Assyrians/Syriacs in Sweden

Assyrians in Sweden
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Södertälje, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Örebro, Västerås, Norrköping, Linköping
Neo-Aramaic · Swedish
Predominantly Christianity
(majority: Syriac Christianity; minority: Protestantism)

Assyrians in Sweden (Swedish: Assyrier i Sverige) are citizens and residents of Sweden who are of Assyrian descent. There are approximately 150,000 Assyrians in Sweden.[1][2]

Assyrians first came to Sweden from Lebanon for work in the late 1960s when Europe needed laborers for its industries. However, with increased ethnic and religious persecution in the Assyrian homeland, which is located in present-day southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and northeastern Syria,[3] Assyrian immigration to Sweden increased. Those who had lived in Sweden for a longer period of time were granted residency for humanitarian reasons, given the conflicts in their place of origin.[4]


Early immigration (1960s-1970s)[edit]

After the Assyrian genocide of 1915, it became clear that violence against the native Christian populations were widespread. In the 1960s, it became increasingly unsafe for Assyrians in Midyat, the regional centre of Tur Abdin, the Western Assyrian heartland. Muslims incited violent anti-Christian protests as a response to events unfolding in Cyprus. This led to many Assyrians not seeing a future for themselves in their ancestral homeland. [5]

On Thursday the 9th of March, 1967, 108 stateless Assyrians left Beirut airport in Lebanon en-route to Sweden where they landed at Bullfurta airport outside of Malmo. After being bathed upon arrival, the Assyrians were transported by bus to a refugee housing complex in Alvesta in the province of Småland. Over a month later on Thursday, April 13, a second group of 98 Assyrian refugees arrived from Beirut. The reason behind the initial immigration of Assyrians to Sweden was the introduction of a quota of 200 Christians from Lebanon that were to be accepted by the Swedish Public Employment Service after coordination with the World Council of Churches and the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees. A group of Swedish public officials visited Beirut where a selection of mostly young families from Turkey that were members of the Syriac Orthodox Church, as well as Protestants and members of the Assyrian Church of the East were accepted to immigrate to Sweden. [6] [7]

Assyrians of Södertälje were involved in a riot on 19 June 1977, when raggare (greasers), mainly coming from nearby Stockholm attacked them at Restaurant Bristol in Södertälje, at the time the attack being believed that it was racially motivated. This was part of the raggare-scare that existed during those times. Mass media added fuel to the riots with headlines about "race riots" and "Södertälje - a city gripped by fear". It was said that the greasers' aversion towards the Assyrians was because the latter taking up too much space, talking loudly, walking around well-dressed and wearing gold chains. There were also rumours about the Assyrians taking over the city. [8]


Syria-born persons in Sweden by sex, 2000-2016 (Statistics Sweden).[9]

Södertälje is seen as the unofficial Assyrian capital of Europe due to the city's high percentage of Assyrians. According to Assyrian organization estimates, there are approximately 150,000 Assyrians in Sweden.[10] The Syriac Orthodox Assyrians number an estimated 30,000–40,000 people (2016), while higher estimations is 70–80,000, out of which an estimated 18,000 live in Södertälje.[11]

According to Statistics Sweden, as of 2016, there 22,663 are citizens of Iraq (12,705 men, 9,958 women) and 116,384 citizens of Syria (70,060 men, 46,324 women) residing in Sweden.[12]



There is an ideological division of this group in Sweden between[13]

To account for this division, official Swedish sources refer to the group as "Assyrier/Syrianer",[14] with a slash (similar to the US census, which opted for "Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac").


When Assyrians immigrated to Sweden, they formed cultural organisations that would represent their people, as well as act as a centre for Assyrians in Sweden to meet. The Assyrian Federation of Sweden (AFS) was founded in 1977 as a nationwide umbrella organisation for the various local associations in Sweden. The formation took place on April 15-17, 1977, with twenty-one representatives from eleven associations present, unanimously deciding to unite into a national organisation. At the national assembly in 1983, 44 representatives from 21 associations were present. Initially, the Federation had 3,000 members which soon doubled by 1980. At first, the Federation's office was located in Norsborg, but soon moved to Södertälje in 1983.

Aside from the Assyrian Federation of Sweden, the Assyrian Youth Federation and Assyrian Women's Federation existed nationwide. The Youth Federation was formed in 1985 as the Assyrian Youth Committee within the AFS. In 1991, it was transformed into the Assyrian Youth Federation, and became more independent from the AFS.



