1 Family

MY family are very political. If people want to understand who I am and what has influenced me then my family has played a huge part in that.

My uncle was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib prison for over 15 years. He was speaking up for democracy. My two uncles and my grandfather were killed by the Saddam Hussein regime. My dad was a freedom fighter. So you can get a picture of my family, how they wanted to really make a difference for people and bring democracy and freedom.

My mum was a human rights campaigner. She’s done so much advocating against honour killings and on women’s rights, sexual violence and abuse against women.

Growing up as a woman in the family my mum was my role model. Other women had barriers in their family but I never had that. I was so fortunate for that.

My mum and dad are so supportive. In some of my campaigning they’ve been at the forefront leafleting in Glasgow. I don’t take that for granted. If I didn’t have that I don’t think I would be where I am today.

2 My friends

The friends I’ve made through my lifetime, from school to university to my workplace through my trade unions and throughout my life I’ve been fortunate to have good people around me.

Lefties, socialists, very open-minded people with great ideas. It was very influential to have that support from friends. I could name so many of them.

3 Education

Strathclyde University was a great place to study. I met so many good people there. I became a sabbatical officer and became very political.

I was involved in anti-racism campaigns, Black History Month, women’s safety. I was fortunate to have that remit at the university. When I stood in the university elections and students elected me. That changed things for me and what kind of route I wanted to take.

The National: Strathclyde UniversityStrathclyde University

I studied law and politics but I never used it in a practical level so I felt like it was a great way to use it and it has changed my life for the better. Education has definitely empowered me and changed my life. From school to university, I don’t know where I’d be without my education.

4 Being a Glasgow Girl

When I was very, very young I would say I was a very vocal person and when we saw what was happening that was unjust we came together as a community. That made me believe in the power of people – how we wanted our voices heard and how we were affected by the immigration system.

As a young girl that started my journey. It gave me a platform in the media and with politicians. We were doing so much at the time. It was crazy. We met (then) FM Jack McConnell.

Meanwhile, on a daily basis we were doing our standards grades too. My English wasn’t as good back then. It was the hardest moment of my life. And I was only a young lassie.

We were lucky to have our teacher Mr Gervin and we were really empowered by Lindsay Hill. She deserves more credit.

Without her and her documentary we wouldn’t be Glasgow Girls. We always tried to use our platform to explain how hard it can be for people to integrate. People leave their homes and start from the beginning in a country they aren’t born in. We only want to be treated equally.

We spoke about that on the stage of the campaigner awards when we were 15. I think we were brave at such a young age to speak with honesty and truth about what was happening to asylum children.

Our teacher said only three of us could go to the awards though so we picked names from a hat. One of them was mine. Even that had a huge impact on me. I wouldn’t have gone to Edinburgh, spoken to journalists and went to the ceremony.

It also opened my eyes to how campaigners can make a difference. And I’m not going to stop. Now as a councillor I hope I can make more of a difference to Glasgow.

5 Meeting Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament

Meeting Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament was such a big thing for me as a child. I worked with her for a week. I shadowed her and I felt like it opened my eyes to the Scottish Parliament and thinking that I could work here. That definitely changed my life.

I took a political career and would go on to study law and politics.

6 Trade unions

I’ve had a great relationship with Unison and Stephen Smellie. We went over to the Kurdistan region in Turkey to see the Yazidi refugees in 2014.

Stephen and I co-founded Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan and for me the trade union gave me a huge platform to show solidarity with the Kurdish people and my identity that I’d lost came back to me.

As well as that, campaigning against zero-hour contracts, for workers rights, for young people earning the same wages as older people – these are very important to me. I try to be very vocal on the issues of young workers.

I get on well with all unions. It’s my trade union family.

7 Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan

After the trade union, I co-founded Scottish Solidary with Kurdistan. I found my roots there. I grew up in Glasgow and all I’ve known is Glasgow. I had to integrate very quickly because I wasn’t born here.

We founded the group in 2014 when Kobani was under attack in Syria. We had a massive demonstration against ISIS at the time.

I felt like I couldn’t do nothing. More than 1000 people came out to George Square. That was the biggest protest I had ever organised. I don’t even think Glasgow Girls had that turn out. It was my proudest moment organising something. It was very emotional for me. I had to stay strong for my people. There were so many Scottish people who came along too and it was an amazing thing.

I had tears in my eyes when I was speaking. I became a refugee because what’s happening in my home country so I felt like I had to do something. I wanted to show solidarity with the Kurdish people.

8 Speaking multiple languages

Speaking different languages means I can talk to a lot of different people on different levels. Like when I’m in Italy and I meet a Scot we connect on so many levels. And then when I meet someone who’s Kurdish we can talk about different things. Or if I meet someone who talk’s Arabic, I have so much music in culture in the Middle East and maybe I couldn’t connect on that same level with some Scottish people about that because they might not understand.

The National: Roza Salih at Netherton Community CentreRoza Salih at Netherton Community Centre

In the middle east we speak Kurdish, Arabic, a little bit of Farsi. I can connect with those communities because the language is similar and I can advocate for women’s rights and freedom of democracy.

9 Scottish independence

I’m Scottish and I’m Kurdish and I’m proud to be both. I genuinely believe independence is the right thing. I know we have a lot of challenges but we can create a much better country in the world if we are independent. Why is Scotland not capable of running its own country?

As a child who went through the UK immigration system I do not believe in the UK. I don’t think it will get better and I don’t think we can make a difference.

The National: An AUOB rallyAn AUOB rally

I’ve been a campaigner since I was 15 and I do not see the UK Government changing any laws to better asylum seekers’ rights. Why can’t we not give asylum seekers the right to work? Why can’t we let them contribute to our tax system?

I know an asylum seeker who has been here for 10 years and cannot earn anything. Imagine how his life is affected with that? It’s a crazy thing.

So for me, independence is importance on so many different levels. We could be forward looking. I look to Scandinavian countries, my uncle is in Sweden, and I think why can’t Scotland be like that? Our hands are tied. We cant do everything we want. We need full powers.

10 Politics

I’ve stood on a number of elections now. I made it, finally, this year. Third time lucky. Before that, I worked for MP Chris Stephens. It all comes back to my activism and campaigning, which all goes back to Glasgow Girls.

I became very political in 2014 with Kurdistan and then after that the independence referendum was happening and I joined the SNP.

It was a massive thing for me to become Scotland’s first refugee councillor. It’s a huge wild thing that’s changed my life – and I’m thankful for it.