Utøya families feel they’ve been heard

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Families and neighbours who were affected by the July 22, 2011 terror attacks on the island of Utøya emerged happy from a meeting with authorities on Friday evening. The crisis meeting was called to deal with growing concerns and the threat of legal action over plans for a memorial on the island where 69 members of the Labour Party youth group were killed.

Swedish artist Johan Dahlberg's design for a memorial to the terrorist attacks on the island of Utøya symbolizes a permanent scar on the landscape. PHOTO: KORO

Swedish artist Johan Dahlberg’s design for a memorial to the terrorist attacks on the island of Utøya symbolizes a permanent scar on the landscape. PHOTO: KORO

Many of those affected by the terror attacks reacted strongly to Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg’s winning design for memorials in Oslo and on Utøya. Relatives felt the process had gone too fast and they hadn’t been properly consulted, while some were upset they hadn’t been asked about the use of their children’s names, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Several of those living near Utøya argued plans to create a “memory wound” in the island were too conspicuous, and wouldn’t let them move on with their lives.

Vanessa Svebakken’s 14-year-old daughter was killed on Utøya. She said Friday’s meeting, which included Local Government Minister Jan Tore Sanner and Culture Minister Thorhild Widvey, was very nice. “There were fantastic people who stood up for us today, and we are very grateful for that.” Prime Minister Erna Solberg personally called Svebakken on Wednesday to hear her concerns.

“The ministers listened to us,” she said. “We got to say that we wanted peace, time for our sorrow and time to process what has happened. We haven’t had the opportunity to do that in two and a half years. Now we will wait and let the ministries use the time that they need to consider all sides of the case.”

‘We want a memorial’
Svebakken said none of those left behind were opposed to a memorial, but the way the process was handled had been upsetting for families. “We also want a memorial with the name of our daughter,” she explained. “But I believe like all the other survivors, that we must get the opportunity to talk about it ourselves. It should not be assumed that we want it. So it was very nice that Sanner asked us about it.”

Sanner said he would meet next week with representatives from the Hole municipality, Labour’s youth organization (Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking, AUF) whose summer camp was brutally cut short, and support groups. Out of respect for the families he wouldn’t discuss details of Friday’s meeting, but said it was important to get the many strong feelings and points of view on the table.

“We will listen to all sides to get a good ongoing process,” he told NRK. “We have not yet taken a position on when or – if necessary – if we are to make judgments.”

Authorities plan to have the memorials ready to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the terror attacks on July 22, 2015. Anders Behring Breivik, a young  right-wing extremist, was convicted of the murders of 77 people by bombing government offices in Oslo and the Utøya shootings.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate