Tareq Alaows, who came to Germany in 2015 as a Syrian refugee and was seeking to become a member of parliament for the Greens, said he was withdrawing his candidacy after receiving a torrent of threats and racist insults.
“The high threat level for me and especially for people close to me is the most important reason for withdrawing my candidacy,” Alaows said in a statement published Tuesday on the Greens’ website for his constituency in Dinslaken, a town in western Germany.
“My candidacy has shown that we need strong structures in all parties, politics and society to confront structural racism and help those affected,” Alaows added, saying he was shocked by the racism he encountered during his brief campaign, without detailing the specific threats he received.
Alaows declared his candidacy just last month, telling German media he decided to run after experiencing what it was like to be a refugee in Germany and after facing the bureaucratic struggle of even applying for asylum. He said his goal was to fight structural discrimination as a German MP.
He recalled that after arriving in 2015, there was “huge confusion” as the authorities in charge kept passing the responsibility for asylum procedures to one another. He added: “We, therefore, had no chance to submit our asylum applications at first.”
Alaows, who has since been granted asylum in Germany, was optimistic he would also be granted German citizenship in time for the federal election, a prerequisite for becoming a lawmaker in the country.
“My lawyer and I are convinced that I meet the necessary criteria,” he said in February.
Several senior Green politicians on Tuesday reacted with dismay to the news.
“It is extremely shameful for our democratic society that it should not be possible for Tareq Alaows to run for the Bundestag without jeopardizing his own safety and that of his family,” tweeted Katrin Göring-Eckardt, co-chair of the Greens’ parliamentary group.
Politicians from other parties also expressed their solidarity with Alaows. Paul Ziemiak, secretary-general of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, wrote on Twitter: “I’m angry that a committed young man is withdrawing his application for political office because he is the target of racist attacks … We democrats stand together against hatred and agitation.”