The enigma of a black beard in the West

This text could simply begin by nagging upon all the strange looks and comments one with long black beard might receive in the West. In fact, it even does not need to be long. Although this has been partly a lived experience of mine over the past six months that I’ve grown my beard, I decided to do the exact opposite.

In the next few lines, I try to list some of the possible motivations behind growing a beard which might trigger us to pause for a while, next time we encounter a bearded man and buy some time before rushing into any hasty judgment; a moment of wonder. Here I am discussing Black beards since, to my experience, beards of other colors are not subject of such an ambiguity in the West.
Black Beard as:

– A trendy fashion
Growing a beard might be a trendy fashion. Well, let me rephrase that: growing a beard, of any color, might be a trendy fashion; as simple as that.

– An ebullition
Emotional outbursts might come in different forms. Growing a beard might be sign of an emotional outburst; an ebullition. In a societal context, minorities of different sorts might experience several ebullition periods due to their submissive position vis-à-vis dominant position of the majority. Such an experience may occur in very ordinary contexts, and herein you might bear the feeling more frequently if you are easy to spot. Let’s take a Middle-Eastern with black hair in a mix of white Swedes. This would put the person on display and potentially more subjected to the submissive status. Appearance has an identity touch. The way we look is deeply intertwined with our inner identity. Growing a beard might be a way to surface this feeling, a way to oppose the unreceptive ambience, a way to not dilute the basal identity elements i.e. appearance: “Yes, this is me. I am different.”

– A religious identity-element
Some followers of many religions grow beard, namely Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. This practice might be underpinned by different reasons e.g. sign of a pious living, endorsed by a Prophet, etc. At the end of the day, growing a beard might count as an identity element for some followers, especially if they reside outside their society of origin. Therefore, growing a beard might become a practice to emphasize their identity. Humans languish without identity.

– A flag of fanaticism?
There exist fanatic figures that have beard. However neither all bearded men are fanatics nor are all fanatics bearded. Indeed, fanatics come in all sorts of color, shape and race. The term fanatic might easily be attributed to a thought or behavior but it is difficult to depict a fanatic appearance. However, black beard as a flag of fanaticism is perhaps the perception many in the West have; a perception full of prejudices lurked beneath the surface and rarely challenged. A perception which West-centric media, among several contributing factors, has perhaps played a role in shaping through selective projection of others.


New Issue of Utblick: The Divided States of America

13499504_10154284687969161_1884910041_oThe Divided States of America

On November 8th this year, the United States will elect its 45th president. The two main parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, both seem to have decided on a nominee. Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman from Brooklyn, will stand as the republican candidate. His adversary will, with the greatest certainty, be Hillary Clinton, even if Bernie Sanders has vowed to keep fighting until the convention on July 25th.

Compared to other years, this campaigning process stands out. Less than a year ago, Jeb Bush, the son and brother of the two former Bush presidents, was generally conceived to be the presumptive republican nominee. However, just like the rest of the establishment republicans, he got caught in a maelstrom of right wing populism, and was forced to drop out quite early.

On the other side, Hillary Clinton lead the polls by enormous margins when the race started. While she’s still the candidate with the most votes, her lead has shrunk from insurmountable to minimal. Bernie Sanders, the man responsible for Hillary’s declining numbers, was ruled out for his socialist sympathies when he launched his campaign. He now holds sway over young voters, and dominates the internet in an impressive fashion.

But why is it that streams of populism, both to the left and right, have gained such strength? This issue of Utblick will attempt to pinpoint some of the reasons behind this election’s ideological irregularities, as well as offer candidate related debate and information about the US and its electoral system.

We sincerely hope that you will find the issue informative, interesting, diverse and enlightening, and that you will enjoy reading it is as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.

You can look for this issue of Utblick at coffee shops, libraries, museums, movie theatres and university faculties all across Göteborg, or read it online here.

New issue of Utblick: Democracy – Out of Fashion?

