Stockholm, Sweden Day 2 with Dr. Devon Smith: January 9, 2018

Dr. Devon Smith

It feels a little bit like déjà vu today as there was another violent incident in an area that we are visiting today. The suburb of Stockholm, Rinkeby, is touted as one of the“no-go” zones in Sweden. Last night at approximately 6:30 pm, a young immigrant was shot in the head and killed in a pizza/kebab restaurant, the police think that the execution was immigrant gang-related.

Upon arrival to the square in Rinkeby, it was clear to me that there was a larger police presence than usual which isn’t surprising given the crime that had just occurred. What I didn’t expect to see was a memorial for another murder in the same square that had happened 7-10 days prior to our arrival. This murder was again, immigrant gang-related and involved a young man. Despite the fact that there had been a tragic event the evening prior, the square was still relatively busy with children running around and people moving about their day - some pausing at the memorial for a moment of reflection.

We spent 2-3 hours at the location, and while I was certainly a minority in terms of my demographic (the majority of people appeared to be Middle Eastern or North African, and nearly all women were wearing hijabs or burkas), I never felt unsafe. With that being said, I wonder if there hadn’t been police stationed in the square (due to the crime the night before) would our teams’ presence have been so politely tolerated for such a long period of time? One can only guess. While myself and the team were TOLERATED, very few people were willing to talk, much less on camera. I did speak to two women, both Caucasian journalists, who were adamant that there has not been an increase in rape, specifically “gang rape,” against women from immigrants, despite the fact that three gang rapes have occurred in the last two months in another “no-go” zone,]Malmo. In fact, both women seemed to be oblivious to these crimes when I pushed further on the issue and went as far as to ask WHERE I heard about them. I quickly explained that they were stories covered in many news sources including the one sourced in this piece. Even with that information, both women seemed to be in denial that the events occurred, something that I found frustrating and disheartening.

Although few were willing to discuss immigration with us on camera openly, one elderly immigrant who came to Sweden from Somalia approximately 20-30 years ago had an interesting and perhaps unexpected perspective. As an immigrant herself, she is very frustrated at the Swedish government for allowing seemingly unchecked immigration for the last few years and furthermore not encouraging or developing plans for assimilation or integration in society. Another woman who immigrated decades ago, when asked did you feel safe here 20 years ago replied, “I felt safe here 10 years ago”, but that she no longer felt safe. She has lost her teenage son to immigrant gang violence in 2015; he was shot in the head. Her second son was shot in the abdomen in October of last year, thankfully, he survived.

Thus far, my perspective and experience would lead me to feel that “no-go” zone is perhaps hyperbole for the immigrant communities in Sweden. However, as I mentioned, there was an unusual police presence in Rinkeby today that may have kept the peace during our visit.

Furthermore, while “no-go” zone may be an inappropriate description, that does not mean that there isn’t a degree of culture clash amongst immigrants as well as an increased in rape and other criminal activity in those areas.

Tomorrow we are heading to Malmo, another “no-go” zone, which is allegedly even less “safe” than Rinkeby. I am interested to see how my perspective may change.