Finland’s Refugees of the Year are Sirwa Farik and Ahmad Hosseini
The Finnish Refugee Council has selected Sirwa Farik, a project officer and a resident of Vantaa, as the Refugee Woman of the Year and Ahmad Hosseini, a practical nursing student living in Kaarina, as the Refugee Man of the Year.
Photo: Ilmari Fabritius
The Finnish Refugee Council has selected Sirwa Farik, a project officer and a resident of Vantaa, as the Refugee Woman of the Year and Ahmad Hosseini, a practical nursing student living in Kaarina, as the Refugee Man of the Year. The nominations were announced on Tuesday, April 24th in Helsinki.
”Successful integration of immigrants is vital both for the society and for immigrants themselves. Through my own story, I wish to give courage to those immigrants, who find integration hopelessly challenging”, Sirwa Farik, 45, says.
Farik arrived in Finland as a quota refugee in the year 2000. She is from Iraq, but had to flee the country after her husband was murdered and Farik, who was active in organisations defending the rights of displaced people and women, came under threat herself. Nowadays Farik is working on an Iraqi Women’s Association’s project supporting the integration of immigrant women, as well as a part-time family worker. She has been active as a volunteer worker and has, among other activities, facilitated peer support groups for immigrant women.
Sirwa Farik finds it crucial that upon arrival refugees are informed not only of practical issues but also of equality and women’s rights.
”Many immigrant women may have lived in Europe for ten years but they still live as in Iraq, where they have no power to influence their own lives.”
The Refugee Man of the Year, Ahmad Hosseini, 19, is studying to become a practical nurse at the Turku Vocational Institute. He arrived in Finland as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan in the fall of 2015. Hosseini is active in the We See You network, which advocates for a just asylum policy, and he has also participated in organising anti-racist action in Turku.
Hosseini himself has also faced prejudice due to his background. He believes that the best way to counter hateful behaviour is discussion. ”If some people are labeled racist, what follows is a cycle of recrimination. There’s no benefit to that whatsoever.”
Hosseini encourages also other immigrants to take action for a better society.
”Don’t only be here physically, but also mentally. Just as we have rights in Finland and the society supports us, we also have responsibilities”, he says.
Both Farik and Hosseini want to bring to light the various reasons behind displacement, and the fact that no one flees their home country unless they have to. Both find that the knowledge on the security situation of Iraq and Afghanistan in Finland is insufficient.
The Board of the Finnish Refugee Council stated Farik and Hosseini’s motivation to promote the issues important to them as one of the reasons for their selection. Both Refugees of the Year also have, along their own integration, supported other immigrants in starting over.
The Finnish Refugee Council has handed out the Refugee Woman of the Year award from 1998. The Refugee Man of the Year is now awarded for the third time.