Goldsmiths student and activist Daze Aghaji is just 19, but the self-professed “eco-head” is taking her passion for the environment from the streets to the seats of power by standing in European Elections this month.
The history and politics first year is one of a group of activists from Extinction Rebellion standing as an independent to become an MEP in London with an agenda firmly rooted in the call for total environmental change.
Aghaji is perhaps not quite what you’d expect when you think of someone who is standing for election. Then again, the Climate and Ecological Emergency Independents aren’t exactly the most traditional of political groups. Formed in the wake of the recent mass rebellions, the group is turning protesters into politicians, and it’s that passion for change that will see Aghaji’s name printed on ballot papers across London.
Aghaji’s optimism and enthusiasm for the movement she embodies is electrifying, and she says this passion stems from the people around her.
“Over the past couple of months, young people have stood up and said ‘right, environmentalism is the one thing that we can’t ignore’, and that’s something that’s really inspired me. There are kids as young as 10 making a stand and trying to change the world, and that really gave me the encouragement to think that I could do it too.”
The Extinction Rebellion protests and Youth Strikes have brought environmentalism to the forefront of national debate, and it was on the streets where Aghaji used the opportunity to engage with people who also felt strongly about the environmental change.
“Being such an eco-head, people think I’m crazy or overreacting, but finally we’ve seen from the Rebellion and the Youth Strikes that young people get it. Finally, I’m not the only person saying “Look, climate change is going to kill us” It’s given me so much reassurance that I’m not just a crazy eco woman.”
The swell of youth voices calling for environmental change has become the pivot for a growing number of young people engaging with radical politics, yet Aghaji is still concerned that many young people are still not engaged.
“It’s so important to register and vote, that way, the politics will change. Everything starts with voting, and from there it’s a case of being active and making sure that you’re being heard. We have to yell and scream even if they are trying to silence us.”
Yet despite being at the precipice of a youth movement that has achieved so much in such a short amount of time, Aghaji is still grounded, and realistic about what she can achieve from the forthcoming elections.
“To be honest, the way the democratic system works with a regionalised voting system means that the likelihood of me getting elected is absolutely nothing. I’m not delusional, or even saying vote for me! But it’s important to vote for people that are trying to make a change and to help our climate. My only policies are about the environment because that is the only conversation that needs to be happening in politics right now. Political activists aren’t on the fringe or the street, I’m invading your home.”
Elections will be held on the 23 May and you can register to vote here.