The dark side of Sweden

Sweden is my spiritual country.

Moving here has shaped me into the person I am today. When I moved here, I fell in love immediately with this modern country in the north. I was impressed by Sweden’s strong belief in equality, democracy, human rights, acceptance and tolerance – and it moulded me. Like Sweden, I believe in an open society where everybody is of equal value and has the right to live how they want. I believe in humanity where people respect each other. I believe in a social contract where we take care of the weaker members of society when they need it, and they take care of me if I need it. For me, this is Sweden. This is what it means to be Swedish. Swedes should be so proud of this legacy.

But is this Sweden still there? 20 years ago, it clearly was. But today? Is this Sweden just a Utopia? Just a distant memory of something good? Is my open Sweden actually shutting down?

Cold winds are sweeping over Europe yet again. Sweden is no exception. The Sweden Democrats – a right wing conservative nationalistic party, dressed in sharp suits, is spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of Sweden’s citizens. And they are gaining ground. Approximately 20% of the population now support them.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party that is openly xenophobic and clearly sexist. Members of this party have, in recent memory, stated that gays are animals, that Jews are not Swedes, that women should have their abortion rights restricted. I don’t understand why they think this is ok.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party that have a shaky understanding of Economics, whose budget lacks 30 billion Swedish crowns to cover all of their election promises and who have no policy for the environment – as it’s ‘not that important’. I don’t understand why they think this is an acceptable future for the country.

These 20% buy into the idea that this party is anti-establishment. The ‘gang of four’ men who run the party are former university students who earn salaries in the millions and furnish their homes with designer furniture. They may come from humble backgrounds, as do many Swedes, but today they are elites. I don’t understand why their supporters don’t see this.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party they do not know much about. Nobody knows what their actions will be. Many of their voters are dissatisfied with the current state of Sweden, and they want a change. This may well be justified. However, they are willing to throw everything out, and place their bets on a dark horse. They clearly don’t feel threatened. But they probably should.

Have these 20% always been there? Was the Sweden I moved to just a lie? Was the openness and tolerance just bullshit? Was it just a neat and well-orchestrated fantasy that in fact had fear of foreigners, sexism and homophobia lurking just beneath the surface? Lurking and waiting and ready to leap out. That is a frightening thought.

I don’t believe these 20% are all racists, I really don’t. But they are willing to allow nationalists to take power in Sweden. I don’t believe they’re all stupid. But they are willing to disregard glaring faults in SD’s policies. I do believe many are disenchanted. And they are willing to gamble the safety of their country and fellow citizens just to prove a point. They are willing to literally throw many people to the sharks.

After this article, I expect to be trolled. I often am. These trolls will abuse me, they will tell me to go home yet again and they will say I am a bleeding-heart liberal.

And they are so wrong.

I am already home. Sweden is my home. And my heart is not bleeding, it is breaking.

Please do not vote SD in the coming election.

Amazing immigrants in Sweden Part 6: Hanif Azizi


Negativity. Fear. Concern. These are some of the reactions many Swedes are experiencing about the influx of immigrants to Sweden in the last couple of years. So, I became curious to learn about some of those individuals who came here as refugees or immigrants to make a better life for themselves. People with roots somewhere else who built a home here and who contributed to Swedish society in a positive way.
For the next seven days, I will celebrate these people. My hope is that we can lift our eyes from the challenges of immigration and understand what useful contributions these people can make to society if given the chance. To our society. Our Sweden

   
Part 5: Hanif Azizi

At the age of 9 years old, Hanif Azizi arrived in Sweden as an unaccompanied refugee. His parents were active in a political military organisation, a rebel Group fighting against the regime in Iran. When he was 6 years old, his father was killed in battle and his mother decided to send her children away to safety.

In 1991, Hanif arrived in Sweden with his younger brother and were placed in a host home. In this home, they were subjected to physical and pyschological abuse and were eventually removed by the Swedish Social Services and placed in a secure and supportive environment.

