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April 16, 2013 6:27 AM   Subscribe

"I am writing to you with a simple request, Beatrice Ask. I want us to trade our skins and our experiences. Come on. Let's just do it. You've never been averse to slightly wacky ideas (I still remember your controversial suggestion that anyone who buys sex ought to be sent a notice in a lavender envelope.) For twenty-four hours we'll borrow each other's bodies. First I'll be in your body to understand what it's like to be a woman in the patriarchal world of politics. Then you can borrow my skin to understand that when you go out into the street, down into the subway, into the shopping center, and see the policeman standing there, with the Law on his side, with the right to approach you and ask you to prove your innocence, it brings back memories. Other abuses, other uniforms, other looks. And no, we don't need to go as far back as World War II Germany or South Africa in the eighties. Our recent Swedish history is enough, a series of random experiences that our mutual body suddenly recalls." -- Jonas Hassen Khemiri: An Open Letter to Beatrice Ask (Swedish original).

Jonas Hassen Khemiri is a Swedish playwright and novelist, Beatrice Ask is the Swedish minister for justice. As such she's ultimately responsible for Project REVA, " a program meant to expedite cases dealing with people who are in Sweden illegally"; REVA being an acronym of "Legal Certainty and Effective Enforcement (Rättssäkerhet och Effektivt Verkställighetsarbete)".

With Swedish police recently starting checking IDs of anybody they suspect may not have the right papers to stay in Sweden under this programme, there has been somewhat of a controversy about whether or not they're going on the physical appearance of people more than is warranted. When Beatrice Ask, in her role as minister of justice was questioned about this, she argued that people confuse "personal experiences" with racial profiling. Hence Khemiri's open letter, talking about his own experiences growing up in Sweden not quite looking like your average blonde viking.
posted by MartinWisse (10 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
This is excellent, MartinWisse, thanks for posting it. I've seen one or two other things about how Sweden is handling immigration given their strong supports for citizens, but didn't know that they were actually implementing racial profiling to get people out.
posted by corb at 6:36 AM on April 16, 2013

Oh man I wanted to discuss Selimović lame reply to Khemiri and Khemiri's hilarious follow-up but finding translations or sources in English is impossible. Found an article that provides more background on the Khemiri-Ask debate, though.

Sweden desperately needs an alternative publication to The Local that covers Swedish news and social affairs in English. Would so donate money to see this (magazine? blog?) happen.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:49 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

"How come there's always money when those with few resources are to be persecuted, but never money when those with few resources are to be defended?"

posted by jaduncan at 7:13 AM on April 16, 2013 [13 favorites]

I was going to come in here with the same quote. This is an outstanding essay - thanks for posting it.
posted by jquinby at 7:50 AM on April 16, 2013

I'm trying to use google translate to read those links you posted, it is doing well except "apajävel" and "inkvoterade" "förtyckande" "osnälla ickeblåögda flyktinggömmare". Any help there? (I know I'm losing a lot in translation, I'm sure, but something is better than nothing."
posted by corb at 7:54 AM on April 16, 2013

That is a devastating read. Thank you.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:05 AM on April 16, 2013

corb, apajävel = "fucking monkey" inkvoterade = in context similar to the us "affirmitive action", förtryckande = "opressive", "osnälla ickeblåögda flyktinggömmare" = "unkind non-blueeyed refugee hiders" the "non-blueeyed" is a reference to the scandinavian blonde & blue trope.
posted by xcasex at 8:09 AM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh hey! The editor for this mag is a buddy of mine and I've had the pleasure of getting drunk with Khemiri on a couple of occasions. So happy for both of these dudes that Asymptote is getting this exposure.

As biased as I obviously am, this is a great read and I can only urgently recommend his other writing if you like this.

Also: if you dig this and want access to more amazing texts in translation, read Asymptote and recommend it to friends and maybe consider donating or something.
posted by LMGM at 11:37 AM on April 16, 2013

Good stuff. I'm glad to see the whole idea of "intersectionality" getting some play, even though it's not explicitly mentioned - the idea that as a woman, Ask has some specific experiences to bring to mind that Khemeri doesn't, and vice versa with ethnicity. Good stuff, not discussed enough in any culture.
posted by LukeLockhart at 10:54 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Update: a version of the essay is now in the New York Time's Sunday Review.
posted by LMGM at 2:18 AM on April 21, 2013

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