Anna Sundberg is a school teacher by trade and is currently working at a union for teachers.
Here are a few Q&A’s to Anna Sundberg:
Your book is a very strong and upsetting account of your years in the jihadist movement. What’s it like to have such a tumultuous life experience that is shared by so few other people?
I am grateful and pleased that I’ve had the opportunity to tell my story, it has been huge for me. It has also made me nervous, but to be open about my experiences is my way of taking responsibility – and to show my children and others that they can change their own lives, that it’s never too late. I expose myself completely in this book, but I believe it’s an important story, a story that is not just about me, but about the age in which we live.
You were young when you joined the jihadist movement - how you think and feel when you look back at the woman you once were?
I look at this woman with sadness but also with a certain affection. She meant well but it turned out wrong. I searched for a context, a direction in life – but every possible option seemed confusing and full of contradictions. It seemed impossible to live consistently. When I came into contact with a strict religion, I accepted the whole concept without questioning and I blindly trusted that this was the one and only truth. Maybe I partly wanted to make things simpler and to escape from all my freedom and all my doubts.
Can you tell us a bit about what your life looks like today?
Today I am a qualified teacher and I currently work full-time with school issues at a union for teachers. My four children live at home with me. I’m interested in politics, moderately political active in the municipality and I also sit on the board of a newly established women’s crisis center. I hang out with friends and have met a nice man, we live apart but we see each other as often as we can. Life is beautiful and exciting!
How have these 16 years affected you?
I feel a great sense of gratitude that my children and I are alive and well. But of course I have missed out on a lot during all these years. Today I feel curious about life. I also believe that my experiences have made me a committed feminist. I am sensitive to patriarchal structures and to bullying by certain men. I also believe that I have obtained a more humble attitude towards our different destinies – we all carry life stories that are interesting to share.
In your book, you describe a strong alliance between the women in the movement – do you have contact with them today?
Yes, with a few, but I have lost touch with most of them, it’s not really meaningful to me because of our differences. Some of the women do not want to have contact with me anymore – they are hurt because I've renounced my old way of living. But I sometimes I miss the feeling of female solidarity among us.
What has it been like to write your story together with another person?
It has been easy to work with Jesper, he's humble and sincere, otherwise it would not have worked out. Without him, the book project would have taken a lot longer to finish, and thanks to our collaboration, I have managed to open up emotionally closed doors.