Turks in France

Turks in France also called French Turks or Franco Turks (French: Turcs de France; Turkish: Fransa Türkleri) refers to the ethnic Turkish people who live in France. The majority of French Turks descend from the Republic of Turkey; however there has also been Turkish migration from other post-Ottoman countries including ethnic Turkish communities which have come to France from North Africa (especially Algeria and Tunisia), the Balkans (e.g. from Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Romania), the island of Cyprus, and more recently Iraq and Syria. There has also been migration to France from the Turkish diaspora (i.e. from states outside former Ottoman territories, such as Morocco and Western Europe).

Turks in France
Total population
More than 1,000,000 (2019 estimate in Le Petit Journal)[1]
Regions with significant populations
(Arabic spoken by Algerian Turks and Tunisian Turks; Bulgarian spoken by Bulgarian Turks, etc.)
Sunni Islam


Early Ottoman migrationEdit

The first Turks settled in France during the 16th and 17th century as galley slaves and merchants from the Ottoman Empire;[2][3] the historian Ina Baghdiantz McCabe has described Marseille as a "Turkish town" during this time.[4] According to Jean Marteilhe "…the Turks of Asia and Europe...of whom there are a great many in the galley of France, who have been made slaves by the Imperialists, and sold to the French to man their galleys… are generally well-made, fair in feature, wise in their conduct, zealous in the observance of their religion, honourable and charitable in the highest degree. I have seen them give away all the money they possessed to buy a bird in a cage that they might have the pleasure of giving it its liberty".[5]

Turkish migration from the Republic of TurkeyEdit

France signed a bilateral labour recruitment agreement with Turkey on 8 May 1965[6] because the number of entrants from other countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal was not sufficient.[7] However, in practice, France started to recruit Turkish labourers in the 1970s, until a decision was made to halt the recruitment on 3 July 1974.[7] By 1975 there were 55,710 Turkish workers living in France,[7] this had almost quadrupled to 198,000 in 1999.[8] The majority of Turkish immigrants came from rural areas of Turkey, especially from central Anatolia.[9]

Turkish migration from other post-Ottoman countriesEdit

Whilst the majority of French Turks originate from the modern borders of the Republic of Turkey, there are also significant Algerian-Turkish and Tunisian-Turkish communities which arrived in the France once the Ottoman rule ended with the French colonization of North Africa as well as some who arrived after the formation of the modern borders of Algeria and Tunisia.[citation needed]

Furthermore, there are also smaller numbers of Turkish communities which have arrived to France from the Balkans (e.g. Bulgarian Turks and Western Thrace Turks) whilst Turkish Cypriots have come from both the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. More recently, since the European migrant crisis started in 2014, Iraqi Turks and Syrian Turks have also come to France.


French Turks protesting in Paris.

The majority of Turks are mainly concentrated in eastern France.[10] There is a strong Turkish presence in Île-de-France (especially in Paris), Nord-Pas-de-Calais (mainly in the cities of Calais, Lille, and Roubaix), Rhône-Alpes (especially in Lyon), Alsace (mainly in Strasbourg) and Lorraine.[11][12] There is also a large community in Marseille.[13]

The 10th arrondissement of Paris is steeped with Turkish culture and is often called "La Petite Turquie" (Little Turkey).[14] Bischwiller, in Alsace, is often dubbed "Turkwiller" due to its large Turkish community.[15]


The Eiffel Tower in Paris wearing the colours of the Turkish flag during the "Saison de la Turquie en France".

