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Kurds in Germany

An estimated 1.3 million Kurds live in Germany. Yet little is known about them. In an expert report, two researchers present facts and figures. The results: Anti-Kurdish racism is widespread. When the media report about Kurds, it is often about criminality or violence.

Çinur Ghaderi and Esther Almstadt have been researching Kurds in Germany for years. What is known about this group? What are their experiences with racism in Germany and how do the media report on Kurds? In an expert report for MEDIENDIENST, the researchers present exclusive results of their ongoing research.

The results at a glance:

  • An estimated 1.3 million Kurds live in Germany. This makes them one of the largest immigrant groups in Germany.

  • All interviewees in this study report experiences of racism and discrimination against Kurds in Germany.

  • Kurds and their experiences remain largely invisible in Germany.

  • The leading German media report on Kurds in Germany most frequently in connection with ("clan") crime and violence.

The complete MEDIENDIENST expert report "Kurds in Germany" by Prof. Dr. Çinur Ghaderi and Prof. Dr. Esther Almstadt can be found here (PDF).

The number of Kurds living in Germany is not statistically recorded. According to a new estimate by the authors of the report, there are now 1.3 million people. This makes the Kurdish population one of the largest immigrant groups in Germany.source

Since there is no Kurdish state, Kurds either have German citizenship, the citizenship of their country of origin (such as Turkey or Iraq) or are stateless.

Initial asylum applications by persons of Kurdish ethnicity (2013-August 2023)

Countries of Origin

Kurds have immigrated to Germany mainly from Turkey, but also from Iraq, Syria and Iran. A smaller number come from Lebanon, Israel and former Soviet republics such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In recent years, mainly Kurdish people from Syria and Iraq have immigrated as refugees, and since 2022 increasingly from Turkey.

Kurdish refugees by country of origin

First-time asylum seekers and recognised refugees (2010-August 2023)

Kurds live secularly

There is no reliable data on the religion of the Kurds living in Germany. Most are Sunni Muslims, but there are also Alevis, Yezidis, Faily Shiites, Christians, Jews, Zardashti or Ahl-i Haqq. The largest Yezidi community outside the countries of origin lives in Germany. The majority of Kurds in Germany live secular lives. This is due in particular to the strong Kurdish political movement, which for many Kurds is a stronger anchor point than religion.

How and where do Kurds live in Germany?

Kurds prefer to live in the big cities of the western federal states, if possible near relatives or communities in their region of origin. They often work in manual jobs and in small businesses, especially in trade and the service sector. Start-ups are often family businesses, ranging from travel agencies, transport companies and grocery shops to beauty salons and hairdressing salons. There is also an elite of academic professions and artists. Members of parliament of Kurdish origin are represented at local, state and federal level.

All interviewees report experiences of racism

In a recent research project, Çinur Ghaderi asked key actors about their experiences of anti-Kurdish racism. All of the interviewees report experiences of racism they have observed or experienced themselves in everyday life. These include insults, hate messages, discrimination at work and in asylum shelters, as well as violent attacks and death threats. Prejudices are widespread that devalue Kurds as ignorant, wild, prone to violence and criminal.source

These stereotypes are also evident at the institutional level. Some examples: Kurdish associations report problems with funding applications. Since 1994, data on Kurdish associations has been automatically transmitted to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Criminal Police Office. Information material on the Covid 19 pandemic was initially not translated into Kurdish.

Experiences of discrimination by Kurds often remain invisible. One example is media reports about the racist attack in Hanau. There, Kurdish victims were mourned under the Turkish flag, Kurdish representatives were avoided or were unwanted.

Violence and "clan crime": media report negatively

When German leading media report about Kurds, it is often about so-called clan criminality or violence. This is shown by an ongoing media analysis by Esther Almstadt. One third of the articles she examined under the search term "Kurds" deal with these topics. The willingness of Kurds to integrate and their success in integrating is also frequently reported on - almost a quarter of the articles examined so far deal with these topics.Source


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