BERLIN – Five years ago, Tareq Alaows crossed the Mediterranean in a flimsy rubber dinghy and trekked north through the Balkans toward Germany, fleeing the civil war in his homeland of Syria to seek a safe haven.
Since then, the 31-year-old has learned fluent German, found a steady job — and has just launched a campaign to run for a seat in Parliament in September.
“I am running for national parliament as the first refugee from Syria,” the soft-spoken Alaows told The Associated Press at a rally in support of asylum-seekers outside the Reichstag building in Berlin, where Parliament sits. “I want to give a voice to refugees and migrants in Germany and fight for a diverse and fair society for all.”
Alaows joined the Green Party last year and is running as their candidate in the Oberhausen-Dinslaken parliamentary constituency in western Germany.
With his beard and long black hair pulled into a bun, he has the informal look of a Greens politician, and also shares the party's focus on human rights and social justice.
In Syria, he participated in peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad's goverment while studying law at the University of Aleppo. He also volunteered for the Red Crescent relief group during the civil war and helped register internally displaced refugees.
In 2015, as the war in Syria became increasingly brutal and he was facing conscription into military service after graduation, Alaows decided to escape to “a place when I can live in safety and with dignity,” he said.
After his arrival in Dortmund in western Germany on Sept. 3, 2015, he soon became active again after being confronted with a system overwhelmed by the more than 1 million migrants who arrived that year.