Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and dear friends!
It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to be
here in the capital of free federal Kurdistan and read my speech in this very important conference.
I want thank the Kurdish Institute of Paris and the Ministry of Culture of Kurdistan and I wish great success for this conference and express my warm feelings for progress of democracy in this region of world.
The term Diasporas describes a people who have been dispersed from their original homeland and have a strong ethnical and nationalistic identity and attract attention to their cause. The processes of globalization have reduced the existing isolation between different cultures and languages and created a world of diversity. Ethnicity, nationalism and political events in every corner of the world are no longer limited to a particular region.
The Kurdish people are the largest and oldest nation in the world without a national state who has experienced a series of deportations in their history. The political events of the last century have caused enormous population displacement and driven millions of Kurds from their own homeland, towards the great metropolitan centers in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria but even to Europe and North America. About third part of Kurdish population estimated today living outside of Kurdistan as a direct result of persecution policy of Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. More than a million of those Kurds are now living in Europe and the parts of the world.
The Kurdish Diaspora in Europe began take form after 1970 and 1980s, when thousands of Kurdish political refugees arrived in Western Europe and North America as a result of the political events like Islamic revolution in 1979 in Iran, War between Iran and Iraq in 1980, the military coup in Turkey in 1980 and the Iraqi regimes ethnic cleansing (Anfal) campaign against the Kurds between 1985-1991. The wave of Kurdish immigration to Western Europe continued even after the 1980s because of political conflicts between Kurds and the oppressing regimes went on in the region.
The Kurdish Diasporas was not that much organized in the very beginning in exile. However after some years we can observe establishment of institutions, cultural associations and political organizations in many European countries. At that time knowledge about Kurds and the Kurdish question was extremely limited. Therefore it was very difficult for Kurdish communities to establish lobby activities among the people of host countries. The main goal for organized Kurdish communities was preserve the Kurdish language and culture, to attract attention to the Kurdish cause and to contribute towards a better integration of the Kurds into their host countries.
Kurdish people had no opportunities to express their Kurdish heritage in their own country Kurdistan. But in exile they have found opportunities to do so. This has created a Kurdish Diaspora, with exceptionally large active communities consisting of both first and second-generation Kurds with strong nationalistic demands throughout Europe.
During last 30 years Kurds has created a broad growing associational life in Europe. Today we have a large number of Kurds as active part in the political and cultural life in their host countries as writers, journalists, artists and musicians. There is also Kurds who are members of Parliament in different European countries.
We don’t have any official statistics about Kurds abroad. But the most accepted estimates set of number is more than one million in Western Europe, distributed as follows:
|Great Britain||60 000|
Sweden is one of those countries, which has a leading position for the Kurdish Diaspora that plays an important cultural and political role. It has given a new impulse to the development of the written language, to Kurdish literature and music. Kurds in Sweden has also succeeded to organize members from all parts of Kurdistan within Kurdish Federation in Sweden. The Kurdish Platform in Europe, Kurdish library and many other important cultural organizations are whether initiated or established in Sweden.
Developing technology is one of the important aspects that show affectivity of Diaspora and mobilization of their members. . Worldwide communication like radio/television broadcasting and using of Internet is today widespread that completely reshaped the way of communication. The Internet allows anyone to get information quickly and participate with own ideas in mobilization of manifestations against countries, which oppressing Kurds.
Today's information's society, the technological development makes possible that each event in different corner of the world to be noticed in that aspect that they happens.
The Kurdish Diaspora during the 30 past years has succeeded start from zero and to become a power factor in opinion making for the Kurds' struggle. The Kurdish Diaspora is organized and established that much in each European country be able to influence the domestic opinion in those international questions that concern the Kurds.
Today the Kurdish Diaspora have a spread social and political network consisting of organized institutions, civil and political associations and those individual successful Kurds that has a dominant role as artists, musicians, debaters and as political elected representative. This network has capacity to mobilize thousand's of Kurds and Europeans for big manifestations in order to influence the political parties and domestic opinion in host countries.
Before, during and after second Gulf War the Kurdish Diaspora has achieved big successes.
We have several times attested during the last 13 years then the Kurds had own free zone in Iraq and especially the last 4 years during second Gulf War how the Kurdish Diaspora played a major political role in making public opinion against persecution of Kurds, mobilized thousands of Kurds in the whole world for same purpose, namely to protect the Kurds' rights, despite they are missing a central apparatus and despite internal conflicts.
The Kurds have created a new structure of social networks, which allows spread of information quickly within the organized part of Diaspora. Every member of Kurdish Diaspora communities is close to each other, following daily the happenings in homeland that makes quick mobilization of masses possible in the presence of happenings in Kurdistan.
Diaspora community’s closeness both inside and to the homeland can also influence the policies and have an enormous power on the discourse and policies of the homeland.
This potential power of the Kurdish Diaspora has influenced the domestic politicians. In all these successful manifestations several politicians in leading position participate as speakers where they openly declared their sympathies for the struggle of Kurdish people. This huge mobilization had also have affect on Turkeys aggression policy, which had evil plans against Iraqi Kurds and several times threatened with military intervention. But also Iran and Syria have may know this unique strengthen that the Kurdish Diaspora has shown during conflicts in the Kurdish town Kamislo in Syria in 2003.
Another important example is the Kurds' mobilization every year for memory of Halabja victims and the celebration of Kurdish New Year Newroz. These days, March 16 and 21 is the height point when the Kurdish Diaspora demonstrates its potential power. Beyond influencing the politics of the homeland, the Kurdish Diaspora communities have also affected the policies of their host countries.
Before these days, one observe a huge preparation among Kurds but same feeling can also been noticed among our Swedish friends, many of them in leading positions, as party leaders, ministers, parliament members participate with speeches in our manifestations.
For two years ago when we had memory anniversary for victims of Halabja one of the speakers was Mona Sahlin, social democratic minister in Sweden. She pointed the followings in her speech:
” The Kurdish question was an external question for us Swedes before. We supported them in their struggle for freedom and their rights. Our support was limited only as solidarity for their cause. Now, the situation has changed for us Swedes. Because of thousand of Kurds living today in Sweden and are also Swedish citizens in this country we consider that the Kurdish question is now not only an external question but also an internal question that concerns all of us. Therefore, we consider each type of injustice against Kurds as an unjust against us Swedes that we will fight against. The Kurdish question is already our question and our concern”.
This speech shows clearly which successes the Kurdish Diaspora achieved during these years.
The Kurdish Diaspora has until now played an extraordinarily role for the Kurds' struggle in Iraq. We shall continue to play an important role in order to preserve and defend those successes in southern Kurdistan but also struggle active to reach similar positive results in Turkey, Iran and Syria. For the moment we have attract our focus to those parts of Kurdistan where the policy of oppression still continues.
The democratization process that for the moment changing the whole Middle East will continue. The Kurdish Diaspora will continue to contribute to this democratization process for the Kurdish people but also for other ethnic groups, which are still living under oppression.
Thank you all for listening
(*) Ancien président de la Fédération des associations kurdes en Suède