The bomb in Oslo ripped through the very heart of power in Norway and 25 miles northwest a gunman opened fire at a youth camp on Utøya Island. The explosions turned the ordinarily placid Scandinavian capital into a scene reminiscent of terror attacks in Beirut or Baghdad, blowing out windows of several government buildings, including one housing the office of the Norwegian prime minister. Even worse: at the camp, of about 600 politically active youths (most 15 and 16 years old), more than 80 were killed in a related attack on Norway’s greatest treasure – our children.
I often say – when important things happen in Norway; since my blog is about our history, culture, and traditions, it would be a disgrace not to post about it. Contrary to what I normally report about, this tragedy – the most violent event to strike Norway since World War II – will of course stand as a dark milestone in our history.
From bad to worse at Utøya Youth Camp
Even as the police locked down a large area of the city, a man dressed in police uniform and initially identified himself as a police officer entered the camp on the island of Utøya, encouraging the youths to gather round for information. He said it was a routine check in connection with the terror attack in Oslo, and when the crowd gathered he opened fire. Almost 700 young members of the Labour Party panicked and many jumped in to the water to escape or went into hiding on the island, which has no bridge to the mainland, so many could not flee in time.
Taken in 2010 we were in this area for our fall photo hunt. Here is the way the fjord should look – peaceful and safe.
How could this happen – in Norway?
We’re suffering two shocking violent attacks which no one imagined could happen. However, there was a lot of wild speculations on who could be responsible for a lot of reasons – e.g.:
Norway is a member of the NATO alliance and has a small fighting contingent in Afghanistan. It was one of several countries named by Ayman al-Zawahri, the leader of Al Qaeda, as potential targets for attack. In 2006, Norwegian newspapers reprinted Danish cartoons that angered Muslims by lampooning Muhammad. Norway has also historically been a frequent participant in peacekeeping missions and a host for diplomatic talks, including the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. It seemed natural to look to the outside world to stand behind such a horror.
All these speculations were proven wrong when the gunman (who also appears to be responsible for the bombing) was captured: he was an ethnical Norwegian, extreme right wing and his motives seem to be political. Still it’s unreal, since political violence is virtually unknown in a country known for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize and mediating in conflicts, including in the Middle East and Sri Lanka.
Norway will be recognizable again!
As I have often written, Norway is a democratic society with a great deal of openness. Our people and political leader’s value closeness to the common man, an availability not seen many other places in the world. We will not compromise our values because of violence. I have spoken several times with Norway’s Prime Minister at social events without the need to be checked by security. Since my office is located in the same district as the bombing – I often see our politicians when I pass them on the streets. In spite of recent events, and we will watch out for becoming too naive, but we will stand together and protect the individuals rights, show consideration and respect for our fellow countrymen and hold on to our ideals. In spite of this attack we will be even more open, more tolerant and more democratic if it is possible. Let me quote the leader of the youth party who were on the island: “You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy or our ideals for a better world”.
To all my friends from all over the world: Thanks for your concerned notes, mails, text messages and phone calls. My family and I are all safe and appreciate your thoughts and well wishes.