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Dozens of reported sexual assaults in 2014 and 2015 at We Are Sthlm, a youth festival in the Swedish capital Stockholm, were not publicized by the police.
The Stockholm police had received 38 reports of sexual harassment at We Are Sthlm in 2014 and 2015 together, from female visitors at the festival, most of whom were under 15 years of age,[1][2] but had not publicized these reported harassments in their press releases then.[3][4] Police spokesperson Varg Gyllander in 2016, during the commotion about the 2015–16 New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, suggested that this non-reporting in 2015 and 2014 may partly have been caused by fear of the police to "talk about these things in the context of the immigration debate today".[2]



We Are Sthlm established as a summer music festival for youth in 2000 under the name "Ung08" with free yearly public concerts and events in central Stockholm.[5] The venture was successful and received support from Stockholm Municipality in 2003. In 2013, the festival was attended by 160,000 people and changed its name to "We Are Sthlm".[6][7][8]

Rapes were reported at Swedish music festivals at Arvika in 2006 and 2010,[9][10] at Emmaboda in 2014,[11] and at Bråvalla in 2015.[12][13] At the Arvika festivals, the police publicized reports of rape but characterized both events as "calm".[9][10]

2014 and 2015 festivalsEdit

In 2014 and 2015 together, 38 incidents of sexual harassment at We Are Sthlm were reported to the police by female visitors at the festival, most of whom were under 15 years of age,[1] but the Stockholm police did not publicize about these alleged harassments in their press releases then,[3][4] also the assaults seem to not have been fully investigated.[4] A police spokesman played down the scale of these harassment incidents: around 15 of such reports, by 170,000 people for five days gathered in an open youth music festival, "is still too many, but also not very much".[2]

In connection to the 2015 festival, Sveriges Radio in August 2015 reported that sexual harassment had occurred that year, and that festival had been plagued by the same problems for several years.[14][15]

Newspaper Dagens Nyheter on 10 January 2016, during the commotion over the 2015–16 New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, had obtained internal documents from the police and wrote about what they now framed as a police cover-up of sex assaults.[16][4] Dagens Nyheter analyzed that sexual harassment had been a problem since the festival started in 2000, but that the information had been withheld due to concern for the reputation of the event.[17]

Police spokesperson Varg Gyllander on 11 January 2016 suggested that the non-reporting in 2015 and 2014 had been ""self censorship" on the part of individual officers", as certain "police employees ... are afraid of talking about these things in the context of the immigration debate today".[2]

2016 media coverageEdit

On 9 January, crime reporter Lasse Wierup published an article in newspaper Dagens Nyheter as a reaction to the New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, especially in Cologne. Wierup pointed to the similarity of the German assaults to reports of incidents in Kalmar and at the We Are Sthlm festival in August 2015. Wierup was critical of the absence of media attention and posed questions on the reasons for the lack of attention and what it meant for the safety of women in public spaces.[18] Dagens Nyeter received a tip about the event, but failed to get it verified.[19] The following day, Dagens Nyheter published an article criticizing the Stockholm police for withholding the information in their media communication, and pointed to this as the reason for not reporting on the assaults.[20]

The story received international attention, partly as it was broken shortly after sexual assaults in various German cities and the Swedish city of Malmö[21] over the New Year.[22] The Guardian reported that police and "the media" were alleged to have "deliberately under-report[ed]" the assaults in order to not increase anti-immigrant sentiment.[2]

According to one memo, police in 2015 were told to be vigilant of young men sexually assaulting women in the crowd, as the previous year such offences had been committed, mostly by migrants, including Afghans. David Brax, a scholar of hate crimes at the University of Gothenburg, hypothesised that police were concerned there would be revenge attacks against other migrants if the crimes were made public, but also predicted that a cover-up would vindicate the far-right's belief that the media do not report on migrant crime.[23]

National police commissioner Dan Eliasson ordered an internal review with the possibility of disciplinary action or criminal proceedings if police had committed any offences.[24] The Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven, said that the women assaulted were victims of a "double betrayal" and promised to respond quickly to address the events.[24]

A 15-year-old boy was arrested on 11 January 2016 on charges of assault and sexual assault against two 14-year-old girls at the summer 2015 festival.[25]

