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The Struggle of a ‘Whirlwind Girl’: A Syrian Refugee Caught Between Sweden and Syria

“Whirwind Girl”: Captured Between Sweden and Syria

Imagine riding a longboard to school in the fresh morning air, your youthful exuberance radiating throughout your new Swedish town. That’s how life was for a twelve-year-old Syrian girl in 2022— a glimmering spark in her school where she became imprinted upon almost every person who crossed her path. But this vibrant girl’s story is now a stark symbol of the difficulties faced by refugee families in Sweden; a testament to the devastating and contentious feud between the Swedish social services system and apprehensive immigrant parents.

A Star Student in Sweden Epitomized as a “Force of Nature”

Arriving from Syria in 2018, the girl started to settle into her new life in Sweden. Those who knew her almost unanimously described her as a whirlwind of life, a “force of nature”. Full of questions, determined for knowledge, her thirst for life was unquenchable.

A teacher recounts, “If only she could get some peace, a little calm and the right support, then everything could have been different”.

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Regrettably, this period of normalcy in her life was fleeting.

The Accusation that Tore Her World Apart

Before long, it was discovered that their lives at home were not as prosperous as they seemed. An older sister voiced her fears about domestic violence and the looming threat of forced marriage. This led to immediate intervention by the police and social services in Sweden, with the children removed from the family home.

The twelve-year-old lived in a foster home, attempting to craft a new life. During her time in foster care, she began divulging the dark truth hidden behind her brave demeanor. She recounted the violent treatment inflicted upon her by her own parents— hair pulling, brutal beatings, and her head being forcefully slammed against a freezer— horrifying details that resonated deeply with her teacher.

Campaigns, Kidnappings, and Detentions, Oh My!

Meanwhile, the LVU campaign (act on care of young persons) was spreading like wildfire among the refugee community. Tormented by stories of illegal child abductions by the social services, the father decided to take drastic action, fueled by his fears about the safety of his children.

“They advised me not to wait. They said they hadn’t seen their children in several years. I became terrified and decided to take the kids no matter the consequences,” the father confessed.

He eventually tracked down his daughter’s location and, with the aid of various friends, rapidly spirited her and the rest of his brood out of the country.

The father was later arrested and served with a sentence of one and a half years in prison. Other accomplices were also convicted. The mother, now part of the campaign against Swedish social services, declared her decision left no regrets.

“It’s better for the children to live in a tent with their mother than to be living in different families without being able to communicate with us. I regret nothing,” she voiced.

Present Day: Turkey or Bust

Now, over a year has passed, and the family resides in Turkey. Without legal identification, they live in constant apprehension over possible deportation by the Turkish police. Yet, their fear of Swedish social services still eclipses all other concerns. They’re living on thin mattresses, huddled in a small apartment, and depending on remittances from relatives and friends overseas.

Teachers, friends, and the tantalizing aroma from the school canteen— these are the things the twelve-year-old Syrian girl misses about Sweden. Hers was a life suspended in a challenging limbo between two starkly different countries, each presenting its unique trials and tribulations. Despite it all, her curiosity, her eagerness, and her zest for life remain undeterred.

“I used to have so many dreams. But things didn’t turn out that way,” she says, full of hope and resilience.

*Is our Swedish social system a refuge or a menace for immigrant families? This is a question that remains to be scrutinized and answered in the days to come.*

Every child, like our Syrian “whirlwind girl,” deserves a safe space to learn, grow, and dream big dreams. We owe it to these children to create a society that is welcoming, supportive, and protective. It’s a shared responsibility for us all to build a compassionate home away from home.

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