Thirty shootings in 2011 and five gun related murders in less than six weeks have shaken Malmö to its very core. But the gunning down of 15-year-old Ardiwan was the last straw for many of the locals, making them take to the streets to demand a change and to keep their children safe.
“We don’t have a clue why this happened. I know my son and he was only 15 years old. He was not involved with any criminals so it was not a revenge killing to do with drugs or something else,” Ardiwan’s father Diaa Noman tells The Local just hours after burying his eldest child.
The details of the teenager’s execution-style killing in Rosengård on New Year’s Eve does not make easy reading. At the time of the murder, Ardiwan was with his family, visiting relatives in the area, to ring in 2012.
Late in the evening, while alone on the street, the teen was shot seven times with the final bullet to his head proving fatal. Amidst the din of the traditional New Year’s fireworks, the shooting was barely noticed.
It was only when he was discovered in a pool of his own blood that the alarm was raised. Ardiwan passed away shortly afterwards in hospital.
The grieving family are still at a loss as to why their son was killed.
“We cannot find any answers. Even the police ruled out the issues of criminality because of his age. Our family came to Sweden for the safety here but for more than a year I have felt there has not been enough security in the city,” Noman says.
Ardiwan was laid to rest on Wednesday with his funeral procession passing through the heart of Malmö. Hundreds turned up to show their respect, the second time in the space of a few days that the community mourned the tragedy.
Days earlier a demonstration was staged in the city centre to protest against the recent murders and the flow of illegal weapons into Malmö. More than 40,000 people showed their support for the event on Facebook with an estimated 6,000 showing up to light candles and listen to a speech condemning the latest bouts of violence.
“We must send the signal that we need a safe city to live in now. Many are scared to go outside and they are getting more afraid every day. Malmö is getting a reputation as a city of violence like the new Chicago – and we cannot let this happen,” one of the event’s organizers Niclas Röhr told The Local at the rally.
Organizers went to great lengths to ensure the manifestation was a non-political event with just a solitary jointly written speech read out to the gathered crowd.
However, the rally will be best remembered for the unplanned intervention by a large number of grieving Iraqis who marched chanting ‘Where are the police?’ and urging the country to wake up.
Many also carried placards with an image of a grievously wounded Ardiwan in his hospital bed.
“The murdered child was the same age as my brother and when you see the family crying you can’t help but think that could have been me crying about my brother,” Kosovo born Kosovare Mezini told The Local at the demonstration.
On the night of the rally she had travelled from neighbouring Eslöv to attend the demonstration.
“My parents did not want me to come to the protest but I wanted to show my support. The police aren’t fully aware of what is going on, so they need to build a bridge between the communities.”
Inevitably, the Skåne County police have been criticized and have subsequently been taking measures in the wake of the escalating violence in the area.
On the day of Ardiwan’s funeral, the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen) announced that special enforcements are being dispatched to Malmö from across the country and no expense will be spared to tackle the escalating violence.
Ardiwan’s death was swiftly followed two days later by the murder of a man in his 50’s who was gunned down in broad daylight in the Lindängen suburb.
Five gun related murders in quick succession have brought into focus the flow of illegal weapons into Skåne which has accelerated in the past decade following the opening of the Öresund Bridge which links Sweden with continental Europe.
“It is a lot easier now for criminals to import illegal items as customs can be avoided. Weapons have become widely available as a result,”other rally organizer Angélica Persson told The Local.
Despite the local protests and new measures proposed by the police, it will all come too late for Ardiwan’s devastated father. At the funeral there were traumatic scenes as Noman attempted to climb into his dead son’s grave.
Hours later the bereaved father received condolences from dozens of mourners at the memorial reception. As is traditional in Iraqi culture, the funeral involves several days of grieving with separate memorials taking place simultaneously for men and women respectively.
As traditional Middle Eastern food and drink was served to the gathered Noman tells The Local how he believes that the existing legislation needs to be revised.
“This is not just a Swedish problem. It is for all of Europe to combat the amount of illegal weapons available,” he says.
“I don’t regret coming here, as I have had support from this country, but things appear to be heading in the wrong direction due to weak points in the law.”
Noman, whose family are members of the minority Mandaean faith, paid tribute to the largely Muslim Iraqi community in Malmö for their “incredible support.”
A similar level of solidarity will likely need to be shown across all of Malmö if Ardiwan’s death isn’t to be in vain.
Despite the escalating violence in the area over the last few years, the citizens of Malmö have demonstrated to the rest of the country that they will not surrender their city to gun crime and that they are fighting back.
An online petition denouncing the violence has already got over 6,500 signatures and a delegation from Skåne will travel to Stockholm next week to present the document to the Riksdag and to demand that things must change.