Siavosh Derakhti, 24, a young Muslim of Azeri origin who lives in Malmo, Sweden, well-known for openly fighting anti-Semitism in his country, is currently visiting Israel.
“If you are a Jew, people blame you for everything going on in Palestine. Everybody hates Israel. I don’t accept this and do everything I can to build bridges between Jews and Muslims through education,” Derakhti stated.
Derahkti, director of Young People against Antisemitism and Xenophobia, is considered very unusual in Sweden. Among his activities are organizing demonstrations in support of Jews and organizing delegations of young Swedes – including Christians, Muslims and Jews – to the Polish death camps. He has a good relationship with the Israeli Embassy in Sweden and even takes part in various programs run by the embassy.
“It is absolutely terrible to be Jew today in Malmö”, said the Swedish Muslim. “Anti-Semites believe in conspiracy theories that (Jews) rule the world. I organized pro-Jewish demonstrations and helped protect our cousins. If Jews can’t live in Sweden I feel it’s a personal failure.”
Derahkti met with US President Barack Obama during his visit to Sweden in 2013. He won the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg award for this activities, and was recently selected by Forbes magazine to be included in the list of 30 most influential people in the world until the age of 30. He’s a public figure in Sweden, and frequently appears in local media.
He was invited by Forbes magazine and the Schusterman Foundation to deepen his relationship with Israel in April, as well as his knowledge of the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism. “My special relationship with the Jews began when I was 13,” recounted Derhakti. “My best friend in school was a Jew and I always protected him.”
“My friend suffered from anti-Semitism, and one day he came running to me and said, ‘there are five people who want to beat me. I told him, ‘There is absolutely no way we are running away. I physically fought with those guys for my friend. I told him I would fight for him, and this story has been etched in my memory.”
Six years ago, Derhakti read articles about how Jews in Sweden were being attacked just because of their religion. “I decided to do something in my city, Malmo.
I founded an organization against anti-Semitism and xenophobia. We organize tours of young people, including Muslims, of the extermination camps. After they return to Sweden, I see a big change in their attitude. At first, some of them tell me they hate Jews, but after they see what happened to the Jews in history – they tell me they love Jews. I sympathize with the suffering of the Jewish people.”
Because of his decision to take the Jews’ side, Derhakti gets many threats from Muslims. “They threaten to kill me, I get hate mail. When I walk down the street they shout at me, ‘You Jewish swine, we will kill you’. I now have someone guarding me due to my activities, I have no intention to surrender.”
Regarding his visits to Israel, the young Swede said “I love your country, the girls, Tel Aviv, the parties. I swear to you that Israeli women are No. 1 in the world. There is an enormous amount of ignorance in Europe as to what is going on here. They think you are killing Palestinians, but they don’t know that 20 percent of Israel’s inhabitants are Arabs. I told them that there are Arabs in the Knesset and an Arab judge on the Supreme Court. It is not just war…there is a thriving society here.”
What do you think about Swedish Muslims who attack Jews?
“I am ashamed of Muslims who act like that towards Jews. They do not represent me. There were once 2000 Jews in Malmo, now there are less than 400. This is shameful and should be dealt with. There is an American rabbi now in Malmo who receives lots of threats. We’re cousins and we are of the same family. We must protect the Jews.”
Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Lehman, said: “Siabos is doing the right thing in a multicultural and liberal world – and is doing everything openly, publicly and in the media.
The majority of Muslims here think completely differently (than Derahkti), and the few who do think like him don’t dare to act like he does.”