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Turkish Cypriot London

Turkish Cypriots came to London to escape political upheaval in Cyprus during the 1950s. Increasing numbers followed over the next two decades as Cyprus was divided and its economy suffered.

More Turkish Cypriots now live in London than in Cyprus. Mostly Muslim, they have opened restaurants and built mosques in areas like Haringey.

Britain was their favoured destination because, as former colonial subjects, they had, or felt they had, a 'special' historical relationship with the colonial heartland. In Britain, however, it turned out that they quickly became an 'invisible population'. Very little has ever been written about them.

Kevin Robins and Asu Akoy 'From spaces of identity to mental spaces: lessons from Turkish-Cypriot cultural experience in Britain', 2001

First generation Turkish Cypriots in London have prior experience of living side by side with other cultures. They come from an island shared with a larger Greek Cypriot population and which was ruled for 80 years by the British.

Turkish Cypriot culture is also strongly influenced by that of mainland Turkey.

There is an estimated community of 100,000 Turkish Cypriots in Britain, 20,000 more than live in Cyprus itself. The majority lives in London, though they originally come from a rural environment.

From the mid 1950s Turkish Cypriot families began to arrive in Britain as a result of political upheaval in Cyprus.

After Cyprus became independent from the UK in 1960, many young Turkish Cypriots left for better educational and business prospects in London.

During the 1970s, a Greek military coup ousted Cypriot president Archbishop Makarios and caused the Turks to invade to protect the Turkish minority. Cyprus was divided as Turks moved north and Greeks moved south. Many Turkish Cypriots came to Britain as refugees.

During the 1950s, Turkish Cypriots lived around Camden and Euston, but with rising rents they have moved further afield.

Green Lanes in Haringey and Stoke Newington in Hackney are now central to Turkish Cypriot life, with their concentration of Cypriot shops and restaurants. There is a mosque at one end of Green Lanes serving this Muslim community. Other Turkish Cypriots reside further north in Walthamstow and Edmonton, often in the same areas as Greek Cypriot Londoners.

Cypriot takeaways offer kebabs and Mediterranean fast food that have become an established alternative to fish and chips.

The Turkish language newspaper ‘Londra Toplum Postasi’ keeps the community up-to-date. Older people whose mother tongue is Turkish are now able to stay informed by watching Turkish satellite television.

London artist Tracey Emin has a Turkish Cypriot father, while innovative fashion designer Hussein Chalayan is from Nicosia in Cyprus.

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