The Kurdish Diaspora in Europe: Identity Formation and Political Activism

The “Kurdish question” has become one of the most protracted conflicts in Turkey’s recent history, and perhaps even the most serious problem facing the Turkish Republic today. It is also one of the most pressing issues affecting Turkey’s prospects for accession to the European Union. Despite recent developments in the Kurdish-Turkish bargaining process, considered by many to constitute significant leaps forward, Turkey still has a long way to go in reaching a stable, democratic resolution of the long-standing, deeply-embedded, and complex issues that concern the country’s Kurdish minority. While Kurds in Turkey continue to make demands of the Turkish government, Diaspora Kurds in Europe also participate in this claims-making process by following alternative strategies at the local, national, and supranational level. As van Bruinessen noted approximately a decade ago, the Kurdish question is no longer a concern solely for countries in the Middle East, but, due to the Kurdish Diaspora, has increasingly become a European debate.

In light of its activism and visibility in Europe, the Kurdish Diaspora has been extolled in several studies for being the “best-organized diasporic community in Europe.” As a result of labor migration, political turmoil, and conflicts in Turkey, many Kurds have become dispersed throughout Europe and beyond. Today, it is no surprise that Kurdish Diaspora adopts strategies in order to raise their collective voice in Europe, to attract attention to their cause from European governments, politicians, and civil society groups, and as part of their struggle to be recognized ethnically and culturally as “Kurds” – firstly in Europe, and then in Turkey. In the European countries where they reside, Kurds maintain and reconstruct their Kurdish identity and use the opportunities available in their new host countries to mobilize their movement. Employing these strategies, the Kurdish Diaspora, at the local, national, and supranational level, has leapt at the opportunity to influence the course of politics within both Turkey and Europe. Above all, this study is an attempt to map out the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe and to analyze its historical development. Secondly, it is an attempt to understand the mechanisms of how and why the mobilization of Kurds occurred in Europe, by examining the movement’s scope of influence as well as its limitations. Finally, the Kurdish Diaspora’s stance towards the AKP and the “Kurdish Initiative” are examined in detail. The purpose here is to shed light on the Kurdish Diaspora, its reach and influence, and its connections to the Kurdish movement in Turkey.


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