About 1,000 of Kurdish refugees live around Warabi city, Saitama. This area is now called Warabistan.
A Kurd describes a race which does not have its own country but is living in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria and speaks Kurdish and believes in Islam. They are oppressed in various ways, for example conversations or writings in Kurdish are forbidden in each country. Kurds who were afraid of persecution by Turkey’s government in the 1990s visited Japan after being exiled and have gathered around Warabi city, Saitama. It is said that 90 % of Kurds in Japan live in this neighborhood.
There are many Kurdish people who stand in front of Seven-Eleven at the east entrance of Warabi Station. They chat in their language and drink juices or eat popsicles with mobile phones in one hand like Japanese youth. They can speak Japanese and some of them were born in Japan.
Warabi city and its neighboring town, Kawaguchi city, have small factories and many foreign workers. There are also Iranian people, with whom Kurds can communicate, and where rent is low. Kurds who came to Japan in the 1990s stayed at Warabishi Shimin Koen (Wrabi City Park) to look for work. A rumor spread and then Kurds gathered in Warabi one after another and called their families and relatives. The number of Kurds who live in Warabi has become approximately 1,000.
Some Kurds own a kebab shop called Happy Kabab in Shiba, Kawaguchi city, and this shop is a hangout for Kurds.
Many Kurdish people arrived in Japan to request refugee status. While more than 3,000 Kurds have applied for refugee status, none have been successful in their application because of the good withstanding relationship between the Turkish and Japanese governments. Some Kurds obtain visas through marriage with Japanese people, and most obtain “Special Permission to Stay” visas to stay in Japan.
A Kurdish New Year festival, called “Newroz”, is held in Warabi City Park on the Vernal Equinox in March every year. All the Kurds in Japan gather in Warabi. Women with folk costumes dance to Kurdish traditional music.
There is a Kebab stall where you can eat Kebab sandwiches.
Kurdish flags, three colors of red, white and green, centered with a yellow sun, are raised. In addition, flags with the face of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) can be seen.
Button badges of Kurdish flags, Kurdish music CDs and Kurd-related books are sold. Raising Kurdish flags, talking in Kurdish and singing Kurdish songs are prohibited in Turkey where most of them have lived before.
There are donation boxes stuck on photos of the Kurdish Peshmerga troops battling against ISIS in Syria. During the 2015 Newroz festival, Kurds prayed for the victims of terrorism in Syria and Japanese victims killed by ISIS.
[How to go]
Seven-Eleven Warabihigashiguchi 1 Bangai (セブンイレブン蕨東口1番街店) : 1-5-1 Tsukakoshi, Warabi (蕨市塚越1-5-1), a 5 minute walk from Warabi Station (蕨駅) on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line
Warabi Shimin Koen (蕨市民公園, Warabi City Park) : 5-1 Tsukakoshi, Warabi (蕨市塚越5-1), a 13 minute walk from Warabi Station (蕨駅) on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line
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