The Iranian-Swedish Society Malmoe


Yesterday I visited some of my former colleagues at Iransk-Svenska Föreningen Malmö, The Iranian-Swedish Society Malmoe, which was founded in 1985 by the exil Iranian Tahmoures Yassami, a very nice man who still is its leader. He has together with other active people developed the organisation over the years, and it now has a great variety of cultural, linguistic, educational and integration-related activities. In 1993 a young Iranian woman began taking part in the society issues, that was Nazanin Nina Karlsson, who for several years has been an important project leader at the ISF Malmö. It’s her you see to the right in the picture above talking to one of the employed social workers, Annica Berggren. Below this text you see the second social worker Mette Rasmussen. The atmosphere at the ISF Malmö is very warm and welcoming. When I arrived yesterday I was greeted with glad phrases by some of the Persian, Arab and Kurdic women who frequently come to the society activities, and by the administrator of the place as well. Sadly enough Tahmoures wasn’t present yesterday, since he still was on vacation, to be back on Monday, but Nazanin, Annica, Mette and I still had decided to meet and talk. I got warm embraces when I came and the interview started. As former colleagues we have a relaxed, laid-back way of talking to each other and that kind of atmosphere is very much a signum for the entire society.

The Iranian-Swedish Society Malmoe has since 1998 a library with Persian litterature, even though the books are not borrowed so much any more because of the internet, but the library still exists. Also in 1998 the Daycenter for women of Persian, Afghan, Kurdish and Arab background started, and the women who come there are mostly between 40 and 70 years old. The women meet for chats, food-cooking and drinking tea and coffee Monday to Friday. The ISF Malmö arranges information meetings in Persian about Swedish medical services, medicine, how to reach doctors, social authorities etc. to make the integration easier in the Swedish society for the elderly generation. The Society has Swedish education for both men and women of all ages, where the teacher explains the Swedish words and phenomena in Persian, as an extra SFI, Swedish for immigrants. The teacher and his pupils assemble in a class room within the ISF premises Monday to Friday. The pupils are taught for a few hours each day, and as in all schools some pupils move on after a while, and others come. It’s a very appreciated activity which has helped many Iranians to easier understand the new country they have come to.

The Iranian-Swedish Society also arranges lectures about social issues, democracy, integration issues, invites politicians, schools and officials in the city to participate in debates, meetings and co-operations. They also arrange cultural events, concerts with Persian and Kurdish music, and a young Persian musician playing the sitar is one of the active musicians, as well as a young Kurdish female singer. They also has a co-operation with Musikhögskolan, the Music Academy in Malmoe since 2006-2007. Since the spring of 2010 the Iranian-Swedish Society also has a co-operation with the Malmoe Opera to encourage Iranians in participating in the Swedish and Western classical world of music. Now and again they receive invitiations and tickets for concerts, operas etc. Every year the Society also arrange Chab-e Yalda, the ancient Persian Midwinter celebration which is usually held within the premises. In March every year they also arrange the big celebration of the Persian-Kurdish-Afghan new year, Norooz. Then there’s music, food and bonfires. The Norooz celebration is very big and often arranged in co-operation with Malmoe Municipality. To keep school kids going the Society has youth activities such as table tennis, football training, marshal arts and IT classes. Every member with immigrant background of the ISF Malmoe also has a life insurance at Fonus Funeral if anything should happen. The Iranian-Swedish Society also co-operates with Folksam.

Then there’s HOMA, which stands for Honour violence and Pluralistic Work, Hedersvåld och Mångfaldsarbete. Gender equality is very important in this kind of society and the Swedish and international laws are taken to heart by many here. I remember that Tahmoures’ wife Gila once said to me during a meeting when I was working at the ISF Malmö that: “Since we haven’t had real democracy in Iran, we have a strong urge to use the democracy well and take gender equality as a basis when we are here in Sweden”. HOMA started as a project in 2008. Nazanin Nina Karlsson as project leader as well as Annica Berggren and Mette Rasmussen as social workers are dealing with this part of the activities. Within the HOMA project they developed an education material about honour-related oppression and so called honour violence. Annica and Mette go out to the schools in the region having lectures and work-shops with kids from primary schools to upper secondary schools. Right now they visit Segevång and Augustenborg. The intention is to give the school kids tools and ideas about gender equality, love, affection, democracy, about honour-related opression already from an early age. The material and the discussions naturally change depending on what age-group of kids are involved, but both Annica and Mette have learned a lot during these years and been able to renew and develop the material they use. Since HOMA as a project couldn’t go on for so many years HOMA now has turned into a committee, and the project the women now are working with is called Justitia. The HOMA committee also have contacts and co-operation not only with schools in Malmoe, but in Trelleborg, Svedala and Hörby as well. For a few years now this group also has been guiding and helping women from 19 to 55 years old with trying to get out of destructive relationships and into safety, especially if these women have been subjects of honour-related oppression and violence. For this purpose the HOMA committee has started a STAG-group, Stöd-Tillit-Ansvar-Gemenskap, (Support-Trust-Responsibility-Fellowship). As educated socialworkers Annica and Mette can have discussions with the victimized women and to some extent act as councelors. Through meetings the victimized women are given affirmative tools to strengthen them as individuals, and when is needed HOMA might contact women’s shelters etc. to keep the women safer.

All these activities are put under the umbrella of this marvellous society that I am proud of having worked for and still venerate. As I left my former colleagues we promised to keep in touch and meet again. I hope that the Iranian-Swedish Society might become a role model and an inspiration for other societies and authorities, both in Sweden and abroad. They are worth it.


Anders Moberg, January the 12th 2013





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