Official data on the total number of French Turks is not available because the French census only records statistics on the country of origin rather than ethnicity. Indeed, Professor Remy Leveau and Professor Shireen T. Hunter have pointed out that the statistics on the Turkish community "may be too small"; in 2002, they suggested that the number of Turks was reaching 500,000.[16] By 2014 Professor Pierre Vermeren reported in L'Express that the Turkish population was around 800,000.[17] Payam Salom has pointed out that the 800,000 estimate increases by approximately 20,000 every year (however, the Turkish population did increase by 35,000 in 2013) due to high birth rates and family reunification within the community.[18] Professor İzzet Er[19] and Garo Yalic (who is an advisor to Valerie Boyer)[20] have said that there was one million Turks in France since 2011 and 2012 respectively. More recently, in 2019, the Franco-Turkish population exceeded one million according to an article in Le Petit Journal.[1]

Birth ratesEdit

Although the birth rates among Turks living in France has declined over the years they remain substantially higher than the French population. In 1982, the average number of children for Turks was 5.2, compared with 1.8 for the French population. By 1990, the average number of births for Turks was 3.7 compared to 1.7 for the French population.[21]



In 2000, Akıncı and Jisa found that Turkish is spoken exclusively at home by 77% of families, while 68% of children speak French to one another.[22] Turkish children are monolingual in the Turkish language until they start school at the age of 2 or 3; thus, they find themselves in everyday situations in which they have to speak French with their peers.[23] By the age of 10, most children become dominant in the French language.[24] Nonetheless, even for those who use French more than Turkish in their daily lives, numerous studies have shown that they still emphasize the importance of Turkish as the language of the family, particularly for raising children.[25] Thus, there is a high degree of language maintenance in the Turkish community; frequent holidays to Turkey, the easy access and use of Turkish media, and the density of social networks help maintain their language.[26]

A Turkish mosque in Nantes.


The majority of Turks adhere to Islam and focus on creating their own mosques and schools, most of which are tightly linked to Turkey. Thus, Turks worship their religion mainly with others within their community.[27] Due to Turkish immigrants having a strong link to the Turkish state and much less knowledge of the French language, compared to other Muslim immigrants who have emigrated from French-speaking countries, Turks tend to build mosques where sermons are given in Turkish rather than French or Arabic.[28]

The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB), which is a branch of the Turkish state Bureau of Religious Affairs (the Diyanet),[28] promotes a "Turkish Islam" which is based upon a moderate, rational Islam of a secular state.[29] The Diyanet has organic links to the "Coordination Committee of Muslim Turks in France", or CCMTF, (French: Comité de coordination des musulmans turcs de France)[30] which brings under its umbrella a total of 210 mosques.[31] Its major competing network of mosques is run by the Millî Görüş movement (French: Communauté Islamique du Milli Görüş de France) which emphasizes the importance of solidarity of the community over integration into French society.[28] The Millî Görüş has an estimated 70 mosques in France.[28][31]


A Turkish kebab shop in Paris

The Turkish community is considered to be the least integrated immigrant community in France,[11] largely due to their strong attachment to their country of origin.[32] However, there is increasing recognition by Turkish officials that without successful integration the immigrant community cannot lobby for the home country.[32] For example, in 2010, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stressed that assimilation is different from integration and urged the Turkish community in France to integrate by applying for French citizenship.[33]


Discrimination against Turks in French society is seen particularly within the labour market when they are looking for jobs. Given a choice between a Turkish and a French with the same qualifications, French employers tend not to choose the immigrant applicant.[34][35]

Organisations and associationsEdit

  • Comité de coordination des musulmans turcs de France, the coordination committee for Turkish Muslims in France is linked to Turkey.[36]
  • "Fransa Türk Federasyonu", the French Turks Federation.[37]
  • "Migrations et cultures de Turquie" (ELELE), promote knowledge of Turkish immigration and helps to assist the integration of Turkish migrants into French society.[38]
  • "Le Groupement des Entrepreneurs Franco-Turcs" (FATIAD), the leading business association created by Turks living in France.[39]
  • Réseau Pro'Actif, A professional network created by second and third generations of Turks in France. It gathers graduates of the country's leading universities.

Notable peopleEdit

Notable French TurksEdit

Deniz Gamze Ergüven, film director
Professor Erol Gelenbe
Elif Shafak, writer
Fatih Öztürk, football player
Atila Turan, football player

French Turks have contributed in many ways to the arts, academia, cinema, television, music and sports in both France and Turkey.

