Turks in Belgium

Turks in Belgium
Yunus Emre Mosque, Genk.jpg
'Turkish day' outside the 'Yunus Emre Camii' (mosque) in Genk, Belgium.
Total population
Over 200,000 (2012 academic estimate)[1]
250,000 (2019 academic estimate)[2]
Approximately 2.2% of Belgian population
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly: Sunni Islam Minority: Alevism and irreligious
Turkish day at the Grand Place (2006)
Turkish flags in the Brussels town of Sint-Joost-ten-Node

Turks in Belgium (Turkish: Belçika'daki Türkler), also referred to as Turkish Belgians or Belgian Turks (Turkish: Belçika Türkleri), are people of Turkish ethnicity living in Belgium. The majority of Belgian Turks descend from the Republic of Turkey; however there has also been significant Turkish migration from other post-Ottoman countries including ethnic Turkish communities which have come to Belgium from the Balkans (especially from Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Romania), the island of Cyprus, and more recently Iraq and Syria.


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.[3] These immigrants were welcomed as "guest workers" when Turkey signed a bilateral agreement with Belgium in July 1964.[4][5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8][9] 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.[10]

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).[10]

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.[11]


Naturalisation of Turkish citizens:[12][13]
Year Population Year Population
1990 706 1999 4,402
1991 1,020 2000 17,282
1992 4,044 2001 14,401
1993 3,415 2002 7,805
1994 6,263 2003 5,186
1995 6,925 2004 4,467
1996 7,066 2005 3,602
1997 7,835 2006 3,204
1998 6,932 2007 3,039

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.[14] By 1996, there were 81,744 Turks in Belgium, 26% of whom lived in Brussels and 50% in Flanders-particularly in Antwerp and Ghent.[7] 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.[15]

Turks still continue to migrate to Belgium in the hope of building a better future; many lured by social and economic security.[16]

The majority of Turks living in Belgium originate from the region of Emirdağ although there are also many Turks from Sivas and Piribeyli who found their way to Belgium.[17] Some 49.8% live in the Flemish region, 25.2% in Wallonia, and 25% in Brussels.[18] Turks from the same region in Turkey also tend to congregate not only in the same cities but also in the same quarters.[19]

The majority of Turks live in the Schaarbeek commune.[20] The Chaussee De Haecht street is heavily populated with Turkish immigrants,[21] 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.


Turkish people gathering in Brussels, Belgium 2008

The majority of Turks are Sunni Muslims[22] Several Turkish Sunni groupings are active in Belgium, most notably Milli Görüş (Fédération islamique belge), the Süleymancis (Union des Centres culturels islamiques de Belgique) and the Nurcus . 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, Soğucak and Sün [tr]),[23] Charleroi (Centre culturel alévi de Charleroi, officially registered in 1999 by 9 founding members, 6 of whom had the dual Turkish-Belgian citizenship),[24] Antwerp (Alevietische Kultureel Centrum Antwerpen), Liège (from 2002 till 2004 Liège Alevi Kültür Derneği - Association culturelle Alévi de Liège,[25] since 2005 Foyer culturel alévi de Liège)[26] 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),[27] created in 2003, based in Antwerp, then in Brussels in 2006,[28] 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 Grey Wolves (Verbond der Turkse Verenigingen in België, Belçika Ülkücü Türk Dernekleri Federasyon/Belçika Türk Federasyonu) etc.

Political participation

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 [nl] (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 [nl] (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 [fr] (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 Kir (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.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ Taras, Raymond (2012), Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe, Edinburgh University Press, p. 160, ISBN 978-0748654895, It follows that large Muslim minorities like the Turks – who total over 200,000 in Belgium
  2. ^ Manço, Altay; Taş, Ertugrul (2019), "Migrations Matrimoniales: Facteurs de Risque en Sante´ Mentale", The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, SAGE Publishing, 64 (6): 444, doi:10.1177/0706743718802800, PMC 6591757, PMID 30380909
  3. ^ Fitzmaurice 1996, 66.
  4. ^ Kasaba 2008, 192.
  5. ^ Cohen 1995, 279.
  6. ^ Wets 2006, 93 harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFWets2006 (help).
  7. ^ a b Moutsou 2006, 123.
  8. ^ Gailly 1997, 147.
  9. ^ Akgündüz 2008, 92.
  10. ^ a b Gailly 1997, 148.
  11. ^ Schoonvaere, Quentin, ed. (2009), Migrations et populations issues de l'immigration en Belgique - Rapport statistique et démographique 2008 (PDF) (in French), Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism
  12. ^ Kaya & Kentel 2007, 20.
  13. ^ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2008, 356
  14. ^ Nielsen 2004, 70.
  15. ^ Timmerman 2004, 144.
  16. ^ Timmerman & Van der Heyden 2005, 94
  17. ^ Timmerman & Van der Heyden 2005, 91
  18. ^ Blommaert & Verschueren 1998, 43
  19. ^ Gailly 1997, 149.
  20. ^ State 2004, 279.
  21. ^ Koutroubas, Vloeberghs & Yanasmayan 2009, 73
  22. ^ Levinson 1998, 13-14.
  23. ^ "Centre socioculturel alévi de Bruxelles" (PDF), Moniteur belge (in French), Brussels: Kingdom of Belgium, November 13, 2003.
  24. ^ "Centre culturel alévi de Charleroi", Moniteur belge (in French), Brussels: Kingdom of Belgium, January 21, 1999.
  25. ^ "Liège Alevi Kültür Derneği - Association culturelle Alévi de Liège" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  26. ^ "Foyer culturel alévi de Liège" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  27. ^ Fédération unions des Alévis en Belgique - Belçika Alevi Birlikleri Federasyonu
  28. ^ "Fédération unions des Alévis en Belgique - Belçika Alevi Birlikleri Federasyonu" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-01-24.


