How can the integration of the Kurds succeed in Europe?

The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state. Up to two million Kurds from Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria live in Europe. Due to mainly political persecution, the Kurds were forced to leave their families and friends behind. Many of them are still traumatized by the incidents in Kurdistan.

They have been living in the second and third generation in different countries in Europe. Here again their identity and language is being denied. The general public believes they are Turks, Arabs or Iranians. The policy makers remain inactive fearing the resentment of the Turkish community and leaving the Kurds alone with their social, cultural, religious and political problems. For example, the Ezidism as a religion that exists only in Kurdish community, has not yet been officially recognized by any single European country. This is all the more tragic as the Ezidis have recently been victims of the so-called Islamic State. As a result some Kurds turn their backs on the respective countries in Europe. In extreme cases, young people become radicalized.

If the European policy makers wish to successfully integrate the Kurds in Europe, they should develop concepts with which they recognize the Kurds as a distinct migrant group. The recognition of Yezidism could be a first step that would be understood as an important gesture.

Offering Kurdish language classes for example in German, French and English schools ​ could be another step. Educational experts all agree that children with a migration background learn a second language with a relative ease once they speak the native language well.

The guidance and support in initiatives for twinning projects between Kurdish and European cities would intensify dialogue on both sides and contribute to mutual understanding.

Undoubtedly, integration is not a one-way street. The Kurdish society in Europe also bears responsibility and must contribute to the successful integration. As long as the Kurds do not have their own state, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can play an important intermediary role.

Kurdish NGOs must not be understood solely as Kurdish interest groups, but also as German, French and British organizations, shouldering responsibility for the whole of society. They have to inform their community members about current issues in the host countries, help to raise awareness and develop concepts that break down prejudices and promote integration.

Kahraman Evsen, President of the Kurdish-European Society