The Subject of “Immigration” Has Hijacked Our Lives

A while ago I came back to Sweden after being abroad on a humanitarian mission for eight months. It’s always a minor culture shock to come back after a humanitarian mission, but what struck me the most this time was not usual differences; the rainy winter, the small changes in the street fashion, new songs on the radio – but how the topic of immigration has seeped into each and every conversation.

While I was away, Sweden held an election in which the populist right-winged party Sverigedemokraterna doubled their support and scored an amazing 13% of the votes, despite for example my own eager attempt to stop them by mailing my vote from the Asian country where I was. The main topics that Sverigedemokraterna made their election issues, are immigrants, refugees, the economy (unclear how), the elderly population, and immigrants again. Even before the most recent election in 2014, the party had been able to set the public agenda to be focused on immigrants, even for people otherwise not engaged in politics.

In the year of 2015, I discovered upon taking the train from Copenhagen airport to Sweden and re-entering my home country, the subject is not only popular: it has now completely hijacked our conversations. Most of my friends seem to speak about it. Acquaintances I hardly know speak about it. A man who I sold my old bed to raised the subject when he came around to pick up the bed. I hear the subject when queuing in the grocery store. You would think that people would want to speak about something else. How was my humanitarian mission, for example? I was in a rough place where many things happened, both of the exhausting kind due to the domestic politics, but also positive things. I don’t have to speak about that constantly, but I wouldn’t mind venting a bit with friends or sharing of some of the things that I experienced and learned. But it’s almost never brought up, because other things are on most peoples’ minds.

For example: Should all refugees really come to Sweden? Will integration of immigrants really work? Why has Sweden’s integration policy failed? Should Muslims have the right to wear headscarf in school? How can we get rid of the newly arrived immigrants from Romania, who are begging on the street? Almost no one seem to be in touch with concrete, true facts about immigration or integration, and I wonder how they know that Sweden’s integration policy is so failed? Have they read the policy? Many also don’t seem to be in touch with a lot of people who classify as “immigrants”, in their own daily lives.

The other day I caught up with a friend of mine who factually stated:

“In the papers you read all these chronicles about immigration, from all different perspectives, as if it’s the only current thing right now, and then we read these chronicles about that there’s a major subject about immigration. We just shouldn’t keep discussing the subject. I mean, what happened to other current affairs? What happened to global warming?”

The subject has totally hijacked us and we’re not even aware that we’re hijacked, like a Boeing 787 where the passengers seem not to notice the change of course, despite there being clouds outside when there should have been sun, and the pilot lying on the floor of the cockpit, tied up and gagged, desperately trying to call for help.

Today I went to the hairdressing saloon, a new place I haven’t tried before. The woman who owned the saloon was really nice, and during the hours it took her to do my hair, we chatted about many things. She told about her upcoming vacation in Dubai with her family, how she loved the country and was ready to soak up in the sun, to get away from the rainy Swedish spring. I said I had recently returned, and that I had missed the rain. We spoke about the difficulty on buying clothes online, that even if it’s cheap it’s sometimes a loosing deal since you rarely put in the energy to send back an item you don’t like. We bonded over that we both loved shopping and missed the variety outside Sweden, and agreed that we equally could spend 24 hours straight in an American-style mall if we’re given the chance.

That was nice. A different conversation from many of the others I had recently. The woman didn’t even mention the word “immigration”. Maybe she would want to hang out with me sometime? It would be a wonderful change. I might see if she’s up for a coffee this weekend.

I’m a True Swedish Patriot – You’re Not

Sweden in the summer

Election time in Sweden is coming on September 14 and I’m abroad on a humanitarian mission as I usually am. Last minute it suddenly turned out I hadn’t the possibility to vote at the Swedish embassy in the country where I am. I desperately called and e-mailed the Swedish embassy and asked them to send me the voting material – they made an exception and sent it by private mail to my office. I taped together an envelope with my vote and sent it by DHL to Sweden for 40 USD, eternally grateful that it had worked out, not regretting the 40 USD it had cost me. I will do anything for my country, because I love my country.

