How many Kurds live in Turkey?

How many Kurds live in Turkey?

In my column last week, I wrote that Turkey, which has a population of 75,630,000 as of the beginning of this year, has 13,400,000 Kurds, based on KONDA Research Company’s survey. (Radikal, April 18)

Daily Sabah columnist Hasan Celal Güzel wrote two pieces regarding my column. His articles published on April 21 and 22 said the following, in summary:

“In the research issued, the figure reached 13,400,000 corresponds to 17.7 percent of the population and is totally untrue… The Kurdish population in Turkey has been shown twice as much as it is… Actually, Erdem’s 2006 survey and the ratio of the Kurdish population as 7.67 percent is correct… Erdem has made an evaluation based on mother tongue. The Zazas, even though they have a separate language and ethnic identity, have been treated as Kurds.”

After Mr. Güzel had written his observations, he added his opinion that, “As of 2013, the Kurdish population ratio in Turkey has been found to be between 8 and 11 percent; it was calculated that the number of Kurds may vary between 6 and 9 million.”

KONDA has issued reports of its three surveys where it has determined the Kurdish population. In the first survey, 48,000 people have been questioned and in the others number of subjects was over 10,000. As we continuously say and write, or data is open to researchers.

Mr. Güzel has written that KONDA surveys can only be explained as “efforts to show the Kurdish population high,” and that they were “in contradiction with each other.” He has cites the following as proof: that in the 1965 population census when asked about their mother tongues, those who declared that their mother tongue was Kurdish corresponded to 7.07 of the population and that in recent elections, the “accumulated vote of those supporting PKK, racist and separatist political parties was 4.17 percent to 6.58 percent of the total vote.”

These evidences given by Mr. Güzel are actually invalid. The implication that because of reasons unique to us, we may be engaged in an effort to show the Kurdish population as high or low is to claim that we are doing something other than researching, and this is an unacceptable and ruthless claim. To count the 1965 population census results as data indicating today’s Kurdish population is digressing. The vote rate of the BDP in the last two elections can show roughly a value of half of the Kurdish voters (not the population), but it is not correct to depend on these values.

Quite a variety of sources have been publishing facts for a long time regarding the number of Kurds. All of them – including KONDA’s – can be discussed. It is true that we have gathered the Zazas and the Kurds in the same group, as a sociological assumption. It is known that Zazas constitute about 10 percent of Kurds. In order to check and correct other data, it is true that KONDA has used mother tongue data together with other indicators; there is nothing wrong with that.

When population projections of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) between 2000 and 2010 and the Address Based Population Registration System’s records after 2007 are compared, it can be seen that estimations were largely wrong.

The figures for the ratio of the Kurdish population in three surveys of KONDA are 15.7 percent in 2006, 18.3 percent in 2010 and 17.7 percent beginning of 2013. I believe these figures can only be 6 percent high or 3 percent low. In other words, the Kurdish population has not been “written twice.” This survey which was done with huge efforts has revealed that at the beginning of 2013, between 13 million and 14.2 million Kurds were living in Turkey.

Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared on April 25. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.