Arin Karapet

Arin Karapet: A Swedish Politician, An Armenian Soul


YEREVAN – Arin Karapet (born 1988 in Spånga Parish in Stockholm County) is a Swedish politician (moderate) and a member of the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) since 2018. Karapet describes himself as a Swedish Armenian who grew up in Rinkeby and Hässelby, and has spoken out in favor of recognition of the genocide of Armenians and Assyrians between 1915 and 1925. He was previously a member of the Stockholm County Council. In 2021, Karapet received the Armenian Parliament’s Medal of Honor.

My conversation with Arin took place last July in Yerevan.

Arin, how did you become involved in Sweden political life?

If you live in a society which you want to change, you should engage yourself in it. Just to sit and be disappointed is not a right way. I am coming from a family, where very often discussions about the society, the world, conflicts, etc., were taking place. I was grown up in that kind of environment and always been interested in making efforts for everyone in society. I have never run after a nice car; it would not change my life if I have it. When I was 15-16 years old, I got conscious what is going on in our society, what is good, what is bad. Once my mom said: “Do not come home and complain; if you want some changes, we are part of changes.” In Sweden every political party has its youth section, so I started to read about various ideologies and decided to go into the youth sector of Liberal Conservative Party, identifying myself with that ideology. So after 12 years of studying and working in an insurance sector, people started to push me in the party saying I should go to the National Assembly of Sweden. In our internal elections of the party I got the trust and I was put on the list. I was elected in 2018 and re-elected in 2022, first years being in opposition and now – in Parliament. So, it has been a long journey.


You represent the Moderate party of Sweden. Could you please tell us a bit about it?

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I would say being liberal conservative is like standing on two legs. Being conservative you keep whatever works in society, you don’t tear it down. You keep it and you develop it. It does not work, when you are liberal. Every society needs reforms. You cannot be against the changes. You can just control and be a part of changes. Just by resisting you will not take any step forward. That is very Armenian, I would say. Being Armenian, I always say, is like being resistant. But if we look to our own history, we were always been a part of the changes. I would say that being conservative I have to care about my family, my neighbors, to have proper education system – I do not want to raise a child as a poor person. It is my responsibility if I can contribute through my taxes or another way, to give that little boy or girl a good education, which will make my life easier and richer. Being liberal is to make liberal reforms, freedom reforms, like lower taxes, more enterprising, to form economical turns, which is the Swedish model, different from European or American models.


Is it difficult for someone who is not an ethnic Swede to participate in Swedish politics, even if they are born in Sweden?

I would not say there are some obstacles. I have been elected twice, which shows that if you work hard, and if you are integrated into the society, you will achieve some position. There are plenty of Swedes who try to be elected in the Parliament, but they don’t succeed. For example, in our parliament I am not the only one with foreign background; there are Kurdish, Arabic speaking, Latin American and African members. Twelve members are from Iranian extraction and they even count me as one of them, as my parents are from Iran. We have two ministers of Iranian origin. Of course, it is hard when you come to a country when you are 25 years old, you do not know the language, but if you were born in Sweden or came here in an early age, Sweden gives you all the chances. I went to the university, it was paid by the government (people say it is free, but actually it is not free, it has been paid by citizen’s tax money), I had health care, etc., so Sweden gave me a lot.

I partly studied political studies. I have not finished it because it was very boring. I knew I could not be a good bureaucrat; you have to read and write ten times a day and never have your own opinion. So, I studied to become an insurance broker at Stockholm University, but I kept my political engagement. The beauty of Sweden is also in its representative democracy. You do not need to be a lawyer or have read political science to become a parliament member. You can have your business; you can be a doctor or a nurse. We even have a parliament member who was a former taxi driver and he is quite successful, being elected for three times.


Do Swedish Armenians see you as their representative?

You have to ask them. I have to be very humble. First of all, we have eight different political parties, so I am the voice of one of them. Of course, I became a voice of Swedish Armenian community, when it is about the questions regarding Armenia. My dad was a leftist, I am a liberal conservative, so he voted for me because I am his son, but I do not expect that the Armenians should vote for me as I share the same ethnicity with them. They should vote for me because I have the right policy. The majority of the voters are Swedes or other ethnic peoples; there are also plenty of Iranians who support me. And I always should be Armenian, even if no Armenian will vote for me.


