In the course of their turbulent history, the Kurds have experienced a series of deportations which resulted in the creation of a large number of scattered Kurdish communities, sometimes thousands of miles from Kurdistan.
Living evidence of these deportations still exist in countries as far apart as Kirghizia, Kazakhastan, Yemen, Somalia and Erythria. Communities that have retained their languages and customs are present in Turcomenia (40,000), Azerbaijan (150,000), Armenia (45,000), in Georgia (60,000) Afghanistan (200,000), Lebanon (80,000). One of the largest of these communities is that of Kurds deported by Shah Abbas in the 17th Century to Khorassan, in Eastern Iran, which, today, is almost 700,000 strong. They still use the Northern dialect (Kurmancî). The Kurdish communities in central Anatolia, formed from tribes deported from Southern Kurdistan to the provinces of Konya and Ankara by the Ottomans, have also preserved their language and customs.
The political events of the last few decades have driven millions of Kurds towards the great metropolitan centres like Istanbul, (3 million Kurds), Ismir, Adana and Mersin, in Turkey; Baghdad, in Iraq; Tehran and Tabriz, in Iran, to such an extent that it is estimated that, today, about a third of the Kurds live outside Kurdistan.
The formation of a Kurdish diaspora in Europe is a recent phenomenon. In the 1960s, Kurds from Turkey began arriving in Germany. the Benelux countries, Austria, Switzerland and France as immigrant workers under contracts based on inter-government agreements regarding immigrant labour. Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the Army coup d'état in Turkey in 1980 and the Iraqi regimes long drawn out and murderous extermination campaign against the Kurds (Anfal), successive waves of Kurdish political refugees arrived in Western Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America. The campaign, launched in 1992, of forced evacuation and destruction of Kurdish villages, coupled with a policy of political assassination of Kurdish elites by Turkish "death squads" and paramilitary forces, followed by the inter-Kurdish clashes in Iraqi Kurdistan after 1994, have increased the Kurdish exodus to Europe.
No precise and reliable census of the Kurdish diaspora in Europe has been recently carried out, but the most widely accepted estimates set their number at about 850,000 in Western Europe, distributed as follows:
|Kurds in Europe (1995)
|Belgium||50.000|| 60.000 |
There are also about 15,000 to 20,000 Kurds in the United States and over 6,000 in Canada.
Nearly 85% of the Kurdish diaspora in the West comes from Turkey, the Kurds from Iraq come second and form a large part of the communities in Great Britain, the Netherlands, the United States and Sweden.
The last, because of a generous immigration policy initiated by Prime Minister Olof Palme and the material incentives for publication and artistic creation was able to attract a major part of the Kurdish intelligentsia while Germany mainly took in immigrant workers.
The Kurdish diaspora 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, forbidden in Turkey, and thus aroused a fresh interest in Kurdish culture.
The Kurdish diaspora has also played a major political role in making known, to Western public opinion, the fate of the Kurds in the various countries where they are persecuted.
After a period of indecision, the Kurdish diaspora, following the example of other peoples, gradually set up its own institutions, both the preserve the Kurdish language and culture, to popularise the Kurdish cause and to contribute towards a better integration of the Kurds into their host countries. A number of Kurds now take an active part in the political and cultural life of their host countries as writers, journalists, artists, musicians and even at Members of Parliament.