Other victims of the Oslo massacre

October 13, 2011 — News

Written by Liz Fekete

The fall-out from Breivik’s attacks finds yet more victims.

It is nearly three months since the Oslo massacre. Politicians have focused on the need to modify their language, with the extreme-Right Progress Party (FrP, which scored its worst result in twenty years in the September local elections) indicating that it will modify its stance.(The message did not get through to former FrP party chair Carl I. Hagen, though, who, in August, claimed that most terrorists are Muslims.) For those in Norway who continue to face death threats, internet hate campaigns and other forms of intimidation for their opposition to Islamophobia, this is not enough. The statements of politicians, they feel, need to be followed up by meaningful action and reform.

Some newspaper websites were, in the days following the massacre of 25 July, flooded with Islamophobic and racist posts. Two weeks after the massacre, the VG, which is a favourite of Progress Party readers, was forced to close down its commentary field. One of those asking for Norwegians to embark on a thorough discussion of freedom of speech in relation to the internet and other expressions of hate is the social anthropologist Sindre Bangstad. [1] He is one of several academics who fell victim to a systematic far-Right smear campaign after launching a call (alongside Arne Johan Vetlesen, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, and others) in an Aftenposten op-ed to make paragraph 135 (a) of the penal code (which outlaws incitement to racial and other forms of hatred) more than a dead letter. Bangstad and Thomas Hylland Eriksen, have expressed concern about the ‘sheer vitriol and aggression vented in online discussions across a broad range of media’. [2] And Lars Østby, in charge of the immigration statistics at Statistics Norway, recently told Forskerforum (a journal on research in higher education) that he stayed clear of public debates because he has received death threats.

Bangstad is not optimistic. On a recent visit to London he told IRR News that even in the current climate where sensibilities should be heightened, those explanations which link Breivik’s acts to widespread Islamophobia are being deliberately marginalised in favour of an apolitical, decontextualised narrative that focuses on the insane actions of a psychopathological lone individual.

Norwegian Muslims framed

Documentary film-makers Carl Lorenzo Proctor and Majed Jaber also want to focus on the larger questions. They are anxious to put on record what actually happened in the first few hours after the attack on the government buildings in Oslo city centre, and before the bomber was identified, when there was intense speculation about the terrorists’ motives. For during that time several self-styled terrorism experts, like Walid Al-Kubaisi and Helge Lurås, were drafted into the TV studios to comment. Walid Al-Kubaisi, an Iraqi born militant atheist, author and documentary film maker who has close links with Fritt Ord, a Norwegian Freedom of Expression foundation, and is a well-known proponent of the Eurabia conspiracy theory, told the media that he had long since ‘anticipated ‘ such an attack and that Norwegian Islamists should be asked to ‘integrate, or get out’. Helge Lurås, from the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs confirmed the widely-held belief that the attacks had the imprimatur of ‘radical Islamists’.[3]

Carl Lorenzo Proctor and Majed Jaber are now gathering testimony for a Unity Media Company documentary film project based on the testimony of those who suffered racist harassment. The eventual documentary will examine the six-hour period between the bombing and the bomber being officially identified. Carl Lorenzo Proctor told IRR News that the film will be made ‘from an immigrant Muslim perspective, and will use news media reports and interviews with Muslim immigrants to chronologically describe the events following the Oslo bombing and their effect on the immigrant community’.

Refugee survivor detained

One case that the film-makers may well focus on is that of Anzor Djoukaev, a 17-year-old refugee from Chechnya, and survivor of the Utøya island massacre which killed sixty-seven of his friends and colleagues. This young refugee was treated not as a victim but as a potential suspect. As the police arrived on the island to capture Breivik and prevent a further massacre, Djoukaev found himself detained by the police and taken to Oslo where he was imprisoned and interrogated for seventeen hours in a cell close to that housing Breivik. Police held the 17-year-old on the grounds that they believed he might be an accomplice. Police suspicions had apparently been aroused by the fact that Djoukaev could not prove his identity (one wonders how many of the survivors, many of whom had jumped into the water surrounding the island, could) and the perception that he had not reacted to the carnage with the same emotion as the other survivors. During his 17-hour incarceration, Anzor Djoukaev’s family, who had no idea that he had survived, were searching for him at the city’s hospitals. He was released from police custody around midday on 23 July, and only then could he borrow a telephone to ring his family. ‘When I was little, I lived in a house full of bodies. I remember seeing dogs eating them’, Djoukaev later said in a statement. Djoukaev portrays his lack of visible emotion as a learnt defence mechanism that kicked in and helped him keep his cool when Breivik opened fire.

Children reacting

For the survivors of Oslo and the Utøya island massacres, the grief and the trauma will continue. But as researchers and campaigners pick up the pieces, many will also want to look at the wider psychological impact of the massacre on children, both Muslim and non-Muslim. One story that has come to light is that of 13-year-old Sophia Adampour whose mother had had eggs thrown at her and a car driven dangerously close in the immediate aftermath of Breivik’s actions. During an online question and answer session with psychologists run by the NRK newspaper, Sophia logged in to ask whether she should ‘move from the country to protect Norwegian children in the future’. She said she ‘felt it was her fault’ that Breivik ‘killed all of those people because I am here’.

Related links

Anti-Racist Centre

Organisation Against Public Discrimination

Thanks to Nina Dessau in Oslo.
To contact the Unity Media Company, email: carllorenzo.proctor@gmail.com.
Footnotes: [1] See Sindre Bangstad, 'Norway, terror and Islamophobia in the mirror' < www.opendemocracy.net/sindre-bangstad/norway-terror-and-islamophobia-in-mirror> [2] See 'Norway's tragedy: contexts and consequences' < www.opendemocracy.net/thomas-hylland-eriksen/norway's-tragedy-contexts-and-consequences> [3] See Bangstad, op.cit. For more information on al-Kubaisi, see Sindre Bangstad 'Which road to Enlightenment? On the impasses of secularist absolutism in relation to anthropology in Contemporary Norway', forthcoming.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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