Conferences : The Process of Integration of Kurds in the Countries of the European Union : Sermin Bozarslan

Theda Borde
Şermîn Bozarslan
Franck Cecen FR
Chirine Mohséni FR
Clemence Scalbert FR
Lucile Schmid FR

I  N  T  E  R  N  A  T  I  O  N  A L    C  O   N  F  E  R  E  N  C  E
The Process of Integration of Kurds
in the Countries of the European Union

24 February 2006
Organized by : Kurdish Institute of Paris

Kurds in Sweden and the Process of Integration

Aycan Şermîn Bozarslan (*)

There are about 50.000 – 60.000 Kurds in Sweden. Most of them have arrived for political reasons. There are great individual differences in their process of integration, due to differences in background as well as differences in reception in Sweden.

Swedish integration policy
The objectives of Swedish integration policy are:
  • Equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for all, regardless of ethnic or cultural background.
  • A community based on diversity.
  • A society characterised by mutual respect and tolerance, in which every one can take an active and responsible part, irrespective of background.

Integration and diversity

The majority society has the privilege to interpret the political goals. In my opinion there is need for long-term political work in order to obtain a society of real diversity, where all individuals would have the right to be different with equal rights, equal possibilities and equal social status.

Kurds in the process of integration

The major part of the ”first generation”, those who came during the nineteen sixties and seventies, have had some problems with work and participation in the Swedish society. Many of them have got stuck in their past in Kurdistan. Many marriages have ended in divorce. Often women have had easier to feel at home in the new country on account of their children’s needs. Thanks to the children they have discovered possibilities of education and work.

The health situation is bad among the Kurds as well as among all immigrants. The number of children and young people who do not succeed at school, who get criminal and use violence has increased in such segregated housing estates, where almost only immigrants live.

Dispite all difficulties many Kurds have been successful in Sweden, well educated, with good jobs, safe in their families and feeling at home as well in the Kurdish tradition and exile community as in the Swedish neighbourhood.

Kurdish and other multi lingual children have the right to study their mother tongue at school one and a half hour a week. Girls seem more motivated for higher education than boys. Many girls suffer from being controlled by their families. However there is a growing acceptance within Kurdish families as for marriages with non Kurds.

Many young Kurds to-day are well known actors, journalists, singers, stand up comedians or politicians in Sweden.

The Kurdish culture has had a very positive development. Sweden is a unique country as for support to Kurdish culture and organisations. For instance, there is an advanced Kurdish library in Stockholm, sponsored by the government. There are several Kurdish book publishers in Sweden, which have published thousands of titles.

The organisation that I represent, Kurdiska Riksförbundet, The Federation of Kurdish Associations in Sweden, is unique in organizing Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan and being unbound to political parties. We have 40 associations throughout Sweden as members. This year we celebrate our 25th anniversary. In all our associations Kurdish is the language that is used.

Requirements for diversity, participation and respect for human rights

Minority status. To be acknowledged as a minority in Sweden.

The right to one’s mother tongue and to one’s whole identity. There is much left to do in this respect. Among other things there is a great need for multilingual pre-school and school teachers.

Ethnical registration. The Kurds are not registered as Kurds but Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi or Syrian (ex) citizens. This has made all statistics about the Kurds unreliable. For scientific research and planning it would be valuable to know how many the Kurds are and where they live, their ages and so on. Of course the registration must be voluntary.

Work to everybody. There are efficient methods for introduction, language education and work practise that we know from experience lead to jobs. We are tired of non efficient methods, that sometimes are used in spite of well known efficient solutions. We also think that it should be possible to send applications to employers anonymously. Our experience is that a ”different” name often makes the employer not to call a person to an interview.

Diversity perspective and freedom from discrimination. People from all immigrant groups know what many Swedes do not know, or not wanrt to know: that there is a structural discrimination of people with different names, colours of skin, religions etcetera. Big enterprises, public authorities, organisations of employers should yearly be officially demanded to present what they have done during the last year for the diversity development.

Fight racism. It is important that political parties do not try to win votes by legitimating direct or indirect racist utterances.

Positive special treatment. What is most important is of course to stop negativ special treatment. But positive special treatment can sometimes be just. When two applicants to an education or a job are identical in competence, we think that it would be fair to make a choice that increases the diversity.

Support to recently arrived refugees. When one person in a family suffers a trauma from war or torture, the whole family needs professional support. There is a great need for family centrals, that meet the new families with a well educated staff.

The right to choose where to live. Recently arrived refugees and unemployed immigrants get apartments in the least attractive suburbs. This is both a result of an existing segregation and a factor that makes the segregation still worse. There should be apartments for these groups in all housing estates in a city.

(*) Chairman of The Federation of Kurdish Associations in Sweden