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Anna Silver never imagined that her standing up for human rights would lead to hate-mail and threats. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Ida Svedlund.
Anna Silver never imagined that her standing up for human rights would lead to hate-mail and threats. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Ida Svedlund.

"I had to get protected identity"

Sweden is often thought of as a safe country, where human rights are respected. But for activist Anna Silver, getting involved in helping EU migrants became an eye-opener. After being stalked on-line and having received one too many threatening phone calls, she moved and got protected identity. This is her story.

“When I was a child I always felt left out and I was bullied. Since then, it has been deeply rooted in me to help those who are on the outside, the vulnerable. As a child, I could not always intervene, therefore it is important for me now that no one silences me. Someone taking away my voice through intimidation and violence would be like going back in time. It is extremely important for me to be able to discuss and debate.

It all started one day in January, I was ironing laundry at home and the TV was on. A feature came on about the ramshackle sheds where EU migrants lived in Högdalen, a suburb to Stockholm. ‘Townships’ they called them. I was shocked, I had never before seen anything like that in Sweden! I could not stop thinking about it. The next morning, still in bed, I created an event on Facebook to collect clothes to the people living in the sheds. I thought maybe some friends from the girl’s shelter where I volunteer would join, but the response was tremendous. The day before the collection, the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet called. They wanted to do a story on EU migrants and had seen my event.

I never imagined that there would be any adverse reactions. But after I had been featured on television the phone calls, text messages and emails began. People kept tabs on me. On an internet forum they described what a friend who used to visit me looked like. They thought he was my boyfriend. They called me “easy”. Other comments were mostly about me “soiling our country”. There is a blogger who has devoted a lot of time to map out my life. When I changed jobs, someone rang my future boss and warned that I “attract Gypsies to the municipality.” How did that person know that I was having a job interview? Was it via a mutual acquaintance, a Facebook friend?

One of all the threatening calls came from a man who finished with “see you soon”. That became the last straw. I moved. Getting a protected identity has meant everything to me. The national civil registry at the tax authorities has made me safe. I have three dogs, so I still have to go out in the evenings to walk them. But I can lock my door. Imagine living in a shed.”

If you had the power to change one thing, what would that be?

“I want to give everybody the ability to feel empathy for other people. Our biggest problem is that so many cannot see what life looks like through the eyes of others. That and ignorance.”

Charlotte Pruth

Updated in: 2014-12-12