Democracy out of Fashion?utblick116

Democracy is often spoken of as the best form of governance that exists. While this may be true, democracy is by no means a flawless alternative. We’ve seen time and time again how democratic countries fall into ruin as a result of the people’s right to determine the form of state. The same people who are supposedly guided by egoistic incentives and discontent. It happened in Germany in the 1920s and 30s, then again in Serbia in the 1990s, and it’s happening again all across the democratic world. On the other hand, no constitution has ever proven as successful in so many instances as democracy has, begging the question ‘is there even a better alternative, or is democracy the best we’re ever going to have?
“Democracy – Out of Fashion?” offers a series of diverse analyses of countries where democracy is being challenged or is inefficient, as well as discussions regarding the very idea of what democracy is.

You can look for this issue of Utblick at coffee shops, libraries, museums, movie theatres and university faculties all across Göteborg, or read it online here.

The F-word

In the aftermath of International Women’s Day I feel a bit tired, because I know that we’ll have to rally all of our strength and organize once again next year – and the year after that, and the year after that. According to research, we have to keep going for 85 more years until the fight for equal salaries is over. I’ll try to retain my positivity, however, even I have my weak moments. This time I am tired and puzzled and therefore in a bitter mood. How can it be that feminism is still misunderstood?(!) And why is the F-word still provocative?(!)

Yesterday’s Radio Utblick episode about feminism was good, but not perfect. Although I do have to say: listening to three guys talk about feminism, dedicating an entire episode to those issues is a wet dream for many like me, but I still have to correct some facts. I’ll try to do this in the most humble and modest way I can, but I’m afraid that my inside feminist may sound ”radical”. I want to say that I’m not trying to scare anyone with a penis off from talking about these issues – but if you do, make sure you know what you are talking about. There are excellent penis-persons who can pull it of (Soran Ismail and Magnus Betnér among others), so I know it’s possible. Maybe you just need practice.

I guess my frustration reached its peak when I listened to a Dutch man’s opinion on Swedish feminism. After several minutes of ill informed blabbering, he summed up with the question ”What do feminists battle for in Sweden, exactly?”.

… ?

I do not even know where to start, and this is what is so tiresome about being a feminist – having to state the obvious over and over and over again (and probably for another 85 years).

”What do feminists battle for in Sweden, exactly?” – I don’t know where you got your facts from but Sweden does NOT provide equal benefits for men and women. Anyone who isn’t a cis-man is worse off on the job market, us women do NOT earn as much as our male colleagues, there IS a remarkable inequality in the distribution of jobs between men and women in many professions. In other words, there are quite a bit to fight for, and to claim the opposite, you either have to be in denial or completely isolated from society.

Swedish feminist’s reason for being ”aggressive” is that we have never ever in history been closer to equality, even though we’re still quite far off. But still the patriarchy fights back (YES – the patriarchy does exist).
Knowing that this will be another needle in the eye for all of you who can’t wrap your head around feminism, here’s a tip for you: If we are such a pain in the ass – Take us seriously, the sooner you do, the sooner we’ll go away.

Fighting For LGBT Rights In Georgia

A Struggle For Existence

Natia Givanishvili, a Georgian gender researcher, is part of the LGBT-community in Georgia and tells the story of an actively diminished and discriminated social group. With homophobia and transphobia infiltrating institutions of authority and the civil society, this is a movement far away from the moral standards which some of the most influential and visible community actors promote. In 2013, widespread homophobia lead to a violent riot, in which 50 LGBT activists faced 20,000 angry counter-demonstrators at a manifestation for LGBT rights.
Natia Givanishvili is an LGBT activist, a researcher and director of the Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG). The organisation primarily provides psychological and legal assistance to the grass-root movement by lobbying for larger inclusion of LGBT issues in Georgian legislation.

From the Trans Narratives exhibition
From the Trans Narratives exhibition

WISG recently conducted research on internalized homophobia in the Georgian LGBT community, as well as provided shadow reports for the European Union, United Nations, treaty bodies, and other institutions that the Georgian government stands accountable to. They also hold exhibitions, support social platforms and LGBT groups, and reach out to the public by providing information with regards to broadening the gender term to include the LGBT movement. During the Society of International Affairs trip to Tbilisi, Georgia, I was introduced to Natia at the ‘Trans-Narratives’ exhibition.

