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German village elects Syrian refugee as mayor

Alex Berry
April 3, 2023

Ryyan Alshebl has become the mayor of a German village just eight years after fleeing the civil war in Syria.

Ryyan Alshebl sitting on a bench in Ostelsheim
Ryyan Alshebl won an absolute majority in the vote for the village's mayorImage: Christoph Schmidt/dpa/picture alliance

The southern German village of Ostelsheim has elected Ryyan Alshebl — a Syrian refugee — as its mayor, German media reported on Monday.

The 29-year-old fled his home of Sweida in southern Syria in 2015. He is now responsible for a town of 2,500 people in the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Although privately a member of the Green party, Alshebl stood as an independent candidate. He secured an absolute majority of 55.41% of the vote in Sunday's poll.

Alshebl described the election campaign as "overwhelmingly positive," the DPA news agency reported.

Who is Ryyan Alshebl?

Local public broadcaster SWR reported that the new mayor left Syria when he was 21 to avoid military conscription during the ongoing civil war in his home country.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees came to Germany in 2015, most fleeing the war in Syria.

He traveled across the Mediterranean before ending up in Germany where he learned German and completed a traineeship in administration.

Alshebl had been working for the local council in the nearby town of Althengstett after receiving his German citizenship.

Alshebl said that after winning his election to become mayor of Ostelsheim, he now plans to move to the village.

Media reported that Alshebl is most likely the first mayor in Baden-Württemberg with Syrian roots and perhaps even the first candidate.