Soldiers of Odin: Far-right summons Norse mythology against refugees

Soldiers of Odin: Far-right summons Norse mythology against refugees
As more and more migrants and refugees make their way to Europe, fleeing poverty and conflict, Nordic far-right groups are coming together and creating vigilante groups to "protect" their communities.
5 min read
21 January, 2016
Far-right groups in Europe have exploited mass sexual assault in Cologne to attack immigrants [Getty]

Jurgen Hamsfield, a Danish activist who closely follows up far-right groups in Nordic nations, has been extremely concerned for refugees and immigrants ever since far-right groups set up vigilante groups such as the so-called Soldiers of Odin to operate in the Nordic countries of Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Hamsfield says these outfits are inciting violence against immigrants, in what he believes may be a precursor to a "clandestine civil war" he says extremist right-wingers are seeking.

To him, choosing the name Odin, the old Norse god often associated with war, is no coincidence.

In truth, many believe the current tension between some in Nordic communities, and immigrants and refugees, can be traced back to Helsinki, the capital of Finland.

Since November, following the terrorist attacks in Paris, there have been accusations made by far-right politicians and media outlets against immigrants and refugees of "subverting European culture and society."

Vigilante groups such as the Soldiers of Odin are organising street patrols in Finland to harrass refugees and immigrants

Things got only worse after the mass sexual harassment in Cologne, blamed by some on immigrants.

Soon enough, vigilante groups were set up by far-right groups in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

In Finland, far-right groups began deploying "patrols" in some towns, comprising civilians to "protect Finland from the refugees."

These groups, including the Soldiers of Odin, are seen by many as copycats of similar neo-Nazi groups in Germany's Dusseldorf, which are known for staging random attacks on immigrants and refugees.

The Nordic far-right vigilante groups are thought to be directly collaborating with their counterparts in Germany.

"Far-right groups are mobilising nationalist sentiment in plain sight of the security authorities, even claiming to be the eyes of the police. We have a lot of evidence of coordination among various groups in our cities, and with neo-Nazi groups in Sweden, Norway and Denmark," said left-wing activist and commentator John Gramstrup to The New Arab.

The police does not have enough eyes. They need us and need citizens to take matters into their own hands and run weekly patrols
—Sebastian Tynkkynen

These far right groups rely heavily on social media platforms to organise their activities, according to a young Danish activist who identified herself to The New Arab as "Johanna".

Johanna was able to infiltrate one of the far-right groups in Finland, pretending to support their ideas.

She told The New Arab: "I am active in anti-Nazi circles. We work with youth groups in Nordic cities but also in Austria and elsewhere, to protest against far right-wing activities."

Far-right spiel

"The police does not have enough eyes. They need us and need citizens to take matters into their own hands and run weekly patrols," said Sebastian Tynkkynen, leader of the far-right group True Finns, in reference to the anti-immigrant vigilante groups.

Tynkkynen claims asylum-seekers are coming to Finland to engage in "violence and rape," saying the number of crimes and sexual assaults has risen in parallel with the arrival of immigrants and refugees.

"People are afraid and have lost confidence in the authorities, but we will protect them," he told Finnish media.

Danish imam Abdullah Ismail is shocked the authorities have largely ignored attacks on immigrants over the past few weeks

But this is overgeneralisation that lacks evidence, says Danish human rights activist and lawyer Helle Ratzer.

Ratzer is concerned things could soon go out of control if the authorities do not intervene.

"If we examine the rise in far-right discourse and recent calls for and justification of violence against refugees, in tandem with legal restrictions against immigrants and refugees, it would appear that [the authorities] are accommodating these groups, which carries huge risks for coexistence and integration," he told The New Arab.

Echoing Ratzer, Danish imam Abdullah Ismail, who is involved with the Arab and Muslim immigrant communities in the Nordic countries, is shocked the authorities have largely ignored attacks on immigrants over the past few weeks, and compared this to the outrage seen when Muslims or immigrants in general are involved in violence.

"There is public incitement. We receive dozens of threats every day from groups that the security authorities seem to not take seriously," Ismail told The New Arab.

"We have a difficult task in convincing young [immigrants] to restrain themselves and ignore provocations, but there is also a missing communication channel between Muslim youths who grew up here and the authorities," he added.


Peter Buchert of Swedish-language Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet believes the vigilante groups will only cause more unrest and counter reactions, and even confrontations with asylum seekers.

A Danish activist who identified himself as Mark from an anti-fascist group, which includes leftists and anarchists, told The New Arab he and his colleagues will not allow far-right extremists to "bully" Nordic cities.

"We are prepared to move between all Scandinavian countries to confront those fascists," he said.

Confrontations between neo-Nazi groups and anti-fascist groups have already taken place in several Nordic regions. However, with the emergence of far-right vigilante groups and subsequent assaults on immigrants and refugees, there are fears their opponents would also resort to violence.

Tarek, an Arab immigrant in Denmark, told The New Arab: "They want us to be at the mercy of their violence and to treat us as foreigners but we will defend ourselves against any assault."

Could Nordic streets really become battlefields for racist and sectarian confrontations? Bringing in Nazi ideology and Norse mythology certainly highlights the risk of a religious and cultural clash, of which the vigilante patrols and random violence could only be the beginning.