Syrian refugee drops out of German parliament election after threats

A Damascus-born Syrian man running to become the first refugee to enter the German parliament has withdrawn his candidacy, citing personal threats and security concerns.

Tareq Alaows, 31, who fled conscription in Syria and arrived in Germany nel 2015, was in January nominated as a Bundestag candidate for the Green party in the district of Oberhausen, in North Rhine-Westphalia.

But on Tuesday his party issued a statement saying Alaows had withdrawn his candidacy because of threats against himself and people close to him.

The statement also said Alaows had been taken aback by “massive experiences of racism” since announcing his candidacy.

“My candidacy has shown that in all parties, in politics and society as a whole we need strong structures to face up to structural racism and help those affected,” the Syrian national said in the statement.

“The great public interest generated by my candidacy shows what we refugees can do. But unfortunately our society lacks discrimination-free spaces in many areas of life. It’s up to all of us to actively deal with that in our surroundings and to change things.”

As well as ending his candidacy, Alaows has also withdrawn from his local Green party branch in the city of Oberhausen to protect his privacy, it was reported.

The son of a political journalist and a bookseller, Alaows studied law and international relations in Damascus and took part in protests against the Assad regime.

Frustrated with the slow processing of his asylum application after arriving in Germany six years ago, he and other refugees organised a protest camp outside the town hall in Bochum in spring 2016.

He continued to engage himself for the rights of asylum seekers in Germany and was one of the co-founders of Seebrücke, an activist group campaigning for the decriminalisation of sea rescue efforts in the Mediterranean sea.

After being nominated at the start of the year as a Green party candidate for Oberhausen, a Social Democrat stronghold, he was going to run for a place on his party’s state list in April, which would have increased his chances of entering parliament at national elections in September.

By the time he had announced his candidacy, Alaows had applied but not yet been granted German citizenship, which is a requisite for gaining a seat in the Bundestag.

The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, expressed his solidarity with the Green politician and said threats and verbal attacks were “dismal for our democracy”.

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