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Local Liberal too 'un-Swedish' for top post

David Landes · 15 Nov 2010, 16:28

Published: 15 Nov 2010 16:28 GMT+01:00

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"I was told I had a certain temper, that I had a strong voice, that I was different," Sepideh Erfani told The Local.

"I wasn't appropriate for the post because I was too un-Swedish. I was shocked."

The comments by party colleagues about Erfani's Swedishness came in connection with discussions about who among members of the Liberal Party's local chapter in Haninge south of Stockholm should be given a number of leadership posts on the local council.

During a meeting to discuss the matter last Saturday, Erfani complained that four of the six posts allotted to the Liberal Party had gone to members of the party's internal nominating committee.

"It was a clear conflict of interest," she explained.

As the number two name on the local party list, Erfani felt she was a valid candidate for the post of vice-chair of the council's social affairs committee.

But following the critique, her name was removed from consideration. When she pressed her colleagues for an explanation, one of the reasons cited was that she was "un-Swedish."

"I felt like I’d been punished for speaking my mind," she said.

"When I pressed them, no one in the room denied that I'd been called un-Swedish."

Erfani singled out Peter Olevik Dunder, who occupies the top spot on the local party list, for questioning her Swedishness.

"During discussions he said, 'you know, we can’t have someone who is so un-Swedish representing the party,'" she explained.

Erfani's version of events was confirmed by Mikael Trolin, chair of the Liberal's local chapter in Haninge, who said he was told that she was ultimately left out of consideration because she was "too bombastic."

"She's simply too un-Swedish. I don't know if they mean that she has a weird accent or that she gestures too much with her hands or what it can be," he told Sveriges Radio (SR).

According to Trolin, it was Dunder who used the term "un-Swedish" in conversations about Erfani.

Erfani added that she has heard Dunder describe her in the same way on previous occasions, although he had refrained from calling her "un-Swedish" specifically to her face.

Attempts by The Local to reach Dunder for comment on Monday were unsuccessful. However, speaking with SR, he acknowledged that he and Erfani have had a "difference of opinion" on many issues, although he denied ever calling her "un-Swedish."

"She and I have had many conversations over the years on a range of subjects, but I don't think I ever said that exactly," Dunder told SR.

Erfani lamented what she saw as a "dictatorial" approach to politics by her Liberal Party colleagues in Haninge and their seeming unwillingness to consider different points of view.

Story continues below…

"If I wanted to be in a dictatorship, I would have stayed in Iran," she said.

"What am I, an elected official or a robot?"

Erfani emphasised, however, she has no plans to leave the party after the incident, and that her complaint is directed only at the Liberal’s local chapter in Haninge, rather than the party as a whole.

"How they handled this was unacceptable," she said.

She added that the matter is set to be discussed with county-level officials from the Liberal Party.

"We'll see where the conversation leads," Erfani said.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:02 November 15, 2010 by Nemesis
Sounds like she should be in the Rikstag in charge of the Liberals.
16:56 November 15, 2010 by Gletta
She clearly showed how unSwedish she was by saying:

I flet like I had been punished for speaking my mind
17:06 November 15, 2010 by Rolle
Resign the party then. And stop whinning in the press. If you don't like your fellow party members you are free to go about your business and find a group that suits you the best.

Maybe somebody should tell her it's politics, it's not a kids game.
17:09 November 15, 2010 by calebian22
I do hope some of the anti-SD'ers on the Local forums will be calling for the condemnation of the entire Liberal party for the actions and comments of a few. Anyone? Or is bigotry an acceptable blanket generalization only when it is found on the Right?
17:53 November 15, 2010 by mojofat
@ Rolle you're wrong. By not resigning and staying to fight she's showing good character. She's being boxed in by an obviously unethical and racist local political party. Unethical, because they're appointing themselves to all of these leadership positions when it's a clear conflict of interest. Racist because they're calling her "unswedish" only because of how she looks or acts...and since they cannot articulate what being "unswedish" is, they're clearly using it as a euphemisim for "we don't like the way you look."

Good for her! Fight the power!
17:58 November 15, 2010 by skatty
Actually, to be politically active as immigrant in many political parties is not an easy task here in Sweden.

I mean it's as hard as finding high position job for an immigrant from developing countries in a society, where employers might even do careful examination about the colour of the hair or the shape of the nose or the kind of the name. Even though in Swedish political scene many of these examinations are vanished because there is almost a million, who don't have Swedish root, but it doesn't mean to have a free political mind!

Practically, a successful politician with immigrant back ground should be a puppet and accept to be manipulated by puppeteers. What is mentioned in here as un-Swedish, means that Erfani is not qualified to act as a puppet!

