Archive | Sweden

Want to Discuss Sweden and COVID19? Start By Looking Backward.

Sweden’s intake of refugees—from Syrians five years ago to Somalis ten years ago—may not seem like an obvious place to start, but it is.

by: Christian Christensen

A right-wing protester in Minnesota holds a sign which reads "Be like Sweden" while another called the coronavirus pandemic a "fake crisis" during an anti-lockdown demonstration in Minnesota last week. (Photo: AP)

A right-wing protester in Minnesota holds a sign which reads “Be like Sweden” while another called the coronavirus pandemic a “fake crisis” during an anti-lockdown demonstration in Minnesota last week. (Photo: AP)

“A vast social experiment…”
“Committing suicide…”
“Self-inflicted nightmare…”

We have heard a lot about Sweden and its now-infamous “hands off” COVID19 strategy, and there is widespread international disbelief at a policy many consider to be tantamount to Sweden playing Russian roulette with the welfare of its citizens. The above quotes, taken from newspaper articles and directed at Sweden, would be perfect examples of this outrage.

Except for one thing: the quotes were not about Sweden’s COVID19 policy. They were written several years ago about Sweden’s intake of Syrian refugees fleeing a bloody civil war.

That the published reactions to Sweden’s policy on refugees and COVID19 are so easily inter-changeable speaks volumes. These are two events that have shaped the international image of Sweden as few others over the past half-century.

Six years ago, when Sweden began the process of accepting more Syrian refugees per capita than any nation in Europe (and far more than the US), the xenophobic right lambasted Sweden, waxing nostalgic over the loss of an ethnically and culturally homogeneous nation that existed largely in their dreams. The supposed surrender of a mythical, Nordic Disneyland to the forces of immigration was linked to the politics of Swedish social democracy: a “leftist agenda” that wallows in state power, denies cultural heritage, and embraces both radical feminism and fundamentalist Islam. In short, Sweden had capitulated to the forces of multiculturalism.

In the last few years, the international right-wing obsession with all things Sweden has become borderline pathological.

So, it is with a pretty generous portion of chutzpah that many of the same right-wingers who smeared Sweden as a nation collapsing under the weight of restrictive “Cultural Marxism” now point to that same Sweden as the guiding light in the libertarian fight against COVID19. And, as the nation that has rejected Big Government in favor of keeping Sweden “open,” trusting rational citizens to do the right thing. Nothing better crystallized this absurd turn-around than the image of a US protester against stay-at-home rules holding a sign reading, “Be Like Sweden!”

The call to “Be Like Sweden!” from portions of the right should lead us to consider the overlaps between the events that began six years ago, when Sweden’s conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt—yes, the decision to take Syrian refugees was made under a conservative government—first implored citizens to ”open their hearts” to refugees, and current reactions to Sweden’s controversial COVID19 policy. While easy to point fingers at right-wing media, they are far from the only culprits. The supposedly “Liberal-Progressive” press drove a line of argument about Sweden during and after the intake of refugees that only served to reinforce a blatantly xenophobic worldview.

Sweden’s acceptance of refugees starting in 2014 was often framed as a gamble and a risk: an argument disturbingly similar to how Sweden’s COVID19 strategy is currently framed. Sweden’s acceptance of refugees fleeing from a bloody war was rarely pitched as an act of humanitarianism, or as an ethical necessity that saved thousands of lives.

In addition, the Liberal-progressive wings of the international media in 2014 and 2015 did not implore other countries to “Be Like Sweden!” nor did they shame countries that took fewer refugees for “not caring” as much as the Swedes (as Sweden is now shamed in the press for NOT caring over its COVID19 strategy). The subtext was/is clear: policies that threaten Swedish lives are to be condemned, while policies that save the lives of the poor fleeing war are not worthy of praise, or recognized as humanitarian. Refugees were nothing more than cultural and economic “risks,” and taking them in was simply contributing to the “death of the most generous nation on earth.”

The hook in a great many of the current articles on Sweden’s COVID19 strategy is that the policy relies on a reciprocal relationship of trust between citizens and the state. In other words, that Swedish citizens can be relied upon to “do the right thing” if left to their own devices. This frame of national responsibility and citizenship, currently applied to COVID19, was rarely applied when Sweden began taking refugees in 2014 (itself a question of life and death). Again, to the international press, the juxtaposition is stark: “social responsibility” applies only to saving the lives of Swedes, not refugees.

