Summary of our brand new interview with Dr. Bahar Başer of University of Warwick on her book entitled “Turkish-Kurdish Problem in Diaspora, Second-generation Diasporas in Germany and Sweden”.

Interview with Dr. Bahar Başer on Her Book: Turkish — Kurdish Question in the Diaspora, Second-generation Turkish and Kurdish Diasporas in Sweden and Germany

In Sweden, lives of Turkish and Kurdish almost never cross with each other. That is why it is nearly impossible to see any relationship (either violent or not) between them either. In contrast with the situation in Sweden, there is an organic structure between Turks and Kurds in Germany. For instance, they usually live together in the same neighbourhoods. Due to this co-habitation, it is possible to see different types of relationships (such as violent, non-violent ones or the grey area (relationship that does not include violence, but it embodies an aggressive language)) between two groups.

It can be claimed that Sweden’s immigration policies are much better than Germany and other European countries. The multicultural system in Sweden allows the immigrants to become citizens and to organize institutionally themselves. Nevertheless, in Sweden, the immigrants face discrimination in everyday life.

Most of the Kurds in Sweden consists of refugees. Due to the multicultural system in Sweden and the educational background of the refugees, the Kurds in Sweden have a chance develop their language and culture. However, in Germany this is not the case. If the system in Germany were to be convenient, probably the development of Kurdish language and cultural activities could be witnessed in Germany too. In addition to the Kurdish Diaspora in Sweden, the Turkish Diaspora in Sweden is highly homogeneous too. The main reason behind this homogeneity is due to the fact that the Turkish population that migrated to Sweden are mostly from Konya’s districts named as Kulu and Cihanbeyli. Despite the homogeneous picture of these two Diasporas in Sweden, in Germany they carry some highly heterogeneous features. Again in Germany, most of the Kurdish diaspora have migrated as refugees and they are well educated. Additionally, there are Kurds who migrated as guest workers. On the other hand, most of the Turkish population in Germany consists of guest workers while only a few are refugees.

The most important result of the difference between the German and Swedish systems is due to the fact that Kurds in Germany are being recognized as Turks because they came from Turkey. This makes them feel like a minority twice.

Also in German-Turkish relations, Germany protecting Turkey’s interests affects lives of Kurds in the diaspora in Germany. For instance, Kurds’ trust towards Germany is shaken when Germany listed the PKK as a terrorist organization. Despite all the negativities, Germany is the most important country for the Kurds where they have improved themselves politically.

As a consequence of Kurdish lobbying activities in Sweden (lobbying activities with political parties and NGOs that are working on human rights issues), Kurds in Sweden have the power to reach the Swedish government and European Parliament. Yet, in Germany, Kurds have no such power over German government because Germany tries to protect its relations with Turkey.

Turkish lobbying activities in Sweden started with the Armenian Genocide Bill. By protecting Turkey’s image, Turks in Sweden aim to protect their stance in the host country. In Germany, seeing street conflicts between Turks and Kurds is usual. However, in Sweden, this is almost impossible to witness. Another reason for that is in Sweden the population of Turks and Kurds are less than other immigrant groups. When it is realized that Turkish population in Germany will be permanent, political parties and actors in Turkey played a big role in founding satellite organizations. The current governments in Turkey also played a big part in doing this. Just like Presidency of Religious Affairs, Republican People’s Party, Nationalist Grey Wolfs and Atatürkist Thought Association also founded in diaspora. But, the balance of power between these organizations might be different than in Turkey. The conflicts between Turks and Kurds in Germany are similar to those in Turkey. Still, this does not mean that whatever happens in Turkey is repeated in Germany.

In fact, if there is a conflict between Turks and Kurds in Germany (either violent or not), this is a result of inequalities and injustices being produced in Germany similar to Turkey. If a Turk shows some reaction to a Kurd, the reason behind it is due to attempts for rebuilding the same ethnic hierarchy in Germany. That is why Kurds feel much more suffered in Germany. They think that they are mistreated in both Germany and Turkey.Regarding the Gezi Protests in diaspora, Kurds were present. However, in Sweden there was no institutional statement made. Only individual protests. In Germany, they were present as fully organized.

As the generations change, the bonds between Kurdish and Turkish diaspora groups are severing. In first generation, they have the feeling of familiarity. The new generation does not speak Turkish; they speak German and learn Kurdish, so in the future, the links may get broken.

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