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Turkish community of London

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Turkish community of London

Turks in London
Map of London illustrating the settlement of the Turkish community.[1]
Total population
300,000 to 350,000 (July 2005 estimate)[2]
Regions with significant populations

Turks in London or London Turks refers to Turkish people who live in London, the capital city of the United Kingdom. The Turkish community in the United Kingdom is not evenly distributed across the country. As a result, the concentration of the Turks is almost all in Greater London. The Turks have created Turkish neighbourhoods mostly in North and North-East London however there are also Turkish communities in South London and the City of Westminster.


Turks first began to land on English shores during the seventeenth century when they had been freed from galley slavery on Spanish ships by English pirates.[3] Queen Elizabeth I wanted to cultivate good relations with the Ottomans as well as trying to resist the Spanish. Thus, the release of the galley slaves was an instrument of diplomacy.[3] As a result, Murad III helped to divide the naval force intended for the Spanish Armada. This ultimately led to defeat which potentially saved England from coming under Spanish rule.[3]

In 1627 there were nearly 40 Muslims living in London.[4] Although their precise origins cannot be distinguished, it was the Turkish Muslim culture which made a dramatic impression on English society during the seventeenth century with the introduction of coffee houses.[4] The Turks in London worked as tailors, shoemakers, button makers and even solicitors.[4] By the early 1650s, an English merchant who had been trading in the Ottoman Levant returned to London with a Turkish servant who introduced the making of Turkish coffee. By 1652 the first coffee house had opened in London and within a decade more than 80 establishments flourished in the city.[4]

In regards to modern migration, Greece (also referred to as Enosis), many Turkish Cypriots fled their increasingly politically unstable island to seek refuge in England.[6] Many of the early immigrants, both men and women, worked in the clothing industry on arrival to London. It was estimated in 1979 that 60% of Cypriot women (both Turkish and Greek) worked in this industry, many of them doing piecework at home as well as working in factories.[7]

Turks and Turkish Cypriots protesting in central London

By the 1970s Turkish Cypriots started to come to London as refugees because of the on-going war on the island. In July 1974 a coup supported by the then ruling Greek military junta of Greece, tried to overwhelm the Cypriot government and its policy for an independent Cyprus. This eventually led to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The inter-communal fighting and subsequent population exchanges culminated in the division of the island which was another significant reason for large numbers of Cypriot immigration.[8] In 1983, the Turkish-held area declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which is only recognised by Turkey. By the 1990s, Turkish Cypriot migration was increasingly motivated by economic hardship due to Northern Cyprus being an unrecognized nation which is heavily reliant on Turkey.[9] Finally the post 2004 migration was the result of the Republic of Cyprus' EU accession when thousands of Turkish Cypriots decided to apply for Cypriot nationality.[10] Many Turkish Cypriot students have applied for Cypriot citizenship so that they no longer have to pay the steep international fees of British universities; this is because EU students are charged around one seventh of the price compared to internationals.[11]

Turkish mainland migration to London started in the mid-1970s and 1980s and was part of the wider migration wave of Turks from Turkey to Western Europe (who were guest workers). Many who came in the 1970s were originally from rural areas in Turkey whereas a significant proportion of immigrants from Turkey in the 1980s were intellectuals which included both students and highly educated professionals. The majority received support from the Turkish Cypriots living in London.


Almost 90% of Turks in the United Kingdom live in London.[12][13] The Turkish community is visible in certain areas of North and North-East London such as Barnet, Enfield, Edmonton, Wood Green, Palmers Green, Islington, Stoke Newington, Haringey, Hackney, and Tottenham. In South London, they live in Elephant and Castle, Lewisham, Southwark and Peckham. Smaller settlements include the city of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.[14] The spatially concentrated community is due to the Turkish community preferring to live with Turkish neighbours which has now created notable Turkish enclaves in particular areas of London.[15]

Between 280,000[16] and 400,000[17] Turkish Cypriots are believed to be living in London.

