From Syrian refugee to mayor in Germany – Ryyan Alshebl’s inspirational journey | DW Documentary

From Syrian refugee to mayor in Germany – Ryyan Alshebl’s inspirational journey | DW Documentary

From Syrian refugee to mayor in Germany – Ryyan Alshebl’s inspirational journey | DW Documentary

In 2015 Ryyan Alshebl fled Syria. Now, he’s the mayor of a German village. When he arrived in his adoptive home after a dramatic escape, he didn’t speak a word of German. How did he make this remarkable transition?

Syrian national Ryyan Alshebl was elected mayor of the southern German village of Ostelsheim in early April 2023, at the age of 29. The appointment sparked great international interest. He says he was approached for interviews by more than 100 media outlets, including the BBC. Alshebl fled Syria in 2015 to avoid military service. Once in Germany, he began to learn the language, trained as an administrative assistant and took German citizenship.

After working for seven years at the town hall in the neighboring village of Althengstett, he decided to run for the post of Mayor of Ostelsheim – and won the election with an absolute majority of 55.41 per cent. The documentary tells the story of Alshebl’s escape from Syria and his political success in Germany.

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Video Transcript

[Applause] this is the jacket I was wearing as we fled and I was allowed to keep it when we got into the dinghy and to an extent it’s also a memory of my first home it has an emotional meaning for Me my name isan alel I’m 29 years old and originally come from Southern Syria I’ve lived in Germany for almost eight years now in the Cal region alen to be exact life is so crazy seven years ago I was in the refugee shelter and today I’m the mayor it’s amazing Fantastic He sat in his office and I came in he said do you think I could stand for mayor I don’t know if he said of OST time but it was obvious my first reaction was ran forget it you’re too young too inexperienced and we weren’t sure if osheim was too

Conservative why would you choose him he just migrated here other said you can’t vote for the other guy just because he has a house in osheim that’s not how it works it says a lot about the pragmatism of the people here they were asking can he

Do the job I think it’s very legitimate to ask can someone with such a different cultural background be our mayor it’s Tapped An election campaign is really hard it’s a major life change and that’s why I’m relieved that today is hopefully the last day of campaigning there’s no one there either when you go door Todo canvasing especially you get to meet people who often don’t want to have much to do with you in daily

Life hi I’m Mr alel a candidate for mayor may I introduce myself briefly no I don’t have time Now and yet they’re still there and you have to confront them because that’s what the role of Mayor is is all about representing everyone even people who don’t think much of You good afternoon I’m ran alel candidate for mayor may I briefly introduce myself this is my flyer I’d love to leave it with you have you heard about me my candidacy not yet this street is interesting perhaps we can talk to this gentleman here so the election is on April the 2nd it’s

The mayoral election here in ‘s time I’ll give you my flyer thanks bye so let’s take a look over here there were a few times where someone who was clearly a right-wing extremist answered the door while canvasing there was one time someone who is a supporter of the other candidate

Made their own poster saying they prefer to have a suian local for the town but that ended up not being well received here because people don’t actually want to judge a candidate on where they come from but on their ambition and ability because that’s how they fulfill the duties of the

Job where he comes from is actually irrelevant You shouldn’t say you’re green so often oh really here I mean here it’s all about the local mayor elections Party politics don’t play a role there are all different people in osheim and not only greens not only greens exactly I’m in the parents group at the Village

Kindergarten since I work as a graphic designer I offered my help and joined the team as a graphic designer social media of and you helped boost our social media presence enormously you had a plan we developed a concept for how we would present ourselves on Instagram and

Facebook so much happens now on social media it was really exciting to see and then we started getting responses like hey I’ve got a Facebook account now just to follow you that was cool good afternoon good afternoon I heard you speak last Monday and how did you find it very good

Really glad to hear it if you can make it all happen thank thank you I’m so glad to hear positive feedback so we’ve got 1900 people eligible to vote we have a large Hall that could fit around 450 500 people there was 600 there at the event so you have to assume

That a third of eligible voters went to see these people and because we had ranne who was basically an outsider who had to deliver an amazing performance in order to be seen and elected and then another candidate from the village classic established candidate we had this unbelievably Dynamic election

