A campaign to make Kurdish identity count in Britain

The Kurdish Students and Studies Organisation has launched a campaign to make Kurdish identity count in Britain. They call upon Kurds to Participate in the UK Census 2011.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) carries out a census to find out more about the people who live in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and about the make-up of local neighbourhoods. The next census will take place on 27 March 2011, when ONS will be sending out questionnaires for around 25 million households to complete.

The census asks about work, health, national identity, citizenship, ethnic background, education, second homes, language, religion, marital status and so on. These statistics are then used to build a picture of today’s society.

Census 2011 is paramount important for Kurdish communities to be visible in the UK official data.  Researchers of London Metropolitan University, who carried out an ESRC -funded research project on ethnic minorities  including   Kurdish population in London, state that the Kurds do not appear in much of the UK statistical data. Kurds are registered in the UK to their nationality, not their ethnic affiliations and therefore Kurds remain unrecognised as they are classified as  ‘Turkish’, ‘Iranian’, ‘Iraqi’ and ‘Syrian’ within the UK. This impact on the services provided to the Kurdish community through information, advice and guidance as some Kurds are unable to access the local and national social services provided for migrants in Britain (Holgate. J et al 2009).

Emphasis on official data such as the Census and the Labour Force Survey provide vital information on identity, ethnicity, religion, employment, and economic activities of the population in the UK. However, such data collection in the past have restricted any gathering of information on Kurds living in the UK and leaves Kurds invisible to the public sphere. “Kurds are therefore left with little option other than to define themselves as ‘Turkish’, ‘Iraqi’, ‘Syrian’ or ‘Iranian’. As such, the “Kurdish identity is not only subsumed under ethnic categorizations that do not distinguish from other minority ethnic groups, but it also imposes upon Kurds an unacceptable national identities that most have spent their lives opposing” (Holgate. J et al 2009)*. Although Kurds settled into the UK years ago, the British authorities are unable to divulge the number of Kurds living in the UK and are consequently unable to plan service provision accordingly. Excluding Kurds from previous Census data means that Kurds are not integrated into issues such as provision of health care, employment, education and economic activities as they are not recognised under their own ethnic identity as being ‘Kurds’.

Kurdish communities have been lobbying for the recognition of the Kurdish ethnic identity within official government data. Relevant papers produced by different government institutions highlight that the local and national government should introduce “Kurds” as a separate ethnic category within the Census in order to rectify the problems Kurdish people are facing in their everyday life accessing hospitals, schools, and employment related matters.

It has now been acknowledged by UK institutions that official data has led to ethnic groups like the Kurds becoming “invisible” within institutions in the UK. This means that the Kurdish population in the UK has the opportunity to overcome their subordination and invisibility and reject the imposed identities such as Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian, or Syrian and write down their ethnicity and language on Census 2011 forms. KSSO has started a campaign to encourage the Kurdish population in the UK to attend the Census 2011 survey and put their language and ethnicity as “Kurdish” on the census forms. We need your help to promote greater awareness of the Kurds in the UK and to inform and encourage the Kurdish population in the UK to fill in the census forms on 27 March 2011.  All the households in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will receive a census questionnaire in the post. You can either complete and return this by post, or complete an online version of your questionnaire. The questionnaire should be completed on, or as soon as possible after, Sunday 27 March 2011.This will help us locally and nationally to give us an overview of demographical information of the Kurdish population in the UK and their needs including work, education, housing, health, economic activities as well as will make visible the Kurdish national and ethnic identity and language in the UK official data. ONLY according to these demographic data, the local and national government will be able provide a proper service to Kurdish people. We have only one month to inform and encourage the Kurdish population living in the UK to fill out their Census forms.

KSSO aim to promote greater awareness of the Kurds, their political and cultural struggle in the Middle East and as a significant minority community in the UK. Therefore we call all the Kurdish population living in the UK to attend Census 2011 and register their national, ethnic and linguistic identity as Kurdish because this will help our community to overcome their subordination and invisibility and will create for them valuable political, cultural and economic opportunities in the British public sphere.

 

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