In October 2015, on a quiet Sunday morning in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, a brawl erupted between Turks and Kurds in front of the Turkish embassy. About 600 people were involved in the fight, which broke out as the two groups were set to cast absentee ballots in the Turkish general election:
It is unclear how the scuffle started, although there were reports some people were waving flags representing various “extremist organizations” in Turkey. The scene was reminiscent of violence between Turks and Kurds on the streets of Frankfurt one month earlier:
This kind of event is practically unheard of in Japan, but sadly, it demonstrates that not even Japan is immune from the violence that seems inevitably to follow these immigrants wherever they go. The presence of “extremist organization” flags indicates that, rather than leaving their problems behind, these immigrants are bringing them to Japan.
Surprisingly, the police did not arrest anyone involved in this incident. This is unusual considering the zero-tolerance attitude with regard to the policing of foreigners in Japan. The video clearly shows Japanese citizens and police being assaulted, yet no arrests? Does this indicate shrewd diplomatic reserve, or were the police too intimidated to take proper and appropriate action?
Kurds have been coming to Japan to escape persecution by the Turkish government since the 1990s. It is estimated there are between 700—1,000 Turkish Kurds in Japan, over 80% of whom have concentrated themselves in the Kawaguchi and Warabi areas of Saitama Prefecture just outside Tokyo. Rather than integrating into Japanese society, these groups are banding together and taking over entire neighborhoods in an area that has come to be known as “Warabistan.” Here is a short clip of a New Year’s festival held there in 2014:
Almost none of the Kurdish immigrants in Japan have been granted refugee status. Instead, they have either married Japanese citizens or been granted Special Permission to Stay in Japan (a resident status given to illegal immigrants or those who overstay their residence visa). The majority of Kurds in Japan are from Turkey. The next largest group of Kurds hails from Iran, and the conflicts in Iraq and Syria have resulted in an influx of Kurds from those countries, as well.
There are a few support groups for Kurds in Tokyo, including the Japan-Kurdistan Friendship Association. Their stated purpose is to “establish good friendship and economical relation and cooperation and cultural exchanges between Japan and Kurdistan Region.” Given that the Kurds do not have their own country, it is difficult to imagine what kind of economic cooperation is possible with Japan. Perhaps Japanese corporations are actually seeking unskilled, low-paid immigrant workers, as is happening right now in the United States.
In December, a foreigner was ambushed and killed on the street by a group of foreigners in Nagoya, Japan’s third largest city. Security camera evidence indicates both the victim and the perpetrators were speaking Persian. Although few details were provided by the police, this may be yet another instance of immigrant violence spilling over into the streets of Japan.
The Japanese are very kind and generous when it comes to providing aid and relief to those in need. This usually comes in the form of financial donations, but given the alarming rate at which the Japanese population is declining, some are calling for a relaxing of immigration regulations. There are suggestions that more immigrants need to be let in to bolster the dwindling workforce. Others fear the influx of immigrants will irrevocably change Japan.
The coverage of the embassy brawl in the Japanese media raised these issues once more, and some of what I saw asked questions like “What can Japan do?” and “Should Japan be like Europe and let in more immigrants?” In general, the coverage was very sympathetic to immigrants and included street interviews with people who echoed the idea that Japan needs to do more. Is it possible the polite, non-confrontational nature of the Japanese people is being manipulated to achieve an outcome that is ultimately not in their best interests?