Since the American invasion and the following gradual collapse of Iraq, many Iraqis has applied for asylum in Sweden and in 2007 constituted the largest group of asylumseekers among the many different nationalities that applied.
In my city Malmö, sometimes called “Little Baghdad”, many Iraqis have settled and formed their own communities. In small shops in the middle of our city you can now find things like halal meat, wonderful carrot-marmelade with 80% sugar (that Swedish health freaks would report to the police if they could) and other products that I would find in my local baqala in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. Globalization is a great thing when you can find your favourite marmelade from another part of the world in your own hometown.
Host communities usually has opinions about newcomers, but I think the other way around can be more interesting. Iraq I dare to say is quite the antithesis of Sweden: a large country with a weak central state, where religion plays a major role for many, hospitality is highly valued and your family is the main social network to rely on. The clash is quite big for some – Sweden being very secular with a strong legal system where many people can feel controlled by the authorities; from the housing market to the humiliating procedures at the unemployment agency. If I ask though I might not receive the true answer – critizicing someone’s home country being such a taboo for most people. But what does Iraqis really think about Sweden?
A while ago I joined this interesting Facebook page, “Iraqis in Sweden“, to see what was going on. The group is nicely illustrated by a Swedish and an Iraqi flag intertwined, with updates in both languages. On the page news about Sweden and Iraq are posted, often in an informative way about Sweden. One of managers of the page, Mohammad, tells me that the aim of the page was to create a meeting point for Iraqis in Sweden/Europe and that the group aims to serve people who might need help in Sweden, for example legal assistance or to rent a flat. Quite a nice idea, isn’t it, especially if you think about the many hate groups online, dedicated to bring down other people?
Checking the updates, one post caught my attention: “What advantages/disadvantages are there in the Swedish culture/society do you think?” The answers to this post arrived quickly.
“That everyone pretends to be PERFECT while they’re worth nothing!” one man writes, the comment getting three likes.
“There is no disadvantages everyone goes his own way, and there’s nothing better than the Swedish society!!” Two exclamation marks, 15 likes.
Other people add upp to the bad list: the politicans, the wheather, there is no summer, it’s hard to find a job. Then another one, the profile picture showing the face of a young woman in a hijab, comes up with a long, reflective post:
“There are both advantages and disadvantages in each society and this is the case for the Swedish society. But I think that the advantages in the Swedish society are more than the disadvantages (…) The RESPECT, FREEDOM, EQUALITY (social), HELPFUL etc… The disadvantages are that parents have some problems raising their children here since the parents wants to raise them according to their traditions/religion. This often leads to a big problem that in its turn is a big disadvantage!! Me myself I have all love and respect for SWEDEN”
Who knew that such a subject could bring on such strong feelings? I wouldn’t, if Ihadn’t found this page. Or as a post reads when scrolling up to another heated discussion: “Do you think you can say anything just because now you’re in Sweden?”
Well on this page, obviously yes. And what better is, everyone gets to share their views without censorship or feeling held back. How I love the dynamics of the diversity sometimes. In Iraq or in Sweden.
Photo credit: Irakier i Sverige