Swedes go to war. The enemy attacks from the residential area

After successive murders, shootings, and bombings, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson delivered a dramatic address to the nation and announced the deployment of the military to the streets to fight gangs. “Such a thing has never happened in Sweden. No country in Europe is in a similar situation,” he justified his decision.

Wealthy Sweden is doing well, but the Swedes themselves are worse. Most of them wanted to see only the bright side of reality. They knew the dark side from dark crime stories, which fascinated more than they frightened. Until “suddenly” it turned out that the Swedes are really afraid, and the state has to admit that it no longer knows how to protect its citizens. The army is supposed to roll into the streets, which until recently seemed peaceful.

In February 2017, Donald Trump, explaining why he intended to implement a stricter migration policy, used the example of several European countries. “Look at what is happening in Germany, what happened last night in Sweden. Sweden, would you believe? They have taken huge numbers (of migrants – ed.). They have problems they never dreamed of. Look at what’s happening in Brussels, look at Nice, look at Paris,” he said during a speech in Florida.

“What did Trump smoke?”

The then US president was referring to terrorist attacks for which immigrants were responsible. Just in Sweden, neither the previous night nor for a long time, no such attack was recorded, so the entire progressive world had fun with Trump’s mistake, associating the safe Scandinavians with the situation in Belgium or France, where the streets were patrolled by the military. The BBC quoted, among others, a statement from a Swedish school librarian. She answered the question on one of the social networks, “what happened last night?”: “Nothing happened in Sweden. There was no terrorist attack. At all. The only news was about Melfest”, i.e., the selection of singers for Eurovision. The British station also brought up other humorous assumptions, from which it followed that Trump confused “Sweden” with “Sehwan” in Pakistan, where that night 80 people died in an attack on a Sufi temple, or that he remembered a statement from a material broadcast on Fox News “about alleged violence committed by refugees in Sweden.”

Former Prime Minister and head of Swedish diplomacy Carl Bildt wondered “what did Trump smoke,” and eventually reassuring statistics appeared in several media, led by the BBC, breaking associations of crime increase with migration. The world could breathe again and continue to think of Sweden as an exceptional country where the open door immigration policy brings only intended effects. British historian Simon Schama summarised it all with an uplifting tweet: “The true Swedish message: 200,000 migrants and no terrorist attack”.

Death by bullet and knife wounds

That February night there indeed was no spectacular attack, and the kingdom officially was busy with the Eurovision contest. However, from month to month, especially since 2015, when the Social Democratic government accepted the relatively highest number of immigrants in the European Union, Swedes became increasingly interested not only in what the state television shows them but also in events from their settlements and city centres. According to the report of the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention in 2017, the number of victims who died as a result of shootings was already very high. While the average in Europe was 1.6 killed per million people, in Sweden this rate was almost 4. Three years later, it was already 4.6 with a constant European average. Moreover, in 2019 a record was set for the number of people with wounds from attacks with knives and other white weapons.

More than 160,000 people were sent to Sweden from Syria alone between 2015 and 2021.

Swedish institutions timidly began to associate increasing violence with the activity of drug gangs, although they were reluctant to vocally identify the environments in which this process mainly thrives.

It must also be admitted that crimes involving firearms were not entirely unheard of in the Kingdom of Sweden in recent decades. In the mid-90s of the last century, for several years there was a gang war involving Hells Angels and Bandidos motorcycle gangs. Assault rifles and automatic weapons were used, and even grenade launchers, which were supposed to have disappeared from military warehouses.

  Similar gang battles were fought across the entire Scandinavian Peninsula. Rockers also clashed in Denmark or Finland, and the local services could not cope with this phenomenon. Superintendent Troels Ørting Jørgensen of the Danish police confessed to Canadian journalists during an interview: “No one has ever conducted a sociological study to find out why in such a small, extremely peaceful country like Denmark we have so many outlaw motorcycle gangs. They are very fierce and aggressive people. We are the country of Hans Christian Andersen. We shouldn’t be creating such gangs.”

Shootouts over a few years resulted in several dozen fatalities and nearly a hundred wounded. However, the large-scale operation ended abruptly as the two main gangs reconciled, and their leaders shook hands during... a press conference.

In 2015, Sweden opened its doors exceptionally wide. From Syria alone, over 160,000 people arrived between 2015 and 2021, of which 100,000 were granted citizenship. And it was not hard to get, as there was no requirement to know the language or pass a test, even in the country’s history. Suburbs of agglomerations also received waves of, among others, Somalis, Eritreans, or Afghans. As a result, it is estimated that today one-fifth of the kingdom’s population of over 10 million was born outside its borders.
In August, during the annual Eritrean cultural festival on the Jaervafaeltet fields in Stockholm, riots and fights broke out between two groups of immigrants. The organisers’ tents were burned down, several people were injured, and stones were thrown at the police officers. Photo: Ali Lorestani/EPA/PAP
Over time, ghettos began to expand, districts in which leaders emerged, ruling according to their own laws and dismantling the existing system. Arms smuggling became an increasingly lucrative business and was merely an intermediary link in drug or prostitution trafficking. Simultaneously, organisations with much more complex structures than the “honest” motorcycle gangs were forming.

