On New Year’s Eve, I’m sorry to discuss such heartbreaking news, but this latest story out of Finland just makes me hope for better in the new year. Earlier today, a gunman shot dead his former girlfriend and four of her work colleagues, who worked in a supermarket in a mall. Ibrahim Shkupolli, the shooter, then turned the gun on himself; his body was found close to the scene.
This act of violence is one of several over the past few years in Finland, where gun crime is an increasingly serious issue and gun ownership is widespread. Licenses are apparently very easy to obtain. It appears, however, that this particular crime was sparked by what AFP is calling a “domestic dispute.” Shkupolli had previous convictions for violent crimes, and his former girlfriend, who was found dead in her apartment, had a restraining order against him. It’s unclear whether she was killed before or after the mall shooting.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking back over this year, and of course the news of this crime brought the George Sodini shootings immediately to mind. If you are fortunate enough to have forgotten these horrific events from last summer, I’ll briefly refresh your memory: Sodini walked into an all-female aerobics class and opened fire, killing three women, wounding nine others, and finally turning the gun on himself. Sodini’s blog revealed deep misogyny and frustration toward all women. Basically, he believed that all of the “desirable single women” in the country were systematically and deliberately rejecting him. And he turned that frustration into a murderous rage toward a room full of women he had never met.
The victims in the Finland shooting were not all women, and Shkupolli’s motivation for killing his former girlfriend’s colleagues seems vague as of now. But the fact that his ex-girlfriend had a restraining order against him seems like good evidence that some kind of abuse was going on, and Shkupolli, like many men before him, turned to violence for some kind of revenge. The BBC profile of Shkupolli reveals that this relationship had lasted for some time, even though he was married to a woman of Albanian background (Shkupolli was a Kosovo Albanian), and had a family with her.
The BBC reports that Shkupolli appears to have married his wife after moving to Finland and meeting the Finnish woman who was one of today’s victims and remains yet unnamed, with whom he maintained a relationship throughout. However, it appears that the relationship broke down last year. Since then, she went to the police several times to make complaints about his behavior, including threats on her life. They responded by issuing a restraining order, which barred Shkupolli from approaching her as well as entering the place where she worked – the supermarket where he killed four employees today.
The fact that shootings like this keep occuring in Finland is something that I sincerely hope their government wil examine. But I think this shooting illustrates something bigger – the extent to which men feel they can go to possess women, to threaten them, and finally, to exact revenge against them when they resist.
After the Sodini shooting, Bob Herbert wrote an amazing column for the New York Times about the extent to which misogyny is sewn into our culture, so that we have to be slapped in the face with violent crimes before we can see its depths. Herbert wrote, “We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected. We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.”
We should all remember this as we go into the new decade. We should celebrate the accomplishments of the 2000′s – but remember that we still have far to go.
Photo courtesy of shioshvili's Flickr Photostream.