Campaign they both had to prove themselves show what they could offer show their Charisma really perform well and that was great people really got involved you noticed how it built an enthusiasm for democracy it was wonderful My parents are both retired my father was an agricultural engineer mainly for the civil service at the ministry of Economics my mother was a high school teacher she always made sure that she corrected us when it came to mastering the finest details of language so to Speak I think that influenced my German learning a lot I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s an obsessive compulsive disorder but I’m interested in learning a language to a standard in which you can function in all walks of life but also be able to speak at a refined level if you have to express

Yourself selectively something that isn’t to be underestimated if you’re going into local politics what’s that complete volume of administrative rules for B Von it reflects the state of digitization here I had to haul this around for 3 years while I was training as an administrative Assistant At the beginning he was a trainee here and couldn’t speak much German I actually wondered if there was any point then the people who took him on said yes he’s pretty good the business school didn’t want to take him because he didn’t speak enough German so I called them up and made it

Very clear to them that it wasn’t their business it was ours we hire people and they have to train them and if he can’t speak German well enough that’s our problem if they fail it was time and effort and money lost so to speak but it’s our business not theirs and that’s

How he got on he learned so quickly and ultimately was among the top 5% of his year in the state of bber that says a lot about him it shows we were right yeah good good afternoon hello ah hello Mr alel I’ve asked you to come along because we’re introducing the candidates

And we’ve commissioned a company for the broadcast but I’d like you to be there as our it expert could you manage that of course I’ll be there anyway good without Clem’s Goods I wouldn’t be where I am today the training and especially the incredibly strong support now and during the campaign without him

I wouldn’t have dared take that Step he was sitting in his office and I came in he said Mr gz do you think I could stand for mayor I don’t know if he said of ‘s time but it was obvious I said of course I said whether you get elected is another matter but I thought sure he

Could run in osheim someone like that would do them good I wasn’t thinking about him being a refugee or his story I just thought to myself this guy is good it says a lot about the pragmatism of the people here they were asking can he do the

Job I think it’s legitimate to ask can someone with such a different cultural background be Al so young but well he has experienced a lot more than most people would wish to experience in their lives can he make decisions yes he’s had to make different decisions than we’ve had

To can we have a laugh with him does have our sense of humor can he do administrative tasks yes he can he’s learned it from the bottom up let’s see what you’ve got to offer someone who’s among the top 5% of their year despite his poor starting point he’s interested he’s a good

Listener that’s very very important hello he’s got everything you Need I grew up in a beautiful volcanic region it’s called asua in the dza mountains Oran mountains which is where my name comes from my town has 10,000 people and sits around 900 met above sea level a lot of apple and olive trees grow there it’s a big Cultural

Center I have two brothers I’m the second one the middle one of course from an early age you always think that the oldest or the youngest gets preferential treatment and you always feel disadvantaged that you’re the dumb one I didn’t like that much I’m the kind of guy who blows up when I’m

Wronged and my parents had to deal with that quite a lot we had a lot of fights about That what was school like were you a good Student at what you’d call my primary school it went until the sixth grade I was above average um and then over the years my academic performance declined I got worse and worse until I passed high school after two and a half years and three or four attempts that was a big

Deal how did your parents react disappointed they were very disappointed disappointment on both sides I was rarely satisfied with myself I’m overly self-critical I always keep trying to reflect on whether my actions or at least what I say comes across the way I wanted to and of course that’s something that Tes you this yearning or striving to always be perfect that’s what motivates me but also drives Me yeah oh that old smell unbelievable yeah six beds mine my bed was there I think amazing I lived here for nine months almost 8 years ago before Christmas 2015 we entered the room and saw six beds all new all prepared and a table right in the

Middle your whole life contained in a locker like this yes yes the atmosphere at the beginning was terrible the residents felt that they had not been informed at all that such a large shelter would be built here and as Pastor I can remember that I tried to intervene I kept saying this situation

Cannot be changed and we should all try to make these people as welcome as possible and then I ended up supervising the refugee work with my wife and a group of people who wanted to work with Asylum Seekers I remember the milkshake ran and G invited us to a milkshake and that’s

My first memory where we sat down at a table like that I remember that well there were five of us and we were trying to communicate with hand movements and in German and English yeah then there were those Islamic attacks ran and his friends made a great effort to distance themselves from that

And we got in touch with the local newspaper that’s when we really got into more regular contact Most of the negative thoughts were connected to the situation in Syria the feeling of helplessness how could I hope for a new life here while the situation in my first home country was dramatically deteriorating again and again you learn new things discover new things you improve your qualifications and all the

