Your Values & Loneliness

The world is falling apart and people’s minds are going downhill with it.

Intolerance are increasing everywhere. People with intolerant views believe they are finally right.

What before was off the record is now on the record. Everything is possible. Everything is true. It’s like the Holocaust never happened. WWII never happened.

You try to stick to your values anyhow. You try to stick to what’s right. Maybe not stick up for, but stick to. That’s the least you can demand from yourself.

Does it pay off? Maybe for your soul.

Does it pay off for your every day life? No.

Does it pay off for your social life? No.

Does it pay off for your relationships? No.

At the other end of sticking to your values in a time when most people don’t, comes this: loneliness.

The Poison

You believe you are a decent person. You believe you never do harm. Then you open your mouth and intolerance comes out.

You believe you are a tolerant person. You believe you are a humanitarian. Then you open your mouth and ignorance comes out.

You’ve never been to places. Never left your hometown, never broadened your views. You don’t have friends a different shade then your own. Never rubbed against other cultures. Never rubbed against what could be good and could be bad. Still you know everything. Know about Them and the Bad Things They Do. You open your mouth and hate comes out.

It doesn’t come from you. It comes from what seeps in everywhere. The wrongs where we once were more right. It’s the Poison.

The Sexual Violence That Occurred in Cologne Needs to Be Discussed

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We have to speak about what happened in Cologne on New Years Eve, so as not to let the right-winged extremists get another ball to play with. Plus, why silence victims of sexual violence? That is far too often the case anyways.

Here’s my view:

Sexual violence needs to be condemned whenever it happens and by whoever carries out the attack. It was supposedly men of Arab/North African decent that carried out the attacks. Unfortunately after the largest refugee crisis after the second world war. These men come from societies that are far more patriarchal than European countries. The legislation and the culture and the religious practises favours men; sexual violence can be done without any repercussions; women can be killed without anyone arrested. Not all groups nor individuals in the Middle East and North Africa follows this order. There are plenty of exceptions and there has been a rapid development in some countries and regions when it comes to human and women’s rights, many of them I have been happy to be able to portray on this site.

But there is still a patriarchal norm that lies behind this high number of sexual harassments in many Middle Eastern and North African countries. And if the men who carried out the Cologne attacks descended from these countries, we have to address the issues of men having such deep patriarchal values that they don’t respect women – no matter where they are.

What I think should happen is: we need to discuss how to make these men accept and respect women’s rights. We need to address official, cultural and religious leaders of these communities so that they bring up these issues with their community members. The perpetrators should be traced and punished. If the German legislation brings that they would be deported after the penalty, in case the men don’t get have residency in Germany, than that’s a part of the punishment. What’s most important is: we need to not shy away from the subject because these men were from a – in Europe – already targeted minority. Because what they did is a horrendous crime and if we don’t address the underlying issues of men from patriarchal societies we will let the racists run the game – again.

Now I know most of my Middle Eastern male friends will not post anything about this on their social media sites. Especially if living in the West, they constantly feel they’re objects of suspicion in the eyes of whites, assuming they’re violent and patriarchal, and they don’t want to enhance this picture. Many of these men also frequently share posts about racism and how Arabs and Muslims are mistreated in the West, which is as much of a fact, but I would like to challenge them to bring up another group that is often mistreated within their own communities – women.

Because I also know that some of my male Middle Eastern friends most likely will post something about the Cologne attacks – men who are women’s rights activists and men who are challenging the patriarchal norm in their own societies. And I wish these men will set the agenda for everyone, all men, worldwide. That is the only way forward.

Photo credit: dw.com

I Still Believe in You Sweden, My Country

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The beach in Åhus, southern Sweden, in October

I have fond memories of my native country, a country that I believe is one of the best countries in the world. Here’s a sample of my memories:

I the summers I participated in summer camps hosted by the local municipality, offered to all teenagers in the municipality and the fee based on a sliding scale according to the parents income, where families on welfare paid nothing. In the camps we got to practice creative writing and drama during a few weeks. The youth leaders were young and enthusiastic, we often went swimming, created new bonds of friendship. The summer camps made is feel important, that we deserved these amazing weeks in the countryside together.

In middle school during election time our teacher encouraged us to form our own political parties, with different agendas, creating posters where we formed slogans and after presenting them all we got to vote on the ones we thought were the best. The posters then decorated the classroom for the rest of the school semester, reminding us about the power being in our hands.

My parents often spoke to us children on justice and how it was important to support each other. One Saturday morning when going down to the garage in our building, we saw a young but weathered man sleeping on the ground floor, outside the lift that we stepped out of. Me and my sisters got agitated and said that he shouldn’t sleep there – we had never seen such a sight before – because it wasn’t his home and it was disgusting. Our mom then explained that we shouldn’t say that because the man probably had nowhere else to sleep, and we shouldn’t speak so loud, so that we wouldn’t wake him up. A small thing but it made a strong impression on me, the constant reinforcement of empathy for others.

This country taught me amazing things and made me who I am today. I still believe in you, my country, Sweden. We are still a country that cares about others, where it’s possible to coexist. Let it remain like this, Sweden. Please don’t let me down.