As a mater of fact many free minded politician with immigration background give up political activity in here after some years.
18:12 November 15, 2010 by Puffin
Well now that the Liberals and party leader Björklund are trying to courting SDs votes they have to be careful who they pick ;)
18:16 November 15, 2010 by Iraniboy
I think there are two different issues that should be discussed here. Her right for this post and she being called 'Un-Swedish'

Calling someone 'Un-Swedish' is insulting especially for someone who holds the Swedish citizenship. But I think they meant something else by saying so. They probably meant an specific Swedish culture which is very different from that of any other country outside Sweden and that in Sweden for example 'Not good enough' means 'Too bad' in Iran or in the US/UK.

The other issue is that she hasn't understood the fact that even in democratic countries like Sweden there is Dictatorship inside each political party and they don't want to have high ranking member who speak his/her opinion outside party's agenda. That is how it works in every democratic country. The difference with Dictatorship countries is that they have one dictatorship but in democratic countries with different parties they have several dictatorships which can avoid a general one dictatorship situation.
18:54 November 15, 2010 by Rishonim
That un-Swedish comment does not surprise me at all. This is the trick Swedes has used for years to exclude minorities or people with foreign sounding names from gaining employment or promotion. People seem to be fixated that the Sweden Democrats are not the only racist party in town.
19:21 November 15, 2010 by manrush
Well, this just cements my belief that Stockholm's Folkpartiet isn't worth two craps.

The Libs have been a thorn in the side of progress for years in Stockholm. They are anti-skyscraper and anti-urban.

Moderaterna and Centerpartiet are the only two parties in Stockholm that matter.
19:54 November 15, 2010 by know
Barack Obama is only in the United States not in the UK, France, Germany, Europe or elsewhere in the world.
20:04 November 15, 2010 by Rolle
@Rishonim: That 'xenophobic' Sweden you are refering to is the same country that has given home, shelter and a chance to survice to over a million people in the last decades. It's also a country deeply commited to welfare of it's citizens and in the developing countries abroad.

@mojofat: As much as i respect your opinion i don't share it. In politics (which i'm not the biggest fan of) you've got to make many difficult decision in a manner rather harsh or ruthless. Whether we like it or not, political parties/leaders relly on demographic statistics to decide their course of action. I really don't know if Dunder or anybody in the Folkpartiet is actually a racist, but i don't think the remark regarding Erfani could be the best way of telling so. For me going out in the press and breaking the story, if anything, shows lack of guts and political sense.
21:06 November 15, 2010 by tgolan
It is time that people wake up and see that it's not SD where the problem with Swedish racism is but with middle Swensson, Racism is well established in Sweden. When it come down to it Ifyour not born in Sweden, your always last in line , that even goes for English speakers too,
21:37 November 15, 2010 by vladd777
have to agree, as an english speaker, with tgolan.

bottom line is that if u dont like it..go figure!
22:20 November 15, 2010 by Evren
No country is perfect, isn't it?
22:40 November 15, 2010 by asian123
she was too much bombastic. that is clearly un swedish and most common among the immigrants.
22:47 November 15, 2010 by amelie_l
I don't think those politicians meant to be rasist, I think they were just scared that an agressive way of speaking would scare away the typical Swedish elector that are still a majority in this country (maybe not for long though). She's described by her comrades as having a certain temper, a strong voice, as being "too bombastic", and most Swedes hate what looks more or less like a conflict. That's probably what they meant by "un-Swedish". The fact that she reacts so strongly and speaks publicly against her party comrades is a proof that they were right.

I see here from those Swedish politicians more a "normativ and opportunist" mentality, with other words a "politician" mentality, than real rasism (if we define the word as the belief of a superior race, or as a encouragement to hate against an ethnic community)
00:20 November 16, 2010 by Jarvilainennen
I think Swedes are just so used to being nurtured through every step of their life, within their fluffy puffy cloud of Kings&Queens etc. that the smallest ripple on still water of the royal duck pond causes funniness sometimes :)

I used to drive a taxi once, and a one time I picked up 2 drunken Swedish couples from a hotel. They were going to another hotel to have a party. I asked them, not once, not twice, but alltogether 4 times, "Whitch- hotel- do

-you- mean?"

Finally, i´m told to drive to the hotel XXXX in Helsinki city.

I still tried, I asked: "Are you sure, there´s one nearer, of the same hotel chain, It´s the one where people usually go to have a party in these parts of town?"

"Jusshht take ush to the helshinki..blaarp."

