Syrian releases alternative ‘no-go zone’ video about discrimination in Sweden

A Syrian refugee who has won awards for his contribution to society in Sweden has released a video aiming to highlight the difficulties faced by newcomers to the Scandinavian country.

Syrian releases alternative 'no-go zone' video about discrimination in Sweden
Politicians talk about immigrants, but not to immigrants, argues Omar Al Zankah. Photo: Jonathan Wogenius

Omar Al Zankah, a 24-year-old Syrian who came to Sweden as an asylum seeker in August 2015, was earlier this year awarded the Gålöstipendiet at Berwaldhallen, a prize given to newcomers for exceptional contributions to society.

Al Zankah has worked as an interpreter, given talks across the country, been an ambassador for the 'Welcome' app and managed Arabic theatre projects, and has learned fluent Swedish during his relatively short time in the country.

Despite doing all the things expected of him, however, he still feels less than accepted in Sweden, and has sought to highlight this in the video, which has been viewed 96,000 times on Facebook at the time of writing.

The video, entitled 'Årets Svennebanan', referencing a term used (sometimes ironically) to describe typical Swedes and Swedish behaviour, shows Al Zankah winning TV show 'Talang' for being the “best refugee” by completing “the whole list” of Swedish activities like eating meatballs and singing Midsummer songs at Skansen.

Omar Al Zankah and producer Jonathan Wogenius made the film without a budget.

“It's all about dark humour. I choose to let the viewer laugh about me first, that I'm doing everything that's Swedish,” Al Zankah told The Local.

But that is still not enough, the second half of the video argues, as the Syrian documents being turned away from a nightclub along with minority ethnic friends, before being allowed to enter when accompanied by Swedish pals.

The film also raises the issue of discrimination by landlords based on ethnicity, which Al Zankah said had been experienced by a friend in the town of Örebro, referring to an issue that was reported earlier this year by Sveriges Radio P4.

A key theme of the short film, which Al Zankah and Swedish friend Jonathan Wogenius made without a budget, is the use of the term “no-go zone”, which has controversially been used in the past to describe areas with high immigrant populations.

“I received the (Gålöstipendiet) scholarship, and the same week my friends, who are Arabs, tried to invite me to a party. We went to many nice clubs in Stockholm city and when we were in the subways and in the streets I saw all the posters and brochures about the election in Sweden. They were talking about no-go zones,” he said.

“The same evening, I wasn't allowed into nightclubs in all of Stockholm, because we were just three Arabs,” he added.

The Sweden-based Syrian argues through the film that there are only no-go zones – including in housing and the labour market as well as Stockholm's nightlife – for those with minority ethnic backgrounds.

“It's easier for me to be stopped by police, it's easier for me to be stopped at the airport, easier for me to be stopped when there's a guard somewhere,” he said.

“(Politicians) talk about the immigrants, but they never talk to the immigrants,” he said, adding that the video represented his way of making his voice heard during the build-up to the general election, given that he does not have the right to vote.

“This is my vote. I'm paying taxes, I'm a part of Sweden, and the media is focusing all the time on someone who's a bad guy from the Middle East, but they don't talk about the good cases,” he said.

READ ALSO: Employer fights to keep Syrian tech star despite deportation threat

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