• Germany's news in English

The Greens’ Omid Nouripour: ‘You have to fight for democracy’

Kristen Allen · 1 Sep 2009, 14:36

Published: 01 Sep 2009 14:36 GMT+02:00

Parliamentarian Omid Nouripour emigrated with his family from Iran to Frankfurt when he was 13-years-old. He holds two passports after being granted German citizenship in 2002 – but only because Iran does not recognise his German nationality. As a member of the environmentalist Green party since 1997, he has worked on youth and migration issues, and also served on the party's national committee. When former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer retired, Nouripour took over his parliamentary seat in September 2006. The 34-year-old now serves on both the parliamentary budgetary and defence committees, but has also been actively engaged in the current debate over Iranian politics. As one of the top two candidates for the Hessian Green party, Nouripour is likely to be returned to parliament after September’s elections.

Why did you choose to get involved in German politics?

I was born in Iran and grew up there during times of war and revolution. Then it was self-evident that one would be politically engaged. It was a question of survival in war time and that’s how I was politically socialised. When I came to Germany and finished school, it was clear to me that I wanted to engage, join a party and see what I could change. It was a continuation of what began for me in Iran.

Why did you choose the Greens?

I looked at a few parties. Every person who begins politics has a few things they want to change, and for me it was the so-called integration problem in Germany. I went to the SPD and the Greens to discuss their ideas. I had interesting talks with the SPD, but what made an impression on me about the Greens was that they asked me a number of questions, but never, ‘Where do you come from?’

How do you answer when you hear that question?

I answer that I come from Frankfurt. Conventional thinkers here believe this question plays a big role. But I was recently in the US for meetings and became very aware of just how common that question is to Germany. Everyone there was interested in hearing what I can do, and not where I’m from. It’s a shame that Germans continue to define people in this way.

How can you work to change this?

I sit on the parliamentary budget and defence committees, and am not officially engaged in the typical integration discussion. I purposefully did this because it was important to me that people understand I am there as a person representing Germany and don’t need to resolve any questions of loyalty. That’s one way I think I can help improve the situation – by bringing this attitude to the public.

You yourself have a German and an Iranian passport. Do you support dual-citizenship in Germany?

No! Not just two, as many as people want! This is an individual question for people and needs to be handled that way.

How does your background influence your political perspective?

There are people who die for freedom of thought. I have relatives who were executed in Iran. When someone has this background, they know you have to fight for democracy and freedom. I get the feeling from some of my colleagues take that for granted. Freedom is never a given.

Why do so few of Germany's parliamentarians have an immigrant background?

You can’t actually say that if you look at the trajectory. In 1990 there were none, in 1994 just one, and in 2005 there were 11. That’s a pretty good curve looking ahead. You have to look at the development.

How German do you feel?

Story continues below…

I’m 100 percent German and 100 percent Iranian. It’s too limiting to think of this in terms of a measuring cup where some of your identity can spill from one cup to another.

What are the most important issues of this year’s election for the Green party?

The financial crisis and the climate crisis.

And for you personally?

For me it’s international politics and human rights – Iran, for example. Another topic is the post-financial crisis spending of the German government. It's a catastrophe we'll have to deal with for decades.

Related links:

Kristen Allen (kristen.allen@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
The 10 worst German cities for students to find digs
Photo: DPA

It's the start of autumn, which means the start of the university year. But along with the excitement comes the stress of finding housing - and in some glamorous locations this can be a nightmare.

German broadcaster sues Turkey over confiscated video
Akif Cagatay Kilic. Photo: DPA

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle said Monday it had filed a civil complaint after a Turkish minister's office confiscated a taped video interview with him.

Germany's 'James Bond' goes on trial over tax evasion
Werner Mauss. Photo: DPA.

Germany's former top spy, Werner Mauss, went on trial on Monday accused of hiding millions of euros from authorities.

Germany holds first national 'mermaiding' championship
Photo: DPA

Ariel would be proud.

15 pics that prove Germany is totally enchanting in autumn
The Max-Eyth-See in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

As summer fades into a distant memory and you start to begrudge trading Birkenstocks for boots, these pictures may help change your perspective on the new chill in the air.

Left politician who smuggled refugee could lose immunity
Diether Dehm. Photo: DPA.

Die Linke (Left Party) politician Diether Dehm could lose his immunity as an elected official after he admitted to smuggling a refugee into Germany.

Merkel party leader admits sexism is a problem
Jenna Behrends complained that a member of CDU's Berlin government had called her a "big sweet mouse" in front of a large group. Photo: Sophia Kembowski/dpa

A leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party admitted Sunday that it has a problem with sexism in its ranks.

Ethiopia's Bekele nears record in Berlin marathon win
Participants in the Berlin marathon take to the streets on Sunday. Photo:Paul Zinken/dpa

Kenenisa Bekele narrowly missed out on the world record on Sunday as the Ethiopian won the Berlin marathon ahead of former winner Wilson Kipsang.

Europe needs deals to send migrants home: Merkel
Angela Merkal poses with Bulgaria's Prime minister Boyko Borissov (L) and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern (R) in Vienna. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Europe needs to secure more deals to send rejected migrants home, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told counterparts in Vienna.

Germany sees 'turning point' in birth rate decline
Children at a a kindergarten in Swabia. Photo: Nikolaus Lenau/Flickr

Is Germany's three-decade decline in birth rate now over?

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd