Syrian shot dead in Dutch ‘safe haven’

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Flee your home country because your life is in danger and then get shot in ‘the safe haven of the Netherlands’. That’s what happened to Syrian-Kurdish activist Nadim Youssef in Alphen aan den Rijn. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nadim Youssef had lived in Alphen aan den Rijn with his wife and their two young sons since 2007. He was one of the six victims of Tristan van der Vlis, the Dutchman who opened fire with a machine gun in a shopping centre on Saturday, finally shooting himself in the head.

Mr Youssef was a poet and Syrian political activist. From his new home in the Netherlands, he kept up his work for a Syrian-Kurdish political party, a branch of the PKK: the Kurdistan Workers Party. His friend Kawa Rashid, who lives in the Netherlands, describes his death as incomprehensible.

“He struggled against the regime in Syria for 20 years. They didn’t manage to kill him. He survived an assassination attempt. Now he’s been killed by a madman in the Netherlands.”

Mr Youssef was given Dutch residency after someone tried to kill him in Afrin in Syria. His friends say a bomb was hidden in his motorbike. He was on the danger list for some time after the blast and was left with serious injuries.

He fled to Lebanon, where he requested asylum in the Netherlands, where his brother Hanif had been living for several years. Nadim was still being treated by Dutch doctors for the injuries sustained in the assassination attempt. His friends say the Syrian authorities never launched an investigation to find out who was behind the attack.

Like his brother Hanif, Nadim was also a poet. He published collections of his work, one in Kurdish and one in Arabic called Burning Heart, with poetry on the Kurdish issue.

He was due to have meetings at the European parliament this week to discuss the current situation in Syria, where protests against the regime of president Bashar al-Assad are continuing, says Mr Rashid.

“Nadim and I were to go to Brussels together with other Syrian activists for talks with members of the European Commission and European parliament. The delegation will now not include Nadim. It’s a great loss.”

He thinks Mr Youssef will be buried in the Netherlands, “The regime in Syria will certainly not allow him to be buried in his native land, in his hometown, near his family and friends.”

(mw, ks)