Is there a sharper knife that tears at the fabric of society than the threat of physical violence on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, gender or political affiliation? The recent images of young men, wearing hoods and dressed in black, roaming the streets of central Stockholm looking for “north African street children” to “punish” for their mere existence reminded Sweden and the world of the worst elements of European history.
People immediately took to social media to express their shock that this could happen in a country like Sweden. Or, to be more accurate, Sweden as they imagine it to be.
Tragically, these are images the world is accustomed to seeing. But not from Sweden, a country with a global reputation for egalitarianism, the recognition of human rights and support for international justice. With the restriction on the intake of refugees in late 2015, the announcement that up to 80,000 asylum seekers could be returned to their countries of origin, and now the threat of street violence, the image of the country as a bastion of tolerance and progressive politics has been ruined. It’s unclear whether it can ever recover.
When huge numbers of refugees and migrants braved the Mediterranean in search of a better life last year, Sweden took in nearly 200,000 of them. For a nation of 10 million this intake was massive, shaming many larger EU countries that claimed they were not able to help. This magnanimity was held up as a glowing example of the best of Swedish social democracy. While other countries made excuses and procrastinated,Sweden put its money where its mouth was.
And this wasn’t the first time. After Iraq was bombed into the ground a decade ago, Sweden took in huge numbers of Iraqi refugees while the US accepted just a trickle from the country it had destroyed. After the US supported the overthrow of the democratically elected Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, leading to the brutal Augusto Pinochet regime, it was Sweden that accepted political refugees from that country. The list goes on.
The memory of this history – and the feel-good afterglow of Sweden’s recent humanitarian efforts with the Syrian refugees – has quickly evaporated, replaced by the image of a country no different from its European fellows. That may not be entirely fair (Sweden is still one of the largest per capita foreign aid providers in the world), but – as with many countries – much of Sweden’s image is a mixture of facts, half-truths and mythology.
When the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats first entered parliament in 2010 with 5.7% of the vote, many described them as nothing more than a one-issue “protest party”. Six years later, they have just over 18%, while the Social Democrats – the party of slain prime minister Olof Palme – languish at 23%, their lowest number since polls began. The thought that there would be just five percentage points between the two parties would once have seemed ridiculous.
This is an existential social and political crisis for Sweden. While the number of gang members searching for “non-Swedes” to attack in Stockholm a few nights ago was only around 100, their actions reverberated around the country, and the world.
Vigilante street violence is disturbing at many levels. It is disturbing because it suggests that clusters of citizens have abandoned their belief in the efficacy of the democratic system, and have decided to take the law into their own hands.
Pour lire la suite : http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/01/anti-refugee-violence-dark-lawless-sweden