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22.07.2021 Europe

Deadly racism still 'alive and well in our midst', says Norway massacre survivor

By RFI
via REUTERS - NTB
LISTEN JUL 22, 2021
via REUTERS - NTB

Ten years after bloodiest attack in Norway's post-war history, a survivor has warned that deadly racism and right-wing extremism were still alive "and well in our midst". 

"They live on the internet, they live around the dinner table, they live in many people that many (other) people listen to," Astrid Eide Hoem said at a memorial ceremony in Oslo for victims of the massacre.

On 22 July, 2011, neo-Nazi Anders Behring Breivik murdered 77 people. First, he set off a bomb in Oslo that killed eight people, before going on a shooting spree at a summer camp for left-wing youths on the island of Utoya.

"We must not let hate stand unopposed," Prime minister Erna Solberg said at Thursday's ceremony, near the government headquarters in Oslo.

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".

Violent ideology
Until the 2011 attacks, the Scandinavian nation had been mostly spared extremist violence.

Survivors say it has still not truly faced up to the ideology that drove Breivik, while the Norwegian intelligence service (PST) warned this week that his far-right ideas are still a driving force for 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".

Ongoing trauma
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.

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.

(With AFP)

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