UTRECHT: Chanting “you are not alone”, around 1,000 people gathered in the western city of Utrecht Thursday to protest the shock win of far-right Geert Wilders in Dutch elections.
The march was one of two planned on Thursday evening – the other was an anti-fascism march expected in Amsterdam.
Members of left-wing parties in Utrecht organised the protest “to show the Dutch that we never leave anyone in the lurch and fight for the rights of everyone”, according to organisers.
Wilders stunned the Dutch establishment by winning 37 seats in parliament – by far the largest party.
While he toned down some of his harsher anti-Islam rhetoric during the election campaign, the manifesto of his PVV Freedom Party calls for a ban on mosques and the Quran.
Judy Karajoli, a 25-year-old journalism student from Syria, said Wilders’ election success had caused her “great fear because the PVV is an openly racist party that wants to ‘de-Islamise’ the country”.
Karajoli said many of her friends were refugees with residence permits, who now feared for their future.
The PVV manifesto said such permits should be cancelled because “parts of Syria are now safe.”
“I myself come from Syria so I know what it’s like to flee war to a safe country but now it doesn’t feel safe anymore because it feels like a large number of Dutch want us gone,” she told AFP.
Haahmed Hassan, a 30-year-old software engineer from Egypt, told AFP: “I came here for freedom and acceptance and for a place where everyone can do what they want.”
“When I see a party that is trying to make this less, not more, it makes me afraid.”