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Q & A with Kurdish-born Swedish Parliamentary Nominee Tara Twna: - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Q) Tell us a little about your background, and your objectives if elected to parliament?

I am an Iraqi woman from the Kurdish city of Halabja. My parents were political activists, and because of our political views, we were forced to seek political asylum in Sweden. I came to Sweden when I was 19 years old and studied computer science. I joined the Social Democratic Party, because it was founded upon principles of equality among citizens, and advocates the notion that everyone has the same rights, duties and responsibilities, regardless of gender, language, religion. I currently hold the post of the political adviser to the Mayor of Stockholm.

The main reason behind my candidacy is my desire to fight injustice that is present in this society. Swedish society suffers from a state of prejudice that they practice against immigrants in general and against Arabs and Muslims in particular. This is because historically Scandinavia did not see the arrival of immigrants until recently. This is why the Swedish society deems immigrants who come from the East as second-class citizens. On the other hand, there are quite a huge number of immigrants who have achieved the highest levels of education such as doctors, lawyers and engineers; however they are forced to work in professions that are not on the same level as their qualifications. The Swedish Labor Program neglects the idea of providing these immigrants with the right jobs and they are forced to take lower paying jobs like tellers in supermarkets or drivers. There are thousands of immigrants who are forced to wait for years just to receive j a reply from the authorities on whether their applications for the right of residence in Sweden. Such a situation is not humanly and I’m eager to change it. This is why immigrants and their rights is the chief issue that I am focusing on in my political career.

Q) What is the number of immigrants in Sweden? And does your electoral agenda incorporate all of them?

I do not know the exact figure. Some sources state that there are a million and a half from 200 different nationalities that speak 150 languages. There are no specific figures on Arab immigrants, but Swedish society fears Arab and Muslim immigrants and we face many problems related to improving their image.

Q) How do you promote for your electoral agenda? And what methods do you use to influence voter support?

I believe it is important that I meet with citizens in person and explain my electoral program to them as well as my objectives and the principles of the party which I represent. I clarify my commitment and my powerful intentions to create the change which I seek in the surrounding society and that I will work hard to make their lives easier. I am determined to achieve my goals and will not give up until I do so. I also promise to focus on political issues that concerns Iraqis and realize the dream of an Iraqi state that would be based upon the principles of democracy, where people would enjoy the freedom of decision and live a fulfilling life. I urge voters to participate in the elections and have their voices heard in political circles. In the last elections, only 40% of immigrants participated in voting. This is basically because they feel that they are secluded from Swedish society. They must be pushed to participate in the democratic process, regardless of which party they would vote for.

Q) Given the fact that you are an Iraqi Kurdish citizen, what were the challenges that you had faced in Iraq as well as the challenges that you faced in the Swedish society?

I left Iraq because of Saddam Hussein and because of the political activity of my parents where we used to conceal our identity for fear that the Iraqi intelligence would discover it. And although Sweden had welcomed me and my family, yet we had a hard time adapting and adjusting to Swedish society. When I got my master’s degree in computer studies I applied for over a hundred jobs without any success, but despite that I consider myself a member of Swedish society. I believe that immigrants are trapped between their past and present regardless of their tremendous effort to avoid such a fact.

Q) You now hold the post of the political advisor to the Mayor of Stockholm, which is a high-profile position isn’t that evidence that refutes your claims of discrimination?

I am just one example from hundreds of thousands of immigrants who can not find a job. I have a plan to change this through the integration of immigrants in Swedish society and eliminating any manifestations of discrimination in education, employment or taxpaying and above all; changing the Swedish society’s perception of immigrants.

Q) Who are your main political competitors?

The right-wing parties. As for the elections, they are administered with a high degree of impartiality and transparency. Therefore, it becomes difficult to predict the results or to know which party will outweigh the other. There are seven parties in Sweden, but the right-wing parties do not care about the problems of immigrants and don’t plan to improve their lives.

Q) How are you perceived by the Swedish people? And the fact that immigrants tend to vote for male candidates?

This is a difficult question, I do not know how I’m viewed by the people of Sweden, but regarding immigrants, one can never generalize. Some prefer to elect a man rather than a woman and this stems from their culture, but I guess if immigrants get to know me and are convinced of what I can offer, then they will vote for me.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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