German election gives Syrians hope for future of homeland



BERLIN, Basma Elmahdy (dpa)- Syrians who have recently arrived in Germany are taking interest in more than just the results of the country's general elections on September 24. They're also keen on understanding the political system in Germany and picking up some ideas for the future of Syria.
Sitting at a breakfast table in Goettingen, Germany, 23-year-old Syrian dentistry student Abdulrahman Abbasia chats with his parents about German elections on the weekends.



None of them has the right to vote in the September 24 general election, but Abbasia - reunited with his parents just one and a half years ago - can't stop talking about it.
"It is very valuable experience since we don't have such a thing in our country, which is ruled by one party and no opposition."
Abbasia, who arrived in Germany three and a half years ago, has even taken a liking to a specific party, Germany's centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).
"I have started to build up my political experience since 2015," Abbasie told dpa.
Abbasie is one of many Syrians in Germany who have taken an interest in the election for their future life, whether it be in Germany or in Syria.
Polls show the vote likely going to the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is known for her decision in 2015 to let in an unprecedented number of migrants, mostly from war-torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Samer Fahed, who used to be a leftist activist in a group of opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime before fleeing from the country under threat from al-Assad troops and extremists, also recently became an SPD member.
"We don’t know democracy since we were ruled by an authoritarian regime," said the 27-year-old native of Swaida, a Druze majority governorate in Syria.
"Here we are learning more about political campaigning, the duties of parliamentarians, the structure of political parties."
When it comes to the electoral programmes of German parties, politically engaged Syrians are interested in immigration and education issues.
"As a foreigner, I am interested in the German party, which works on assimilation of refugees, creating more job opportunities and welcoming more refugees," Fahad said. "In comparison to the CDU, the SPD was welcoming for more refugees.”
Katrin Benzenberg, an SPD member and co-founder of a political education workshop for Syrians refugees, has noticed from discussion rounds with participants that many Syrians consider political parties to be corrupt.
Benjamin Vrucak and Benzenberg launched a monthly workshop called Politik machen - Mitbestimmen (Make Politice - Help Decide) in April, aiming to "show newcomers how politics works in Germany.”
Benzenberg has noted that some participants at the end of the workshop have even asked to stage mock elections in connection with their growing interest in the democratic system in Germany.
"They asked many questions about how Germany is built democratically in the wake of the second world war," Vrucak said.
“I have the impression that they are really into [the elections], but I think they are not going to the German parties because lots of them want to get back to Syria soon,” Vrucak told dpa.
For some Syrians, rebuilding their battered homeland is in the back of their minds while exploring German politics.
For Fahed, whether he will go back to Syria in 10 or 15 years depends on whether he achieves his goal of studying political science and establishing a career in politics in Germany first.
“We may be able to establish Syrian parties better than German ones.”
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Monday, September 11th 2017
Basma Elmahdy
           


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