Young Ethiopians who are studying and working in Turkey say they have found acceptance here, while their friends who went to Europe have faced discrimination.
“We have never encountered discrimination here,” Ishak Eshetu Aragaw, a spokesman of Istanbul-based Habesistan (Ethiopia) Development and Cooperation Association, told Anadolu Agency.
“On the contrary,” he added, “many of our friends who have gone to Europe tell us they are discriminated against.”
“They feel alienated,” he said.
The association was established by Ethiopian students in Turkey to organize humanitarian assistance programs and resolve issues they face in Turkey.
“We meet once a month, to revive our traditions, discuss our problems and help newcomers,” Aragaw said.
Another place spotlighting Ethiopian culture in Turkey is the Habesha Restaurant located in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
The restaurant serving Ethiopian cuisine, is managed by Can Korudağ and his Ethiopian partner Yodit Demise.
With animal photos plastered on the walls, candlelight, African table and floor seating, the restaurant has an exotic ambiance.
The waiters and the chefs are all African and they know the cultural nuances and the stories of the meals they serve.
Their specialty is the injera bread made of small wheat grain.
“Ethiopian cuisine is a good option for Turks who love hot and spicy food,” said Korudağ.
Singers and dance groups from Africa also perform at the restaurant on weekends.
Ahmed Muhammed, another Ethiopian who decided to stay in Turkey after graduating from university, said: “We can practice our religion at will.”
He said many of his friends, left for Europe after graduating from Turkish universities, but he would never want to leave Turkey.
“They earn well. But money is not the be-all and end-all of life. I live in a Muslim country with my family comfortably. That’s enough for me,” he said.
Nearly, 1.5 million Africans are living in Turkey, according to government data.
The figures show Muslims from northern African and Sub-Saharan African countries including Senegal, Mali, Niger, Ghana, Gambia, Ethiopia, and Somalia, prefer Turkey to other countries.
Many of them are fleeing civil war, terrorism and poverty.
Although one may find Africans in every province in Turkey, data reveals, every fourth African prefers to live in the commercial capital Istanbul.
Most Africans are living in Fatih, Aksaray, Taksim and Zeytinburnu districts of the European side of Istanbul.
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