Derakhti, a 22-year-old who was born in Sweden, is the son of Iranian immigrants. He says he hopes to travel to the United States one day to share his story – and the story of his hometown of Malmö, a dynamic and diverse city of some 300,000 in southern Sweden.
"Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia are huge problems in Malmö," Derakhti says. "I can't accept that Jews are leaving my hometown [because of anti-Semitism]. I told the [US] president [who was in Sweden on an official visit] that I would never give up the fight for equal rights for all people."
Malmö has gained an unfortunate reputation in recent years (some say unfairly) for being hostile to minority groups, especially Jews. Jews have lived in Malmö – Sweden's third largest city after Stockholm and Gothenburg – since the mid-19th century.
Reports of hate crimes have been on the rise. Residents of African descent also have been singled out for abuse, including a man from Gambia who, along with his 18-month-old son, was recently assaulted in an incident classified as a hate crime by police.
The Jewish community center has been fire-bombed, and its cemetery desecrated. Swastikas have been scrawled on the doors of Jewish homes. And the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization, has issued a travel advisory for Malmö, citing repeated verbal and physical attacks against Jews.
In a report released late last year, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance said that it views "with particular concern" the situation in Malmö, where individuals wearing visible symbols of their religion, it said, are regularly attacked, and Jewish children suffer "anti-Semitic bullying" at school.
Some observers, such as Willy Silberstein, president of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, blame the situation on certain politically motivated elements of the city's growing Muslim population, which now numbers about 75,000, or about one-quarter of the city's total population.
"Many Jews," Mr. Silberstein said in testimony before a subcommittee of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year, "have left Malmö simply because they are afraid and ashamed to live in a city which treats Jews like this" – even though, he said, "a large portion" of the Muslim immigrants in Sweden are not anti-Semitic.