• 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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
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
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd