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Kurdish Community in the UK HALKEVI Kurdish & Turkish Community Centre
Background of Kurdish Community • Collapse of Ottoman Empire, Kemalism and modern nation state, declaration of the new state as Turkish, banning of Kurdish language and hanging of leaders of Kurds also established the long lasting conflict between Kurds and Turkish state. • In Turkey a Kurd is officially defined as Turkish due to assimilation politics of the state • From 1980s onwards conflict intensified with the establishment of the PKK and later ERNK. • 70 000 people lost their lives mainly civilians, 3000 villages have been burned, 3,5 million people forced to leave the area. The situation is particularly bad for Kurds living in the area because they find themselves in between two forces
Alevi Kurdish Community • A majority of Kurds living in London are Alevies Kurds • AleviKurds do not belong to either Sunni or Shiite Muslims. These people do not follow Islamic traditions and religious rituals. Although there are about three million Aleviesin Turkey, one out of three of them is Kurdish. They are stigmatised for long time and marginalised group • The first migration wave is in 1989. This is connected to several factors but Maras, Malatya (1978) and Corum (1980) massacres of Kurdish Aleviesby fascists grey wolves are the major one • The state politics: village guard system • 1989 election and rise of Islamic fundamentalism, a large rural Alevicommunity has been forced to urban migration
Kurdish Community in the UK • The First migration to the UK began in 1970s with Iraqi Kurds fleeing the war. • However, the majority of Kurds began arriving in the mid-1980s from Turkish Kurdistan who escaped the 1980 military coup and were political asylum seekers. • They formed community centres in North and North-East London and the rest of the later arrivals also began organising and living close to the community centres. • There are no reliable statistics regarding the Kurds because they do not have a state and are recognised as being nationals of the countries they come from: Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria; unless clearly stated. • The 2001 Census shows that almost 10,000 people identified themselves as Kurds, however also states that this figure could be considerably higher. If we consider that 30,000 Kurdish people participated in a demonstration in 1999, which is probably only 1/4 of Kurds then we will have a much more accurate figure of the Kurdish population in the UK.
Areas of Kurdish Communities • It is estimated that 10% of Kurds live outside their motherland, which relates to approximately four million people. • The majority of Kurds live in Germany, France, Switzerland and the UK. • London is the capital city for Kurds in the UK and the majority of Kurds, especially from Turkey, live in the boroughs of Hackney and Haringey. Kurds from Iraq, Iran and Syria live mainly in South London; Ealing, Croydon and Hammersmith. • Approximately 80% of Kurds live in London. The rest are spread around North England and South England; Newcastle, Hull, Nottingham and Brighton; Scotland, Edinburgh and small numbers live in Wales and Ireland.
Employment • Initially the Alevi Kurds found employment in textile factories • According to the 2001 Census 47.7% of the Kurdish population between 16 and 64 years of age were economically active on a part-time basis. 8% full-time and 5.2% self-employed. • In the past 10 years Kurds have become more economically stable by investing in property. A considerable proportion of Kurds have gotten on to the property ladder and invested in homes. • Also many Kurdish shops, restaurants, cafes, solicitor firms, car claims companies, factories etc. have been formed and Kurds have formed a pool of work opportunities for the community. • Although many women and young women from the generation who have been brought up in the UK are now economically active, many women still look after their family. • The new generation of Kurds brought up in the UK have also formed a new class amongst Kurds by becoming professionals; doctors, lawyers, engineers, economists etc.
Education • In a report published in the past few years success levels of Kurdish children was very low and Kurds were placed in the bottom three with regards to GCSE success; gaining 5 A+-C. • Like most immigrant communities girls fare better than boys at success in education in the Kurdish community. • Most Kurdish Community Centres provide supplementary school classes for children and also more recently parents have begun getting special tuition for their children. This is to do with a change in class dynamics and has created a new sphere for investment. • The Kurds from Iran, Syria and Iraq generally have a higher degree (of success in education because they have been in the UK for longer and have integrated and gained a foothold in professional occupational circles • The Kurds from Turkey due to living in a more closed community have not been able to integrate and succeed in education, learning English etc. However more and more young Kurds from Turkey are now going into higher education and integrating into society.
Kurdish Refugee Women • There was once a gender role reversal when women were the main income earner in textile factories • A male dominated community keeps Kurdish women home-bound, voiceless, not got rights to take decisions, work, go to college or socialize • Women whose immigration status is insecure their need to stay submissive increases • Due to being patriarchal and holding traditional values, Kurdish women face honour based violence and force marriages. • Kurdish women face multiple barriers to employment which include lack of English skills, lack of education and lack of UK labour market knowledge • A high number of Kurdish migrant and refugee women suffer from psychological problems that lead to depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorders and attempted suicide due to the trauma linked to refugee hood and previous traumatic experiences in their countries of origin.
CONCLUSION • Kurdish community arrived to the UK due to their historical, political and social position in Turkey • They settled in north London as there were already established community centres –post 1980 military coup • Theychange of employment from textile to service sector • Underachievement in education • Women tend to be suffering more than men