A Letter to Abderrahman Bouanane

Photo: Chris Wightman
On Friday, 18 August 2017, you brought a new type of terrorism to Turku, Finland. The police say that you had ideological reasons. I hope that by now you have realized that your ideology was profoundly lost in the streets of Turku.

Those people chasing you, after you had stabbed two to death and wounded eight, showcased the readiness of people living in an open and democratic society to defend others.

These heroes – Arya, Ahmed, Hassan, Vesa, Teemu, Mikko, to mention a few – will be remembered, while you will be forgotten in a few months after your verdict; your name means nothing. You tried to build hatred and fear towards migrants in Finland, yet half of the men trying to stop you were migrants or tourists. You must feel like an idiot.

Special praise is owed to that police officer who, in a difficult situation, kept a cool head and used non-lethal force to stop you. And then protected you from the angry crowd. That's how things are done in an open and democratic society. You will face justice.

You might not understand this, but people want to live in societies like Finland, Australia, or New Zealand.

We have had our domestic terrorists before, and while you might be our first "radical Islamic terrorist", you will have the same fate as they did. We will be shocked for a while. After that we will remember the victims, learn to better prevent this kind of insanity, move on with our lives, and forget you.

Society is at its strongest when it responds to insanity with calm and considered pragmatism – in Finnish we call this "tolkku".  People – most of them – are inherently good. They always look to undo the bad. We just need these good people to have tolkku in their minds and actions. That will make us even stronger.

Believe me, we will have tolkku. We will continue to live our lives in the Finnish way. And thanks to our police you will have a lifetime to witness it and repent your actions.  You might have hurt people like you and me, but in the end, you lost.

I still frequent the Lindt café in Martin Place, Sydney, even after the siege in 2014. Similarly, people in Turku will be at the market place again tomorrow and in the days after. In time, Turku will be no different tomorrow than it was before Friday. If anything, she will be stronger. Because we have tolkku.

Author information: Antti Niemelä is a diplomat at the Embassy of Finland, an observer of the topsy-turvy world, and a globalisation and democracy idealist. Opinions expressed are the author's own and do not reflect those of the Embassy of Finland in Canberra.


  1. Well said - we hope that anyone planning another terrorist act will read this and take heed!


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