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NGO honours refugee activists from Iraq, Afghanistan

The Finnish Refugee Council handed out awards to a women's rights activist from Iraq and a young Afghan who helped victims of the August 2017 Turku stabbing attack.

Vuoden pakolaiset 2018
Sirwa Farik and Ahmad Hosseini Image: Ilmari Fabritius

The Finnish Refugee Council has honoured Vantaa activist and social worker Sirwa Farik as Refugee Woman of the Year, and Turku-area student Ahmad Hosseini as Refugee Man of the Year.

Farik escaped from Iraq after her husband was killed and she was threatened for her women’s rights activism. She came to Finland in 2000 and now works to help immigrant women integrate in the Helsinki region.

Hosseini, a 19-year-old nursing student who lives in Kaarina, helped victims after last summer’s stabbings in Turku. He arrived as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan in 2015, and is active in the We See You group, which campaigns for just asylum policies in Finland.

Making the announcements in Helsinki on Tuesday, the Refugee Council said that both have sought to draw attention to the reasons why people become refugees and the notion that no-one leaves their home country unless they have to. And, alongside their own integration, they have supported other immigrants to get a new start, the NGO said.

“Don’t just be here physically"

“Successful integration is vitally important for society and for immigrants. Through my own story, I hope to encourage those immigrants who find integration to be hopelessly difficult,” Sirwa Farik said on Tuesday.

Ahmad Hosseini says he too tries to encourage other immigrants to work toward a better society in Finland.

“Don’t just be here physically, but also mentally. Just as we have rights in Finland and as society supports us, we also have responsibilities,” he says.

Hosseini happened to be at the scene last August when several women were stabbed in central Turku. A Moroccan who had applied for asylum has admitted to carrying out the attack, and his trial is ongoing.

The Refugee Council says that Hosseini tried to catch the attacker and helped the victims. Hosseini was interviewed by Turun Sanomat reporter Rebekka Härkönen, who has since become the target of systematic harassment and hate speech online.

The NGO has presented the Refugee Woman of the Year award since 1998, and this year handed out the Refugee Man of the Year for the third time.

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