This happens when I get tired of playing the role of a heterosexual man. When I can´t hold myself back anymore and become who I really am, a tall beautiful Woman.
– Quote from the exhibition.

From the Trans Narratives exhibition
From the Trans Narratives exhibition

Below follows an interview with Natia, describing her thoughts, conclusions, and experiences regarding different aspects affecting the fight for LGBT rights in Georgia.

With respect to the historical context, how has the LGBT community been treated in Georgian society?
– When Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, Stalin (originally from Georgia), criminalized homosexuality in 1933 and intensified the hate-speech towards homosexuality. This law was used as an empowering tool in the political struggle for power; first, and foremost, it sought to exclude political opponents, dissidents, and activists, but also to denigrate Western society. The communist party was the only existing party, ruled by one strong leader. Looking at the present, this is still what Georgia as a community is striving for and expecting. A strong leader that can help us deal with the economic crisis and other crises that we are facing. This was the case with our former President Saakashvili, and the recent Prime Minister, Ivanishvili. When the political leaders have somehow not been able to fill the power vacuum that the communist party left behind, the Orthodox Church has stepped in. It is a strong actor, with one leading man – the Patriarch, who is preaching for uniformity; to think, dress and live alike, like in the Soviet Union. In this perspective, we are still struggling with our past with regards to those issues.

What is the Orthodox Church’s position as an institution and in what ways do they act to affect the public opinion?
– The Church here is a political actor, they have so much power and money that they think it is they who should make the decisions regarding changes in society. Therefore, there is an ongoing struggle for a place in the public space. For example, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is held on the 17th of May, but in 2013 the Patriarchate and the Church decided to celebrate the Day of Family Strength and Respect for Parents on this exact date. They celebrate by marching through the centre of the city with crosses and with priests preaching and singing.

– Furthermore, it has been decided that the world congress of families advocating “traditional family values” will be held between the 16th-18th of May next year, which again coincides with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. This is an American Christian organization that “defends the natural family as the fundamental unit of civilizations” and distances themselves from variations from what they define as the sexual norm, such as promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and so on.

– We have very few dates that are important to the LGBT-community, which we want to use to be more out in the open in society, to speak about the problems we are facing and to emphasize our rights. But the Church is working against us, claiming those dates. That is one of the struggles that is going on right now.

How do the politicians act concerning these issues?
– The politicians are using the LGBT issues for their own materialistic agenda – power and wealth. There is very little knowledge in society about gender and sexuality. For example, this is not a subject that is brought up in school. Being openly homophobic is an easy way to mobilize voters and stand up against political opponents.

But if they use these issues to create a dividing line in politics, would they need to be opposed by people who disagree with them? Or is everyone on the same side?
– There are very few who disagrees, and the politicians that are not homophobic or do not phrase themselves in a homophobic way, don’t have great power within the parliament, nor the government, as they are a minority. For instance the political party: the Republicans has done a lot of work within the party to enhance the members’ knowledge about gender issues and the same goes for LGBT issues. But they would never, or at least not at the present time, use their work within the LGBT field for their pre-election campaign as something positive. They just don’t express themselves in a homophobic way, meaning they would not engage in work that openly supports LGBT groups.

Since you have been a part of planning and organizing demonstrations and manifestations concerning LGBT rights in Tbilisi, how were those events received and what was your experience like?
– The first demonstration that we organized was held on the 17th of May in 2012. We prepared it by sending letters to the police, and they assured us of their support as well as promised to protect the demonstration. But when we found ourselves surrounded by counter-demonstrators, the police were gone. After we called them, it took them about half an hour to arrive, despite the fact that we were positioned on one of the most centrally located streets in the city, and it was no traffic to talk about. Anyway, there were three different groups of religious activists surrounding us, and during this time the situation deteriorated and we got physically attacked.

– The second manifestation was held in 2013, and beforehand we were frequently in contact with the national home office as well as the police ambassador. Both parties were very eager to help and defend us – we even had a plan for security. Due to security concerns we were not marching this time, the plan was just to protest by standing outside parliament for about 20 minutes with our posters.

