Syrian who fled to Germany drops out of race for parliament

FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021 file photo Tareq Alaows, who is running to become a lawmaker at the German parliament Bundestag poses in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany. Tareq Alaows who came to Germany as an asylum-seeker in 2015 and launched his campaign to run in Germany's federal election in September for the Green Party said in a statement Tuesday that he had decided to no longer run for parliament for personal reasons. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)

BERLIN (AP) — A Syrian man who came to Germany as an asylum-seeker in 2015 and was running for a seat in parliament in his new country’s September election said Tuesday that he is withdrawing his candidacy.

Tareq Alaows, who joined the opposition Green party last year and was running as its candidate in a constituency in western Germany in the Sept. 26 vote, said in a statement that he made his decision for personal reasons.

“The high threat level for me but especially for people close to me is the most important reason for withdrawing my candidacy,” Alaows wrote, without elaborating. He also said he experienced a lot of racism during his campaign, which he started early last month.

“My candidacy showed that in all parties in politics and across society, strong structures are needed to confront racism and help those affected,” he said.

Before fleeing to Germany, Alaows participated in peaceful protests against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government 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 people.

After his arrival in Germany, he soon became active in politics again, protesting for more rights and improved living conditions of asylum-seekers in the country.

Alaows, who is fluent in German and works as a legal counselor for asylum-seekers, said he wanted to give a voice to the country’s asylum-seekers in parliament.

His party said there had been anonymous death threats against Alaows’ family in Syria if he stuck to his bid for a seat in parliament.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that Alaows’ candidacy for the German parliament was the first by a refugee from Syria and said on Twitter “it is depressing for our democracy that this has failed because of threats & racism.” Maas, a member of the rival center-left Social Democrats, voiced “solidarity” with Alaows.