In 1978, Hujådå, the first Assyrian magazine was published by the Assyrian Federation of Sweden. The etymology of the name has the meaning "unity" or "union" in the Assyrian language, with the intention to unite all Assyrians, regardless of church, and to pay homage to Naum Faiq's publication with the same name in the United States in the early 1920s. The first issue of Hujådå came out in spring of 1978 and was published by Gabriel Afram, the then chairman of AFS, and the editor in-chief, Johanon Kashisho. In the beginning, the magazine contained material in four languages: Assyrian, Arabic, Turkish and Swedish. Eventually, material was published in English. Currently, Hujådå only exists as a web publication. [15]


In the mid-2000s, Assyrian TV channels were formed in Södertälje. Suroyo TV is operated by the Dawronoye political movement, while the Assyrians identifying as "Syrian" created Suryoyo Sat. The AFS, Women's Federation and Youth Federation founded the Assyrian Media Institute (AMI) on September 24, 2011, in Norrköping. AMI owns and operates Assyria TV, a web TV channel, which broadcasts shows worldwide, commonly interviewing famous Assyrians, as well as famous Swedish politicians and scholars. Assyria TV has also played a role in exposing Kurdish acts of cruelty against Assyrians in Iraq and Syria. [16]


Mor Afrem Cathedral in Södertälje.

With the majority of Assyrians immigrating to Sweden being adherents of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch appointed the first priest in Södertälje, Yusuf Said, in 1971. The congregation acquired a stamp with its name in both Assyrian and Swedish: "Ito suryoyto ortodoksoyto - Assyriska ortodoxa kyrkan" (Assyrian Orthodox Church). At the time, all members of the church used the term Assyrier and the priests did not protest that Suryoyo was translated as "Assyrian". [17]

In the 1990s, the Syriac Orthodox Church in Sweden fell into disunion with the church's board shutting the bishop out and demanding that the Patriarch in Damascus appoint a new bishop. In 1996, a new bishop was appointed, resulting in the Syriac Orthodox Church in Sweden being divided into two separate dioceses with their own bishops, both based in Södertälje. The diocese which does not reject the Assyrian name is led from St. Jacob of Nisibi's Cathedral in Hosvjö. The other diocese is led from St. Afrem's Church in Geneta. [18]


Assyrians have a wide spanning history in relation to sports in Sweden, most notably in the football arena. In Qamishli and Tur Abdin, Assyrians had their own football clubs that played at a local or national level. This led to the formation of ethnic-based Assyrian clubs in Sweden who have enjoyed a high level of success relative to other ethnic groups. Currently, there are over 20 Assyrian ethnic-based clubs present across Sweden.

David Durmaz, an Assyrian player, playing for Assyriska FF.

On February 14, 1974, Assyriska FF was established in Södertälje. In the year 2000, Assyriska FF joined the Superettan when it was founded and boast the most seasons in the competition at 15. In 2003, Assyriska FF qualified for the Swedish Cup Final, before falling short to Elfsborg 0-2 in the final. In 2005, Assyriska FF managed to reach the highest level of football in Sweden, the Allsvenskan, becoming the first ethnic club to reach the competition. Their first game of the season was played on April 12 at Råsunda Stadium against Hammarby where Assyrian-American singer Linda George performed in front of an audience of 15,000.

During the 2005 season, Assyriska played at home against Halmstad on April 24, the memorial day for the victims of the Assyrian genocide (Seyfo). A minutes silence was observed at the game and the Assyrian players wore black armbands. Political pressure from Turkey led the Swedish FA to formulate a new rule which prevented political activity at games. However, this has not stopped Assyriska fans from honouring their martyrs. At the derby between Assyriska and Syrianska in 2015, a joint decision between the two clubs was made for the audience to observe 19 minutes and 15 seconds of silence to honour the centennial of the Assyrian genocide. [19]

