Tills alla dör (Until Everyone Dies) is a brilliant nonfiction book that could well fit into the horror genre, if it weren't for the fact that it's a true story.
Izzy has jacked!
It's July 22, 2015. Rinkeby, a "concrete suburb" built during the Million Programme[a] in the north-west outskirts of Stockholm, where the inhabitants are mostly immigrants, is enjoying a warm summer day.
A heist of an exchange point by ninteen-year-old Izzy and his older associates in the morning has netted the robbers a bit over two million kronor ($250K). They had jacked - hit the jackpot, done the big heist. Izzy's three year younger friend, Maslah, however, was increasingly furious about having been left out.
That same evening Maslah shot and killed Izzy. 29 hours later he was dead, too, killed in revenge. The feud has been ongoing since, with new actors being pulled into it, killing and getting killed. As I write this it's almost exactly one week since the latest murder, of a 20-year-old man in Kista.
Tills alla dör is a tragic and violent story, chronicling the individual but similar paths trod by many of the young men involved in "the war", as they themselves call it. It's a path that starts with rebellion against their parents, teachers, and authorities, then drug use, then moves on to petty crime, which becomes serious, organized, and violent crime, until at the end they get into a fight with one or more of their "brothers" and get murdered.
Indeed, the title of the book comes from the answer given by one of the criminals when asked how long the conflict would go on.
Most names just flash past. So-and-so grew up, got into crime, murdered so-and-so, and was then murdered himself. But Salihu found himself drawn to one particular person whose fate highlights the nihilism of gangster life: Vincent (a.k.a Poy). Over a couple of chapters we get to follow Vincent as he grew up in Rinkeby, became friends with Maslah's younger brother, Makaveli, and was ultimately (most likely) murdered by his own. The reason for the murder is never told, and those who know don't tell it all. But if we are to believe what little one of them was willing to say, Vincent wasn't hanging with the wrong people, and he didn't have any debts - he was simply murdered for a very
childish reason. Of course, the likely murderer is himself dead now - murdered.
Salihu also describes the organization of the gangs. For example, what is the role of the rapper Yasin, who just recently received a prize from Swedish state radio[b]? The role of music in the "war" is one of propaganda. Artists glorify the actions of their gang, and insult the rival gangs. Their lyrics are like psychological warfare when they state threats on the lives of opponents.
In this way they function not as independent observers who artistically narrate events ("the voice of the unheard" so beloved by journalists), but as integral elements of organized crime whose purpose is to market the criminal organization. (Which they do with success: Yasin's tracks have millions of plays on Spotify. As he sings:
You asked for this gangster shit / supply and demand motherfucker.)
I'm not surprised that the constant question asked by criminals of Mehdi Adnan Mossa[c] is:
Why can't I sleep?[*][d]. Constantly worrying about being murdered by one of your enemies or by one of your best friends takes its toll. Add to that the radio stations playing death threats against you, and you have a recipe for sleepless nights.
But Tills alla dör is also a hopeful story. Interleaved with the chain of murders we read about Khaled, who started out selling cocaine but is now trying to leave his life of crime behind him.
In total, Tills alla dör is a giant of a book in a small package. Well researched, well written, and not shying away from difficult topics, it is a must read for anyone trying to understand the events in north-western Stockholm and the social challenges there. Salihu handles the politically difficult issues with aplomb - not falling into relativism, but stating the difficulties and letting those trying to solve it speak for themselves. There will undoubtedly be discussion about Somalis, but I'd say that everyone except the criminals end up being depicted as fundamentally honorable people.
1. So What About the Somalis?
A thing that stands out - and that is described in the book - is how many of the gang members have roots in Somalia. This is of course politically inconvenient - Somalis currently being the ones inhabiting one of the "lowest rungs of the ladder" among immigrant groups - and I believe that's why Bilan Osman[e] tries to explain it by
many people in Rinkeby having that background[*][f]. This, however, is not plausible. Somalis may be the most numerous ethnicity in Rinkeby; but with that many ethnicities, that's not saying much, and indeed only about a quarter of the inhabitants are Somali. But we should not jump to idiot conclusions such as Somalis being uniquely evil and predisposed for brutal gang warfare.
A major explanation is probably that the killing is driven by revenge. Someone is killed, their friends kill in retaliation, and so on. Since people to a large degree socialize along ethnic lines in Rinkeby it is quite expected that once one of these blood feuds have started it will continue in that ethnic group, as friends of the victim are sucked into it in an ever widening circle. But this leaves us with the question: why did this start among Somalis? Was that a fluke?
Indeed, from what I've heard, there are many causes and that almost all of them have connections to the outcome that are fairly straightforward. All of these challenging factors are present in other ethnic groups in various amounts, but taken together they increase the probability of social failure such that something like this is more likely to appear in the Somali diaspora than in other groups. Examples: reliance on collective parenting that doesn't exist, families too large to support them, lack of education among parents, lack of insight into the importance of education, old clan structures that are powerful enough to do damage by hindering police but not powerful enough to stop the killing by organizing blood money, self-inflicted lack of integration into mainstream society, ... - the list goes on.
There is an ongoing conversation in the Somali diaspora about what is going so wrong and what can be done about it; and there are people actively trying to fix it.
Instead of trying to explain away the over-representation of Somalis as a statistical fluke - which only serves to obscure what is obvious and delay solutions, or by ascribing some special evil to them - which only leads to more suffering; we should see Somalis in Sweden for what they are: a group of people in a strange new land where most members are trying their best. We need to be clear about what works and what doesn't work here, what is expected and what is expected not - because we have that knowledge, it's been painfully gained over generations - and treat them as we would our neighbors - because they are.
Traveling to a new country in search of a better life is something honorable. But it comes with some difficulties.
Although he couldn't pick it up due to being arrested.
Men är inte svaret på varför så många i konflikten är svensk-somalier att många i Rinkeby råkar ha den bakgrunden?[*][g]