And what of those refugees who have arrived and settled in Sweden over the decades, from places like Chile, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria?

In Sweden, Stockholm is the epicenter of the COVID19 outbreak, and it is parts of the city with the highest percentage of residents with immigrant background that have been hit hardest. In other words, the very people vilified by the xenophobic right are the ones bearing the brunt of COVID19. This issue is one that has been radically under-discussed in the Swedish and international press. Ignoring this part of Sweden’s COVID19 story erases the place of immigrants in Swedish society. This erasure, in turn, reinforces vague, stereotypical notions of Swedish social, economic, political and ethnic homogeneity that makes real analysis impossible.

So many pieces on Sweden (from all ideological positions) have claimed to analyze the COVID19 policy by discussing “how Swedes live,” and “how Swedes are reacting,” without so much as a nod to the huge disparity in how minority groups “live” and have been affected compared to the general population. When we lament the xenophobic right’s smearing of Sweden over refugees, we should ask what role mainstream media play in reinforcing stereotypes with their coverage of events like COVID19, where inequality and discrimination are largely erased in favor of a non-existent cultural and economic uniformity.

This piece wasn’t about criticism or praise of Sweden’s COVID19 strategy. That’s for epidemiologists. But, as Sweden’s policy attracts international attention, it is worth considering how it is discussed.

Sweden’s intake of refugees—from Syrians five years ago to Somalis ten years ago—may not seem like an obvious place to start, but it is. It provides a point of comparison for how we frame not only citizenship and responsibility, but also for how the very people who were the focus of heavy, critical coverage of Sweden’s refugee policies are now a victims being air-brushed from most reporting on Sweden’s COVID19 outbreak.

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“Sweden’s Government Skips Answering Questions on Its Aid to the Allies of al-Qaeda in Syria”

By Patrik Paulov and Basma Qaddour

Global Research,

Why has Sweden been very tight-lipped about and shied away from publically talking about its aid to what it prefers to call Syrian ‘opposition’ during the 8-year terror war on Syria? And has Swedish tax money benefited terrorists?

This topic, i.e. Sweden’s aid to the Syrian opposition was tackled by Patrik Paulov, freelance journalist and Author of the book Syria’s silenced voices, in his opinion article which was published in Svenska Dagbladet newspaper on October, 9, 2019.

The journalist asked in his article about the reason behind the silence of Swedish media and politicians on how aid has benefited terrorist in Syria while several other European countries have broken the silence over this issue after the broadcast of some documentaries disclosing that money intended for the so-called the ‘Free Syrian Army” was handed to armed extremist terrorists.

He pointed out that Sweden has started to support the so-called ‘democratic opposition in Syria’ since August 2012 when then-Foreign Minister Carl Bildt invited Syrian ‘opposition’ figures to hold a meeting at Hässelby Castle in Stockholm.

“Sweden’s support for the opposition-led aid project Syria Recovery Trust Fund (SRTF) is an example. Financiers of the SRTF are 10 Western countries plus e royal dictatorships- United Arab Emirates and Kuwait,” Paulov said, indicating that Sweden only contributed twice to SRTF, last time in 2015. The total amount was 56,5 million kronor.

Foreign Ministry’s evaluation of SRTF, signed on October 23, 2018, mentioned no words about the influence of terrorist groups in the “opposition areas” where the project was implemented.

The evaluation also said nothing about the collaboration between the Syrian ‘opposition’, which chairs the SRTF, and al-Nusra Front [ Jabhat al-Nusra] and other armed extremist groups.

In April 2015, the head of the so-called the ‘Syrian Opposition Coalition’, Khalid Khoja admitted that his organizations has a tactical alliance with al-Qaeda. The coalition’s formed head, Ahmad Jarba, was chairman of the assistance fund that received 40 million SEK. In April 2014, he visited the town of Kassab from which 2000 Syrian Christians were displaced by the foreign-backed ‘opposition’.Swedish Foreign Aid to Allies of Al Qaeda

“When Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven read the Declaration of Government on September 10, he stated that “it will be a criminal act to have contact with a terrorist organization”. The obvious consequence is: How then should we see the fact that Swedish aid has been given to Syrian opposition who have been in working together with terrorists?,” Paulov argued.

