The Mothers of Rinkeby: Last Night in Sweden
A group of Somali super mums patrols the streets of Stockholm’s infamous Rinkeby neighbourhood to prevent crime.
Across Europe, the far right is on the rise and it has some of the continent’s most diverse communities in its crosshairs.
To the far right, these neighbourhoods are ‘no-go zones’ that challenge their notion of what it means to be European.
To those who live in them, they are Europe. These are their stories.
It’s 7pm and Ardo is getting ready for her shift. She puts on her orange jacket and makes her way through Rinkeby town centre, passing under its famous Rinkeby Centrum arch.
It’s bustling on a Friday evening with elderly men sitting on benches, chatting and watching passersby, young people making their way to and from the nearby gym and families heading out to eat in the Pakistani restaurant or pizzeria.
In this neighbourhood where many of the residents are first, second or third generation migrants, she passes people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chile, Syria, Turkey and the country where she was born, Somalia.
A nursery teacher during the day, Ardo is a well-known face around here and her orange jacket a familiar sight.
She is one of the neighbourhood’s night patrol mothers, a group of Somali mothers and grandmothers who, following the deaths of several boys in gang-related violence in the area, decided to act.
Every Friday and Saturday night, they put on their orange jackets and walk through the community in groups of two or three.
They pass areas where young people are known to sell drugs. “We make it uncomfortable for them when we pass by,” she says. “We usually say hello and, if they reply, we talk to them. But some turn their heads away and hide their faces as soon as they see us.”
They might not stop the drug-dealing, she says, but customers are more likely to stay away when they’re around out of fear members of the patrol will recognise them and tell their parents.
Their aim isn’t simply to stop crime but to make young people feel seen, heard and supported. And that is significant in a neighbourhood often neglected by the authorities and dismissed by politicians and the media as an example of Sweden’s failed immigration and integration policies.
Using only their maternal wiles as a weapon, these resilient super mums refuse to give up on their community’s young people – even if it sometimes feels like the rest of society has.
This is their story. This is Europe.