Tuesday, 20 December, 2016 , 17:30
During their turbulent history, Kurds have experienced a series of deportations that led to the constitution of many Kurdish settlements, sometimes thousands of kilometers away from Kurdistan.
These deportations have left traces that are still alive in countries as distant as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Yemen, Somalia and Eritrea. Kurdish colonies have retained their language and customs are present in Turkmenistan (60,000), Azerbaijan (150,000), Armenia (45,000), Georgia (50,000), Afghanistan (200,000), Lebanon (150,000). One of the most important colonies is proving that the Kurds who have been deported in the 17th century by Shah Abbas in Iran's Khorasan where they are currently more than a million and a half and still practice the northern dialect (Kurmancî). Kurdish settlements in Central Anatolia, formed by the Southern Kurdistan tribes deported by the Ottomans to the provinces of Konya and Ankara also retain their language and traditions.
The political events of recent decades have pushed millions of Kurds to major regional cities such as Istanbul (3 million Kurds), Izmir, Adana, Mersin in Turkey, Baghdad in Iraq, Tehran and Tabriz in Iran, to the point where we estimate that almost a third of Kurds are currently living outside Kurdistan.
The formation of a Kurdish diaspora in Europe is a recent phenomenon. In the 1960s, Turkey's Kurds are first arrived in Germany and in the Benelux countries, Austria, Switzerland and France as immigrant workers in the framework of inter-governmental agreements on migrant labor . Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, military coup in September 1980 in Turkey, the long and bloody Iran-Iraq war and the campaign of extermination of the Kurds (Anfal) in the years 1986-1990 launched by the Iraqi regime, successive waves of Kurdish political refugees arrived in Western Europe and to a lesser extent in North America. The launch in 1992 of the evacuation campaign and destruction of Kurdish villages in Turkey, coupled with a political assassination of Kurdish elites by the death squads of the Turkish paramilitary forces, and, from 2011 civil war in Syria amplified the Kurdish exodus to Europe.
There is no rigorous and reliable census of the Kurdish diaspora in Europe. The most current estimates indicate the presence of about 1.5 to 1.7 million Kurds in Western Europe are as follows:
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There are also about 50,000 Kurds in the US and over 30,000 in Canada.
The Kurdish diaspora in the West is almost 75% made of Kurds in Turkey. Kurds from Iraq form significant communities in Britain, the Netherlands, the US and Sweden. Kurds from Syria are increasingly numerous in Germany, France and Sweden. The latter, because of a generous immigration policy initiated by late Olof Palme and material incentives for editing and creation, has attracted a large share of the Kurdish intelligentsia while Germany mainly houses a worker immigration.
The Kurdish diaspora plays a significant cultural role and policy. It is the diaspora itself who has given a boost to the literature and Kurdish music, banned until 1991 in Turkey, and created a renewed interest in Kurdish culture in this country. The Kurdish diaspora has also played a major political role to inform Western opinion on the fate of the Kurds in the various countries where they are persecuted.
After a period of trial and error, the Kurdish diaspora, gets inspired by the example of other communities, gradually setting up its own institutions both to save the Kurdish language and culture, to popularize the Kurdish cause and to help better integration of the Kurds in their host countries. Numerous Kurds now actively participate in political and cultural life of their host countries as writers, journalists, artists, musicians, or even as members of parliament in several countries including Sweden, Germany and Netherlands.