Glasgow, Scotland – Roza Salih was never one who stood on the sidelines.
She arrived in cold and gray Glasgow as a refugee aged 12 in 2001.
A few years later, Salih, along with some schoolmates, waged a successful campaign to prevent their classmate from being deported with her family to Kosovo.
The group, nicknamed “Glasgow Girls”, made headlines for the support of Agnesa Murselaj and inspired an award-winning musical of the same name.
Today, at 31, Salih, of Kurdish origin, has his eyes fixed on political success.
He’s campaigning to win a seat in the Scottish Parliament election on 6 May in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, but doing so in a global pandemic hasn’t proved easy.
“I’ve used Twitter, Facebook and now I’m using TikTok,” the Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate told Al Jazeera.
“I’m a very positive person who loves talking to voters face to face, so it’s sad that I wasn’t able to do that and that quality of my candidacy didn’t come out.”
She joined the pro-Scottish independence SNP in 2014, not long after the Scottish people voted relatively narrowly to remain in the UK in a referendum in September of that year.
A human rights activist and a graduate of Glasgow’s Strathclyde University, Salih has long been critical of the UK’s immigration system, a matter reserved for the London Parliament.
“[Refugees] they are arriving [Britain] for security, and the way the system treats them is truly inhumane, “he said, emphasizing the” cruelty “of detentions, lock changes and evictions.
“So this was my push for Scottish independence – that we could create the kind of system that has dignity and human rights at the heart of everything we do.”
Born in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, which has long struggled to be a sovereign nation-state itself, Salih is no stranger to the concept of independence.
She is on good terms with her boss, Prime Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, and even managed to catch up with her during the election campaign when the 50-year-old SNP leader recently stopped in elections in Glasgow.
Salih has admired Sturgeon for years and, at 17, even joined the veteran SNP politician for a week’s work experience.
The political science and law graduate is also passionate about Palestinian rights – “[they] they also have the right to self-determination, ”he said, and sees the pro-European SNP as an internationalist party rather than a nationalist group.
She is a candidate on the so-called list for the Glasgow SNP and, if successful, would be the first former Scottish refugee to be elected to the decentralized parliament based in Edinburgh, established in the Scottish capital in 1999.
Salih’s party hopes to win a majority of seats in the elections, which, under the Scottish parliament’s mixed electoral system, was only reached once before by the SNP in 2011).
They want to force the hand of British Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson to accept and support a second independence poll.
At the very least, the majority of pro-independence candidates, including those from the Scottish Green Party, seem certain to be elected on May 6 at the expense of their pro-Union opponents, according to opinion polls.
But given the choice between its own success and Scotland becoming an independent country in the next four or five years, which one would Salih choose?
“Of course that’s independence,” he said, with a laugh. “I have the hope of being elected, of course, but I think independence is greater than any person.”