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Nahide Arabadji making a successful model of integration in Sweden and active participation in the development of society

- The main purpose of the projects that we do with youths are to create a platform where they can express themselves and share their stories with the city.
- Växjö one of the first cities in Sweden to be involved with ICORN network.
- I think the politics in Sweden and most of Europe today has gotten way out of hand, and there are prejudices against immigrants are worse today.
- The debate is much more harsh and there is a bigger gap between immigrants and locals today.
Växjö • Publicerad 22 maj 2019
Foto: Maha Nasser

The Turkish young lady, Nahide Arabaji Came to Sweden with her family, when she was 3 years old and now she is 32 years old. Naheda grew up in the area of Araby in Växjö, and She studied languages and political science at Uppsala University. Nahide is an ambitious and diligent lady, who has studied many disciplines and has worked hard to achieve herself in Sweden as well as contributing to develop the community. In addition, she has, talent in writing poetry. She is considered one of the immigrants who have made a successful model in Sweden.

In a special interview with Mosaik, Nahide Arabaji talked about her success story in Sweden: “I grew up in Araby in Växjö but moved to gothenbourg when I was 17. I studied linguistics and political science in Uppsala university for 3 years. Then I decided to become a high school teacher so I moved to skåne, where I studied to become a high school teacher within psychology and religion. I moved back to Växjö a couple of years ago. Here in Växjö I have my mother, two older brothers and two lovely nephews, Makin and Lennox”.

You working with youth project, what is the main objective form this project and how long will it continue?

-This is ongoing projects that is within our mission of the “ own expression” here at Det “fria ordets hus”. The main purpose of the projects that we do with youths are to create a platform where they can express themselves and share their stories with the city. We also want to create bridges with the youths and established cultural institutions to make them more comfortable of owning their own space within the cultural scenes. . I also am a project coordinator for a creative Europe project called Engage! That has been going on now for 3 years, and its ending in October. The project is about how to engage young people within the literary field. There are 4 countries involved in this projects, the project manager is Pen Catala, and also there is Krakow, Norwich and us.

Working with youth what does Working with youth mean for you?

- It motivates me very much. It gives me a lot of energy, meeting with young people. They are very honest and open for discussion. Speaking to adults can sometimes be much harder since we have a lot of filters, we know what to “ say and not to say”, but young people tend to brutally honest in their opinions and that also creates a easier opportunity to discuss topics that can be rather difficult. I love that I have this possibility within my work to meet young people and get to know them, and also see their talents and making them feel comfortable enough to develop skills they didn’t know that they had. One young boy that participated in a creative writing workshop was great at writing, and I told him that he was amazing and had to continue to develop his skills. He asked me, so what am I supposed to be, a poet? I answered that exactly what you could be if you want. And after my workshops he has performed with his poem on Swedish radio!

You work in the free speech house What exactly is your job?

-I have different missions at the house, I work mostly within the freedom of speech field. I work as a coordinator for ICORN, where we have a worldwide network that works with the freedom of speech questions and help artist at risk to get a possibility to work without being threatened.

I also manage different types of workshops with young people. Mostly about creative writing, where they learn how to write poems, and also perform in front of an audience. One workshop is about prejudice and the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech. What do we say, and what don’t we say and why not? We talk about hate speech, both within the society and the consequences of that, artistic freedom and the situations within the free speech in the world

Could you talk about ICORN organization, and what is particular does?

-The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is an independent organization of cities and regions offering shelter to writers and artists at risk, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values and promoting international solidarity.

Writers and artists are especially vulnerable to censorship, harassment, imprisonment and even death, because of what they do. They represent the liberating gift of the human imagination and give voice to thoughts, ideas, debate and critique, disseminated to a wide audience. They also tend to be the first to speak out and resist when free speech is threatened.

ICORN member cities offer long term, but temporary, shelter to those at risk as a direct consequence of their creative activities. Our aim is to be able to host as many persecuted writers and artists as possible in ICORN cities and together with our sister networks and organizations, to form a dynamic and sustainable global network for freedom of expression. Protecting and promoting writers and artists at risk.

What is the extent of cooperation between ICORN and Växjö municipality?

– We have been offering shelter to artist at risk since 2012 and was one of the first cities in Sweden to be involved in this network. I think we were the 5th city in Sweden and today it is 25 cities making Sweden the county with most cities of safe haven in the world which we are very proud of. The cooperation will continue, as long as it is necessary!

You combine Turkish and Swedish culture? What does this cultural diversity mean for you?

- I think cultural diversity is a beautiful thing and I'm so grateful that I grew up like this. I have a favorite term in Swedish that's called “ mellanförskap” meaning that your not in the outside but nor are you inside.. your something in between. I grew up like that, in between and I think it has given me beautiful perspectives that only enriched me. In my family we have created something that suited us.. taken the best of both cultures and made a fusion of it. But as well as its beautiful it can be rather complex sometimes, I think the politics in Sweden and most of Europe today has gotten way out of hand. I think the prejudices against immigrants are worse today somehow, of course I have faced a lot of people with prejudices as well, sometimes even racists, but I think something has shifted the last couple of years. The debate is much more harsh and there is a bigger gap between immigrants and locals today.

You are a talent for writing poetry, can you tell us about this aspect?

- I have written all my life, I didn't call myself a poet or what I wrote poetry, it was just writings and for me as in think for many others. Writing is my therapy. I don't have an active blog anymore but I do perform on some occasions. I had the great honor of opening “ kulturnatten” this year by reading a poem.

What about your future, do you have a dream that you look forward to achieve?

- I think I'm living my dream today actually. I have a job that I'm everyday extremely grateful for. And that's not just something I'm saying, I do really love what I do. In the future am dreaming of working more with young adults. I love working with youths, and making them believe in themselves enough to be able to grow in their own cultural expressions.

Maha Nasser
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