For example, the renowned photographer Gökşin Sipahioğlu, who founded the Paris-based photo agency Sipa Press, was dubbed "le Grand Turc" in the French media and was appointed the Knight of the Legion of Honour by president Jacques Chirac in 2007.[40]

Also in media, there are numerous notable French Turks in cinema; for example, Deniz Gamze Ergüven is a film director whose 2015 film Mustang won the Europa Cinemas Label Award at the Cannes Film Festival as well as four awards at the 41st César Awards.[41] On television, Anaïs Baydemir is a weather presenter for France 2 and France 3.[42] Furthermore, Muratt Atik[43] and Cansel Elçin[44] have both acted in French and Turkish film and television roles. Meanwhile, the singer Gülseren represented Turkey at the Eurovision Song Contest 2005.[45]

Notable French-Turkish academics include Dr Ipek Yalcin Christmann who is a neurobiologist in charge of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research;[46] Dr Serdar Dalkılıç who founded the National Union of Hospital Practitioners (SNPAC) and who is the President of the Franco-Turkish Health Foundation;[47] Erol Gelenbe who is a Professor in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College; Nilüfer Göle who is a Professor of Sociology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales;[48] Doğan Kuban who is Professor of Ottoman Architecture and History at Istanbul Technical University;[49] Ronald Karel who is the only researcher in the world who has successfully demonstrated and proved the existence of ionized earthquake clouds;[50] Dr Halit Mirahmetoğlu who launch "Gökmen Aviation and Aerospace Training Center" (GUHEM) which is the very first center in Turkey devoted to the themes of space and aviation;[51] the historian Nora Şeni is a Professor at the Institut français de géopolitique;[52] and Semih Vaner who was founder and president of the "French Association for the Study of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkish-Iranian World" (AFEMOTI), Director of the "Study Group on Contemporary Turkey and Iran (ERTCI)", and Director of "Study notebooks on the Eastern Mediterranean and the Turkish-Iranian world" (CEMOTI).

Non-fiction French-Turkish writers include Elif Shafak who was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2010;[53] the novelist Nedim Gürsel who teaches contemporary Turkish literature at the Sorbonne;[54] Seyhan Kurt who is a poet, writer, anthropologist and sociologist; and the novelist Kenizé Mourad who descends from the exiled Ottoman royal family and is of partial Turkish descent; her bestselling book Regards from the Dead Princess: Novel of a Life sold more than 3 million copies in France and tells the story of the end of the Ottoman Empire through the eyes of her mother Princess Selma.[55]

In fashion, the designer Ece Ege co-founded the Paris-based high fashion brand Dice Kayek with her sister Ayşe Ege; they won the prestigious Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013.[56]

Most obvious are the large number of male French-Turkish football players, including Emre Akbaba, Aksel Aktas, Kubilay Aktaş, Mikail Albayrak, Fatih Atik, Numan Bostan, Umut Bozok, Ozkan Cetiner, İbrahim Dağaşan, Mustafa Durak, Mevlüt Erdinç, Ayhan Güçlü, Metehan Güçlü, Ender Günlü, Serdar Gürler, Selim Ilgaz, Burak Kardeş, Samed Kılıç, Özer Özdemir, Sinan Özkan, Hakan Özmert, Fatih Öztürk, Yusuf Sari, Atila Turan, Kendal Ucar, Sabahattin Usta, Serkan Yanık and Yakup Ramazan Zorlu. In addition, there are several female French-Turkish football players too, including Selen Altunkulak and İpek Kaya.

In religious affairs, Ahmet Ogras became the first French-Turkish President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith in 2017.[57]

In politics, Agnès Evren was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in the 2019 election in France,[58] and in 2020 Metin Yavuz was elected the mayor of Valenton in Paris.[59]

Notable French Algerian-TurksEdit

Benjamin Stambouli, football player

Some Algerians with Turkish origins have contributed to the arts, sports and politics in France.