As a writer and journalist, he has sought to know the Swedish government’s view on this issue and other issues related to Sweden’s aid to Syria. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused his request for an interview. And when he sent written questions, the ministry chose to skip answering the questions.

Most politicians and journalists in Sweden do not know what has really happened in Syria

“My take is that the Foreign Ministry of Sweden does not want to highlight or discuss the role of Sweden in this regime shift-war. It is much easier to be quiet. And as most politicians and journalists in Sweden do not know what has really happened in Syria, the government gets away with being quiet,” Paulov  told Syria Times e-newspaper.

He asserted that no one from the his country’s government or any other politician bothered to answer his opinion article in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet in October where he wrote about how aid from European countries had fallen into the hands of terrorist groups.

The journalist made it clear that Netherlands stopped its aid for the Syrian ‘opposition’ groups shortly after the Dutch Foreign Ministry presented the report “Review of the monitoring system of three projects in Syria”, which unveiled that ‘opposition’ groups, such as the ‘Free Syrian Army’ and the White Helmets, are likely to have contacts with terrorists.

The report also pointed out that there was no independent documentation of how more than € 40 million given by the Netherlands 2015-2018 was spent. Aid may therefore have fallen into the wrong hands.

“There is a difference between Sweden and the above-mentioned country. For example, none of the major media has examined the opposition-related projects that Sweden has supported with hundreds of millions of kronor. Another difference is that the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to lack the critical approach that exists in the Netherlands. It is clear from the official documents on the Syrian assistance from the Swedish Foreign Ministry that I requested and read,” Paulov, added.

He believes that not everything Sweden does in Syria is wrong.

“Syria needs humanitarian assistance after almost nine years of destructive war and Sweden has contributed a lot. But what I want to highlight and discuss with my investigative articles and my book is that Sweden at the same time, is involved in the regime change project together with NATO countries and the Gulf states.”

“On the one hand, Sweden provides emergency relief, while on the other, Sweden is complicit in the disaster that created so much suffering and forced so many Syrians to flee their country. The Syrian opposition that Sweden supported with money is now fighting together with the Turkish army in the northeast of Syria and they are causing a lot of suffering. This is something the Swedish government or Swedish media do not want to discuss. Instead they talk about giving 100 million crones extra to the victims,” Paulov  affirmed.

He concluded by saying: “It is high time to seriously consider Sweden’s support for the Syrian ‘opposition’, and the consequences have been for the war and terror-stricken Syrian people.”

Paulov has been speaking about his book and Syria in many cities this autumn. He has been to Sthlm, Göteborg, Jönköping, Uppsala, Helsingborg, Växjö, Nybro and Linköping. In Göteborg he has been speaking at a public meeting with 100 people, at the Göteborg book fair and also at a sport event called the Peace race.

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A message for Sweden: Can we trade Trump for A$AP?

Image result for TRUMP CARTOON"

By: Mahmoud El-Yousseph

Dear Editor,

Trump is upset because Sweden’s Prime Minister won’t break the law to do him a favor. The President lashed out at the PM for denying freedom for US rapper A$AP Rocky who is to be tried in Sweden on assault charges. Rather than throwing a temper tantrum, Trump should have delegated such responsibility to our ambassador. 

After Trump called Sweden a racist country, the gracious Premier has to remind Trump that the court is independent of political leaders in Sweden as they are in the United States. Trump is now furious because he will not be able to score a brownie point with African-Americans before the 2020 election. After all, Trump was acting on behalf of Kim and Kanye.
This “rapper” was in Sweden and broke the law in July. He should be held to answer for that crime in Sweden and pay whatever the penalty is. When you travel to other countries, you should make yourself aware of their laws and behave like a guest. No mercy from me.

Meanwhile today, a reader posted a comment on the message board on the Huffington Post that expresses the sentiment of many Americans. Here is an excerpt of his message, “Dear Mr. Prime Minister, As an American, I want to apologize for the effort of our pretend president to interfere in the legal system of Sweden. He does the same thing in the United States and so far has escaped being held accountable for his interference. Please don’t hold this attempt at obstruction of justice in your country against us. Thank you!”

Trump’s bizarre conduct is a reminder that he is unfit to serve as President of the United States. Well, I have a message for Sweden: Can we trade you Trump for that rapper nobody has ever heard of?

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