by Rasmus Christian Elling and Sune Haugbolle.
Last night at around 2:30 AM, baton-wielding police forces in riot gear entered a Danish church in Copenhagen where Iraqi refugees have taken sanctuary since May. Seventeen men of the 60 Iraqi men, women and children whose applications for asylum and protests against forced repatriation to Iraq have been rejected by the Danish government are now in custody. Demonstrators were beaten with batons and attacked with pepper spray during an attempt to prevent the forcible relocation of the Iraqis. Five were arrested.
It is nothing less than utterly disgusting how the Danish government – one of the nations that joined US in the war against Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq – can not and will not live up to its humanitarian responsibilities. It is particularly disgusting when Iraq has clearly rejected to receive forcibly repatriated asylum-seekers. Even last night, just hours before the riot police stormed the church, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki stated that there are no agreements for repatriation.
It is also disgusting to see how far right politicians such as MP for Danish People’s Party (and himself a priest!), Søren Krarup, applauding the raid and declaring that the church is not a sanctuary and that it is not “holy”.
The storming of the church was clearly a political ploy initiated by the nationalist forces in Danish politics who claim to represent Christian decency and the Danish national spirit but in reality have destroyed Denmark’s image across the globe. It is sad to see that the Danish government is in effect coerced and ultimately, under the power of, these nationalist forces.
The responsible politicians will hide behind legislation and the supposed “independence” of Danish police to make decisions about when and how to carry out orders. They will fail to acknowledge the connection between the war that brought these people here and their current predicament.
But the sad fact is that these same politicians have contributed to a gradual change in our society, which is reflected in other European countries too. And which means that large parts of our society today are standing idly by, or even applauding the heavy-handed treatment of innocent people caught in a cross-fire of politics. Our society has become dominated by a cynical view of “other” people and of human beings in general. It is a sad day for Denmark and for human compassion.