Today, Hanif is 35 and works as a policeman based in the Stockholm suburb of Järva. Here, he works to prevent crime but also to support youths who are at risk of falling into criminality. In Järva there are lots of individuals with an ethnic background. Hanif tries to help them feel involved in Swedish society so as to avoid radicalisation and crime. 

His contribution to Swedish society is extremely valuable. Hanif is an amazing immigrant in Sweden and a positive role model and contributor to Swedish society. 

What do Shakespeare, the 1st of May and immigrants have in common?

Shakespeare_2888800b

Today is May 1st 2016, celebrated in Sweden as in many other countries, with demonstrations, political speeches and parades. Most political parties, including the fascist party, have rallies and gatherings. One of the hot topics this year is immigration and the large increase of asylum seekers that have arrived in Sweden during the recent months. For some people in Sweden, these immigrants are a positive addition to Swedish society. For others the influx of immigrants is unwelcome, a problem that is perceived to bring with it social and societal disruption.

Reflecting over this situation, I hear echoes of something that happened in London on May 1st, 1517 – almost exactly 500 years ago – something known as ‘Evil May Day’.

During this period ín history, the reign of Henry the Eighth, Londoners were feeling unhappy with their situation. There was a great deal of misery, poverty and disease. As a consequence, they came to resent the presence of foreigners in the city, especially those seen to have money.  An inflammatory xenophobic speech had been made at Easter calling on all “Englishmen to cherish and defend themselves, and to hurt and grieve aliens for the common weal’.  Over the following two weeks there were sporadic attacks on foreigners and immigrants. On May Day 1517, it culminated, and a mob of thugs, liberated prisoners and others took to the streets and attacked foreigners and looted their homes. The under-sheriff at the time, the legendary Thomas More, tried unsuccessfully to dissuade them. Nobody was killed but several were arrested and charged with treason. Referring to the events of this day, William Shakespeare, many years later, wrote a text depicting the speech that Thomas More delivered to the rioters.

The voice of Shakespeare, who died 400 years ago last week, resonates through this text. The fascinating thing about it is that it is as relevant today as it was 400 years ago. This saddens me. The same forces at action centuries ago, are still in action today. This should be a reminder to all of us to be vigilant. Not everything, it seems, does change with time.

Here’s the text:

‘A Plea on behalf of Immigrants’ by William Shakespeare

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line
To slip him like a hound.
Alas, alas! Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? this is the strangers case;
And this your mountainish inhumanity.

 

Evil%20May%20Day.jpg

 

 

 

Swedish women fight back

Strength-woman-arms

In response to the hoards of ‘Vikings’ roaming Stockholm’s streets to protect their ‘women’ from ‘muslim rapists’, the women of Sweden have spoken up. In a social media campaign called ‘inteerkvinna’ – ‘not your woman’ – they are fighting back.

‘Den rasistiska lynchmobben som drog fram i Stockholm i fredags (29/1) och misshandlade barn och andra som inte är vita, påstår, likt andra rasistiska och fascistiska grupperingar, att de vill “skydda” vita/”svenska” kvinnor. De talar inte för mig. Deras “skydd” är i själva verket en önskan om att dominera, kontrollera, stänga in och äga kvinnor samtidigt som de försöker skrämma, misshandla och till och med utrota andra människor. De talar inte för mig. Internationell solidaritet är grunden för jämlikhet, rättvisa och fred. ‪#‎inteerkvinna‬

‘The racist lynch mob that rampaged through Stockholm on Friday attacking children and other non-white people, claim, like other racist and fascist groups, that they they want to protect white/Swedish women. They do not speak for me. Their ‘protection’ is in actual fact a desire to dominate, control, imprison and possess women. At the same time, they try to scare, abuse and exterminate other people. They do not speak for me. International solidarity is the basis of equality, justice and peace. I am Not Your Woman.

 

Sweden’s disgrace! 

  
In the latest poll today, over one fifth of the Swedish voting population would vote for the nationalistic right wing party, putting the party into position of the second largest political party in Sweden. 

