Fragmented communities: Diaspora politics in the UK’s Turkish-speaking community

In the context of an increasingly transnational world highlighted by proliferating population movements, diasporas have been reconsidered and reconceptualised as agents of change. Diasporas have become crucial political actors with their contribution to the financial and political transformation in their home countries as well as their engagement in policy making in their host countries. In the case of the Turkish-speaking diaspora, there have been noticeable transformations in Turkish democracy in the last 5 years which has been affecting social cohesion and dynamics of its diaspora in Europe. The controversial coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016 and the constitutional change in 2017 has led to the collapse of the country into an authoritarian regime. Autocratic measures in Turkey suffocates the opposition, polarises Turkish society in homeland and diaspora which adds new layers to an already highly fragmented community. There is a new significant wave of migration, added to the already existing Turkish-speaking diaspora in Europe. Solely in October 2018, a total of 2,280 Turkish citizens applied for asylum in European countries in addition to 17,300 who have already applied and are waiting for the conclusion of their asylum process. As a response to the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey, a broader range of groups that were predominantly apolitical subjects started to participate in the political sphere in European diaspora trying to transform Turkey from abroad. This research explores the current dynamics of the Turkish-speaking diaspora and their political engagement from a historical perspective in the UK context. It also investigates the Turkish state’s involvement with its diaspora and dissidents in the UK. The first dimension gives an overview of long-distance nationalism and political engagement of major political groups among the Turkish-speaking diaspora. The second dimension focuses on the Turkish state’s involvement with diaspora in the UK and how it tries to mobilise diaspora as a leverage tool while negotiating European countries as well as intimidating its dissidents globally.