Ten years after the bloodiest attack in Norway’s post-war history, survivors of the Utoya massacre say the country must finally confront the far-right ideology behind the massacre.
Utoya Island, located on a lake northwest of the capital, Oslo, where most of the 77 murders took place, has got a new look.
Owned and run by the youth league (AUF) of the Norwegian Labor Party, the wooden buildings have been refurbished and children attending workshops focused on democracy and anti-racism roam the green tree-lined streets.
But the bullet holes in the walls of the old cafeteria have been preserved and a memorial now hangs in the open, both reminiscent of that fateful day.
On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, disguised as a police officer, tracked down and shot dead 69 people, mostly teenagers, at an AUF summer camp on the island.
The more than hour-long killings began shortly after he detonated a fertilizer bomb outside a government building in Oslo, killing eight people.
“We haven’t managed to argue about how young white men, growing up like one of us in Norway, attending the same schools and living in the same neighborhoods, can develop extreme views that they feel can kill for them. ,” survivor Astrid Eid Hoem told AFP.
He was only 16 years old when he found himself trapped on the island along with hundreds of other people, fearing for his life.
Hiding on the edge of a cliff near the water, he sent what he thought would be the last text to his mother: “I love you more than anything on earth. Do not call me. You are the best parent in the world.”
He ran away but for the next two weeks he didn’t know which funerals of his friends he should attend, because there were too many.
Now the leader of the AUF, he said he regretted that, even though the killer was sentenced to the maximum sentence – 21 years in prison which can be extended indefinitely – Norway still has not faced his political motives.
“We have discussed the readiness of rescue services, how many police we should have on the streets, how many helicopters should be available,” said Eide Hoem.
“We have discussed the memorial. We’ve already discussed Breivik’s mental health. But we haven’t discussed the political ideology behind it,” he added.
“The most important emergency preparedness we have is in front of the police barrier. We stop this type of radicalization,” he argued.
In August 2019, Norway was hit by another attack.
After shooting and killing his Asian-born half-brother over racist motives, Philip Manshaus opened fire on a mosque on the outskirts of Oslo before being overrun by worshipers to prevent serious injury.
“That there are people who still share the same thoughts as Breivik, that we have had another terrorist attack in Norway by someone who was deeply inspired by Breivik shows that we have failed to address the political aspect of the attack,” said Elin L’Estrange, who ran away. shooting Utoya by swimming away.
“In the US, New Zealand and many other countries, there have been attacks directly inspired by Breivik,” L’Estrange said.
“This is an international movement that we must take seriously, it is dangerous,” he added.
In Utoya, as in Oslo, where a left-wing coalition led by Jens Stoltenberg – now head of NATO – was in power at the time, Breivik deliberately targeted the Labor Party.
Norway’s dominant political power has historically been blamed for ushering in the multiculturalism that Breivik hates.
Survivors have tried to debate the ideological underpinnings of populist rights and denounce the sometimes inflammatory anti-immigration rhetoric.
But they were accused of exploiting the tragedy and told to renounce freedom of expression.
“A gagged AUF after July 22,” wrote journalist and former leftist MP Snorre Valen, author of the book “Utoyakortet” (“Utoya Card”).
“On the Norwegian political scene, trolls have a place in the sun, while the AUF must stay inside,” he said in an op-ed earlier this month.
Polls show the Labor Party has a good chance of retaking power from the current centre-right coalition in the September 13 general election.
If so, the party has promised to establish a commission to investigate the radicalization mechanism, at the request of the AUF.
“Many times we discuss Islamic terrorism, which is also important,” said Eide Hoem.
“But in Norway, it’s strange that we spend so much time discussing that the thing that has claimed lives in the last 10 years is right-wing extremism.”