As you might guess, about halfway there, one girl starts shouting: "Where are we, it´s not supposed to be this far!?"

And, as u might guess, Swedes being in question, they insisted on me to reduce the price for them, "We are turists, you can´t make us pay for this extra driving..."

Yes I could, but I chose to drop them off at a gas station instead :)

To this date, no one else has been quite so... so.. Swedisshh.
01:47 November 16, 2010 by Tanskalainen
Jarvilainennen you should have let them off in a woods full of susia.
01:55 November 16, 2010 by rolfkrohna
I think her public outburst say it all. In any family, any place, and any country, certain standards of behavior and conduct are required, certain standard of adaptation. She has clearly tried to take Iran into Sweden, and that has rightfully not been acceptable. If she prefers to be Iranian in Sweden, is she Swedish? Is that called un-Swedish? You can clearly not be both at the same time. The standards of behavior and conduct are too different. Many countries today are putting all immigrants on a trial period of one or a few years before they are granted PUT to see if they will and are able and willing to adapt and conform to the standards of behavior of their new country. If they don't, they are asked to leave. Sweden should do the same.
03:21 November 16, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman
"If I wanted to be in a dictatorship, I would have stayed in Iran," she said.

So she is comparing the right of a democratic political party to choose it's leadership to Iran. She is obviously, at the most charitable interpretation, too politically immature for the position of any serious party.

Having failed through willfulness to force her way in she cries "racism" for not having gotten her own way to try to divert the discussion....actually sounds quite a bit like a liberal.
09:02 November 16, 2010 by Jarvilainennen
#21 David...

She did get some international coverage this way, did she not? It´s just so idiotic to suggest one is too "un-Swedish" in a country that hails multi-kulti.

You should be pleased that your citicens have a will to effect on things politically.

I´d rather see 10 iranians in place of our SFP, (Svenska Folk Partiet) in politics.

SFP has only one agenda here and that is to get as many benefits as possible for the swedish-talking minority here. Including force-feeding the swedish language at every corner to "save the Swedish culture in Finland."

It does seem like there´s not that much worth saving XD
09:49 November 16, 2010 by seagull
To be honest I believe that we should have the same rule as in the USA to be nominated for leadership of a political party... ie you have to be born in the country. It isn't racist, it's common sense. I am not swedish and would not for one moment expect to be able to represent Sweden at a top level. The "un-swedisg" comment is a polite way of saying "immigrant".
10:05 November 16, 2010 by Streja
Un-Swedish is a positive term in Sweden.
10:44 November 16, 2010 by skatty
I think many comments in here are looking to wrong direction.

You see the policy toward immigrants in Sweden has been introduced as "a multicultural policy". My point is not to argue if it's a right or wrong policy but when a country try to implement multicultural policy then "a strong voice" or to be "different" cannot be considered as an alibi for not being qualified for a high political post.

As a mater of fact multicultural means to be "different" and to accept different being and to be "Un-Swedish" is inevitable! The whole purpose of

"multicultural policy" is a mix of "Swedish" and "Un-Swedish"! How ever if the society is not interested in multicultural policy, then of course you can say something is "Un-Swedish", I hope you understand what I mean! It's not even a question of racism; the fact is that a Swede doesn't even know what

multicultural means, even in top level.
15:31 November 16, 2010 by Jarvilainennen
#23 Seagull:

It is not a very polite way of saying things "beating around the bush." Far from it.

Just say it straight: "We think you´re not suitable because you were not born here."

Why have migrants working in politics in the first place, if it becomes a problem incase they seem to become popular?

If one gets citicenship, one gets citicenship and that´s about "it."

Do you wish for them (migrants) to establish themselves as a "Migrant Party" if you keep shunning them like the SD?

Sweden has a neo-nazi in one town-coucil, for heaven´s sake...
18:27 November 16, 2010 by mojofat

You don't have to be a natural born citizen to be the leader of a political party. The only office that requires that is President. Schwarzenegger is governor of California...as an example...which is far more important than the leader of some local political party.

This comment about being "unswedish" is so overtly racist. It's the same as when a racist in the US says someone isn't american (like they tried to do with Obama..."he's not one of us"). If there's some other requirement to prove your "swedishness" and your fitness for local politics, then it should be written down. If it's not, then these people are clearly making up rules for their own benefit and based on their own prejudices. You don't like her style? Too bad...she still deserves a fair shot. No one's saying she deserves the position purely because she's a woman or what-have-you, only that she deserves the right to give it a go and put it up to a fair vote. She didn't even get a fair chance because some small group of narrow minded people said so.
18:52 November 16, 2010 by samwise
is the unswedish comment referring to the culture/norms or the ethnicity? I am not sure from the report.

