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In Norway, we’re processing tragedy and beginning our recovery together

  • Posted on July 1, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

On Wednesday, June 22, I published a blog about the relative safety and acceptance in Norway. Three days later, all of Norway was shaken by a terrorist attack outside the largest gay pub in Norway. Two people were killed, and nearly two dozen were injured, when a man pulled out an automatic rifle and started shooting. The timing of this act was hours before Pride's main day of festivities and parade, which were then canceled by authorities. Thankfully, many victims had only minor injuries. However, the trauma is felt by thousands who are directly impacted, and the entire country is in shock.

 

You may want to pause a moment, and just reflect on the pain and tragedy.

 

In the first 24 hours following the shooting, there was such an outpouring: Leaders expressing sadness and sharing safety plans; texts from friends checking on me; a spontaneous march at the site of the shooting to demonstrate both mourning and pride; exchanges of disbelief between strangers. In Oslo, throughout the day, you could see Pride outfits and people everywhere in the city. We waved and said “hi” to strangers — which is not normal here!

 

I know that any time a community confronts violence, there is no solution unless the entire community joins together. Being LGBT+ makes you a minority, and your safety depends on your whole society supporting you. How has Oslo responded?

 

By Monday, another gathering at city hall was held to mark the loss and express our pride. Because the terrorist suspect is identified as a Kurdish Muslim, the speeches included one by Saleh Fahimpor of the Kurdish Cultural Association. Saleh was there to condemn the attacker and assure the LGBT+ community Kurdish culture supports us. Hayder Jumaah, who is gay and fled Iraq to Norway because being gay there meant your parents might kill you, also spoke. He shared his fear from this incident but reminded the crowd that this kind of anti-LGBT+ violence is a reality in Iraq daily. He movingly explained that violence does not stop love.

 

After the remarks were done, I wandered back to The London Pub, where the shooting had occurred. Two days later, they were open again! On a Monday night, they had a line a block long to get in. Inside, people hugged, danced, and consoled one another. Through the night I got a few more personal stories from friends who were there. Lots of hugs, too!

 

These recent events remind me of how resilient Norwegians are, and why I still feel safe here. In the five minutes after the shooting, the perpetrator was rushed by civilians, disarmed of his automatic weapon, chased a little further, disarmed of a pistol and held down until police arrived. Norwegians take action, and we help one another.

 

A common sentiment from Norwegians is that they cannot believe this could happen here. It can and did. I don't think any society can be completely free of such threats. But the reactions have all been sensitive, caring, and focused on restoring safety and security. 

 

I feel reassured that an even stronger commitment to safety and support is present in response to this tragedy. Responses from every corner — ethnic, religious, government — have shared the same commitment to our safety. Given that we live in an imperfect world, if this could not be prevented, I cannot imagine a better response.

 

Although I have touched on many things, and still left out many details, I hope you can see why I still feel safe, and to show you how broad the support for one another is in Norway.

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