  • Akgündüz, Ahmet (2008), Labour Migration from Turkey to Western Europe, 1960-1974: A Multidisciplinary Analysis, Ashgate Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7546-7390-3
  • Avramov, Dragana; Cliquet, R.L. (2005), Integrated Policies on Gender Relations, Ageing and Migration in Europe, Garant, ISBN 90-441-1728-9.
  • Blommaert, Jan; Verschueren, Jef (1998), Debating Diversity: Analysing the Discourse of Tolerance, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-19138-6.
  • Cohen, Robin (1995), The Cambridge Survey of World Migration, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-44405-5
  • Fitzmaurice, John (1996), The Politics of Belgium: A Unique Federalism, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, ISBN 1-85065-209-0
  • Gailly, A (1997), "Turkish Immigrants in Belgium", in Al-Issa, Ihsan; Tousignant, Michel (eds.), Ethnicity, Immigration, and Psychopathology, Springer, ISBN 0306454793
  • Kasaba, Reşat (2008), The Cambridge History of Turkey, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-62096-3.
  • Kaya, Ayhan; Kentel, Ferhat (2007), Belgian-Turks A Bridge or a Breach between Turkey and the European Union? (PDF), King Baudouin Foundation, ISBN 978-90-5130-587-6, archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-26
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  • Koutroubas, Theodoros; Vloeberghs, Ward; Yanasmayan, Zeynep (2009), "Political, Religious and Ethnic Radicalisation Among Muslims in Belgium", in Emerson, Michael; Roy, Olivier (eds.), Ethno-Religious Conflict in Europe: Typologies of Radicalisation in Europe's Muslim Communities, CEPS, ISBN 978-9290798224
  • Levinson, David (1998), Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 1-57356-019-7
  • Moutsou, Christina (2006), "Merging European Boundaries: A Stroll in Brussels", in Stacul, Jaro; Moutsou, Christina; Kopnina, Helen (eds.), Crossing European Boundaries: Beyond Conventional Geographical Categories, Berghahn Books, ISBN 1-84545-150-3.
  • Musterd, Sako; Ostendorf, W.J.M.; Breebaart, Matthijs (1998), Multi-ethnic Metropolis: Patterns and Policies, Springer, ISBN 0-7923-4854-0.
  • Nielsen, Jørgen (2004), Muslims in Western Europe, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0-7486-1844-9.
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2001), Trends in International Migration: Continuous Reporting System on Migration. 25th annual report, 2000 Edition, OECD Publishing, ISBN 92-64-18612-3.
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2008), International Migration Outlook: SOPEMI 2008, OECD Publishing, ISBN 978-92-64-04565-1.
  • Rose, Arnold (1969), Migrants in Europe, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 0-8166-0542-4.
  • State, Paul (2004), Historical Dictionary of Brussels, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-5075-3.
  • Timmerman, Christiane (2004), "When Tradition Becomes Fashionable: The Case of Young Turkish Women in Belgium", in Diedrich, Maria; Cook, Theron; Lindo, Flip (eds.), Crossing Boundaries: African American Inner City and European Migrant Youth, LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, ISBN 3-8258-7231-9
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  • Yanasmayan, Zeynep (2010), "Role of Turkish Islamic Organizations in Belgium: The Strategies of Diyanet and Milli Görüs" (PDF), Insight Turkey, 12 (1): 139–161, archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04

Further reading

  • Caprioli, Nathalie, ed. (January 2007), "Aux pays des Alévis", Agenda Interculturel (in French), Brussels: Centre bruxellois d'action interculturelle (249), archived from the original on 2008-06-02.
  • Koksal, Mehmet; Manço, Ural; de Tapia, Stéphane; Goban, Tanju; Lambert, Pierre-Yves; et al. (September 2004), "Marche turque", Agenda Interculturel (in French), Brussels: Centre bruxellois d'action interculturelle (225), archived from the original on 2009-04-14.
  • Koksal, Mehmet; Daoudov, Murat; Lambert, Pierre-Yves; Vanrie, Pierre; et al. (October 2004), "Voyage au Turkbeekistan", Politique (in French), Brussels (36), ISSN 1372-908X.
  • Khoojinian, Mazyar (February 14, 2009). "Les Communistes turcs en Belgique (1972-1989)" (PDF) (in French). CArCoB – Archives Communistes. p. 21. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
  • Lebrecht, Michaël (1997), Alévis en Belgique. approche générale et étude de cas, Sybidi (in French), Louvain-la-Neuve: Academia-Bruylant, ISBN 978-2-87209-466-0
  • Wets, Johan (March 2006), "The Turkish Community in Austria and Belgium: The Challenge of Integration", Turkish Studies, 7 (1): 85–100, doi:10.1080/14683840500520600, S2CID 144525781.
  • Khoojinian, Mazyar (2018). Les Turcs à la mine : l'immigration turque dans l'industrie charbonnière belge (1956-1970). Louvain-la-Neuve: EME. ISBN 9782806636362.

External links

  • Info-Türk (Turkish Progressive news agency based in Brussels)

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