It is the second time there has been a general election in Germany since Tareq Alaows first came to Germany as a refugee from Syria’s brutal civil war.
The last vote, in 2017, was marked by the arrival of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) as a significant opposition force in the Bundestag.
The party had capitalized on public anger over Merkel’s 2015 decision to allow in a wave of asylum seekers from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
More than three years later, the 31-year-old Alaows is hoping to represent another point of view in the ongoing debate – that of the refugees themselves.
“I support human rights. I came to Europe, or to Germany, for a life of security and dignity. I had the feeling of security, but at the same time, I was shocked by the situation of the refugees, by the living conditions here, “he told DW in an interview.
“Many debates are about the refugees, but no one talks to the refugees themselves. And that’s why I want to be their political voice in the Bundestag.”
‘Terrifying’ living conditions
As the Syrian civil war broke out, Alaows had taken part in peaceful demonstrations and provided humanitarian aid for the Red Crescent as the war zones widened. Eventually, he found he was targeted by the regime and decided to flee.
Alaows came to Germany in 2015. The former law student told DW the conditions he faced when at first were a shock, living in a gym with another 60 people.
“The living conditions at that time terrified me. I saw the need to get involved politically again. As a human rights activist, for a long time in Syria, I got actively involved again here in Germany for refugees.”
Since being in Germany, Alaows has worked in counseling centers for refugees, advising people on asylum and residence law. Having studied law in Syria, he became aware of the problems that people were experiencing and vowed to work to make human rights equal for everyone.
‘Our point of view is missing’
He founded the political group Refugee Strike Bochum, a self-organized group of refugees with the aim of getting their views heard.
“At that time, I was aware: our point of view is missing in politics. And then I decided to stay involved and use my voice to get the points of view of refugees heard.”
Germany is scheduled to hold its parliamentary election on September 26, more than six years after Alaows arrived in Germany. Having applied for citizenship, he launched his candidacy for the Green party to represent Oberhausen in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday.
If he is elected, Alaows says he won’t feel intimidated by sitting in the same parliament as the AfD. Instead, he plans to focus on achieving his political goals for “all refugees.”
“I stand up for human rights. And I think that’s a fundamental question of wrong and right. I’m looking forward to the work.”