get? Measuring Outcomes in a Post-Revolutionary Society, she focused on Egyptian women’s position in society during the Arab Spring. She is very interested in the current refugee crisis and examining obstacles the international aid community faces, specifically focusing on economic development programs implemented in the refugee camps. 

Prior to joining THO, Sarah acted as Political Director for David Trone’s Congressional Campaign, where she developed an overarching political outreach plan, establishing a diverse network of community, labor, and cultural organizations to solidify key constituency networks. Growing up in the DC area, Sarah also offers extensive non-profit and government experience on the Hill with American Psychological Association, Congress, and DC Public Schools Central Office.