• Sweden edition
 
Surveillance law vote ‘betrayed tenets of a democratic state’

Surveillance law vote ‘betrayed tenets of a democratic state’

Published: 22 Jul 2008 17:34 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Jul 2008 17:34 GMT+02:00

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” -- Benjamin Franklin.

On a personal level, I find it ironic that on June 18th 2008, exactly one year after my family and I were granted political asylum in Sweden, the Riksdag passed a draconian surveillance law.

I’m sure people who have found refuge in Sweden after fleeing police states from around the globe can relate to my emotions. But I doubt that the 143 Riksdag members who voted in favour of the bill will ever be able to understand how I feel.

Swedes do not have to watch their back while walking the streets, or invent a coded language for talking to their wives over telephone, or use cryptic sentences in their emails.

Unlike them, I have suffered the pain inflicted by surveillance state at its worst.

Back in Bangladesh, my home country, I was under constant surveillance for months. I was followed by operatives, my phones were tapped, and my office computer was bugged.

The surveillance was followed by my detention and torture at the hands of the Bangladeshi military intelligence agency on May 11th, 2007.

I was arrested in my home after midnight, blindfolded, and taken to a torture chamber inside Dhaka cantonment where my captors tortured and interrogated me for 22 hours.

One of the most unnerving aspects of those interrogation sessions was have to sit on a torture-bench with my eyes covered while someone described very private details of my life to me: how many cigarettes I smoked a day, how much I suffered from bronchial asthma, places I had been to in the last few years, people with whom I’d met, etc.

If felt like I was sitting naked in a room full of strangers.

A few days after my release, my private emails started appearing in pro-military newspapers as they attempted to prove that I was plotting to overthrow the government.

I remain shocked to this day by how much private information a state agency could gather about an individual just by keeping him under surveillance.

After what I have been through, I find it pathetic to see Sweden joining the surveillance club.

This country that gave me refuge, promised me dignity and, and offered me security is now set to cross the line and spy on its own population.

One Turkish journalist, now a political refugee in Sweden, summed things up as follows:

“I feel violated, as if someone has broken a promise. What we hold so dear, sacred freedoms, are now being taken away. That is so painful to watch.”

No, we never wanted to see this country become a surveillance state.

What then is the difference between Sweden and China, may I ask?

Well, the answer may be that Sweden, unlike China, is a democracy, which brings us to another serious issue: the shameless trampling of public opinion.

It is a fact that every major Swedish newspaper condemned the bill, urging politicians to vote against it. At the same time, large numbers of activists poured out on the streets to protest.

As far as I could tell from my conversations with people, every single person opposed it the measure.

If the governments of China, Zimbabwe or North Korea ignored such level of public opposition, I would have understood.

But the Riksdag is not the politburo of an authoritarian communist party that can pass any black law and blatantly ignore opposition from the public. It’s a democratically-elected parliament that, at least in theory, is accountable to the citizens.

By voting in favour of the bill, Riksdag members have not only sold out an essential public liberty, but they have also betrayed the basic tenets of a democratic state.

If an authoritarian state-agency turns its guns, cameras, and radars at its own people, that is certainly a disaster.

But if a democratically elected parliament empowers an agency to carry out mass-surveillance, that is an even greater disaster.

Tasneem Khalil is an Örebro-based freelance writer and columnist.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
National
Northern Swedes wake up to September snow

Northern Swedes wake up to September snow

Summer has come to a definite end in Kiruna as residents of the northern town were greeted with a blanket of snow on Sunday morning. READ  

Elections 2014
Ex-Prime Minister: Sweden is falling apart
Former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. Photo: Leo Sellén/TT

Ex-Prime Minister: Sweden is falling apart

Former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has said that the election success of the Sweden Democrats is a "slap" in the face for the Stockholm establishment. READ  

National
Trio prosecuted for hate attack against Somalis
Somali nationals taking part in a demonstration against deportations in Stockholm. File photo:Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/ TT

Trio prosecuted for hate attack against Somalis

Three young men in southern Sweden suspected of attacking Somali refugees with stones and screaming "sieg heil" have been indicted on charges of racial agitation. READ  

National
Swedish airfares to get cheaper in 2015

Swedish airfares to get cheaper in 2015

Sweden is set to buck the European trend of rising air prices with fares expected to drop next year according to a new report. READ  

National
Swede's homemade submarine nets fortune
Eric Westerberg's homemade submarine Isabelle. Photo: PS.nu

Swede's homemade submarine nets fortune

A Swedish submarine enthusiast who spent over 3,500 hours making his own vessel has sold his prized possession for 705,000 kronor ($98,500) in an online auction. READ  

National
Cops reported for making 'Roma' comment

Cops reported for making 'Roma' comment

Police in northern Sweden have been reported to the Equality Ombudsman for describing a wanted suspect as having a "Roma appearance." READ  

Donald Duck and Zlatan get Swedish votes
A political career for Zlatan? Some fans seem to want to see that. Photo: Peter Dejong/TT

Donald Duck and Zlatan get Swedish votes

The Bilderberg Group, the Satanic Initiative and Adolf Hitler all received votes in Sweden’s general election, according to a list released by the country’s electoral authority. READ  

Sport
Stockholm fails bid to host Euro 2020 games
The Swedish team in action. Photo: TT

Stockholm fails bid to host Euro 2020 games

Sweden's capital has missed out on a chance to host any Euro 2020 games, with Copenhagen the only Scandinavian city among the thirteen winning locations. READ  

Vicar: God rejects fans of women priests
Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Uppsala, is the first woman to head the Swedish church. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Vicar: God rejects fans of women priests

A Swedish priest has been fired after telling his congregation that people who support female priests would be rejected by God - despite the fact that his own church is led by a woman. READ  

Analysis
Women set to dominate top post-election jobs
Margot Wallström (right) could become Stefan Löfven's new Minister of Foreign Affairs. Photo: TT

Women set to dominate top post-election jobs

Sweden could soon get a female Foreign Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt's ousted Moderate Party is preparing for its first woman leader and the grandmother of actor Hugh Grant's son is being tipped as Parliament's next Speaker. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
The 'black gold' of Sweden's west coast.
National
West Sweden prepares for the 2014 lobster premiere
Society
What's on in Sweden
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Gallery
Property of the week - Eskilstuna
Blog updates

20 September

How a Frog Can Save the Environment (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"What we do we imagine when we think of children enjoying nature? Perhaps it’s fishing, marveling at lightning bugs on a muggy July day or blowing on the wispy petals of a dandelion to make a special wish. But perhaps most iconic of the playful innocence in childhood is hopping after and trying to catch..." READ »

 

19 September

Editor’s blog (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday readers! It sure has been a exciting week in Sweden, where we’re set to get a new Prime Minister after Fredrik Reinfeldt stepped down following Sunday’s elections. The Local blogged live from the key political gatherings across Stockholm. Why not re-visit the action by taking a look at our photos, tweets, videos and analysis? Since the..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

867
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN