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Syrian withdraws bid for German parliament due to threats

March 30, 2021

Tareq Alaows caused a sensation last month when he announced his intention to run for Germany's parliament. Now, he says racism and threats have caused him to reconsider.

Tareq Alaows in front of the Reichstags Building in Berlin, Germany
Alaows says his candidacy highlighted the potential of refugees, but also the dangers they face when stepping into the spotlight Image: Markus Schreiber/AP/picture alliance

On Tuesday, Tareq Alaows, a 31-year-old Damascus-born Syrian refugee and human rights activist, announced that racist attacks and personal threats had forced him to withdraw what had been billed as a historic political candidacy for Germany's parliament, the Bundestag.

Alaows, who fled conscription in Syria and arrived in Europe six years ago, had announced his intent to run as a Green Party candidate for his home district of Oberhausen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia back in February. At the time, many lauded the possibility of a refugee entering Germany's parliament but not everyone was enthusiastic.

The candidate, who said he wanted to fight for the rights of refugees in Germany, quickly became the target of social media attacks. Many of those attacking him for his declared desire to change how Germany deals with race, said if he wanted change he should go back to Syria and do something there.

Exposed to 'massive racism' during short candidacy

In announcing his withdrawal, Alaows, who has applied for German citizenship, said: "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."

He said, "the serious threats against me, and more importantly against those around me, are the primary reason for withdrawing my candidacy." Alaows, who received numerous death threats from right-wing extremist accounts, said he was shocked by the "massive racism" he faced.

Beyond ending his candidacy, Alaows has also withdrawn from his local Green Party branch in the former industrial city of Oberhausen to protect his privacy.

Syrian refugee to become MP?

js/msh (AP, dpa)