- Diaspora and citizenship: Kurdish women in London
- Uguris, Tijen
- Social Action for Health
- Jun 2001
The paper aims to explore the social and physical spaces occupied by Kurdish women in the diaspora, and looks closely at how power relations and gender are interrelated within these spaces. The paper recommends ways of engaging Kurdish women in a fully inclusive notion of citizenship in London.
The research is based on interviews with Kurdish women in London, which are contextualised within a wider analysis of existing literature within diaspora studies and a historical overview of Kurdish settlement in London.
Some key findings are as follows:
• Existing studies tend to homogenise the Kurdish community, and render women invisible;
• women in the diaspora inhabit various discursive spaces– neighbourhood spaces, metropolitan spaces, trans-national spaces – and due to the fluid nature of these spaces, constructs of ‘woman’ and senses of self are consistently being restructured and refashioned;
• the ideology of multiculturalism in Britain imposes stereotypical identities on communities and obscures conflict within communities; in a similar light, equal opportunities policies assume that interests within disadvantaged groups are shared, and again obscures conflicts of interest. In both cases, women are rendered invisible;
• Kurdish people on arrival in London may feel a greater sense of Kurdish identity as the sense of the nation is strong in the diaspora e.g. some Kurds change their Turkish names to Kurdish ones when they begin their new lives in the diaspora;
• the invisibility of Kurds, exemplified by their lack of representation within local authorities in Northeast London, means that vital information is excluded from the policy-making process;
• some women may find it difficult to access vital services in London that are offered in the English and Turkish languages only. Further, Kurdish women may experience discrimination similar to their experiences in Turkey e.g. in April 2001, the Turkish national newspaper Milliyet reported that a UK doctor refused to examine a Kurdish woman because she did not speak Turkish.
Conclusions and recommendations
The social space occupied by the Kurdish diaspora is highly heterogeneous, and reflects differences between individuals and groups that result from intersections of gender, class and ethnicity. Kurdish people in London experience social and political exclusion, particularly women, who are marginalised within the Kurdish community. It is crucial that any construction of citizenship by the British nation-state recognises differential gender [and ethnic] constructions within the Kurdish community and between host and Kurdish communities, such that these women may participate fully in society, both socially and politically. The report recommends that local authorities recognise the diversity within diasporic communities, to avoid relying on fixed and unchanging notions of community, culture and identity. Secondly, it is crucial that information is made accessible by all members of marginalised groups, such that weaker members are not excluded from resources that are available to the group as a whole. In this light, all information should be distributed in the appropriate language.
- Resource Type
- Conference paper