While things were getting dramatically worse for your parents friends and family to put it somewhat dramatically you’re the one who has Survived of course I really miss my homeland especially the people who I grew up with after all I lived there for 20 years I deeply want to somehow reestablish my connection with that place of course you have to be lucky to find such a dedicated social environment

Where you have people you can turn to when things go wrong it’s not just the day-to-day things but emotional problems you want to discuss and sometimes need help With being able to cope with that isn’t just my own achievement it’s also because of the healthy support network I have I saw big bags are you planning on moving back to vmag we’re going to training later we’re about to [Applause] go only include the good shots okay the

Problem is I don’t know what a good shot is [Applause] then come then Val the pastor turned up with refugees six or seven syrians and asked if he could bring them along that was no problem that was the very first social connection I made you get to know a society well in

Clubs I valued the get together after training more than the itself although I have to admit they speak less German and more Swan but learning the dialect is also essential for day-to-day Life what was your first when he said he’d stand for man my first reaction wasan forget it you twoo young too inexperienced and we weren’t sure if osheim was too conservative but he was the head of our Sports Club four years after he arrived in Germany he was already heading the

Biggest department in the sports club and he showed us I’ve already designed a homepage and we said wow that’s really well done and we knew Rion had a good chance of course there were one or two instances of rejection how dare you but he always responded confidently and there was never a Problem After High School I enrolled at University to study finance and banking management when the war started 2 and a half years later everything turned on its Head I had no idea where I was going and gradually the security situation got worse and I had to ask myself what will I do now Finally I decided to drop Out I had been exempt from conscription because I’d been studying but but then I Wasn’t at some point I would have to join the Army but that was not an option for me so there was this little group of four students we couldn’t see a future so the threat of military draft was the main reason for us to say that’s enough let’s leave the country we this Land Z to syrians couldn’t even get visas for Jordan back then here um most neighboring countries stopped issuing Them but amazingly it was somehow possible to get to Turkey you didn’t need a visa we booked flights and flew to Turkey a friend of mine in the group had contact with a Smuggler we were kind of half told what would happen and we were very

Uneasy but at the time we had no alternative so we decided to risk It we got into the boat shortly before midnight was it was a boat for 15 20 people at most but in total there were 49 of us that was the first scary moment was it safe of course not but at some point you reach the point of no return

Then we were told that we’d have to get rid of everything that wasn’t absolutely essential because they had to reduce cargo Weight I realized that the backpack I was carrying with all my things my reminders of Home wasn’t actually that important this was about survival it was cold it was a night in November and at some point the waves got a lot bigger the Water started to flow into the

Boat and you get scared becomes to Ang it’s obvious what’s going through your mind what does it feel like to drown Begin then all the mothers and children started screaming and Praying until we reached the Island of Lesbos I think those were the hardest moments of my life What does that kind of experience do to a person Um in retrospect I think that experience ended up being a huge help when things kept going wrong here later in all aspects of my life difficulties kept cropping up with accommodation my job and socially but whenever I thought about that experience what I went through that night everything here looks like a walk

In the park St I’m not usually a big fan of Suits I much prefer jeans and a white Shirt In 10 minutes we’ll get the results and of course if it goes my way it’ll be a major life Change I hope that works out for ran this evening for Mr alel you can see on Instagram who’s following Mr Strauss and Mr alel it’s really interesting it’s great a little place like ours is clear about what we want where we want to go these are two very different people two

People who are both very suitable okay it’s time now for the election result so to begin the first win goes to our voters with a turnout of 68 . 39% we have two invalid ballots and 1,359 valid ballots of those 753 votes were for Mr ran elel Mr maros Strauss

Had 591 votes and Mr Matias fi 15 votes that gives Mr ran El 55.4 1% of the ballot [Applause] [Applause] w Dear citizens it is of course difficult to say something at A Moment Like This when words fail you host time has set an example an example for the whole of Germany an example of tolerance openness and good cooperation so I take my hat off to you I’m really [Applause]

