• Sweden's news in English

'I felt like a traitor when I left Tensta'

The Local · 25 Apr 2013, 07:30

Published: 25 Apr 2013 07:30 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"I couldn't tell him it was OK to stay, because he was traumatized," Langhorst says about the family's decision to leave. "You can't tell a child Tensta is just as safe as the suburb we've moved to now because fear is not objective."

She underscores that they did not move to protect him - "my son often hangs out at Medborgarplatsen which is far more dangerous" - but because the two incidents left him too afraid to go home alone at night.

Their exit left her bitterly disappointed. She loved her suburb and hated how often it was dragged through the mud in the media. Moving was tantamount to "giving in to the haters", people seemed to have not only branded it a dangerous suburb, but linked any conflict directly to the immigrants who live there.

Vandalization and attacks on the police put Tensta on the map for many Swedes last year. Langhorst points out that even Sveriges Radio (SR), the public service broadcaster, headed out to Tensta when the headlines grew thicker, so "painting the suburb with broad brush strokes" was not exclusive to the tabloids.

"People never see Tensta, but this youth gang caught people's attention. I decided to investigate," the journalist says.

Tensta and some of its residents in pictures

It only took one phone call to the police to find out that a gang of about 30 were behind the recent skirmishes, but when Langhorst tried to pitch the national newspapers a story with more analysis and background, they all said no, saying it was "too local". The lack of interest once the turmoil had abated frustrated her.

"It's very misleading when 30 troublesome youths get to represent a suburb that 18,000 people call home," Langhorst says.

With no response from the dailies, she decided to cover the story properly in another format. Last week her book Förortshat (The Hatred of the Suburbs) was released by the Ordfront publishing company.

She herself had not always had an uncomplicated relationship to the suburb. When she first moved there she would instead tell people she lived in bearby Hjulsta.

"Just the name Tensta was so loaded," she recalls.

She eventually changed tack, however, and said she lived in Tensta. The immediate effect was some kind of paralysis.

"You could see on their faces what they thought. Their expression froze and they went silent, and they had to really think hard about what they thought was polite enough to say," she says.

Langhorst says Tensta never got the chance it deserved, not even from the start. Conceived as a suburb for the middle classes back in the sixties, the commuter town was instantly besieged by problems. People who worked as police and nurses in town moved there before the area was properly finished, and before the subway had been extended.

SEE ALSO:A list of The Local's past Swedes of the Week

"They were sitting in a pool of mud with no way to get to work. There were no playgrounds, the lawns were torn to shreds by heavy machinery," Langhorst says.

Her research revealed that the bad start would set the tone for people's view of Tensta. When the ethnic Swedes became so fed up they left, refugees eventually moved into the vacant apartments.

"Nowadays, there are quite simply racists who say that it's the number of immigrants that make it a bad place," Langhorst says.

But when she set her heart on researching the events that led to her son being robbed on his way home from the tube station on two separate occasions, she also felt that its recent travails could be traced back to a specific set of civil servants.

"They meant well, but they have been incompetent," Langhorst says. "Politicians can have all the goodwill in the world to sort things out, but they can't make it happen on the ground."

She criticizes the local youth centre for banning troublesome youth rather than offering a safe place for them to be.

"They'd thrown out and banned about 20 of these guys. The centre had tonnes of money but it didn't work," she says. "They just decided to be really tough on them but maybe that attitude isn't very helpful when we are talking about kids who don't have any adult role models?"

Langhorst's own contact with the youth team began when her son was 12 and faced abuse from some of the older boys in the shopping centre in Tensta, but she felt they did not follow up nor communicate with each other.

Story continues below…

After the robberies a few years later, Langhorst had to admit defeat.

"We felt we were traitors, that we proved the haters right when we left because my son had been robbed."

She lays the blame not only the team of public servants, but also on the media.

"There aren't any Dagens Nyheter (Sweden's biggest paper) reporters living in Tensta," she notes. "And no one pays attention to Tensta because there isn't a strong middle class there that is used to making its voice heard."

"Only when someone sets fire to something do people sit up and take notice."

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

Editor's Note: The Local's Swede of the week is someone in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Hundreds protest Swedish asylum laws
Around 1,000 people protested in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Persson/ TT

Hundreds of people on Saturday demonstrated in Stockholm and in many other parts of the country to protest Sweden’s tough new laws on asylum-seekers.

Dylan removes Nobel-mention from website
The American musician has more or less responded to the news with silence. Photo: Per Wahlberg

American singer-song writer Bob Dylan has removed any mention of him being named one of this year’s Nobel Prize laureates on his official website.

Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available