UTOEYA, Norway (Reuters) – Almost 10 years after Anders Behring Breivik tried to kill her on the Norwegian island of Utoeya, Astrid Hoem is back to explain to a group of teenagers how she ran to save her life and hid in a beach cove while she Breivik murdered other people around her.
“He shot a girl next to me in the back. She said, ‘Please tell my parents I love them because I’m going to die’,” said Hoem, 26. , high school students. The girl survived.
The students, who attend a three-day workshop on how to resolve conflict and challenge racist attitudes, listen silently as Hoem recalls her memories: how she didn’t move for about two hours under a rock , how she did not call her friends. in fear that the ring would cede their positions to Breivik, as she thought Norway was at war.
Breivik detonated a car bomb outside the Prime Minister’s office in Oslo, killing eight people, before heading to Utoeya and shooting 69 people gathered at a Labor Party youth camp on July 22, 2011.
The survivors, many of whom were teenagers at the time, are determined to confront the far-right ideology that was the catalyst for the attack.
“It’s important to talk about it because I don’t want it to happen again,” Hoem told them.
It’s already the case. In New Zealand in March 2019, white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who said in his manifesto he was inspired by Breivik, shot dead 51 people in two mosques.
Later that year, Norwegian Philip Manshaus killed his Chinese-born adopted sister and attempted to shoot worshipers in a mosque. He cited Tarrant as inspiration, according to a psychiatric court report.
“These opinions, these conspiracies, this hatred … are stronger now than they were ten years ago,” Hoem told Reuters.
In April, the Labor Party decided at its party congress that, if it returned to power in the September elections, it would create a commission to investigate the early lives of Breivik and Manshaus in order to understand and prevent radicalization.
The commission is also said to be investigating Norwegians who have become Islamist fighters in Syria.
“What can we do to prevent young people, especially young white men, from having opinions so extreme that they feel they can take their life because they don’t agree with someone? ‘a? We need to know how to prevent it in school, on the internet, in our communities, ”Hoem said.
Survivors also want to publicly debate some dominant political attitudes which they believe provide the ideological justification for violent extremist actions.
Breivik believed Labor had betrayed Norway simply by allowing Muslims to live there as part of what he believed was a global conspiracy to make Islam the dominant religion in Europe rather than Christianity.
Survivors see some mainstream right-wing politicians legitimizing this view by criticizing Muslims and calling them a threat to Norwegian society.
Over the past decade, the Populist Progress Party has consistently expressed concerns about what it claims is an ongoing “underhand Islamization” that contradicts the traditional Norwegian way of life.
Progress, which has repeatedly condemned Breivik’s attacks, denies that his views are helping fuel far-right extremism.
But party leader Sylvi Listhaug said he would continue to push for tighter immigration and integration policies.
“Political debate must be allowed. We do not allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence even if attempts are made to label us,” she told Reuters.
The survivors’ new attitude departs from Norway’s response at the time, which emphasized unity and consensus.
Over the next few months, debate focused on authorities’ failures such as the late police response to Utoeya, rather than Breivik’s worldview.
“The tenth anniversary of July 22 is a concrete opportunity to look back and try to recalibrate the debate,” said Hallvard Notaker, author of “Labor and July 22”.
(Edited by Angus MacSwan)
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