As every air passenger knows, a plane cannot take off until all on board have taken their seats and buckled their seat belts. On Monday, a young Swedish activist named Elin Ersson used that rule to keep a flight carrying a 52-year-old Afghan man being flown to Kabul from taking off in Gothenborg.
During Ersson's protest she announced she had intended to protest the deportation of a young Afghani named Ismail, even unfurling and filming his picture as she spoke into the camera. She said she did not know why he was not on the plane and claimed that the 52-year-old Afghan man was being deported instead. However, it appears the man was leaving Sweden voluntarily in light of the situation refugees face in the country.
Swedish activist Elin Ersson refused to sit down on a plane in order to keep an Afghan man from being deported.— dwnews (@dwnews) July 25, 2018
Her live video of the incident went viral, sparking a massive debate - on board and online.#DWStories pic.twitter.com/GXzk5B75qv
DW has discovered that Ismail was secreted out of the country on a commercial flight later that same evening along with another young Afghani. Ismail is currently in Kabul and family members told DW he is in very poor health at a local hospital. DW is in contact with Ismail and will be conducting an interview as soon as possible to get his side of the story.
Ahmad Zaki Khalil, head of the Refugee Affairs Committee in Afghan Association in Stockholm, praised Ersson's courage in an interview with DW, thanking her for her effort but noting that the situation was different than what she perceived it to be. He, too, is in contact with Ismail.
Khalil says: "In Sweden, authorities offer no information as to when a deportation is to be carried out. The rationale behind that stance is to keep demonstrations and actions like this from happening." He added that Ersson was unable to contact Ismail because his cellphone was turned off during his transfer between prisons on Monday. Speaking of the 52-year-old Afghani, Khalil claimed: "No refugees really leave Sweden volutarily but rather due to psychological and mental duress."
The flight that Ersson boarded was scheduled to travel to Istanbul where the 52-year-old man was to be transferred to another plane to Afghanistan. With everyone else on the plane seated, the young Swede took out her cellphone and began livestreaming video on Facebook. She then proceeded to film herself speaking in English as she walked through the plane, explaining that the man was being deported to Afghanistan, "where he will most likely get killed."
As the video began, one could hear flight personnel ordering her to sit down, as well as angry passengers doing the same. Another flight attendant called for her to turn off the phone and take her, seat which she once again refused to do. Ersson insisted that she was not doing anything illegal, adding that as soon as the Afghan was taken off the plane she would follow the pilot's orders.
At one point, an English passenger chided her for her action and attempted to take her phone away, saying she was scaring the other passengers. About half way through the 14-minute video, other passengers began to join her in the protest. Among the cries of a number of children, she was told that the man would be let off the plane and she would also be removed by airport security.
Ersson protested Swedish deportation policy with a group of 25 other activists before boarding the plane. Her video was clicked more than 1.9 million times in the last 24 hours and she has been applauded by many for her civil courage. Critics have called her selfish for singlehandedly making a decision on the country's deportation stance.
Despite the young woman's claims that she had done nothing wrong, Swedish authorities see the matter differently. According to the Swedish Aviation Act, passengers who refuse to obey a pilot's orders while on board a plane can face fines or up to six months in jail.
You can read this article as it originally appeared at DW here.
(PHOTO: Kontrastfoto / Wikimedia Commons)