Abdul Turay: Expats learned a new Estonian word last week (19)
Many expatriates in Estonia make an effort to study some Estonian every day. Last week we learned a new word: süütamine (arson).
What has happened in Vao village, Lääne-Viru County, where the external wall of the center for asylum seekers was set on fire, is all terribly sad and really scary, but I don't blame Estonian society in general. This is the work of one individual, a lone wolf.
We all know about far-right terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011.
Attacks that were considered a hate crime, have also happened in my own country, Britain. In the 1990s, a man called David Copeland was placing nail bombs all over London.
First he went to Brixton, the British equivalent of Harlem, and placed a bomb outside a department store. Then he went to Brick Lane, an area famous for its curry houses and Bangladeshi community, and placed a bomb outside a restaurant. But it was only when he placed a nail bomb in gay pub, The Admiral Duncan in Soho, killing several people including a pregnant woman, that a general outrage followed.
At the time, nobody said that there must be something malignant with British society, this was just the work of one paranoid schizophrenic. The same principle applies here. Paraphrasing Shakespeare's Hamlet, the attack that took place does not mean that "something is rotten in the state of Estonia."
Violently racist and xenophobic types seem to fit into two categories: lone wolves and pack dogs.
The lone wolf types have a low self-preservation, they are usually organised, careful and patient. If they have access to resources, time and money they can be very dangerous. David Copeland and Anders Breivik both fit into this category, as does whoever set Vao alight. If he is just learning his trade, he will do it again.
Pack dogs are cowards. They are lazy, disorganised, poorly educated and quite stupid. Mostly they are all mouth (and no trousers), but in numbers can commit random attacks of extreme brutally against individuals. This is the type of neo-nazi skinhead that are prevalent in Russia.
Estonia is not more racist than elsewhere, but its non-white population is small and easy to target and it doesn't have the resources to deal with either type of predation.
There maybe only five violent xenophobes in the whole of Haapsalu, but if you are the only Afghan refugee family who lives there, you are in deep trouble. The police may try to stop it, but they can't keep an eye on it all the time.
Moreover, I hesitate to write this because it might give wrong people wrong ideas, but a clever lone wolf from Sweden or Finland in order to avoid detection may decide to ply their trade in Estonia.
This is why the argument that asylum-seekers are no safer in Estonia than they are in North Africa, Greece, Italy or Bulgaria has merit. Forcing refugees to come to Estonia is not the humanitarian thing to do.
A couple of other points need to be made.
Sven Mikser, an MP who is stepping down as defense minister, is correct in his assessment that this horrible incident and everything happening over the few months is a threat to national security. On a personal level since the Vao arson attack, I have had to deal with questions from international reporters asking just how awful is Estonia really. What kind of expression does it give to the world? How does Estonia expect anybody to invest in the country or protect it when children are being set alight in their beds?
Martin Helme, one of the leaders of Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) blames the Estonian state for bringing refugees here, but this is clearly wrong. As MP Jaanus Marrandi points out, the Vao center was there for years without any problems. There are certain individuals – Marrandi doesn't name names – but he refers to "a wunderkind" and "a blonde" who have whipped up a hysteria which has led to this.
Estonian people may not be guilty, but there are guilty people in Estonia.
Abdul Turay is a Social Democrat member of Tallinn City Council. The opinions in this article are those of the author.