Turks in Belgium
'Turkish day' outside the 'Yunus Emre Camii' (mosque) in Genk, Belgium.
|Regions with significant populations|
Turks in Belgium or Belgian Turks refers to Turkish people who have immigrated to Belgium. However, the term may also refer to Belgian-born persons who have Turkish parents or who have a Turkish ancestral background.
Turkish migration to Belgium began in the 1960s when Belgium was actively encouraging immigration to meet its employment needs in an era of rapid economic expansion. These immigrants were welcomed as "guest workers" when Turkey signed a bilateral agreement with Belgium in July 1964. As mainly unskilled labourers, Turkish immigrants hoped to make a fortune in a short time and then return to Turkey. The majority of Turkish migrants arrived from the rural regions of central Anatolian provinces, particularly from Afyon, Eskisehir and Kayseri. Many settled in the industrialised areas and later brought families when Belgium attempted to resolve the growing problem of low population by encouraging family reunions.
By the 1970s the phenomenon of immigrants arriving in Belgium with a tourist visa started; most came from Afyon, especially from the town of Emirdağ. Upon arrival they looked for work and tried to legalise their status as labourers. The presence of these tourists created a black market labour force so that on two occasions the government had to legalise their status. Once they obtained the status of "guest workers" they could bring in their family.
By the 1980s, immigration to Belgium for economic reasons was forbidden by law. The only legal way to take up residence in Belgium was by family reunification, which was only applicable to members of the nuclear family of guest workers or by marrying someone who was a Belgian citizen. Another possible motive for coming to Belgium was to apply for the status of asylum-seeker upon arrival. Turkish asylum seekers came from all over Turkey, with some belonging to minority groups in the country (such as Kurds). However, other asylum seekers included ethnic Turks from Eastern Europe (such as Bulgarian Turks and Macedonian Turks).
Since the entry of Bulgaria into the European Union, thousands of Bulgarian Turks, among whom many were already working in Belgium as undocumented foreigners, have established themselves under the status of independent workers, i.e. officially minor associates in small firms, mostly in the building and cleaning sector. They've brought with them their spouses and children, thus beginning to make Belgium their new home, some children are indeed born in Belgium, even when their parents were or are still undocumented. There were officially 1,957 Bulgarian-born persons living in Belgium in 2001, 4,807 in 2006.
|Naturalisation of Turkish citizens:|
The census of 1970 counted 21,000 Turks; in the part-census of 1977 this figure had risen to 60,000. For the next few years, family reunifications continued to raise the totals and by 1981 there were 64,000 Turks. Although this growth was slowing down, it did continue to grow to 72,000 Turks by 1985. By 1996, there were 81,744 Turks in Belgium, 26% of whom lived in Brussels and 50% in Flanders-particularly in Antwerp and Ghent. In 1993, some 88,269 people with Turkish nationality were registered in Belgium, however by 1999, this dropped to 70,701 Turkish nationals because a substantial part of the population adopted the Belgian nationality.
Turks still continue to migrate to Belgium in the hope of building a better future; many lured by social and economic security.
The majority of Turks living in Belgium originate from the region of Emirdağ although there are also many Turks from Sivas who found their way to Belgium. Some 49.8% live in the Flemish region, 25.2% in Wallonia, and 25% in Brussels. Turks from the same region in Turkey also tend to congregate not only in the same cities but also in the same quarters.
The majority of Turks live in the Schaarbeek commune. The Chaussee De Haecht street is heavily populated with Turkish immigrants, with its pizzerias, pastry shops, cafes, and barbers, is reminiscent of a Turkish street. According to the Turkish Consulate in Antwerp, the number of Turks there is about 75,000, and there are 115 Turkish associations just in Antwerp. There are an addition 82 Turkish associations in Brussels.
The majority of Turks are Sunni Muslims Several Turkish Sunni groupings are active in Belgium, most notably Milli Görüş (Fédération islamique belge), the Süleymancis (Union des Centres culturels islamiques de Belgique), the Nurcus and the Gülencis. As in other countries, there is also an official Sunni Diyanet (Fondation religieuse islamique turque de Belgique), which controls most mosques and a majority of the affiliations to the repatriation funerary insurance.
