Turkish people and British politics: Where are the other 499,997?


This month, OBV have had the pleasure to work with students from B6 College in Hackney as they undertake a work placement at OBV. 19 year old Hanifi describes the importance of politics to him.

The Turkish community, faces the same lack of political representation that many other BME communities face.

According to the Home Office, there are 500,000 people of Turkish origin living in the UK, made up of approximately 150,000 Turkish nationals and about 300,000 Turkish Cypriots. But despite the large numbers, only three have made it to political office. . The three are - Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece, the first woman of Turkish Cypriot origin to be a member of the House of Lords; Boris Johnson, who was appointed Mayor of London in 2008 (Boris Johnson's great grandparents were Turkish); and Alp Mehmet, the British Ambassador of Iceland in 2004.

Where are the other 499,997?

In answering this, the overriding question was does the Turkish community cares more for politics in Turkey/North Cyprus than they care about UK Politics? More about a place thousands of miles away, then about where they live now?

North Cyprus

The issue of unrecognised North Cyprus could be a reason why the Turkish Cypriot community don't take part in British politics.

North Cyprus declared its independence in 1983 and since then, it is only recognised by one UN member, Turkey. The United Nations Security Council Resolution defines the declaration of independence by Northern Cyprus as 'legally invalid'.

Migration from Cyprus to the UK occurred in part due to the colonial links between the countries and the internal conflict that followed Cyprus' independence from the British Empire. At present, there are an estimated 300,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the UK which is even more compared to Turkish Cypriots in North Cyprus as estimates shows that there are between 150,000 - 200,000. This clearly shows that the majority of the Turkish Cypriots are living in UK and may be influenced by what's happening in North Cyprus. For some the fact that North Cyprus is unrecognised could lead them to have negative thoughts about politics. Although North Cyprus is a beautiful place in terms of tourism, trade and investment wise. having embargoes in North Cyprus could be a reason why the Turkish community don't care about politics in the UK.

As a teenager, although elections may seem pointless, having a say by voting is important. On the domestics front, it could lead to a better standard of living by opening new doors - for example a policy to reduce tuition fees may lead to having a better qualified workforce for the future. In terms of foreign policy, the Cyprus dispute is a key reason for us to get involved and already there are Turkish Cypriots involved in political campaigns and protests.

Over these last few days, I have found that organisations such as Operation Black Vote (OBV) are good sources to gain information and provide help and support for people who feel as if they cannot take part because of their ethnicity and their background. In my opinion, Turkish teenagers can and should play an important role in changing the British political system both in domestic and foreign policy.

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Embargoes Deter Turkish Cypriots in Engaging with UK Public Life

Fascinating article and well done to OBV for flagging this. The Embargoed! human rights group has always seen OBV as a wonderful role model and template to get British Turks to take their rightful place in public life. There are more of us moving into areas such as judicial roles and school governor positions etc but definitely more must be done to highlight this disconnect - in relation to the point about the unjust embargoes on North Cypriot people having a direct impact on Turkish Cypriots here in the UK I think there is an intelligent point being made here. The likes of Baroness Hussein-Ece and Alp Mehmet are certainly leading the way as wonderful role models showing what can be achieved, but there really is no justification for the embargoes to continue, particularly after Turkish Cypriots voted to reunify the island in 2004. Well done Hanifi, great article.