Norway calls for opposition to stand against hate 10 years after massacre by neo-Nazi

Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg attend a memorial service ten years after the Oslo and Utoeya island bomb attack, in Oslo July 22, 2021. — NTB/Geir Olsen pic via Reuters
Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg attend a memorial service ten years after the Oslo and Utoeya island bomb attack, in Oslo July 22, 2021. — NTB/Geir Olsen pic via Reuters

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OSLO, July 22 — Norway’s prime minister today called for the country to stand up against the hatred that killed 77 people on July 22, 2011, ten years after the attacks by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

“We must not let hate stand unopposed,” Erna Solberg said in a speech at a memorial ceremony near the government headquarters in Oslo.

This was the place where Breivik set off a bomb that killed eight people before going on a shooting spree at a summer camp for left-wing youths on the island of Utoya, killing another 69 — most of them teenagers. 

Speaking to survivors and relatives of the victims, Solberg stressed that much had been done in the last 10 years to improve security and combat radicalisation and extremism.

“The most important preparedness, we have to build within each of us,” she said, adding it would serve as “a fortified bulwark against intolerance and hate speech, for empathy and tolerance.”

The Scandinavian nation had been mostly spared from extremist violence until the attacks on July 22, 2011.

After the morning memorial ceremony at the government headquarters, church masses and another ceremony on Utoya in the afternoon will mark the anniversary. At noon (1000 GMT), church bells nationwide will ring.

Shortly after the attacks, the then-Labour Party prime minister and current NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg promised to respond with “more democracy” and “more humanity”.

‘Driving force’

But 10 years on, many of the survivors of Utoya feel that Norway still has not truly faced up to the ideology that drove Breivik. 

“The deadly racism and right-wing extremism are still alive and well in our midst,” Astrid Eide Hoem, a survivor who has since become head of the Labour Party’s youth league (AUF), which organised the camp, said in a speech during this morning’s ceremony. 

“They live on the internet, they live around the dinner table, they live in many people that many (other) people listen to,” she continued.

“It is now, once and for all, that we must say that we do not accept racism, that we do not accept hatred.”

The Norwegian intelligence service (PST) also warned this week, that “the far-right ideas that inspired the attack are still a driving force for right-wing extremists at home and abroad.” 

Breivik’s actions had inspired several violent attacks over the past decade, the PST said, including those targeting mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch and Oslo.

On Tuesday, vandals scrawled “Breivik was right” on a memorial for Benjamin Hermansen, who was killed by neo-Nazis in 2001 in what was billed as Norway’s “first racist crime”.

In 2012, Breivik, then 42, was sentenced to 21 years in prison. His sentence can be extended indefinitely and the extremist will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. 

A year earlier, Breivik had disguised himself as a police officer and planted the car bomb that shattered the government headquarters in Oslo and killed eight people.

He then made his way to Utoya, where he hunted down his 69 other victims, most of them teenagers.

For many of the survivors, the psychological trauma remains an open wound. 

A third were still suffering last year from major disorders, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and headaches, a recent paper by the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies found. 

“When you’ve been through something like this, you don’t go back to being the person you were,” Eide Hoem told AFP in an interview.

“I have trouble sleeping, I’m afraid, and I think I’ll have to live with this all my life,” she added. 

Elin L’Estrange, another survivor, told AFP: “If someone today tells me that they want me dead, I take it very seriously.” — AFP

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