There are now 70,000 of 150,000 Kurds in Sweden eligible to vote. Photo: NurPhoto via Getty Images
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — With Sweden in an election year, the diaspora wants to play a larger role in politics. Kurdish leaders are encouraging engagement across the political spectrum, while not limiting themselves to one party.
“Knowing Swedish decision-makers and integrating with them has an impact on reaching decision-making bodies,” Tara Twana, Kurdish Member of the Stockholm County Council said.
Twana, a self-described social democrat and secular humanist and feminist, explained that many in diaspora are capable of contributing to European institutions, but their opportunities are limited.
“There are very competent people among the diaspora politicians in Sweden. But they are not allowed to reach decision-making bodies,” she told Sweden Radio.
Stockholm University conducted a study on the matter and published its findings in December 2017.
“Sweden is known as the leading country in terms of human rights, although there is much criticism on the [lack] of participation in politics and running the country by its diaspora population, who are not allowed to reach high positions,” it read.
The researchers stressed that there are numerous obstacles blocking diaspora politicians from rising to high positions of power.
Yohana Rikni was one of three researchers who conducted the study.
“People born outside Sweden enter the world of politics quickly, but it is impossible for them to be allowed to reach high positions,” said Rikni.
The researchers detailed the identities of those in diaspora working in high posts and involved in politics, adding the Kurdish diaspora in Sweden are active.
The Kurds currently have eight MPs in the Swedish parliament and more than 250 people in regional councils, municipalities and other service institutions in Sweden.
“The presence of the Kurds in political institutions shows they are active,” Ellinor Hamren, an academic at Sodertorn University, told Rudaw.
“There are tens of active Kurds in positions of power in the government, parties, organizations and universities. Their being active is associated with their belief in a fundamental aim,” she added.
“The Kurds being active in politics in Sweden is related to lobbying for their national question,” Ova Bring, a former advisor to the Swedish foreign ministry, told Rudaw.
Most foreigners in Sweden work with leftist parties. But this has created some imbalance. The study done by Stockholm University shows foreigners can be more involved across the political spectrum.
“The Kurds are an active community among leftist parties,” Kazhaw Jamil, a Kurdish diaspora in Sweden said.
Jamil explained that there are also active Kurds in right wing parties like the liberal and pro-national parities.
“The Kurds in Sweden don’t only follow leftist parties. [Right-wing, nationalist] parties look to Kurds too, just like in Finland, in future elections," Jamil added.
Sweden is due to hold general elections in September.
Sources tell Rudaw, there are more than 30 Kurds in Sweden’s influential right and leftist parties who want to run for office in the next elections. According to unofficial figures of previous elections, nearly 50,000 out of the 150,000 Kurds living in Sweden were entitled to vote. This number has now increased to 70,000 voters.
The war on ISIS along with other developments has brought about new equations.
Sarhat Amad, who is active with the Swedish Social Democratic Party, is due to be one of the contenders if he can secure enough votes in his party.
“The Kurds are a smaller colony compared to Finns and Arabs. But they are more active, which is why parties look to them,” he said.
“The Kurds pay attention to politics more than other diaspora,” Amad added. “The war on ISIS, the selflessness of the Peshmerga, their work in politics, encourages parties to depend on them more.”