Please Don’t Give up on Your Core Values, Please Don’t Break My Heart

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The world seem so polarized now, it’s like a battle where people are confused between what’s good and what’s evil – yes, I use these terms even though I know the reality is more nuanced than that – and how I hear people speak nowadays I’m reminded of darker times, when some people are less of value. I thought people in my beautiful country of Sweden would never let me down, but maybe I was wrong.

I don’t think I’m speaking from out of a shielded, dark room somewhere. I was a humanitarian aid worker for many years. I was in Peshawar, Pakistan, when the infamous school massacre happened. I was in Syria when the Banyas massacre took place. I used to work in a women’s shelter where I met victims of sexual trafficking. I’ve once worked with elderly Jewish people in Sweden who survived the Holocaust. I’ve heard of all sorts of horrible things people do to one another when their disconnected from their feelings of empathy. Still I’m so bothered by what I hear sometimes, intolerant and insensitive things that people say. And what have come to bother me more is when people that I believed had decent values and were educated and aware (this doesn’t necessarily go together), don’t stick with them.

It’s so easy to claim you’re humanitarian, a someone who believes in equality, but some people cannot stick with this when they’re confronted with ignorant people. As if ignorant people holds some sort of power over less ignorant ones. What’s in their power? Well, here’s something I have to tell you: when people don’t stick to their core values, it breaks my heart.

I deal with this on a regular basis. The society as I experience it, my own little corner of the society, has become so much more openly aggressive towards people with a lower status in the society, the different ones, the ones who don’t belong to the majority, than what I was used to. I’m gotten so used to it that I deal with it the same way I do when a relationship ends. I lock the door, stay in all night and crack open a whine bottle to numb the feelings of betrayal and despair. I give calls to my sisters and friends who put up with listening.

It breaks my heart if I see you listen to an intolerant, slightly racist comment, and you nod as if you agree when I know you don’t.

It breaks my heart when you happily go out and party with girls who just dropped negative things about immigrants, or minorities, or both, when you qualify for both of these categories and you pretend you don’t care.

It breaks my heart when you so much want to make friends that whatever these friends will say, you keep quiet and hang out with them.

It breaks my heart when you defend your loved one who keep saying intolerant things just because he’s your loved one, even though I know you deep inside don’t agree; when love and the dependency that follows takes over sanity.

Today is such a day again. I feel betrayed by my society, that I thought was better, was truthful, would never let me go. I lock the door and switch the lights off. Reach for a glass in the cupboard, keeping the wine bottle near. It’s going to be a long night.

Photo credit: upvenue.com

Sweden and the Middle East Views Celebrates 2nd Birthday

In February 2013 I started Sweden and the Middle East Views site. Happy birthday to my site! I decided to celebrate it on Valentine’s Day for the message to come through.

What has happened with the site since? A lot. It has reached much more readers the last year and it’s been great to see some posts being so widely shared on social media.

And what has happened with the writer? A lot. Connecting with other people and the topics I write on through my site has been amazing, especially the ones on tolerance and intolerance. Connecting with so many inspiring people in this field, people who work to promote coexistence and reconciliation, has made me start to believe in the world again, that we have capacity to let go of fear and hatred, that we have the capacity to build trust and connect.

To celebrate the site’s second birthday, here’s a presentation to you of the five most popular posts during the last year:

1. My Failed Application to the Nazi Party Svenskarnas Parti

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Nope, neither this time a racist party wanted to have me as a member. What better is, the small and scary Nazi party believed all my persistent, silly questions on a potential membership despite them being posted in their public Facebook groups. Maybe it scared off some potential voters. I changed the title of the post so it would be easier to find, so the numbers on shared times went down, but the post has been shared many times and broke my previous statistics record on the blog. After this blog post being widely shared I started to receive late night anonymous phone calls (that since stopped). Was it related? I have no idea. But it’s one of the blog posts I’m most satisfied with, because it pulled the pants down on this dangerous group few dared to approach.

2. Kurdish Mobilization for the Murdered Girl

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The young Syrian-Kurdish refugee girl Dunya in Iraqi Kurdistan, who was murdered by her much older husband, whom she was in an arranged marriage with, took an unusual twist when the Kurdish society mobilized in protests against violence against women.

3. Hawzhin The Middle Eastern Feminist

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It’s hard not to fall for the charismatic young woman Hawzhin Azeez, the manager of successful Facebook page The Middle Eastern Feminist and whose interview was very successful. Her reconciling approach obviously is appreciated – and needed – by many.

4. Tourism in Iraq – Another Country is Possible

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The ambitious young Nawar Al Saadi, who was a PhD student in Tourism in Romania, started the Tourism in Iraq Facebook page, in order for people to see another side of Iraq. And people did, indeed.

5. How Do You Become an ISIS Terrorist?

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I was on such an angry rant the night I wrote the post on how the US invasion of Iraq created the collapse of the once well functioning and developed Middle Eastern state, as I have seen it throughout the year in my different humanitarian missions. I had no idea it would be so appreciated, but hopefully some people reading it learned something new.

I love my site and for all of the readers out there, people who appreciate my site, but also the haters: much love to all of you on this Valentine’s Days Eve. Love is the strongest power of all.

Photo credit: craftsy.com. For the posts’ different photos, see original post