Wait, there are riots in Sweden?

You've read the stories about Sweden's excellent health care system, innovative gender-neutral day care centers, and generous parental leave policies. But here's a story that those who would like to portray Sweden as a socialist paradise are less eager to tell: For three consecutive nights, the residents of several largely immigrant suburbs have rioted, torching cars, clashing with police, and setting buildings ablaze.

The rioting -- the worst social unrest to strike the country in many years -- was sparked by the lethal police shooting of a 69-year-old, knife-wielding man last week in the suburb of Husby, the epicenter of the riots. Roaming gangs of angry youths have since clashed with police and Husby residents have complained of racist treatment by police officers, who they say have used epithets such as "monkey."

What's happening in Husby is clearly a symptom of Sweden's failed effort to integrate its massive immigrant population. Housing segregation is rampant in the country, and Husby is a case study in how immigrant populations have come to dominate Stockholm's outer suburbs. The graph below (from this paper on housing segregation) illustrates the phenomenon. Depending on your political perspective, native-born Swedes have either fled Husby or been pushed out by immigrants:

Husby also suffers from rampant unemployment -- a problem that is particularly acute for its youth. Nearly 30 percent of the city's young people are neither employed nor actively enrolled in school, a number that mirrors a broader trend of immigrant underemployment relative to the native-born population.

The riots have been captured in YouTube videos, which paint a picture of an aggressive, somewhat ham-handed response by police. When confronted by angry residents, law enforcement officials have used dogs and drawn pistols to intimidate the crowds. In the clip below, they can be seen charging residents -- then retreating and charging once more.

Police have also used dogs to disperse the crowds. Here, the officer tells a resident to back up or risk being bitten. The female voice at the end of the video repeatedly asks police, "Aren't you ashamed of yourselves?!"

Here's what things looked like from one of the apartment buildings in the area. As you can see in the video, Husby has massive housing structures, part of the so-called Million Program to vastly expand the country's residential properties.

And here's a panicked Swedish reporter covering a car fire in Husby. He excitedly relates how a piece of metal came flying at "high speed" toward the "exact spot" where he had been filming. When he tries to pick it up to show the camera, he declares it far too hot. The headline on the video translates as "Expressen's reporter forced to seek cover."

The reaction of Sweden's political class to the riots has been mixed. The nativist Sweden Democrats have called on the police to deploy water cannons to disperse the rioters. Meanwhile, the head of the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, made a covert nighttime visit to Husby to talk to residents. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has said neither he nor any members of his government are likely to pay a visit to the suburb, and declared that "Sweden cannot be ruled by violence" (his critics might point out that police violence sparked the rioting).

In short, no one has any real idea what to do about the unrest in the country -- besides praying that Molotov cocktails don't reappear on the streets of Husby tonight.



Green Alliance crams everything that's wrong with Russia into one image

Russia's Green Alliance - People's Party, which registered as a political party just one year ago, has turned to art to take a stab at the country's ruling United Russia party.

Taking advantage of a contest to design an emblem for the greater Moscow region, the Green Alliance has submitted an entry to the local ministry of culture that takes multiple swipes at United Russia -- highlighting problems with the country's leaders and many of the social issues that the ruling party has failed to address.

The Green Alliance has made no secret about the meaning of the design. On Tuesday, the party even tweeted a key to all the symbols packed into the image:


Here's our own (English-language) guide:

The bear is a nod to the symbol of United Russia, but in this image the animal looks sinister and thuggish.

The gold chain the bear is wearing represents United Russia's alleged ties to the mob. 

The saw and tree stumps symbolize United Russia's disregard for nature. As the Moscow Times points out, it was the previous United Russia governor who launched construction of the Moscow-St. Petersburg highway through the Khimki forest.

The cracked road draws attention to the Moscow region's poor infrastructure, which, the Green Alliance claims, is typically only "repaired by kickbacks."

The blue flashing light, which many Moscow drivers use to abuse traffic laws, is a symbol of "the power of contemporary feudalists," according to the party.

The high-rises in the background are meant to be "new buildings, without social infrastructure, built next to dumps."

The two men holding up the central shield are illegal migrant workers from central Asia. The Green Alliance points out that there are an estimated three million illegal migrants living in the Moscow region. 

The "garlands" of paper money surrounding the shield represent the "harvest collected by [corrupt] bureaucrats."

"At a time when an alternative point of view doesn't appear in regional mass media, we consider it our duty to use this emblem as a way of drawing attention to problems," the Green Alliance's leader told the Moscow Times. It's a noble objective. But don't expect local officials to stamp the image on Moscow's promotional materials anytime soon.

Christian Caryl contributed to this post.