Notable writers include Mustapha Haciane who was born in Algeria into a Turkish family and who currently resides in Paris;[60] as well as Leïla Sebbar who is paternally of Turkish origin through her grandmother.[61]

In politics, Nafissa Sid-Cara, who was the first female minister to serve in the French Fifth Republic as well as the first ever Muslim woman to serve as a minister in a French government,[62] was born into a family of Turkish origin which had been established in Algeria;[63] her brother Chérif Sid Cara was also a notable politician and doctor.[63] Other notable French politicians of Algerian-Turkish origin include the lawyer Kaddour Sator who was Deputy of Constantine in 1946,[64] as well as Mourad Kaouah[65] who served as the deputy of Algiers from 1958 to 1962 - being the only French Muslim deputy at the time.[66]

There are also several notable sportsman of Algerian-Turkish origin, including the former pole vaulter and Olympian Patrick Abada[67] as well as footballers Benjamin Stambouli[68][69] and his father Henri Stambouli; the surname "Stambouli" means "from Istanbul" and is commonly used by Algerian-Turks who trace their roots to the city.[70]

Numerous sources claim that the actress Isabelle Adjani is paternally of Algerian-Turkish origin.[71][72][73][74][75]

Notable French Moroccan-TurksEdit

Ali Bourequat, businessman

Some ethnic Turks living in France have also come from the diaspora, especially Morocco. The majority of these arrivals and descendants are from the Turco-Algerian diaspora and Turco-Tunisian diaspora. For example, Leïla Chellabi is a Morocco-born writer whose father was an Algerian Turk who obtained French citizenship.[76] Furthermore, the Moroccan-born French businessman Ali Bourequat is from a Turco-Tunisian family.[77]

Notable French Tunisian-TurksEdit

Notable Tunisian-Turks in France include the Paris-based artist Mourad Salem,[78][79] and fashion stylist Yasemin Tordjman, who was married to Éric Besson, is of Turkish origin through her paternal grandfather.[80]

Notable French Levantine TurksEdit

In addition to the substantial number of contributions made by French citizens of Turkish origin who descend from Turkey and the Maghreb, there are also notable French Turks who have backgrounds from other former Ottoman territories. For example, the Lebanese-French author Amin Maalouf is of Turkish origin through his Turco-Egyptian mother.[81] In addition, Egyptian-born Nil Yalter is a contemporary feminist artist with both Turkish and French citizenship.[82][83]

There are also notable Syrian Turks in France; for example, the singer Mennel Ibtissem, who gained fame after being a contestant on The Voice France, has a Syrian-Turkish father.[84]

See alsoEdit


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  3. ^ Takeda 2011, 98.
  4. ^ McCabe 2008, 18.
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  17. ^ Vermeren, Pierre (2014). "Face à l'islam de France, du déni à la paralysie". Retrieved 28 October 2020. Depuis dix ans, ce chiffre est régulièrement ben brèche: les estimations hautes décrivent une France qui compterait 4 à 5 millions d'Algériens et descendants, autour de 3 millions de Marocains, 1 million de Tunisiens, 2 millions d'Africains du Sahel, 800 000 Turcs, etc.
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Further readingEdit

  • Böcker, A. (1996), “Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Migration from Turkey to Europe” Boðaziçi Journal Vol. 10, Nos. 1–2.
  • Cahiers d'Etudes sur la Mediterranée orientale et le Monde Turco-iranien (1992), special issue on Turkish immigration in Germany and France, Paris: Centre d'Etude des Relations internationales, n°13.
  • Cahiers d'Etudes sur la Mediterranée orientale et le Monde Turco-iranien (1996), special issue on Turkish migrant women in Europe, Paris: Centre d'Etude des Relations internationales, n°21.
  • Les Annales de l'Autre Islam (1995), special issue on Turkish diaspora in the World, Paris: Institut national des Langues et des Civilisations orientales, n°3.

External linksEdit