Speech by Nalin Pekgul

Speech delivered by Nalin Pekgul, president of the Social Democratic Women, at the Official Memorial Service for Anna Lindh, September 19th, 2003.




When Anna Lindh was elected Chairwoman of the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League she became an example for an entire generation of young Social Democrats.

After the bitter, dogmatic conflicts on self-administration contra state socialism that had been fought in the Social Democratic Youth League in the early 1980s, it was Anna Lindh who succeeded in bringing it all together, and carrying forward the ideological discussion.

She was always prepared to reconsider political means and forms and she did not let the Social Democratic Youth League become an organisation that at all costs defended the great system that Social Democracy had once built up.

But during the years when freedom of choice was on everyone's lips she always wondered whether freedom of choice would really be available to everyone, or only to those who were best at asserting themselves.

In the same way as she wondered whether large systems always took care of those who are most vulnerable.

Anna Lindh was one of the first seriously to draw attention to environmental issues in the Social Democratic Party and in 1994 she became Minister for the Environment.

When I had the privilege of working politically with Anna Lindh, her foresight made a great impression on me.

She saw problems and dealt with them long before anyone had put them on the political agenda.

One issue that we discussed often in recent years, was the fact that there are so many Muslims living in Europe who do not feel that they really belong to the community in the countries where they live.

Anna Lindh regarded Islam as part of European culture and always tried to highlight the progressive and socially conscious Muslim forces, so that religion would not be used to create antagonisms.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anna Lindh was used to co-operating across cultural borders to solve serious problems and she also found ways of combining her commitment to the integration issue in Sweden with world politics.

She became well-known around the world for her fight for human rights and was one of those who realised that human rights also include women's rights.

When she met political leaders of countries in the Middle East, she did not only discuss the situation of women in those countries.

She required that they dissociate themselves from the oppression of women and honour-related violence so clearly that their former compatriots in Sweden got the message.

Apart from the brilliant politician Anna Lindh, I will always carry with me the memory of Anna as a person with a great sense of humour and distance to herself as a person in power.

Anna visited me when I had just given birth to my first child and was concerned that I would not be able to rest as much as I needed.

The following day she sent a list of instructions to my visitors which she jokingly formulated as a Government decision.

Item 1 on the list was: Visitors may only stay five to thirty minutes.

Item 2 on the list was: Visitors should have their own buns with them if they want coffee.

Item 3 was: Visitors should not hug the mother and child so that they catch an infection.

I lost a big sister last week.

The Social Democratic Party lost an ideologist and future leader.

Sweden lost one of its most important political representatives.

The world's oppressed lost a brave champion.

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