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Activist mother flees Sweden after authorities pursue her children

January 27, 2023 at 2:58 pm

Swedish flag in Malmo, Sweden [Harry Engels/Getty Images]

Zeinab Ltaif, a mother of six children, was actively participating in protests against Sweden’s social services before she fled the country with her children. One year on, the family, which has stayed in four countries since, is still looking for a place to call home, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Speaking to Anadolu, Ltaif said she had always been witnessing families being torn apart with no legal grounds or evidence. In later times, she began to join the demonstrations after her sister’s children were taken by the authorities. Keeping the issue hot on social media and giving interviews to news outlets were almost a daily routine for her.

Ltaif was arguing that what most of the families experience was against both the Swedish and European laws. At that point, being too vocal led her to witness accusations of spreading disinformation in the public. Ltaif, a Muslim woman who does not wear headscarf, said she was shocked when she saw labels of “extremist, Islamist” next to her name.

READ: Experts, families say Sweden’s social system mistreats Muslim children

She then started receiving text messages from Swedish social services staff, in which they questioned how she could take her children to the demonstrations, asking her if she was a responsible mother. Ltaif responded by saying that children also have a right to participate in a peaceful protest and gave them examples from other demonstrations. She said her children received high coverage from the international media after holding placards in English at Stockholm’s centre.

Soon after, the social services claimed that it had received information from an anonymous person that Ltaif was cruel towards her children, which she strongly denied and told the authorities that if it had been the case, schools and doctors would have intervened.

Ltaif said she knew they were coming after her children and decided with her husband to move to another country for a new life last February.

“We left our work and went to Turkiye, where my husband has a sister. We stayed there for two or three months. The next move was to Germany. Then we moved to Egypt and now we are in Lebanon. So, we have not found a place to stay, work and start a new life, from the beginning.”

​ Probe closed when family leaves Sweden, back again as they return

Once they were abroad, the social services told the family that they closed down their investigation. The family came back to the country after three months of their initial departure, not knowing that they would leave the country again in August, after a second investigation.

During their very first days abroad, Ltaif received a call from the social services, saying they had a new report which said someone had seen her children playing outside on their own with no presence of an adult.

“Then they said I was screaming at my children before I took them to a demonstration. I told them how this is even possible since my kids are not even in the country. They can easily and shamelessly lie to you.”

READ: Palestine scholars denounce ‘kidnapping’ of Muslim children by Sweden

Leaving the house they bought behind, the family is still trying to settle into a new life.

Ltaif was an assistant nurse at a hospital and her husband was a mechanic at a Swedish firm, and the couple argued they have no remorse about their decision, after seeing how any family can be separated from their children with no evidence.

The issue concerning the social services is not anything new, Ltaif said, arguing that the laws in place are not bad but they are being misused and abused by the authorities.

The investigations are being forwarded to a committee, which includes members of different political parties, for a decision on whether to take the child away to a foster family. The administrative court also then looks into the case and that is where the complaints come in from the families. According to the law, only the lawyers of the social services can be present at the hearing, not their staff, which is not the case families are claiming.

By law, the lawyers representing the social services are also not supposed to make verbal communication but only submit their findings to the court, which is again a violation, according to the families. The regulations say any party not abiding by the points mentioned in the law is “deprivation of liberty”. Families say this is the reason why they say the state is “kidnapping” their kids, as mentioned in the regulation.

READ: After Sweden ‘kidnaps’ his five children, Syrian father seeks help from Turkey’s Erdogan