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. 

Panic on the streets of Stockholm 

To quote the Smiths in their song ‘Panic’ – ‘Panic on the streets of London, panic on the streets of Birmingham, I wonder to myself, could life ever be sane again?’ 
This song resonates around my head as I reflect over the recent happenings on the streets of the Swedish capital – masked vigilantes, street brawls, police attacks. 

A group of masked men gathered in central Stockholm with the motivation of protecting Swedes by attacking immigrant street children. Flyers have been handed out around town with the message that ‘enough is enough’. A Facebook invitation has also been sent out asking for ‘Vikings’ to start patrolling the streets in gangs to protect Swedish women from ‘Muslim rapists’.

What is this? What the hell is this? 

I don’t know what the solution is. But while we must remember it is illegal behaviour by a minority, we also must realise that it’s a symptom of a deeper panic. We can’t keep living in a bubble.

1) More resources must be directed to the law enforcement agencies. Tax income or small tax increases could be redirected to enable this. 

2) Racist groups must be strongly counteracted. The consequences of their actions should be felt by them. 

3) An education program for Swedes in schools must be instigated. Schools should talk about values, integrity and the benefits of diversity and pluralism. People are not born racist. 

4) A huge media campaign on the positive aspects of diversity must be instigated – not least on the TV. 

5) Refugees must be humanised and not marginalised. Tell us their stories. Who are these people? What have the faced? What are their dreams, hopes, wishes? 

6) Traumatised street children must be cared for. Resources must be directed to this. Small increase in tax could easily finance it. We all gain from this investment. 

I know none of this is simple, but it must be done. 

Sweden is changing. Right now it is changing for the worse, developing out of fear and paranoia. 

This can be turned around – Swedes need to be reminded of what makes them proud to be Swedish. And that’s not gangs punishing street kids in the name of Viking culture. It’s the way that this country has welcomed people in need with open arms – more than any other country per capita.  It’s the way this country has respected the right to seek asylum. That is Swedish. That is something for Sweden to be proud of. 

The Gentle Minister


Reading on social media recently, I am struck by the amount of praise given to Sweden’s Home Secretary, Anders Ygeman. The minister is appearing a lot in newspapers and on the TV at the moment commenting on the tragic events of Paris and the impact terrorism has on the increasing security levels on Swedish soil. He also regularly informs the public on the refugee situation and the political reasons behind the government’s actions to reintroduce border controls.

On the face of it, Anders Ygeman should not be considered a good communicator. He has a very gentle, apologetic manner. He avoids eye contact at times. He speaks with a very quiet voice and a very flat tone. He is, in fact, the opposite of everything that a leader is said to be – inspiring, charismatic and energetic.  In the USA, or the UK, he would probably be ridiculed. But in Sweden, it seems to work.

From a cultural perspective, this is really interesting. What is it about Anders Ygeman that works so well in Sweden? Maybe it is a case of content over packaging. Often how we say something has more impact than what we say, but in Anders Ygeman’s case, it’s the opposite. He might not be charismatic, but he is clear and very direct. And is this an approach that Swede’s prefer in times of crisis – a no frills, humble and direct communication?

Dark clouds over Öresund 


With the refugee crisis raging on, the news is full of articles and commentary. People are taking to the streets and the railway stations in support of the refugees,donating money and other needed items. This issue is in full focus, deservedly so. 

If this blog was called ‘Watching the Danes’ I would be outraged by my adopted country today. If media is to be believed, it seems like our neighbors to the south are doing everything they can to deny sanctuary to these desperate people. 

For example, they want to shuffle refugees through Denmark to Sweden without processing their refugee applications, which is against EU law. They resist any form of pan-EU deal on refugee quotas and are happy to watch other countries bear the ‘burden’ of those seeking asylum. They cancelled the trains between Denmark and Germany. Elements in the government want Denmark to leave Schengen, thus making border control more strict and difficult.  They have even gone as far as putting adverts in Lebanese newspapers urging immigrants not to come to Denmark. The Danish door is firmly closed thanks to its racist and protectionist agenda. 

Their political leaders should be ashamed. 

But this not a blog about Denmark, it’s about Sweden. 

And I’m happy to witness that solidarity, compassion and empathy are still going strong in this Scandinavian nation. 

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. 


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