Sweden: Why are they rioting?

Sweden: Why are they rioting?

In recent weeks, suburbs across Sweden experience almost nightly rioting (EN): young men go out, burn cars, throw stones at the police and fire department who show up.  Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet provides a run down of these violence incidents, which started August 22 (SV).

The Swedish media is trying to understand why this is happening.  Many articles ask "Why".  In fact, to answer this question, the Swedes recently started up a research project, to find out why young men burn cars.  Since answers will only be available in about three years, the Swedish media is continuing to investigate on their own.

Aftonbladet, for example, went out to interview the youth (SV).  In Uppsala Aftonbladet meets with several young men who say they're upset at the police (EN) for beating them for now reason, and that the police set dogs on them.  Mustafa (22) says that if he could he would have killed the dog handler. 

Ahmed (18): We've had enough.  we want to rebel.  Retaliate.

Yosef (17): Now it's time for revenge.  Now it's war.  I know what I'm doing is wrong.  But I do it for a reason.  I throw stones and burn cars because I want revenge.

Aftonbladet says it's all because these young men have nothing in their future besides poverty and hopelessness.  They've been hit by the financial crisis.

In a different part of town, a 15 year old interviewed by Upplandsnytt says that the youth have nothing to do (SV) and want revenge against the police for feeling harassed.  It's not the smartest thing to do, but they're bored.

Police spokesperson Christer Nordström says that the young people are dissatisfied with society and are targeting their resentment at the police.

According to Swedish broadcaster SVT, the police think that gangs are responsible (SV) for the violence, and that one riot leads young men elsewhere to imitate their behavior.  Why do they riot?  Because they want attention, and because they feel excluded by society.
The question still remains open as to why the rioting flared up just now.  The media does bring up the question, but it doesn't really answer it.  The poverty, exclusion, need for attention, all those were around a month ago. 

Nobody mentions it, but the riots started at the same time as Ramadan.  The first night of Ramadan, leftist activists showed up in Rosengård (Malmö) to protest police presence.  They were supported by one local gang, but were run out of the neighborhood by an opposing gang and angry residents who said they wanted peace and quiet.

The next day, rioting flared up in Gothenburg.  It might be that young men are especially bored in these times, and they might turn particularly sensitive to what they see as police harassment. 

Ramadan is known to be a sensitive time.  In Brussels, for example, the police officers say they've been told to keep a low profile during Ramadan (FR).  Checking IDs can be seen as a provocation, and so they simply avoid it.

Swedish police are apparently not keeping a low profile, for now.


Back to the topic of 'Why', Brussels Journal brings the following (partial) translation from a French TV show which tries to explain youth violence.  It actually reads like a joke, but I understand it's very real.

Moderator: Welcome. We're going to talk about the increase in crime in French society. Especially juvenile crime. Is French society becoming more and more violent, or are we becoming less tolerant of violence?

First speaker: I travel a lot, and I would say that compared to countries like Mexico, countries of South America, or South Africa, you can't say that violence in France is on the rise...

Second speaker (a female, later identified as historian Anne-Claude Ambroise-Rendu): In general, from ancient times onward, there has been a steady decline in violence, but at the same time there is an increase in the demand for security...

Third speaker (identified as writer Antoine Bello): French society is less violent than in the past, I agree with my colleagues on that. Compared to past eras, such as the Middle Ages, the French Revolution, the Commune [...] French society is much less violent.

Fourth speaker (later identified as artist Ivan de Montbrison): I agree with the others that French society is less violent, compared to Pakistan...


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