– Unfortunately the Orthodox Church got involved and urged “true believers” to come out on the streets of Tbilisi, and show their moral revulsion. They succeeded to mobilize around 20,000 counter-demonstrators, we were around 50 activists. Before we had even put up our posters my friend came running towards me screaming. Some priests had talked their way through the line of police officers and were now waving the big mass of counter-demonstrators into our group. Chaos ensued and we started to run towards the evacuation busses. It was a very traumatic experience having that huge, angry, screaming mass of people chasing us like that. But one group of 23 activists ended up in an even worse situation: they arrived a bit later than us on a parallel street to the main road, and the police officers refused to let them through the police
barricades. The mass of anti-gay demonstrators soon realized that this group of people were activists and started attacking them with fists and stones. A minibus managed to pick them up and evacuate them, but all the windows were completely broken when the bus managed to escape the chaos, and a couple of the activists suffered concussions. Four people were prosecuted for this violent assault. However, it was a long process and as a result all charges were dropped just last month, and the prosecuted were acquitted.

Counter-demonstrators against the LGBT demonstration on May 17, 2013. Tbilisi, Georgia. Creator: Henning von Bargen
Counter-demonstrators against the LGBT demonstration on May 17, 2013. Tbilisi, Georgia.
Creator: Henning von Bargen

– Because of the events in 2013 we didn’t organize any public protests in 2014, but in 2015 we have gone through with three different demonstrations in a short period of time, and we had very good protection from the police. The strange thing was that there weren’t any counter-demonstrators present, not even a small group.

– That can only mean one thing, that the state is in a position to negotiate with the Church when it wants to, and those processes are absolutely not transparent. I really appreciate the state’s involvement and engagement in our work, but the part about the Church is a bit fishy. But we will see what happens next year.


Does this mean that the activist groups that attacked you in 2012 are managed by the Church?
– The conservative activist groups are not officially controlled by the Church, but there are priests from the Church who are members of those groups. So the Church has an indirect influence. Some of those priests have even been given awards for their achievements by the Patriarch. But the Church doesn’t take any responsibility for the acts of those organizations, and it puts them in a very comfortable position. “It’s a group of people, they do what they want, but it’s not our responsibility since it’s not coming from us.”

How does the media approach gender and LGBT issues?
– The primary media that is used here in Georgia is TV, and the TV channels are mainly controlled by the state. None of the big channels have any anti-discrimination policies, which is a problem since we then end up in a situation where the individual journalist and/or producer gets to decide the moral values of each program. The programs broadcasted by the same TV channel can therefore have very different approaches. Some of the programs are very investigative and good, and other programs can be outright homophobic and sexist.

– What you can do is to write a reprimand, that has actually helped. Nowadays the journalists are more careful of expressing themselves in an openly homophobic way, but they still invite homophobes to their talk-shows without asking critical questions.

How has the legal and social situation developed in the last couple of years?
– The legal situation has improved and become more inclusive, the problem now is to implement the latest anti-discrimination laws in practice since the implementation mechanisms aren’t working very well. Homophobia within society has on the other hand spread and worsened. One reason for this is that the politicians use these issues in order to gain votes and to promote their own interests. For example, groups that work with LGBT related questions are always connected to political parties, at least from the outside, and even if those connections are not true, it makes voters more hostile towards those political parties and towards LGBT issues.

– The artificial resistance between European values and traditional values is also something which has escalated. It is a common thing to place these values as opposites, and to focus on the extreme points, without discussing examples of European countries that are relatively conservative and at the same time more accepting of the LGBT community. The media also helps to intensify these opinions. For example, if they are reporting from a Pride Festival somewhere in Europe they would typically choose the pictures that confirms their agenda and not the pictures that, for instance, show police officers showing their support and marching together with the protesters at Pride, which would probably generate more accepting reactions here in Georgia.

– There are also voices in society that connects different sexual deviations such as paedophilia with homosexuality, and since there is no sexual health education in school, people start to mix these totally different things up that creates a lot of aggression and hate towards the LGBT community as well.