I can understand people expect certain manner/behavior from politicians, but I wouldn't like the case that ethnicity becomes such a big deal.

Having an unswedish mannered member might be a gain for a party. I hate politicians talking in code language, they can pile up words for hours without actually saying anything clearly. In other words, they are not like real people. That's how they survive in that business I guess.

It wouldn't be an issue if people vote for candidates instead of parties. But that would be unswedish as well. lol
20:06 November 17, 2010 by Coalbanks
Strange how we object to immigrants making changes to our various cultures but think nothing of sending missionaries, cultural industries & armies abroad to change other cultures. I am speaking for my own nation/culture but it applies to all, no?
22:16 November 17, 2010 by planet.sweden
It wasn't racism, as they were commenting on her personality which apparently is bombastic and uncooperative rather than on her ethnicity.

Swedes, as most of us have observed, are quietly cooperative.

Going off the deep end like this simply reinforces the view that she is indeed bombastic and difficult, so the Liberal Party were right.
22:51 November 17, 2010 by Bumblebeetuna
amelia #17 and planet sweden #30 as well as a few others hit it dead on in my opinion. She is probably taking it out of context and using it to get attention. Not to say that the comment wasn't an amateurish slip up. Then again look at the party, Folkpartiet, is a quite far left party. Wouldn't we expect these kind of mistakes from a party from that far afield?

I think they were just trying to choose the best person for their parties future and said something that, when taken out of context, could be used as mud.
09:06 November 18, 2010 by samwise
Coalbanks, I think that's reasonable, because most people realize that not all cultures are equally good, and most people believe there is absolute morality. There will be a problem if what they defend over here is contrary to what they spread over there, such as asking other people to wear a suit but they don't accept it themselves.
02:11 November 19, 2010 by Just_Kidding
Immigrants are better off working in private sector and setting up their own companies.... an Iranian can become the CEO of youtube but if he tries to become the head of a radio station in a little village in "Norway" all the people in the area will become urgently frustrated.
04:35 November 20, 2010 by dunce
There is a great difference between having the minumum qualifications and being the best qualified person for a position.I do not think it was native swedes that drove the few swedish jews from your country. People are known by the company they keep. Since the muslims will not tolerate jews, swedes have to decide which group makes sweden a better country or worse as the case may be. I know swedes find having to make that choice very distastefull. History has shown that muslims ultimately resort to violence to impose their religion on any place they live. It is just a matter of time and is prescribed by the koran.
16:15 November 20, 2010 by Just_Kidding
#34:...Since the muslims will not tolerate jews,....History has shown that muslims ultimately resort to violence to impose their religion on any place they live. It is just a matter of time and is prescribed by the koran....."

What made you decide that this woman was muslim? according to a Swedish study, only 10% of Iranian immigrants in Sweden consider themselves religious and 80% characterize themselves unreligious.

(numbers are 65% religious and 10% unreligious for Turkish immigrants - from Åke Sander's research "To what Extent is the Swedish Muslim Religious").

An Iranian atheist
02:06 November 23, 2010 by Njal
'@Sepideh Erfani'

You are not Swedish, you are an Iranian immigrant with Swedish citizenship. If you grew up in Iran, then you were raised as an Iranian in Iranian culture, therefore not Swedish. How could you think otherwise?

You got to love all these immigrants complaining about how unfair Swedes are, nevermind that the lands they flee from are a veritable hell and that Swedes alone happy and free can create a worthwhile society without their help.

Multi-culturalism is a failure because many of the people who come to the West aren`t interested in fitting in. Sepideh, if they don`t want you for the job too bad, you`ve chosen a hell of a career path so you shouldn`t be too surprised. The key problem is trust (check out studies on multiculturalism), but I think this women is naive if she thinks the electorate would view her as Swedish.


While fight the power is all very well, Sepideh is an Iranian women trying to instruct the Swedes to be more tolerant. Perhaps she could use her energies to help her own fellow Iranians to become more tolerant, and to this end she would be more effective in Iran.
18:53 November 28, 2010 by Uggla
Swedish people are SO racist, but they love to say they are not.

They like to look perfect on the out side but inside they are some of the most racist and socialist people I have ever encountered.

It's the Swedish thing to do, to look good on the out side so that nobody knows the problems inside. Like for instance half the country lives of of bank loans and are extremely in debt but they drive fancy cars and dress fancy to make everyone believe they are rich.

A majority of Swedish people love to live they illusion. But in all actuality they are extremely racist people.

In all my travels and in all the countries i have lived in they rank in the top of a racist country.
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