The Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism gave out its first Elsa Award to a young Muslim Swede named Siavosh Derakhti on Nov. 8, 2012. Derakhti, who is 21 years old, works tirelessly to teach students about anti-Semitism in his hometown of Malmo. In 2010, he founded “Young Muslims against Anti-Semitism” and organized a student trip to Auschwitz. His work frequently takes him across the country to educate students about anti-Jewish bigotry and the Holocaust.
From a young age, Derakhti has been interested in World War II, and specifically the Holocaust. “I asked my father how I could learn more about this, and he told me, ‘No problem, I will take you to a concentration camp so you can see it with your own eyes." Derakhti went to Bergen-Belsen with his father at 13, as well as Auschwitz at 15.
The trip affected him deeply. "When you come to Auschwitz, suddenly everything feels so amazingly real, even though it is inconceivable that there are people - not animals - who have been detained there...I could smell and feel what had happened, and I thought, ‘That could have been me, or it could happen again if nothing is done,” Derakhti said.
Keep in mind that people could be brought here for no reason other than that they were Jews. Or, for that matter, they were also political opponents of the regime, Roma, homosexuals, socialists, and others.
A lifelong resident of Malmo, Derakhti was shocked when he read in the newspapers about anti-Semitism in the city, which is Sweden‘s third-largest and is the site of regular anti-Semitic attacks and intimidation. "I was so sorry that Jew hatred is so strong. And to blame the Jews in Malmö for the state of Israel policy is not sensible," Derakhti said. This anti-Semitism struck a chord in Derakhti, whose Turkish-Azerbaijani family left Iran during the country’s war with Iraq in hopes of an easier, safer life in Scandinavia.
With an estimated 1,500 Jews among an overall population of 300,000, Malmo has also gained a reputation as the scene of some of the most hostile anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe in recent years. The city’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, has been criticized for blaming Jews for attacks against them, saying they must distance themselves from Israel. He was also forced to apologize for claiming, perversely, that they have ties to the country’s anti-Semitic far right.
“I found out Jews are fleeing Malmo, that they feel scared and unsafe on the streets,” says Derakhti. “And then I thought that something needs to be done. We can’t keep on letting this happen — not in a country like Sweden, and not in my hometown of Malmo.”
“My parents fled from dictatorship so their children could grow up in a peaceful place and experience democracy, and then to come to a country where there is hate, discrimination and racism on our streets, this is not acceptable. His father taught him that there is no place in this world for hatred. Something must be done,” Derakhti says.
Sia Derakhti asked classmates what they knew about Auschwitz - and was frightened by how little his high school classmates knew, and that his school, Malmös Latinskola, was not trying to change the situation.
Derakhti decided to educate his fellow Swedes about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. “I proposed the idea of a class trip to Auschwitz, to teachers and principals, but nobody supported me,” he said. He was completely alone, not because of the destination, but because the school considered it impossible to get all the money that would be needed.
Read the rest of Siavosh's story here.
The key to peace between Muslims and Jews lies with the Muslim youth. But that all depends on their parents- and whether those parents raise their kids to be tolerant, like Siavosh's parents, or indoctrinate them with hate like parents in Palestine.
Too many do the latter.