The new groups recruit their “soldiers” in neighbourhood courtyards full of frustrated teenagers, so-called hitmen, who treat the most serious crimes as entertainment and a way out of the poverty that their families endure. A phenomenon thoroughly known in South American countries began to grow in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, and Uppsala.

Gang recruitment of juvenile delinquents also has additional significance, related to local legislation – the point being that persons under 18 can stay in juvenile facilities for no longer than four years. And that means they simply walk free.

Gang members have no scruples, and they treat Swedish territory like a battlefield. Criminologist Ardwan Khoshnood believes that a clear change in target selection has occurred in the gangster world. Previously, shots were usually fired into arms or legs. Now, according to the expert, shooters choose the head, “they shoot to kill.”

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Changes in everyday life were noticeable, but discussing them was deemed inappropriate. Officially, the public opinion in Sweden typically does not delve into similar matters, and conversations about aggression were simply unaccustomed. Already in 1973, after the famous bank robbery in the capital, where the term “Stockholm syndrome” was popularised, one of the robbers admitted that while planning the attack and taking hostages, he counted on a soft police reaction. How did he justify this? Firstly, as he stated, he relied on Sweden’s deeply rooted aversion to violence, and secondly, he pointed to the effect of the ongoing election campaign and politicians’ fear of a decisive anti-terrorist action, which could even result in injured bank employees.

Half a century later, political correctness also played a significant role, instructing to see immigrants only as victims saving their lives from dangers lurking in their home countries. But besides that, as some emphasise, Swedes left immigrants to themselves. Violence and mutual antipathy divided the country into hostile tribes. In ethnic and religious minority environments, a new generation began to grow up, perceiving Sweden as an oppressive country, and their sense of injustice and hostility was fueled within the ghettos.

For the last two decades, however, these phenomena were not to be spoken about particularly loudly. Over time, the silence began to bother Swedes, which they expressed even on internet forums. Here are some comments on the popular Reddit site, under the thread: “How Peaceful Sweden Became Europe’s Gun-Murder Capital”:

– “I’ve lived in Stockholm for just 10 years now and can easily say the feeling in the city has changed quite dramatically since I first moved. It can be summed up almost in the number of nights I’ve been woken by the damn police helicopter overhead.”
– “Do we all know what’s going on, but agree to keep quiet?”
– “Threads on this topic usually get locked by moderators for some reason.”
– “Everyone knows where the problem lies. Stop burying your head in the sand. Immigrants are let in without thinking about the consequences, without care, and even without learning our culture and language. Why is anybody shocked? (...) This is not a statement against all immigrants, but against those thugs who cannot behave like people. We opened our hearts and homes, and they behave like pigs. It’s time to show them who’s in charge here.”

The thread ends with a message from the moderator: “locked due to an influx of rule-breaking comments.”

Government: Time to reclaim Sweden

In late April 2022, Magdalena Andersson, then Prime Minister and also leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Workers’ Party, had to admit – Sweden failed to integrate the vast number of immigrants it admitted over the past twenty years. This has led to the emergence of parallel societies and gang violence.

Her competitors in the election took over the country’s government, promising to tackle criminals. However, this turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated. Sweden was unprepared both for accepting so many “guests” and for “evicting” at least some of them. The legal system, which did not allow for effective prosecution of criminals, was particularly burdensome.

Last week, following further murders, shootings, and bomb attacks, levelling houses to the ground, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson delivered a dramatic address to the nation, announcing the deployment of the military to the streets, which would combat the gangs.

“There has never been anything like this in Sweden. No country in Europe is in a similar situation,” justified the head of government. “People live in fear that gangs will lure their children with money, watches, and cars,” he added, to ultimately tell the truth: “The situation we are in was brought about by political naivety and ignorance, irresponsible migration policy, and failed integration.”

The idea of the military on Swedish streets is not entirely new. Stockholm was considering this as early as mid-2021. Eventually, it was not decided upon, but now the government, considered right-wing, seems determined to, as some politicians openly say, “reclaim Sweden.” The active armed forces of the kingdom number around 24,000 people, including civilian personnel. Gangster structures are estimated to have about 30,000 members.

Kristersson took power last year, but breakthrough effects of his fight against crime and a tougher course towards immigrants are still not visible. The most well-known leader of a Swedish gang, Rawa Majid, has not yet stood trial. And chances are slim, as he impudently issues orders from… Turkey. Swedes want rapid changes and are vocal about it. Hence, polls show growing support for… the Social Democrats, who, over a few decades, have worked for a similar image of the Kingdom of Sweden.

– Sławomir Cedzyński

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by jz
The author is a journalist for the portal
Main photo: Last year, a shooting took place at the Emporia shopping centre in Malmö, in which one person died and about 20 people were injured. Photo: Johan Nilsson/EPA/PAP
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