Another Turkish Muslim community present in Belgium is the Alevi one, with several associations in Brussels, the Centre culturel turc pour le respect de la personne humaine - Erenler (Turkish cultural centre for the respect of the human being - Erenler), officially registered in 1994, founded by Alevis from the village of Karacalar, near Emirdag, led by their traditional spirituel leader (dede) from the Şahbaz family, and the more progressive Centre socioculturel alévi de Bruxelles, officially registered in 2003 by 14 founding members, 4 of whom were born in Elbistan, 3 in Belgium, 2 in Gücük (near Elbistan), the rest in Adıyaman, Inis, Tunceli, tr and Sün), Charleroi (Centre culturel alévi de Charleroi, officially registered in 1999 by 9 founding members, 6 of whom had the dual Turkish-Belgian citizenship), Antwerp (Alevietische Kultureel Centrum Antwerpen), Liège (from 2002 till 2004 Liège Alevi Kultur Dernegi - Association culturelle Alévi de Liège, since 2005 Foyer culturel alévi de Liège) and the Limburg province (Samenwerking Limburgse Alevieten, officially registered in 1990). There is also a Federation of the Belgian Alevi Associations, Belçika Alevi Birlikleri Federasyonu, since 2008 Fédération unions des Alévis en Belgique - Belçika Alevi Birlikleri Federasyonu (FUAB-BABF), created in 2003, based in Antwerp, then in Brussels in 2006, and grouping the Alevietische Kultureel Centrum Antwerpen, the Centre culturel alévi de Charleroi and the Samenwerking Limburgse Alevieten.
Organisations and associations
There are dozens of Turkish associations in Belgium, most are grouped into federations, either linked to the Turkish government (Diyanet) and embassy or to various Turkish religious and political movements, Milli Görüş (Fédération islamique belge), the Nurcus, the Süleymancis (Union des Centres islamiques de Belgique), the Gülenci (Prisma, BETIAD, Lucerna, etc.), the Grey Wolves (Verbond der Turkse Verenigingen in België, Belçika Ülkücü Türk Dernekleri Federasyon/Belçika Türk Federasyonu) etc.
The Association of Turkish Businessman in Belgium (BETIAD), was founded in Brussels in 1997, is a Turkish trade association, aiming to bring together Turkish businessmen. BETIAD is linked to the Gülenci movement.
The Association of Turkish Businessman (UNACO), was founded in 2004 in the port town of Antwerp and aims, besides bringing Turkish businessmen together, to contribute to the relations between Turkey and Belgium and between Turkey and the European Union.
At the federal level, several deputies and senators have been elected or coopted to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives and Senate. Among them, the Flemish Socialists Cemal Çavdarlı (deputy in 2003-2007) and Fatma Pehlivan (senator in 2001-2007, and again in 2009-2010), the Flemish Ecologists Meryem Kaçar (senator in 1999-2003) and Meyrem Almacı (deputy since 2007, reelected in 2010), the Flemish Christian Democrat Hilâl Yalçin (deputy in 2007-2010), the N-VA attorney Zuhal Demir (deputy since June 2010; Antwerp district mayor since January 2013) and French-speaking Socialist Özlem Özen (deputy since June 2010). Kaçar, Cavdarlı and Pehlivan are Ghent residents, Almacı and Demir are Antwerp residents Yalçın comes from the Limburg province and Ozen from the Walloon province of Hainaut.
There are also Turkish-Belgian members of the regional parliaments, one of them, Emir Kır (French-speaking Socialist Party), became an underminister in the Brussels regional government in 2004, and again in 2009, as Secretary for Public Sanitation and Monument Conservation.
A dozen Turkish-Belgian municipal councillors became échevin or schepen (alderman) after the 2006 municipal elections, mostly in Flanders or the Brussels Region, plus a few in Wallonia.
Turks have also contributed to music in Belgium, recently Hadise daughter of a family from Sivas was in the pop music world in Belgium. Hadise made a name for herself in 2003 in the “Idool” song contest sponsored by VTM, the largest Belgian broadcaster. Her songs “Stir Me Up” and her album “Milk Chocolate Girl” were on top of the charts for a long time.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Turks in Belgium.|
- Belgian-Turkish Business Association (BETIAD, linked to the Gülenci movement)
- Info-Türk (Turkish Progressive news agency based in Brussels)