“I was the one who invited them and was kind of their host, but I was totally broken,” 32-year-old Ahoo Shokraei told The Local.
Shokraei, a native of Iran, recently completed her masters in industrial engineering at the University of Borås and now lives in Gothenburg.
In a bid to celebrate the occasion, she thought it would be fun meet up with several of her Iranian friends who had recently completed post-graduate degrees at various locations around Europe.
A Facebook page was launched to help coordinate logistics for the reunion, and after months of persuasion, Shokraei managed to convince her friends that dog sledding in northern Sweden would be the ideal setting for them to get together.
“We were really excited,” she said.
But things got off on the wrong foot when the guides who were scheduled to lead the three hour trip, which took place in mid-February, showed up an hour late.
The group’s enthusiasm was then dampened further halfway through the nighttime adventure after Shokraei and her friends began singing around the fireplace.
According to Shokraei, the guides began speaking to one another in Swedish.
“They didn’t think we understood,” she said.
However, both Shokraei and her boyfriend, who was also in attendance, understand Swedish and were shocked at what they heard uttered by the two guides.
“They said to each other, ‘What a racket. Shut up goddammit!'”, according to Shokraei, who nevertheless tried to let the incident pass.
But after one of the Iranian visitors happened to drop a cigarette butt outside the fire, one of the dog sledding guides became agitated and snapped at the group, telling them they needed to “learn how to live” and said they were behaving like “wild things”.
The comment prompted one of Shokraei’s friends to react angrily.
More heated words were exchanged and a scuffle ensued as the Iranians took offence to the insinuation that they were uncivilized animals.
Back at the base camp, Shokraei complained to the owner of the tour company that organized the trip saying that she and her friends were owed an apology.
Instead she was greeted with an unsympathetic retort from owner Mats Rullander.
“There will be no apology. I believe that you are wild things,” he said, according to Shokraei.
Rullander then inquired as to where Shokraei and her friends were from.
“Aha! Iran. Ha, ha,” he said, according to Shokraei, before threatening to call the police who would “kick them out of the country”.
While the police were never called, the incident soured what was supposed to be a fun occasion for the visiting Iranians and the host who had worked so hard to convince to come to Sweden.
“I was humiliated and insulted,” Shokraei said.
When contacted by The Local, Rullander didn’t deny referring to the group as “wild things”, but claimed that it was the Iranians who had been acting aggressively.
“The group was aggressive; we have never seen anything like it in all our years here,” the tour operator said, adding that other guests were “totally in shock” as the incident unfolded.
“Everyone is 100 percent sure that some of them were under the influence of drugs. They were screaming and barking – it was totally wrong.”
Shokraei vehemently denied the claims that she or any of her friends were on drugs or under the influence of alcohol.
“There are only three of us who smoke cigarettes, and we are Muslims – we don’t drink,” she told The Local.
She remains bitter about the whole incident and hopes that her story will send a message to other tour operators in Sweden who have customers from other countries and cultures.
“We each paid 6,000 kronor ($916) to have fun, but instead we were all insulted,” Shokraei said.
“Even if we can’t regain our pride, it may stop racism in Kiruna.”