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German town elects Syrian refugee as mayor: 'I am not planning to become a supporter for other refugees'
Image courtesy NBC News / YouTube (screenshot)

German town elects Syrian refugee as mayor: 'I am not planning to become a supporter for other refugees'

A 29-year-old Syrian refugee was recently elected mayor of a small town in southwest Germany, years after fleeing his home country to avoid conscription, NBC News reports.

Ryyan Alshebl was elected mayor in the small German town of Ostelheim, home to a population of just 2,500 residents. Alshebl has been in the country just eight years but won the election in early April 2023, pulling in a total of 55.4% of the vote against two other candidates.

Alshebl said many of his supporters are families who have lived in the region for generations and voted for him based purely on his platform. His campaign was reportedly focused on social cohesion and municipal infrastructure policy. He visitied over 200 homes on the campaign trail.

“Those who voted for me are Germans, Swabians, people who have always lived here,” he said. “The majority voted for the one with the better concept. And this reveals that democracy really works. I can hardly imagine stronger proof that democracy works.”

The Syrian says he fled his home in 2015 to avoid military service, traversing illegally through several countries until landing in Germany.

“Either I had to do military service and thus be forced to be exploited by a warring party in the war or leave the country and surrender to an uncertain fate,” Alshebl said. “I gave myself up to this fate unconditionally and set off on the escape route," he continued.

“I definitely could not serve for Assad regime,” the new mayor added. After crossing the border into Lebanon, he continued through Turkey before embarking on a dangerous boating expedition to the Greek island of Lesbos.

After traveling through the Balkans, he made his way to Germany to benefit from a 2015 German stance that was referred to an "open-arms policy" on refugees. German leaders welcomed 1 million refugees, which would eventually strain the nation, even causing an alarming rise in sexual assaults.

After arriving, the refugee said that an apprenticeship in city administration sparked his interests in politics. His supervisor at the town hall encouraged him to run for office.

However, the new mayor said he isn't focused on being a refugee supporter or role model, but rather wishes to support the town.

“I want to support Ostelsheim,” he said. “The realization that I could also be an example or role model for someone else is, of course, also gratifying. There’s justifiable pride there. But my job is mainly to move Ostelsheim forward. I am not planning to become a supporter for other refugees. I’m the mayor, not a refugee commissioner," he explained.

The state's integration minister encouraged the town's move, saying he hoped the election would encourage “more people with a migration history to run for political office.”

The former mayor, Jürgen Fuchs, did not run for re-election according to Deutschland.de, but remarked that the "local people voted according to the candidates’ qualifications."

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Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados is a writer focusing on sports, culture, entertainment, gaming, and U.S. politics. The podcaster and former radio-broadcaster also served in the Canadian Armed Forces, which he confirms actually does exist.
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