What are the activities of the Armenian-Swedish parliamentary friendship group?

I was the chairman of that group, now I am the vice-chairman. We are trying to strengthen ties between our two countries, how Sweden can with its knowledge educate the Armenian court, reform the police, help them with legislation when it comes to domestic violence. Unfortunately we don’t discuss that issue much in Armenia. If there is a problem, we have to raise it and build a mutual trust between judicial system and the society, that the women (but also men, who are being beaten by their wives) should know there is a place they can go, there is legislation that will protect them. It can be also the environmental issues that Armenia has, but now the most urgent one is the humanitarian situation in Artsakh, where ethnic cleansing happens. Can Sweden play a role of a peacemaker? Even if we in Armenia have lost the trust of diplomatic tools, you cannot just though it out. Right now we are writing a statement to the Swedish foreign minister and government about humanitarian crisis in Artsakh. In this modern world, we are witnessing how 120,000 people might lose their lives in front of mankind.


Armenia is a small dot on the map. Artsakh is even a smaller one, so it has no interest for the West, and this so-called civilized world does not care about it. Although the same world a while ago really did care about another small drops – Kosovo and Eritrea. So again, viva double standards!

For more than seven months I have been raising the alarm about the blockade of Artsakh, from the very beginning, that the Azeris are not going to open the borders. In the West they do not realize what is happening. For decades they were thinking that after the fall of Berlin war no more wars would happen in Europe. That is why Europe was shocked after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. As for Artsakh, I do not know what kind of dialogue the Armenian government is engaging in right now with its partners, but in politics sometimes everything is very cynical. It is very hard for many people to understand the situation. Every politician does not have bad intentions; we are in the middle of a regime that is very sensitive. To be honest, we are only democracy in this region right now — unfortunately, Georgia is going on wrong direction – so we have to try to find a way to survive. We have survived, but the history is repeating again, and I have no idea what is now happening in the closed rooms. The dictatorship in Azerbaijan is trying to proclaim the rest of the world that they are a multicultural ethnic society, but their actions toward the Artsakh people, the elderly men, women, children, all civilians, show the opposite.

Unfortunately, I think we Armenians have not thought about this scenario. This is very critical situation, but I am very sure we will survive this in one way or another, I do not know on what price, but I am sure we will. We have to stop to have this mentality that we know everything. We never listen to each other. We are a very small country, and we have to stop being egoistical. What I like is the new generation in Armenia, the youth, especially the young girls, who are more self-confident, than their mothers. I wish my mother, who is a very strong woman, who has many dreams and visions, grew up in an environment where a “no” was a “yes” and she could have reached her goals. I still cannot understand why every general in the army must be a man. It works very well in Sweden; 23 percent of our army is composed of women. If we go back to our history, we always have had women warriors. One issue we had during the last war was that the majority of women could not drive cars. That shows a little bit of ignorance. You think you will win the war, but what will happen if you need to retreat? How will the women leave if they cannot drive? I think every woman in this country should know how to drive a car – it is a matter of security. They always speak about the diaspora, which I am part of, but we are far away. When something crucial happens, you should put your hopes on those who are on the ground, not somewhere in Los Angeles, Buenos Aires or Australia.


Please, tell us a little bit about your family.

My last name Karapet was chosen by my grandfather. His and my grandmother’s families were Genocide survivors from Western Armenia. But my grandparents have said almost nothing about it to my dad. My mother’s side you can track back almost 700 years. My mother’s family lived nearby Urmia lake, old provinces of Gharadagh, Nakhichevan, Salmast, Khoy. My mom speaks Armenian, Assyrian, Farsi, Azeri. Because of my mother I speak Armenian fluently. She set a rule: we will not have dinner, if I do not learn my lessons or do not speak Armenian at home. So, I am very happy, because for me coming back to Armenia is not a problem, I do not need to call anyone for help unless there is need to understand written on the physical paper. And one of good things in Armenia is that everybody is ready to help. Unfortunately, I cannot read and write in Armenian, so people here willingly do it for me. But one day I will learn to read Armenian, that is for sure! I set a goal that the day I have my own family, when my children start to read and write in Armenian, it will also be my duty to learn with them!


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