“I was told I had a certain temper, that I had a strong voice, that I was different,” Sepideh Erfani told The Local.
“I wasn’t appropriate for the post because I was too un-Swedish. I was shocked.”
The comments by party colleagues about Erfani’s Swedishness came in connection with discussions about who among members of the Liberal Party’s local chapter in Haninge south of Stockholm should be given a number of leadership posts on the local council.
During a meeting to discuss the matter last Saturday, Erfani complained that four of the six posts allotted to the Liberal Party had gone to members of the party’s internal nominating committee.
“It was a clear conflict of interest,” she explained.
As the number two name on the local party list, Erfani felt she was a valid candidate for the post of vice-chair of the council’s social affairs committee.
But following the critique, her name was removed from consideration. When she pressed her colleagues for an explanation, one of the reasons cited was that she was “un-Swedish.”
“I felt like I’d been punished for speaking my mind,” she said.
“When I pressed them, no one in the room denied that I’d been called un-Swedish.”
Erfani singled out Peter Olevik Dunder, who occupies the top spot on the local party list, for questioning her Swedishness.
“During discussions he said, ‘you know, we can’t have someone who is so un-Swedish representing the party,'” she explained.
Erfani’s version of events was confirmed by Mikael Trolin, chair of the Liberal’s local chapter in Haninge, who said he was told that she was ultimately left out of consideration because she was “too bombastic.”
“She’s simply too un-Swedish. I don’t know if they mean that she has a weird accent or that she gestures too much with her hands or what it can be,” he told Sveriges Radio (SR).
According to Trolin, it was Dunder who used the term “un-Swedish” in conversations about Erfani.
Erfani added that she has heard Dunder describe her in the same way on previous occasions, although he had refrained from calling her “un-Swedish” specifically to her face.
Attempts by The Local to reach Dunder for comment on Monday were unsuccessful. However, speaking with SR, he acknowledged that he and Erfani have had a “difference of opinion” on many issues, although he denied ever calling her “un-Swedish.”
“She and I have had many conversations over the years on a range of subjects, but I don’t think I ever said that exactly,” Dunder told SR.
Erfani lamented what she saw as a “dictatorial” approach to politics by her Liberal Party colleagues in Haninge and their seeming unwillingness to consider different points of view.
“If I wanted to be in a dictatorship, I would have stayed in Iran,” she said.
“What am I, an elected official or a robot?”
Erfani emphasised, however, she has no plans to leave the party after the incident, and that her complaint is directed only at the Liberal’s local chapter in Haninge, rather than the party as a whole.
“How they handled this was unacceptable,” she said.
She added that the matter is set to be discussed with county-level officials from the Liberal Party.
“We’ll see where the conversation leads,” Erfani said.