2018 festivalEdit

After closing the festival earlier and changing order of the acts they managed to get a 90% decrease of the number of incidents.[26]

Allegations of media cover-upEdit

There were accusations of media cover-ups.[27] The Sweden Democrats, a social conservative, anti-immigration party, claimed in January 2016 that DN had been made aware of the crimes, but had not reported them because it would have benefited the Sweden Democrats' agenda.[2] DN editor Caspar Opitz denied the Sweden Democrats' claim,[2] adding that his newspaper had investigated the tip seriously but could not confirm it.[24] Answering questions, Opitz wrote that his staff had made multiple attempts to investigate, and had even found that some of the information in the tip (for example, that large numbers of people had been arrested) was not true. He further stated that the scarcity of leads meant that not even alternative media had covered the story.[28] The Norwegian Union of Journalists however, through interviews with a policeman and a psychologist, came to the conclusion that DN had buried the story, proving falsehood of explanation.[29]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "38 flickor utsattes för sexualbrott på festivalen". Svenska Dagbladet. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Crouch, David (11 January 2016). "Swedish police accused of covering up sex attacks by refugees at music festival". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Rättsexpert dömer ut polisens tystnad om Kungsträdgården". Dagens Nyheter. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Assaults at the Stockholm festival have never been fully investigated". Dagens Nyheter. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  5. ^ Ung is Swedish for "young" and 08 is the area code for the greater Stockholm area.
  6. ^ "Publikrekord mer än en halv miljon besök på Stockholms Kulturfestival och We Are Sthlm 2013". Stockholms stad. 20 August 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  7. ^ "We Are Sthlm". Stockholms stad. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  8. ^ Sveriges Radio. "Ung08 blir We Are Sthlm".
  9. ^ a b Sveriges Radio. "Våldtäkter under festivalen".
  10. ^ a b Sveriges Radio. "Förutom våldtäkter lugn festival".
  11. ^ David Isefjord (25 July 2014). "Våldtäkt anmäld på Emmabodafestivalen". Barometern.
  12. ^ "Våldtäkter på Bråvallafestivalen". Aftonbladet.
  13. ^ Helena Sällström / Omni (26 June 2015). "Flera våldtäkter på Bråvallafestivalen".
  14. ^ Hannu, Filip (12 August 2015). "Problem med sexuella trakasserier på festival för unga" [Problem with sexual harassment at youth festival]. Sveriges Radio. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  15. ^ "Här är anmälningarna från 'We are Sthlm'". Expressen. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Övergreppen på festivalen i Stockholm rapporterades aldrig vidare". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). 10 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  17. ^ "Stockholms stad kände till övergreppen i flera år". Dagens Nyheter. 16 January 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  18. ^ "Kvinnors rätt att festa säkert kan inte offras". DN.SE.
  19. ^ Dagens Nyheter: Frågor och svar om DN:s hantering av händelserna i Kungsträdgården
  20. ^ "Övergreppen på festivalen i Stockholm rapporterades aldrig vidare". DN.SE.
  21. ^ "Gäng ofredade kvinnor på nyår i Malmö". Sydsvenskan. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Swedish police accused of covering up festival sex assault". Deutshe Welt. Reuters, AP. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  23. ^ Bilefsky, Dan (11 January 2016). "Swedish Police, Accused of Cover-Up, Look Into Reports of Sex Assault at Festival". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  24. ^ a b c "Swedish police probe 'cover-up of migrant sex assaults'". BBC News. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  25. ^ "Teen arrested after police 'cover up' sex attacks". The Local. 12 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  26. ^ Dagens Nyheter: Anmälda sexövergrepp på festivaler minskar kraftigt
  27. ^ Huuhtanen, Matti (21 February 2017). "Trump comments put focus on Sweden's embrace of immigrants". Miami Herald. AP. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  28. ^ "Questions and answers on DN's handling of events in the Kungsträdgården". Dagens Nyheter. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  29. ^ Øgrim, Helge (13 January 2016). "Overgrep mot unge jenter - halvt års taushet i svenske medier" [Assaults on young girls - six months of silence in the Swedish media] (in Norwegian). Retrieved 15 January 2016.