There are also Assyrian clubs in other Swedish cities which have an Assyrian population. Assyriska BK was founded in 1985 in Gothenburg and has advanced to Division 1 in Sweden's football league system over time. Another notable Assyrian club is Assyriska IF in Norrkoping which possesses arguably the world's most successful Assyrian women's team, playing in Sweden's Division 2 level. Another club with a strong Assyrian women's team is Assyriska IK in Jonkoping who have advanced up to Division 1 in Sweden's football league system. Other Assyrian clubs are present in cities such as Orebro and Vasteras but play in lower divisions.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ SVT: Statministerns folkmordsbesked kan avgöra kommunvalet: ”Underskatta inte frågan” (in Swedish)
  2. ^ Assyrian International News Agency (AINA): Brief History of Assyrians
  3. ^ Sargon Donabed (1 February 2015). Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the Twentieth Century. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-0-7486-8605-6.
  4. ^ Swedish Minister for Development Co-operation, Migration and Asylum Policy, Migration 2002, June 2002 Archived September 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Lundgren, Svante. The Assyrians: Fifty Years in Swedenq. Nineveh Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-91-984101-7-4.
  6. ^ Tore Wizelius; Lars-Sune Hansson; Sweden. Referensgruppen för folkrörelsefrågor; Sweden. Statens invandrarverk (1984). Föreningar bland invandrare och minoriteter i Sverige. Statens invandrarverk. p. 53.
  7. ^ Lundgren, Svante. The Assyrians: Fifty Years in Sweden. Nineveh Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-91-984101-7-4.
  8. ^ Lundgren, Svante. The Assyrians: Fifty Years in Sweden. Nineveh Press. pp. 22–24.
  9. ^ "Foreign-born persons by country of birth, age, sex and year". Statistics Sweden. Retrieved 29 November 2017.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Prakash Shah; Marie-Claire Foblets (15 April 2016). Family, Religion and Law: Cultural Encounters in Europe. Routledge. p. 183. ISBN 978-1-317-13648-4. Syriac Orthodox
  12. ^ "Foreign citizens by country of citizenship, sex and year". Statistics Sweden. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  13. ^ Dan Lundberg, Christians from the Middle East[year needed][page needed]
  14. ^ Riksdagens protokoll. Kungl. Boktr. 2001. assyrier/syrianer
  15. ^ Lundgren, Svante. The Assyrians: Fifty Years in Sweden. Nineveh Press. pp. 91–92.
  16. ^ Lundgren, Svante. The Assyrians: Fifty Years in Sweden. Nineveh Press. pp. 97–98.
  17. ^ Lundgren, Svante. The Assyrians: Fifty Years in Sweden. Nineveh Press. p. 33.
  18. ^ Lundgren, Svante. The Assyrians: Fifty Years in Sweden. Nineveh Press. p. 64.
  19. ^ Lundgren, Svante. The Assyrians: Fifty Years in Sweden. Nineveh Press. pp. 83–85.
  20. ^ Bahar Baser; Paul T. Levin (30 June 2017). Migration from Turkey to Sweden: Integration, Belonging and Transnational Community. I.B.Tauris. pp. 230–. ISBN 978-1-78672-245-4.
  21. ^ ""Baylan började hos mig när han var sju år"" (in Swedish). SVD.
  22. ^ "Syrianske stjärnan Abgar Barsom tackar Syrianska folket".; Grimlund, Lars (2004). "Artisten Barsom vill vara perfekt". DN.
  23. ^ "Zweedse Assyriër in Twente" [Swedish-Assyrian in Twente]. De Pers (in Dutch). 9 March 2007. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  24. ^ Max Wiman (2011). "Ur ilskan växte årets stora succé" (in Swedish).
  25. ^ "Jimmy Durmaz ska underlätta flytt - kan skaffa turkiskt pass" (in Swedish). Fotbolltransfers.
  26. ^ "David Durmaz om mötet med sin nya klubb". Svenska fans.
  27. ^ "yilmazkerimo". socialdemokraterna.
  28. ^ Johan M Söderlund and Torbjörn Ek (24 February 2019). "Så drillades Bishara Morad av Laila Bagge". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  29. ^ "Sleyman". SVD.
  30. ^ "UFC-fightern: "Bältet är mitt mål"" (in Swedish). SVT.
  31. ^ "Voormalig FC Twente-speler Touma keert terug naar jeugdliefde". voetbalzone.; "Touma kan ersätta Porokara".

Further reading[edit]

  • Svenska kommunförbundet (1982). Assyrier/syrianer: tipskatalog : några fakta om gruppen och några exempel från kommunal verksamhet. Kommunförb.
  • Knutsson, Bengt (1982). Assur eller Aram: språklig, religiös och nationell identifikation hos Sveriges assyrier och syrianer. Statens invandrarverk (SIV).
  • Klich, I., and Ingvar Svanberg. "Assyrier/syrianer" i." Det mångkulturella Sverige (1988).
  • Yalcin, Zeki. "Svenskar och assyrier/syrianer kring sekelskiftet 1900." Multiethnica. Meddelande från Centrum för multietnisk forskning, Uppsala universitet 29 (2003): 24-28.
  • Björklund, Ulf. North to another country: the formation of a Suryoyo community in Sweden. Vol. 9. Dept. of Social Anthropology, University of Stockholm, 1981.
  • Atman, Sabri. Assyrier-Syrianer. Mesopotamien, 1996.
  • Barsom, Gabriella. "En studie om assyriska/syrianska ungdomars språkbruk och språkidentiteter." (2006).
  • Berntson, Martin. "Assyrier eller syrianer? Om fotboll, identitet och kyrkohistoria." rapport nr.: Humanistdag-boken 16 (2003).