Natia Givanishvili
Natia Givanishvili

What are your plans for the upcoming year?
– As for WISG we will continue our research programs and shadow reporting. We are planning to work more with the police; we want to create a special police task force that will tackle hate-crimes. These kind of groups already exist in the USA, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Mexico etc. This is one of the recommendations that we wrote in the latest shadow report for UPR, and the Swedish response was actually one of the most tangible reactions. They recommended Georgia to create this kind of group, and for that I am very grateful, but we will see if the Georgian government will accept our request. We will also focus on the transgender group since they are the most exposed within the LGBT community; and therefore most likely to suffer from hate-crimes and physical abuse. In addition, we will most definitely have more art exhibitions!

New issue of Utblick: Africa?, out now!


Africa, this big continent on the rise, is home to more than a billion people in over 50 countries with diverse cultural and political structures. Many African countries today are said to be at the forefront of economic and social development, making the continent a potential challenger to the world order of today and tomorrow. But still, these glimpses of progress seem to cover a very small part of what media in general reports. In this last issue of 2015 we dwelve into the past and present of the continent. Join our discussion by reading our latest articles, essays and interviews, aiming to give an alternative point of view than the mainstream media!

You can look for this issue of Utblick at coffee shops, libraries, museums, movie theatres and university faculties all across Göteborg, or read it online here!

De hemlösas hem: Nickelsville

I Seattle på USA:s nordvästra kust är situationen för de hemlösa svår. Att leva i landet för de fria, och i hemmet för de modiga, innebär inte sällan att man får lägga sig för att sova någonstans där ingen polis eller nattvakt ska kunna hitta en. I november togs ett beslut att etablera en plats för Seattles hemlösa; ett nytt Nickelsville.

Hög tid för medkänsla
I USA är det Thanksgiving och i de amerikanska hemmen bjuds det, enligt tradition under novembers fjärde torsdag, på tolvkiloskalkoner, sötpotatismos med marshmallows och det visas amerikanska fotbollsmatcher på TV. Allt till minne av sägen om de goda gärningarna och vänligheten som indianerna visade nybyggarna och pilgrimerna som var i nöd efter att de anlänt till den nordamerikanska kontinenten på 1600-talet.

I dessa givmilda tider klubbades beslutet att ett nytt läger för hemlösa i Seattle ska byggas. Lägret som kallas Nickelsville har fått sitt namn efter Seattles tidigare borgmästare Greg Nickels som förde en hård politik mot hemlösa. Han förbjöd praktiskt taget människor att sitta på gatan. Resultatet blev att hemlösa utan pengar som satt och tiggde fick dryga böter. Greg Nickels politik har upplevts som hotfull och en stor grupp hemlösa har känt sig jagade under hans år som borgmästare. Som en sorts revansch, med ett rågat mått ironi, valde organisationen bakom Nickelsville att namnge lägret efter honom.

GetAttachment.aspx2826 NW Market Street i Ballard
Det nybyggda Nickelsville i stadsdelen Ballard ska ersätta det tidigare lägret och består efter en knapp veckas konstruktionsarbete av ett par stugor stora som friggebodar, bajamajor och ett tiotal tält uppsatta på träterrasser. Ett av de större tälten har en kök- och umgängesdel. Området är beräknat att kunna inhysa omkring femtio av Seattles hemlösa. Invånarna i Nickelsville som kallar sig själva för Nickelodeons var redo att inkvartera sig i lägret samma dag som den första etappen av konstruktionsarbete var färdigt i mitten av november. Detta Nickelsville som ligger vid 2826 NW Market Street är det andra lägret av sin art, som till skillnad från den första upplagan vid 1010 South Dearborn Street i södra delarna av staden är uppbyggt av nyinköpt material. Seattle bidrar med omkring 150 000 kronor till det nya Nickelsvilles startbudget och kommer fortsatt bidra med ytterligare ekonomiska tillskott till de årliga utgifterna.

