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Open the window to mankind “The great tragedy of our time is that while the world is becoming globalised, the distance between the hearts of people increases. To make a change, we must start with ourselves.” So says one of the two threatened researchers who in the autumn received sanctuary at the University of Gothenburg. D N A N CO M E S FRO M the Middle East and Abu from Southern Asia. For a year, they will be working at the University of Gothenburg within the framework of SAR, Scholars at Risk, an international network that helps threatened researchers. We meet at GU Journal’s editorial offices on Erik Dahlbergsgatan. First Adnan and Abu take off their thick coats, hats and gloves. They heat themselves up with strong coffee before starting to talk about their stories. They can not disclose their real names, their host department nor elaborate too much on what they are researching, for fear of being identified and thereby exposing themselves and their families to increased danger. “Half my family is in Europe, the other half remains back at home,” explains Adnan. “I’m very grateful to be in Sweden, but also terribly worried about my sons back home.” H E E X PL A I N S H OW the secret police in his country are known to open fire on protesters and even abduct people. “When the area I lived in fell into the hands of the opposition, the regime started to send rockets against us, one of which destroyed parts of my family’s apartment. So we fled to relatives in another part of the country, but I was still very anxious. One day the military intelligence arrested one of my sons. By paying 1,000 dollars, I managed to get him free. But I decided to try to

leave the country. I was advised to contact SAR, which eventually led to me ending up here in Gothenburg.” The other researcher, Abu, is engaged with human rights issues. He suggests that the terror we see today is a reaction to globalisation. society are affected: the economy, politics, legislation and the media. Unfortunately, not everyone assumes his or her proper responsibilities, when it comes to developing globalisation, in a good way. In my country, the news media is spreading stereotypes about people in other countries and spicing up international events with exaggerations, which unfortunately is all too popular with the public in general. We also have a law against blasphemy, which not only limits freedom of expression but is also abused by those who want to harm others. One of my friends’ sons was kidnapped; I myself have been threatened; and no one dares to go to the police, for fear of reprisals. Now I find myself here while my wife, son and daughter are scattered about in different countries.” The causes of war and violence in the world are many. Adnan believes, however, that religion has a big responsibility. “I’m appalled at the intolerance that exists particularly within Islam. It’s like a virus that spreads in which people start arguing about things that happened 1,400 years ago and claim that they will go to heaven if they kill people of other faiths. How can we create understanding between


people with such beliefs? The fight for religious fanaticism has become a market where young people’s lives can be bought for money”. We need a new, global social contract, says Abu. “The most important thing there is, is to get to know yourself. And one way to do that is by meeting people with entirely different backgrounds or worldviews. We all have blind spots which other people can help us to discover. The philosopher Bertrand Russell said that he would never die for his beliefs, because after all he might have it wrong. And that is what we must learn to understand: we must oppose selfrighteousness and really make an attempt to be tolerant, because we can actually all be wrong.” A LT H O U G H T E R RO R I ST S and perpetrators of violence themselves have responsibility for their actions, it is of paramount importance that we examine what it is in society, for example in the schools, which creates this kind of behaviour, he says. “The terrorists who blew up the twin towers in New York or those who were responsible for the terrorist attacks in Paris we all know did not grow up in Afghanistan or Iraq, but in fact in the United States and France. There must be something fundamentally wrong in our educational system that enables young people to become terrible thugs. Technically, our societies have developed tremendously in only the last twenty years, but morally and psychologically, we find ourselves on the same level


The abridged version of the University of Gothenburg staff magazine, GU Journal. Issue no 7 December 2015.

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