There is also an estimated 600-700 Western Thrace Turks living in London although this does not include those who are British-born or who have been naturalised.[18]


A Turkish festival on the South Bank


The Turkish language is the most common language spoken among the ethnic groups in London.[19] The first generation of Turks generally have a limited knowledge of English with women tending to be monolingual in Turkish.[20] The exceptions to this are the first generation that is well-educated with a good command of English. On the other hand, Turkish children born in London are usually English dominant- especially the Turkish Cypriot community. Nonetheless, the Turkish language is taught within the home and through formal Turkish schools. Furthermore, the Turkish language is used in the curriculum of several London public primary schools to help children whose English is poor. At secondary schools it is also offered as a formal examination subject.[20]

Turkish supplementary schools

The oldest Turkish complementary or supplementary schools, which pupils can attend in addition to receiving regular schooling, were established by the Cyprus Turkish Association which organised Turkish language classes as early as 1959.[21] However, it was in the early 1980s when these schools gained much more popularity amongst the community. These schools are independent schools and are administered by Turkish associations in the UK and the respective Ministries of Turkish Language Education and Culture Consortium was established bringing together 18 Turkish schools in the Greater London area.[23]


The Suleymaniye Mosque in Hackney

The Turkish Cypriot community were one of the first Muslim communities to be established in London, even before the South Asian Muslims.[24] During the 1950s a single converted Victorian terrace house was used as a mosque by the community. However, the main objective of the Turkish community was to improve their living conditions rather than promoting Islam. Therefore, the Cyprus Turkish Association ignored religion in its activities as it was viewed as an obstacle to adjusting and integrating in a multicultural environment.[24] Although only a minority of Turkish Cypriots had any interest in religion, Islamic values were still deeply rooted in the majority of the community’s identity. Once the community was firmly settled in London, Turks became aware that although they had maintained their ethnic identity there was a lack of attention to its religious dimension. This resulted in the foundation of the United Kingdom Turkish Islamic Association (UKTIA) in 1979.[24] By 1983 the first Turkish mosque complex, the Azizye Mosque, was established. Turks who had once felt reluctant to attend a ‘non-Turkish’ mosque welcomed the congregation as services were provided in the Turkish language rather than in English or Arabic.[25]

The majority of Turks are Muslims. Turkish places of worship includes Aziziye Mosque and Validesultan Mosque in Stoke Newington;Madina Mosque and Suleymaniye Mosque in Hackney; Fatih Mosque in Wood Green; Sultan Selim Mosque in Seven Sisters; and the Edmonton Islamic Centre in Upper Edmonton.


Due to the collapse of the textile industry in London the majority of the Turkish community decided to pursue self-employment. Restaurants, kebab shops, cafes, supermarkets, minicab offices, off licenses and various other trades have now taken over the textile trade. There are clearly identifiable areas in which these business premises are based; mainly N16, N17, and E8.[26][27]


There are a number of media associations in London for the Turkish Community, including the newspapers Hurriyet, Avrupa, Londra Gazete, Olay and the Turkish Times, the radio station London Turkish Radio, and many other cultural associations and websites.

See also


  1. ^ The Guardian. "A guide to ethnic communities". Retrieved 2009-01-18. 
  2. ^ Kelami Dedezade. "Teaching Bilingual Science". Retrieved 2010-03-27. 
  3. ^ a b c Gilliat-Ray 2010, 13.
  4. ^ a b c d Gilliat-Ray 2010, 14.
  5. ^ Issa 2005, 4.
  6. ^ Faas 2010, 114.
  7. ^ Bridgwood 1995, 34.
  8. ^ Issa 2005, 5.
  9. ^ Issa 2005, 6.
  10. ^ Trimikliniotis 2010, 9.
  11. ^ Cyprus-Mail. "Lower costs for Turkish Cypriots studying overseas". Retrieved 2010-09-25. 
  12. ^ Yilmaz 2005, 154.
  13. ^ Ansari 2004, 174.
  14. ^ Yilmaz 2005, 155.
  15. ^ Ansari 2004, 176.
  16. ^ Cemal, Akay (6 September 2008). "Bir plastik sandalyeyi bile çok gördüler!..". Kıbrıs Gazetesi. Archived from the original on 2011-09-23. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  17. ^ Akben, Gözde (11 February 2010). "OLMALI MI, OLMAMALI MI?". Star Kibris. Retrieved 21 January 2011. 
  18. ^ Şentürk 2008, 427.
  19. ^ von Ahn et al. 2010, 6.
  20. ^ a b Abu-Haidar 1996, 122.
  21. ^ a b Lytra & Baraç 2009, 60.
  22. ^ Lytra & Baraç 2009, 61.
  23. ^ a b Turkish Language Culture and Education Consortium in UK. "Turkish Language Culture and Education Consortium". Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  24. ^ a b c Ansari 2004, 351.
  25. ^ Ansari 2004, 352.
  26. ^ Visit London. "Turkish Neighbourhoods". Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  27. ^ London Business Guide. "London Business Guide Organisation(LBG)". Retrieved 2010-09-24. 


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