Förväntningarna är höga och det finns stort hopp om att Nickelsville ska kunna bli en bidragande och positiv del av Ballards samhälle. Lägret har för närvarande fått tillgång till markområdet under ett år, med chans till ytterligare ett års förlängning. Vissa av de boende i närområdet har både visat sin empati och stort stöd. En mangrann trupp har hjälpt till att bygga upp Nickelsville och donerat mat och andra förnödenheter till de hemlösa. Andra närboende har å andra sidan uttryckt skepsis och vissa närliggande affärer, restauranger och barer har visat ett missnöje och tror Nickelsville kommer påverka deras verksamheter negativt.

Foto 2En hård och kall verklighet för hemlösa
För att ge en bild av den tuffa situationen som Seattles hemlösa befinner sig i: I centrala Seattle möts man i regel av någon med en pappmugg, pappskylt, munspel, levande orm eller något annat tillhygge för att åkalla ens uppmärksamhet i gathörnen. Med skyltar av wellpapp i sin famn sitter två män vid avfarten till en av stadens största motorvägar Interstate 5, som sträcker sig från Mexiko i söder till Kanada i norr, och ber om en peng vid rödljuset. Ser man förbi deras vita plaststolar kan man skymta tälten i buskaget bakom dem. Deras hem. Efter en vänstersväng ser man ytterligare två individer vid den motsatta avfarten. De befinner sig i samma sits som de två männen som precis passerades. I en annan del av staden går en man fram till bilarna som stannat vid ett rödljus och frågar om någon har växel över. Vid Montlakebron sträcks en vädjande hand ut av en kvinna som för dagen valt att använda en av det pågående vägbyggets väldiga orangea trafikkoner som en sittplats att be om pengar från. Väskan har hon hängt vant och praktiskt över en annan kon bredvid. I stadsdelen University District har en grupp hemlösa skapat något som liknar ett provisoriskt, illegalt läger vid en av de större parkeringarna nära University Way. Det är belamrat av cyklar, filtar, sovsäckar, kartonger och pappmuggar.

Sleepless in Seattle
För den gemene Seattleinvånaren är det nog svårt att moraliskt hitta rätt i denna hinderbana av efterfrågande blickar, kommentarer och öppna, vädjande händer. Vem borde man hjälpa? Hur hjälper man till på bästa sätt? Volontärorganisationer som exempelvis Sleepless in Seattle donerar sovsäckar till hemlösa runt om i Seattle och i närområden nu när kvicksilvret kryper ner mot nollgradigt. Organisationerna och initiativen är många och inte sällan imponerande innovativa. Det krävs mycket för att få människors liv på rätt köl och se en långsiktig, konstruktiv framtidslösning. De nuvarande idéerna och visionerna kombinerat med mer och hårdare arbete, inklusive en stark kollektiv övertygelse krävs för att Seattle ska kunna vända på den negativa utvecklingen och den kris som staden genomgått.

Foto 3Staden har potential att lyckas
Seattle har god potential att vara en plats i USA som lyckas förändra situationen för de hemlösa. Det sociala ansvaret som många av invånarna uppvisar är inspirerande och värmande. Nickelsville är bara ett av många exempel på detta. Att Seattles nuvarande borgmästare Edward Murray introducerat satsningar för att sätta stopp för, samt vända den negativa trenden med det ökande antalet hemlösa, kommer förhoppningsvis att agera som en katalysator för denna förändring. Med sin subkultur och reaktivitet, samt sin liberala och progressiva historia har Seattle all den inneboende kraft som krävs för att förbättra den nuvarande verkligheten för de hemlösa. Dock får Seattle fram till den dagen erbjuda sina arma hemlösa en provisorisk lösning där Nickelsville kan vara en plats för givmildhet, trygghet och gemenskap för de som är långt ifrån den amerikanska drömmen, som många av de hemlösa önskat sig.

