This former refugee is bringing Sweden’s political elite face-to-face with the segregated suburbs

  • The Almedalen Week is a well-known institution in Swedish politics, having attracted decision-makers to the island of Gotland every summer since 1968.
  • Top politicians, NGOs, lobbyists and journalists gather for speeches, debates and networking – but the event has been criticised for being a reserve for the elite.
  • Ahmed Abdirahman came to Sweden as a refugee from Somalia at the age of 12. Now he’s launched his own politics festival, Järvaveckan, in a Stockholm suburb – and has already managed to attract all Swedish party leaders.
  • ”We don’t want to get stuck in this cliché of it all being about the suburb – these matters concern Sweden,” Ahmed Abdirahman tells Business Insider Nordic.

Every year in July, Swedish politicians, think-tanks, NGOs and journalists descend upon the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea for a week of political debate, seminars, networking, and heavy consumption of rosé wine.

Now in its 50th year, the Almedalen Week is a well-known institution in Swedish politics – and it is becoming increasingly popular among businesses and lobbyists, who swarm to the quaint medieval town of Visby for a week of schmoozing with the crème-de-la-crème of Swedish decision makers.

But in recent years, the week has come under fire for being a reserve for the elite, with little connection to real-world politics.

Enter Ahmed Abdirahman. An entrepreneurial 32-year-old who came to Sweden as a refugee from Somalia at the age of 12, he now works as a project manager at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.

In his spare time, he has launched his own politics week, Järvaveckan, in the northern Stockholm suburb of Tensta. In 2017, he managed to attract all of Sweden’s party leaders – a feat he repeated this year.

Järvaveckan takes place in Tensta, one of Sweden’s most infamous suburbs

Dominated by concrete houses built during the infamous Million Programme housing scheme in the 1960s and 70s, Tensta has been identified by the police as a ’particularly vulnerable area,’ with parallel societal structures, social exclusion, and difficulties for police to carry out their work. In other words: quite the contrast to Visby’s cobbled streets and romantic, rose-clad church ruins.

Just like the Almedalen Week, each political party in the Swedish parliament has its own day at Järvaveckan, with party-leader speeches, debates and gambits. Unlike the traditional week, however, the atmosphere at the Spånga sports ground in Tensta is low key and family friendly. There is not a single drop of rosé as far as the eye can see.

When BI Nordic manages to track down Ahmed Abdirahman for a chat on the Spånga sports ground, he is surrounded by a group of teenage volunteers in high-visibility waistcoats.

They are caught up in a discussion about a…

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