I didn’t come to Sweden for the riots. Or because of Trump. In fact, I was supposed to be here in December – before airline strikes stood in my way.
I came because I was asked. Repeatedly.
Swedish women reaching out by email, by letter, to quietly show me what has become of their country.
Dads writing that they were worried for their daughters, tweeting that Sweden is not the place people imagine it to be, that young girls are scared to go out at night.
A news feed filled with reports of the rape and assault of Sweden’s young women, some inexplicably streamed live on Facebook by the gang as they attacked.
Other reports filed quietly away in a box marked unmentionable: the rape of a 12-year-old unaccompanied immigrant by a so called fellow ‘unaccompanied minor’ immigrant who later bragged he was 45.
When Trump turned the world’s attention to Sweden by clumsily referring to the effects of mass-migration on what used to be seen as the most liberal country on earth, the country was ready and waiting to blow.
He provided the touch-paper to the explosive mixture of thousands of bored young migrants who were born into fighting and have brought the battle with them.
Fuelled by the oxygen of publicity, they performed here last week in Rinkeby, nicknamed ‘Little Mogadishu’: looting, rioting, burning out cars.
While liberals countered with accusations of fake news, the right highlighted the chaos caused in this town where 90% of Rinkeby residents are foreign.
Rape statistics were shared and widely interpreted: either Stockholm was ‘the rape capital of Europe’, or the increase in sexual assaults was a mere statistical anomaly and look, if you turn the graph on its side you will see the numbers are actually falling.
But in a world of polarised news, there still have to be some truths waiting to be told. Even if they are only observations from a single white female with no security and suffering protestor fatigue.
And I’ve found it all here in plain sight for anyone to see or hear – if they’re listening. If they can stop taking pictures of burned out cars or reinterpreting rape statistics to suit their agenda.
One young girl of 27 – let’s call her Lucy – is now terrified of going out alone. She lives near a busy shopping centre which draws migrants from no-go zones, and dreads her walk to work and home.
Under the bridge near her flat a gang of men gathers. All day and night. They have easy access to her up a stairwell. Like little billy goat gruff, she runs across, carrying her safety spray. Scared.
She knows the latest rape cases by heart, quotes them to me, the words tumbling out, a long line of horrible happenings. She is waiting for her turn to be added to the list.
She can’t tell her mum. She doesn’t want her to worry.
Her apartment was broken into last week in the middle of the day. The burglars took her laptop and her car keys, and later her car. The police told her they were too busy to come.
She doesn’t want her picture to be seen now. Not in case the migrants attack again, but because the feminists will come after her and hound her as a racist for speaking out. The migrant men scare her. But it is Swedish women who have silenced her.
I saw it in action when I ran to the scene of an unexploded hand grenade in a bin outside the police station of a no-go area of town, near a mosque. I asked the police who the target was.
They said they didn’t know. I asked the Muslim leader at the mosque. He said he thought it was the police.
Then two women grabbed me and told me not to make this about the mosque, not to make this a Muslim issue. This was about the police – nothing to do with migrants. I wondered if they weren’t missing the point. A bomb in a bin.
Within twelve hours of my landing in Sweden, an asylum centre was burned down, arson suspected; a hand grenade was planted in a bin, either for the police or the mosque; and another hand grenade exploding, injuring one in Malmö.
Whether this noisy stuff matters or not is open to debate. I’d argue this is madness. I am in utter disbelief that this is Sweden in the 21st century, a country idolised for its ultra-advanced ideals.
A cameraman for the Swedish equivalent of the BBC asked me why this had to be politicised at all; why couldn’t it just be that someone put an explosive device in a bin?
I looked at him and wondered which one of us was mad.
Later I went back to walk the no-go suburbs, ending up back in the centre of the town. A week earlier this place was torched and looted as the world looked on.
I wondered what was strange, besides the weird calm. And realised it was that I was the only woman in the place. Everyone else was young, African and male. Speaking Arabic. Hanging about, utterly without purpose.
Frustrated, I asked a few of them what they were doing, what was the point, what they would ever achieve by standing about. The mum in me was furious.
‘F*ck off, you white woman whore, go suck your mum,’ they replied, and proceeded to demonstrate what they did to their ‘little white girlfriends’.
The next morning, I went to a local women’s multi-faith centre to ask where they all were at night, why they stayed indoors, why, in a country proud of its equality, they were trapped inside?
I was ready to blame their religion, snarling at a regressive ideology which keeps women in the kitchen.
But that was only part of the story.
One lady explained: there is a strange moral code here in Rinkeby. You are much more exposed to crime if you are not a Muslim. These boys think they can take everything from a woman who is not wearing a hijab or at least covers her hair.
Another, Besse, told me: we don’t go out on the streets here after dark. It is too dangerous. I have lived here for 25 years and it has gotten worse and worse. The situation now is so tense that it is impossible for me to go to, say, the supermarket to get some milk.
Parwin, a Christian lady, blamed the mosques: it is because of all the things they are teaching in the mosque. They are Salafists there, just like Isis. They should close the mosque because that is where these kids have learned these bad things.
But one thing they all agree on is that they do not go out. They do not go out because they are scared – Muslim, Christian, young and old alike.
Just like Swedish Lucy, trapped in her home by fear.
Worried about by their children, too worried to tell their own mums.
I felt for these ladies, comfortable in each other’s company here, but horribly alone at home. Only four speak Swedish; the rest still rely on their Arabic tongue. Even after 25 years.
I left saddened. Saddened that in a country so proud of women’s rights, that leads the way on maternity and female equality, pockets of life like this exist.
Where women of all religions and colour are trapped in their home by fear.
Where young men are happy to tell me to my face that I am a white whore and make sexual gestures to show me my place.
Where the reason one women is scared to show her face is because the feminists will vilify her with racial slurs.
Where the public broadcaster wants me to accept a hand grenade in a bin is normal.
Standing in the queue for the bus, surrounded by these people, I can honestly say, I have never felt so alone.