Foto: Mikael Boberg

I samhällets tjänst

Frivilligorganisationer och civilsamhället har under hösten tagit ett stort ansvar för att möta och hjälpa flyktingar i Sverige. På flera håll i landet har man sett nybildade initiativ som har samordnat resor, mat och boende för människor som har kommit hit. Många kände att kommuner, Migrationsverket och lokala myndigheter inte var på plats i den utsträckning de efterfrågades och att det fanns ett behov av frivilliginsatser för att hjälpa dem som kom till Sverige. Men hur ser aktivisterna som arrangerade dessa insatser själva på sitt arbete, och hur ser de på myndigheternas ansvar i detta? Utblick har intervjuat volontärer från olika delar av Sverige för att ta reda på detta. Vissa av de som Utblick har haft kontakt med har varit engagerade i Refugees Welcome, andra har hjälpt ABF med boendesamordning, och vissa har agerat mellanhänder mellan alla olika initiativ. Men oavsett var i landet och vilken organisation man har jobbat med så har många erfarenheter varit desamma.

Av de volontärer som Utblick har pratat med har de flesta tecknat samma bild. Oavsett om man har tolkat, varit samordnare, letat boende eller stått vakt har erfarenheterna runtom i landet visat på många likheter. Många aktivister vittnar om en stor arbetsbörda och en känsla av att det inte finns något annat val än att hjälpa till. Tydligast är att alla enhälligt säger att myndigheterna borde ha tagit, och fortfarande borde ta, ett större ansvar för de som kommer till Sverige. Klara Schalling i Umeå säger:

Självklart borde myndigheterna tagit en större roll! Kommunens beredskap har varit otroligt dålig och Migrationsverket har visat en oerhörd brist på flexibilitet. Det är helt oacceptabelt att frivilligorganisationer ska ta på sig ansvaret för att ta emot asylsökande, men eftersom myndigheterna har lyst med sin frånvaro har det inte funnits något alternativ.

Flyktingar från Syrien anländer med tåg via Danmark och Malmö i september 2015.
Flyktingar från Syrien anländer med tåg via Danmark och Malmö i september 2015. Foto: Frankie Fouganthin

Man har vänt sig mot att Migrationsverket på flera orter inte har serverat mat efter klockan 18 på kvällen och mot att flera har tvingats sova på golv eller utomhus. Många har även varit frustrerade över att det har känts som att myndigheterna inte har varit intresserade av att samarbeta med frivilligorganisationerna, något som man menar att myndigheterna borde tagit större ansvar för. Det har även framhållits från vissa delar av landet att Migrationsverket och kommunen varit långsamma med att kommunicera sinsemellan och ”skyllt på varandra”, vilket har lett till organisatoriska problem. Samtidigt uttrycker flera en förståelse för att myndigheter inte kunnat vara lika flexibla som frivilliginitiativen:

Vi frivilligorganisationer är givetvis snabbare på att reagera eftersom vi inte har samma byråkratiska process, säger Mathias från Göteborg.

De initiativ som har startats under hösten har dock inte agerat helt själva. Organisationer och initiativ som på olika sätt jobbar med flyktinghjälp fanns även innan höstens stora flyktingvåg, och ökningen i antalet volontärer och initiativ har inneburit ett allt större behov av samordning och samarbete mellan grupperna. Förutom myndigheter har organisationer som moskéer, kyrkor, Röda Korset, ABF och fackföreningen SAC nämnts som samarbetspartners, och flera framhåller att samordningen inte hade gått om inte flera krafter varit samlade.

Något som även har kommit upp har varit den centrala roll som sociala medier har spelat.  Man har startat grupper och sidor som har uppdaterat med vilka saker som behövs och vart nya volontärer ska ringa. Det är också via sociala medier som man har letat boende och samlat in pengar till biljetter för att människor ska kunna ta sig vidare, vilket visar hur viktigt verktyget har varit för aktivisterna. Sara Varghaei från Stockholm berättar:

Det var ett visst antal grupper som gick samman och försökte styra upp flyktinghjälpen, som helt bestod av volontärer som anslöt sig efter att ha sett att det behövdes volontärer genom framförallt Facebook.

