From Glasgow Girl to Kurdish campaigner: my life as an activist
Roza Salih helped organise the celebrated Glasgow Girls campaign against deportation. She is now, among other things, helping to raise awareness of the Kurdish struggle for freedom. She told TFN about her life as an activist.
I am now 26 years old and came to Scotland as a young girl. My family fled Kurdistan in northern Iraq to seek asylum. This was when Saddam Hussein was still in power.
We felt safe in Scotland as we had run away from a war zone country but at the same time we felt alone, no one to communicate with as we couldn’t speak the language properly and being an asylum seeker there were too much restrictions and barriers to our daily life.
I think my activism comes from my family and being in the situation of an asylum seeker. I felt angry that we were treated as second class citizens.
The Home Office told us what we could and couldn’t do. Its policies restricted us. My dad couldn’t work while he wanted to work!
We had vouchers to use for our shopping and people discriminated against us because of the vouchers.
My activism comes from my family and being in the situation of an asylum seeker. I felt angry that we were treated as second class citizens
My friends were being deported and I felt I couldn’t do anything about it.
All of this lead to my activism and to being involved in the Glasgow Girls Campaign where we campaigned against the deportation of one of my friends at Drumchapel High School, Agnesa Murselaj.
I am now involved in numerous campaigns.
For example, I am the co-founder of the Scottish-Kurdish Society and we have been active since June 2014.
We thought that it was an important time to establish this group to raise awareness of the Kurdish struggle and their fight against Isis.
I have also been involved in campaigning for equal access for asylum seekers into higher education and, at the University of Strathclyde Student’s Association, we successfully fought for ground-breaking scholarships for asylum seekers at the university, the first institution in Scotland to provide such support.
Meanwhile as a Glasgow Girl, I have been involved in speaking at different events about the hard life and experiences of asylum seekers.
In particular, I have campaigned against Dungavel Detention Centre.
We want to see it shut down and a much better asylum system put in place, like in Scandinavian countries.
This week is Refugee Week. Events like this are important because I feel refugees enrich our society in so many ways, they open our mind to new things. Refugees open new ways of learning about other cultures and bring a diverse society of multiculturalism.
Refugee Week in Scotland takes the form of Refugee Festival Scotland and it has expanded to cover three weeks.
I think is very important as it integrates refugees and Scottish people and they can share their culture or particular interest with others.
Moreover, they can have a chance to communicate face to face, something they might not often have the opportunity to do.
The refugee festival is crucial as it has a real meaning for refugees, helping them feel welcomed and accepted as equal individuals in Scottish society.