- Created: Wednesday, 29 May 2013 10:36
- Written by Cat Wiener
By 24 May, masked youth had been battling Swedish police and burning cars and buildings for five consecutive nights in the suburbs of Stockholm. The uprising, which started in Husby, an overwhelmingly immigrant area of the city, was triggered by an incident earlier in May, when police fatally shot a 69-year-old man, said to be wielding a knife, and the subsequent refusal to hold a public inquiry into the killing. But underlying the anger and violence, which has seen masked youths torch cars, several police stations and a school, is a racist reality which explodes the popular myth of Sweden as a tolerant society with a model welfare state. Areas like Husby have high unemployment rates and many young people leave school with below-average results.
A recent government report found that a third of young people in the most deprived inner cities of the country were neither studying nor working, and residents of Husby and other areas have spoken of their constant experience of poverty, marginalisation, racist abuse and police harassment. Seven years of centre-right rule have seen social benefits slashed, with the gap between rich and poor in Sweden growing faster than in any other major nation. Sweden has one of the highest numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe, 50% of whom come from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia and the rise of the far-right and anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party – which called for a curfew in the inner cities in the face of the rioting – has stoked tensions in Sweden in the face of deteriorating social conditions. Meanwhile, Stockholm police have called for reinforcements as the violence has spread to other inner cities in Sweden.