Let’s be clear what this means. One fifth of Swedes support a party that has its roots in the nazi party, that has verbally and physically attacked minority groups and that believes in Swedish racial superiority. It’s a disgrace for all Swedes who believe in tolerance, openness and solidarity. 

It’s time to act. To speak out. This is not going away. As the established parties bitch at each other, the Swedish population grows tired of their rhetoric. Consequently, they feel more disengaged and resentful and turn to a party that seems to talk straight to their concerns and promises protection of the Swedish identity. It is scarily reminiscent of the past. 

Pastor Martin Niemoller, pictured above, wrote a famous poem after he survived the concentration camps of the Second World War. His poem criticised the cowardice of German intellectuals after the Nazi’s rise to power and their subsequent purging of one group after another. It’s worth reflecting over his words. They are very relevant today. Right now. In Sweden. About us. 

‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.’

Do these words resonate with you? Are we the cowards he’s referring to? Are we so comfortable and complacent that we just sit back and watch it happen? 

If, like me, you believe in a multicultural society, it’s time to take a stance. Write to your MP. Talk to your colleagues, neighbours and friends. Get involved. Share this blog. Root out those one in five and challenge them. Demonstrate. Communicate. Educate. 

Speak out. While you can. Before it’s too late. 

Sweden – get some perspective!!

60 million is a massive number. So big that it’s impossible to imagine. Difficult to relate to. 60 million is roughly 6 times the population of the whole of Sweden. And it’s the estimated number of people who are currently on the run in the world today. These people are running from war, from oppression, violence and starvation. They are running to escape persecution, to save their lives, and the lives of their children.

As we sit here in our comfortable homes, drinking coffee and eating our cinnamon buns, we watch these people on our flat screen televisions and switch them off when it gets too repetitive. 60 million people is an impossible number to digest, so it’s better just to put those images somewhere to the back of our minds and complain about the weather instead.

But just because it’s not happening here, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. 

A comparative handful of these 60 million people, against all odds, make it to Sweden. Housed in camps or living homeless on the streets, they break our illusion of our rich society. These people see Sweden as a temporary sanctuary. Here they are safe from war, famine and disease. They are safe from persecution and attack. But some Swedes see them as vermin, as parasites who are here to suck freely at the teet of the tax payer. 

We are told in political rhetoric that Sweden is being ‘swarmed’ by refugees, that our comfortable society is at risk. And people are scared that the self righteous baracades that have been built are creaking under the pressure of a world outside. 

Get some perspective Sweden! 

According to statistics released by the UN, the actual number of refugees and immigrants seeking asylum in Europe last year was round 600 000 – a mere 1%. 

Other statistics from Forbes show the following: 

  
Per thousand people, Sweden took in 15 refugees during 2014 which means around 135000 people. Out of 60 million people who are currently on the move. 

We need to have a reality check in Sweden and not believe the political arguments that some parties would have us believe. 

In the big picture, the number of people who make it to Sweden is tiny. These people have endured more than we can imagine just to get here. They have suffered mentally and emotionally and probably experienced indignities beyond our comprehension. 

The question becomes how do we treat these people who break through our flat screen complacency when they become living examples of what we fear? 

I suggest we welcome them with pride and with humanity. And treat them with the dignity they deserve. These are people, not parasites.  

And they are desperate to receive our protection. 

     

         
If you like this blog, please share it and spread it. 

Swedish revolution 

Whoever thought of Swedes as a pacifistic,  neutral people needs to think again. After a racist advertising campaign was put up in the underground system by Sweden’s right wing nationalistic party, people decided they’d had enough. Crowds appeared at the station in question and demonstratively tore down the offending advertising. 

Swedes are taking a stand against the rising racism and xenophobia in society. Recent polls show that the party representing these attitudes has become the largest opposition party to the government. 

I feel at times that the open and tolerant Sweden I love is something of the past. But these reactions and these pictures show that the majority of Swedes will not take this sitting down. They will take to the streets and they will act to defend the rights of all people living in this particular spot on the planet.