Speechless pretty stunned because you always worry you’re living in a bubble and are only moving in certain circles with your own people getting a distorted picture of the world but this is totally Fantastic this even life is so crazy seven years ago I was in the refugee shelter and today I’m the mayor it’s amazing fantastic hard to Describe They’re Overjoyed she says since I was little I was special I bet every mother says that but on the other hand she says the incredible dedication to a welcoming culture in Germany is what made this [Applause] Possible above all my time with ran gave me Hope the joy of seeing someone who started out with such miserable conditions and then so much of it to see someone who in the beginning was a foreigner become someone in whom you put your Hope for Change it couldn’t have gone better it’s like when your child grows

Up when you see young people growing up and then you see look they’ve made something of themselves just fit us Yeah it’s my first day on the job I’ve not been officially sworn in yet but I’m going to start official business today let’s see how it goes I think it’s going to be exciting I really hate this SP do you know how to tie a tie oh no no

Idea I think I’d better leave it it’s okay Without yeah nice view with a view to the potential new Village Center there are a few places where some pictures will go up here for example and in that corner oh that’s nice such a nice greeting Mr Mayor how does that feel I’ve been asking myself that too um yeah

Um well it’s a totally new situation and you have to get used to the new title what are you looking forward to most everything when I ran for this post one of the big issues for many residents here was why aim doesn’t have any place where people across Generations can meet there used

To be lots of restaurants today there are none there’s basically nowhere for people to meet if I follow my dream it’s not a complete concept yet but I imagine something here that you could call a new modern Village Center with apartments for senior citizens and meeting places for

Everyone but that’s a long way off the local Council has to decide on that but personally my inclination would be to involve the residents early so their ideas can be incorporated it’s not just about what the mayor thinks would be good or the I think it would be a great Project it was clear to me even before the election that politicians make promises and then end up making compromises that’s why I tried to convey this Vision to people and these Visions are goals we should work on together hello hello hello hello our new mayor yes may I offer my congratulations thank you

Congratulations I’m really pleased to have the mayor here in my salon I heard you on the radio you’re being praised all over the place already do you live in ‘she too we were just passing by the future Village Center when I first became self-employed it was

Really nice it was Lively there was a cafe next door then me then a butcher and then up there what’s it called one of those edica shops where the council is now little edica Supermarket that was great and now all we’ve got is offices but maybe you’ll change that let’s see I mean no one can do Miracles but I’d really like It this year we have a lady and we are honoring her for 10 voluntary blood donations it’s our own town council member Mrs P I’m pleased that you’ve come and now for 10 donations you get a lovely pin [Applause] So so next on the agenda is something a bit more interesting I suppose it’s about the way child care costs are being calculated differently as part of Parental contributions personally it hasn’t been easy to make a decision in this first week of office to deal with

This what convinced me to vote in favor of raising it is the fact that we had the most significant wage increase in the history of the public sector this year almost 10.5% more pay for kindergarten teachers at the same time we need to operate sustainably but it won’t happen straight

Away we’ll wait until the end of the year at the same time it is not Pleasant news for parents especially since there are already some who are unhappy with the municipality’s performance regarding child Care yeah yes compromises are part of politics and local politics it’s part of Being Human making Compromises I don’t like the word integration because it’s become connected to certain cliches it’s always the idea that we have a group of people who are underdeveloped and who we want to integrate into our system and the idea is that they learn the language and we give them jobs like butcher Baker or Cleaner and that’s fine I respect all of those jobs but I don’t always want to be seen in this context you’ve become integrated you’ve learned something useful and now you can do a trade no that’s not what I want I can’t do it I have no practical skills I see my

Talents elsewhere and at some point I decided I want to be mayor now that’s integration isn’t it or is it something Else I’m sitting in my warm office while many residents are outside busy getting ready for our Festival Tomorrow various local bands will be offering Musical accompanyment and entertainment and no other than the new mayor will be tapping the barrel tomorrow at 300 p.m. come to A’s time on Saturday or Sunday it’ll be worth it are you worried about tapping the barrel no I’m not hold it back and

Now harder more more carry on more oh yes that’s it lift your hammer and Shout out that the Barrel’s tapped the Barrel’s [Applause] tapped open the tab no it’s broken yeah it’s broken bring glasses bring glasses well obviously there’s room for improvement you’ve got eight

Years and the more often I do it I promise it’ll get better [Applause] cheers [Applause] H

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Video “From Syrian refugee to mayor in Germany – Ryyan Alshebl’s inspirational journey | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 03/29/2024 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.