I love my country because of many things. I love it because of the weather: in Southern Sweden the weather is mild and rainy in the winters which I love as I hate snow, crisp and sunny in the springs and the short summers are, despite being short, always provided with some sunny days.

I love it because of the clean beaches and the sea, the big, clean parks with fountains and lakes.

I love it because of the social welfare system. I have been unemployed many times between my missions and I always had an income so that I could pay my rent and afford food, because of the unemployment benefits I received. We have public daycares, schools, hospitals, health clinics, psychological care  – all to no or minimum cost. We have decent homes for homeless people, drug addicts and asylum seekers. As long as I live in Sweden I will never have to be afraid of living on the street or not afford health care or school for my kids. I love paying tax to my country as I see the good that comes out of it and since I love my country.

I love it because of the diversity. I have friends from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Liberia, Turkey, Kurdistan, Gaza, Greece, Pakistan, Bolivia, France, UK and Sweden. We have clubs in my city playing dancehall, hiphop, Arabic music, Persian music, singersongwriter evenings, pop, hard rock, electro, classical music, klezmer. An addicted traveller like me will never feel bored in my homecountry.

I spent all this effort and money to vote as I love my country and I want to keep the good things with my country and see it develop. I am a true Swedish patriot since I love my country as it is. You Swedish nationalists, Sverigedemokraterna and Svenskarnas parti, who are candidates for the upcoming national elections, don’t. You’re striving for a Sweden that never existed. A Sweden where people are no longer safe. I’m a true and proud Swedish patriot loving my country for all that it is – you’re not.

Photo copyright: Sweden and the Middle East Views

Sweden: This is Not Good, This is Bad

In Sweden the rightwinged extremist party Sverigedemokraterna had a tumultous year 2012 (and this was before I tried to become a member). A recorded late night fight between some of their leading politicans and, among some other people, the famous Swedish-Kurdish stand up comedian Soran Ismael was hacked from one of the politicians mobile phone. It went viral online. The politicans (yes, elected politicans) was among other events seen picking up iron bars and getting ready to take the verbal fight to a physical level. They all had to leave after the movie became public. They were insulting people on the street using words as “niggerlover” and “whore”; words that racists all over the world deny that they would use.

After the scandal, the leader of the party Jimmy Åkesson publicly explained that the party did not accept this behaviour. Many Swedes happily shared the news on social media. Finally there was proof everyone should be able to take to their hearts, even some of our most ignorant fellow citizens! Because who would want to be associated with such behaviour or racist slurs? In the next election in September 2014 we were gonna get rid of these white trash people that has pestered out lives since they first received more than 3% of the votes and entered the parliament in 2006.

So what happened? The figures last year didn’t seem to decline, they rather increased. Could this really be true? I went myself to check the national voting polls. And there it was: Sverigedemokraterna now has 9,5 of the votes. 2,8 % more than the liberal party; 1,3 % more than the socialists.

Sweden was always a neutral country and we are very proud of our selves for having saved lives of people seeking protection from persecution and death throughout the centuries. After the second world war we brought in survivors from the concentration camps and nursed them back to life in the huge Red Cross centers all over Southern Sweden.  Compassion was taught in our schools when I grew up and when there was a disaster somwhere we always held a moment of silence afterwards in the classroom. This is how I know Sweden.

I follow some Greek bloggers that are reporting about the consequences of the Golden Dawn being an elected party. These blogs are mainly reporting about the events linked to the extremist party: harassments, abuse and murders of immigrants and leftists working against them. When there is not much left by fear, there is not much else to do but to report and spread awareness, hoping the world will listen. I used to feel for the Greek bloggers and give them my sympathy in comments, like an outsider usually does. But the outsider perspective might not last much longer?

Sweden, this is not good, this is bad. We can do better.