Dock menar många att framtidsutsikterna för verksamheterna som aktivisterna har varit engagerade i inte ser ljusa ut. Man behöver ofta omstrukturera verksamheterna, och flera nämner att frivilliga bränner ut sig. Aktivisten Agnes Stuber i Stockholm berättar att verksamheten som hon har engagerat sig i flera gånger pratat om att lägga ner, och att de har ändrat på hur de jobbar nästan dagligen för att anpassa sig till nya omständigheter:

Vi har pratat mycket om att lägga ner verksamheten på grund av att folk till slut inte orkar, det är ju ett heldygnsjobb varje dag att samordna allt. Till en början jobbade vi dygnet runt, men det är givetvis ohållbart. Nu har vi minimerat tiden för att minska stressen och avsagt oss några ansvarsområden, säger Agnes.

Detta sätter fingret på den stora kritiken mot att organisera hjälp genom frivilligarbete; frivilliga och hjälporganisationer är beroende av donationer och ett ständigt tillflöde av människor för att fungera. Vid en avmattning av intresse från allmänheten försvinner ekonomiska bidrag och volontärer, och med dessa försvinner även mycket av de möjligheter som man har haft. Det man vinner i flexibilitet och effektivitet verkar man förlora i långsiktiga möjligheter. Den enda som under intervjun såg en tydlig långsiktig möjlighet för verksamheten var Klara Schalling i Umeå:

Just nu pågår planering och arbete för hur vi kan jobba långsiktigt och med bredare saker som till exempel språkundervisning och läxläsning. Vi tittar också på hur vi kan samarbeta med de organisationer som redan gör detta och tillföra vår kompetens, säger hon.

När vintern nu kommer blir frågan om boende och värme alltmer aktuell och frågan är om myndigheterna kommer att kunna lösa detta utan frivilliginsatser. Aktivisterna har dock varit tydliga i vad de anser: myndigheterna måste ta mer ansvar för de människor som kommer och kunna garantera boende och skäliga levnadsvillkor. Men även om relationen mellan myndigheter och hjälporganisationer har varit frostig, är många av de som Utblick har pratat med öppna för att utveckla samarbeten med exempelvis kommunen för att gemensamt hjälpa dem som kommer till Sverige.

Mellanöstern – Vad säger experterna?

12336038_1021799567877628_166561255_nI veckans program av Radio Utblick diskuteras de komplicerade konflikterna som präglar Mellanöstern. Hur påverkas regionen av det kärntekniska avtalet? Varför stöttar USA Israel? Och hur påverkar Rysslands förhållningssätt till Assadregimen deras pågående bombningar i Syrien? Detta är några av frågorna vi ställt till två forskare och en journalist.

Dessutom är det premiär för den återkommande serien av inslag som vi kallar “Det andra Italien”. Skapat och producerat av Rebecka Mårtenson.

Medverkande i intervjuer: Svante Karlsson (Univeritetslektor, Institutionen för globala studier på Göteborgs Universitet), Bitte Hammargren (journalist, författare och Mellanösternanalytiker) samt Rouzbeh Parsi (lektor, Historiska institutionen vid Lunds Universitet).

Du når programmet genom att trycka här!

I studion: Samuel Horgby, Egil Sturk och Sara Lindström.

TTIP – Ett hot mot demokratin eller lösningen på den ekonomiska krisen?

800px-HamburgHanseboot2012_46Denna gång handlar Radio Utblick om TTIP, det stora frihandelsavtalet mellan USA och EU som håller på att förhandlas fram. Kritiker menar att förhandlingarna sker för mycket i det dolda, att det ger företag makt på folkviljans bekostnad och att det hotar livsmedelssäkerheten och miljön.

De som är för avtalet menar att det är ett sätt att få fart på Europas stagnerade ekonomiska tillväxt samt att det knyter världens två största ekonomier samman, vilket påstås kunna ge fördelar på båda sidor av Atlanten. Hur kommer det sig att ett avtal som har tre miljoner namnunderskrifter mot sig, och mot vilket hundratusentals personer har demonstrerat på europeiska och amerikanska gator ändå fortsätter att förhandlas fram? Detta försöker Radio Utblick reda ut. Med oss har vi Josef Ohlsson Collentine från Piratpartiet, Simona Mohamsson från Folkpartiet och den nederländske journalisten Mitchel van der Klundert.Lyssna på oss live på Tisdagar 21:30, eller när du vill genom att klicka här!

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Fotografi: Michael Movchin