The first Syrian refugee to run for a seat in the German parliament has withdrawn his candidacy due to racism and threats, the environmentalist Green party said Tuesday.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 in a statement.
“The high threat level for me and especially for people close to me is the most important reason for withdrawing my candidacy,” 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,” he added.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reacted to the news on Twitter, describing it as “a disgrace for our democracy” that Alaows’ political ambitions had been thwarted by “threats and racism”.
Alaows will be spending some time out of the public eye due to the “tense security situation”, the party said, without giving details.
“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,” it said.
The Green party had said in February that Alaows would be running.
The 31-year-old 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 learned German in six months and quickly landed a job as a social worker, also taking part in various initiatives to help refugees, the newspaper 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 Islamist threat by letting in the migrants.