Amineh Kakabaveh describes herself as a secular, feminist activist working at the grassroots level in Swedish suburbs where a majority of residents have immigrant backgrounds. Kakabaveh is also a Left Party MP, a social worker and chair of the Swedish section of the French movement Ni Putes Ni Soumises, meaning Neither Whores nor Doormats.
“Us secular women with roots in the Middle East, we are fighters,” says Kakabaveh. “And there are secular movements that have paid attention to what’s going on in Swedish suburbs – in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and elsewhere.”
Kakabaveh faced criticism from her own party after writing an op-ed over the summer claiming that a “male dictatorship” is growing in Swedish suburbs. The suburbs are a “hotbed for jihadism,” she wrote, and they breed an “honor culture” that is hostile to women.
“There are men who act like morality police,” Kakabaveh tells Radio Sweden, claiming she herself has faced derogatory comments and accusations from men, like “you dress like a Swedish woman”.
Several other women living and working in the suburbs have described similar anecdotes in the press and beyond. The reactions to those stories have been mixed. Some have supported the women, others have said they fuel prejudice by claiming that Muslim women are being told to cover themselves, to avoid Swedish food and to read the Koran.
“Those values are against women's rights and human rights,” Kakabaveh says, adding that local community groups and Swedish politicians are not doing enough to counteract misogynist attitudes.
As for young people turning to jihadism, Kakabaveh says she has not herself met young men who have been radicalized but that she has friends and acquaintances whose sons have died after going to Syria to fight for IS.
Asked if she is worried about a terrorist attack happening in Sweden, Kakabaveh says: "We have to be very careful. Everybody has a responsibility to prevent this and to have a plan for how to work together against those values.”
To that end, Kakabaveh and Varken Hora Eller Kuvad – the Swedish version of Ni Putes Ni Soumises - organized a seminar at the Swedish parliament on Wednesday, with a panel of speakers that included Sweden’s national coordinator against violent extremism, Mona Sahlin, as well as former minister of justice, Beatrice Ask.