Syrian refugee ends German election bid over 'racism'

Tareq Alaows has withdrawn from the race after threats

Syrian refugee Tarek Alaows in front of the Reichstag, the seat of the Bundestag, with the adjacent underground station in Berlin also seen in the background, on March 2, 2021. AFP
Syrian refugee Tarek Alaows in front of the Reichstag, the seat of the Bundestag, with the adjacent underground station in Berlin also seen in the background, on March 2, 2021. AFP

The first Syrian refugee to run for a seat in the German Parliament has withdrawn his candidacy because of racism and threats, the Greens party said on Tuesday.

Tareq Alaows is ending his bid to enter the lower house of parliament, or Bundestag, for the Greens in Oberhausen, in North Rhine-Westphalia state, for "personal reasons", the party said.

"The high threat level for me and especially for people close to me is the most important reason for withdrawing my candidacy," Mr Alaows said.

"My candidacy has shown that we need strong structures in all parties, politics and society to confront structural racism and help those affected."

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reacted to the news on Twitter, calling it "a disgrace for our democracy" that the bid was thwarted by "threats and racism".

Mr Alaows will be spending some time out of the public eye because of the "tense security situation", the Greens said.

"We would have liked to be able to continue to fight for a humane asylum and migration policy with Mr Alaows as our candidate for the Bundestag.

"Unfortunately, this is no longer possible."

The Greens had said in February that he would be running.

Mr Alaows, 31, fled Syria's civil war to arrive in the western city of Bochum in 2015 after studying law in Aleppo and Damascus, the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported at the time.

He learnt German in six months and quickly landed a job as a social worker, also taking part in various initiatives to help refugees, the paper said.

Germany took in more than one million migrants, including tens of thousands of Syrians, at the height of the European refugee influx of 2015-16.

Controversy around the decision led to the rise of the far right, which has often accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of contributing to the extremist threat by allowing in the migrants.

Updated: March 31, 2021 08:39 AM

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