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From Afghan refugee to British politician

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi
May 8, 2018

Peymana Assad, whose parents came to the UK as refugees 25 years ago, is playing an active role in British politics. In an interview with DW, she talks about her political activities and far-right extremism in Britain.

Peymana Assad
Image: privat

DW: You're the first British citizen of Afghan origin to win a London borough council seat. How do you feel about this achievement?

Peymana Assad: It's an important milestone because prior to my election, nobody from an Afghan background had been elected to any public office in Britain. It demonstrates that the Afghan community in Britain can actively participate in politics and can have a say in their local governments.

It also proves the greatness of UK's democracy and its true political spirit. Britain is not perfect, and it has its own problems, but here you can run for public office regardless of your religious or ethnic background.

I would like to tell young people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds that if I can achieve something like this, I believe they can do the same. I want them to believe in themselves because I believe in them.

Read more:

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Xenophobic sentiments are on the rise in Britain. Are you concerned about it?

I'm concerned that far-right views are becoming part of mainstream British politics; they are being expressed by some British politicians also. But I know that there are politicians, civil society organizations and trade unions in this country that are resisting this hateful rhetoric. People are determined to make sure these views are not normalized in British society.

As long as there are people who stand for open and diverse communities in Britain, I think we will be fine.

How are you planning to counter xenophobic attacks in your borough?

I'm proud to say that the London Borough of Harrow is one of the most diverse boroughs in the country. We have people from diverse communities, from many parts of the world, from South Asia to Eastern Europe.

Many years ago, when the English Defence League protested against the Harrow Central Mosque, people from different communities in our borough rallied together in support of the mosque.

I believe that elected local government councilors across Harrow have the responsibility to unite their communities and pay heed to their opinions. Nobody should feel left out.

Read more: Mass deportation of rejected Afghan asylum seekers from Germany imminent: report

Are you working on any specific issues these days?

I am focusing on community safety. Roxeth, South Harrow, has seen a surge in gun crime, knife attacks and robbery. The residents don't feel safe walking home with their kids. The high level of crime in Harrow is having an impact on the young people's lives. They are being recruited into gangs. I want this to stop.

The interview was conducted by Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi.

Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi
Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi Head of DW Dari/Pashto@washasnaz