June 28th, 2014

Almedalen week is an annual political event that takes place in Visby, Sweden. This is a chance for the Swedish political parties to present their views and campaigns to a large number of visitors. A lot of seminars and speeches are arranged in different locations of the Almedalen park, where people come to discuss social issues and challenges existing in society. The subjects covered during Almedalen are primarily democracy, transparency, openness, and human rights.

This year I am privileged to visit Almedalen with the Swedish Institute (SI), which arranged this trip. Three of the SI scholarship holders have been selected this time. It’s been a great experience so far. After our arrival today we went to the manifestation for diversity and humanity. The manifestation took place near the city wall right before the speech of the Nazi Party. It was a peaceful event proclaiming the values of democracy and freedom. The idea behind  the manifestation was that xenophobia is fear of the unknown and people should be open to those who are different rather than rejecting them. There was an activity arranged, when people left their colorfully painted hand prints on the walls, symbolizing that they stand for unity and friendship. Many of the manifestation participants went to the Nazi speech afterwards to express their protest by making noises and exclamations against the Nazi. Some were also turning their backs to the speaker. That was a good illustration of how open and democratic Swedish society is.

The Almedalen week shows that people in Sweden are quite involved in the political life of their country. Even before coming here, I found out that some of my friends belonged to certain political parties. I was surprised at how easy it is for common people in Sweden to be involved in politics and that all the information is shared so openly. During my first day I met a few Almedalen participants who don’t even belong to any parties but have come to the event just for their self-education. This makes Almedalen a great place to learn, meet new people, and become aware of what’s going on in modern society. I’m looking forward to the rest of the week and will be posting my updates here on the blog. Pictures for this post will come later.

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