Norway’s LGBTQ+ community mourns after two killed in Oslo gay bar shooting

Oslo’s Pride parade was cancelled following the tragic attack, in which at least 21 additional people were injured

Anticipating a Pride parade, people in Oslo instead attended a memorial service this weekend after a gunman opened fire on a crowd outside a popular gay bar, killing two people and wounding at least 21.

The tragic shooting took place in the early hours of June 25, shortly before the kickoff of a Pride parade that was meant to be a highlight of Oslo’s 10-day Pride festival. The parade was cancelled in light of the shooting, and a memorial service for victims was held the following day instead.

“My first thought was that Pride was the target, so that’s frightening,” Olav Rønneberg, a survivor of the attack, told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “Then I saw windows breaking and understood that I had to take cover.”

Law enforcement officials apprehended a male suspect five minutes after the shooting was reported, according to the New York Times. Norwegian media identified Zaniar Matapour, a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen from Iran, as the suspected shooter. Emigrating from Iran in the 1990s, Matapour had been charged with narcotics and weapons possession in the past. Police found with a handgun and an automatic weapon at the time of the shooting. 

Matapour reportedly refused to explain his actions, with his defence lawyer saying that he refused to speak unless police released the recording in full to the public. In comments to the Associated Press, the suspect’s attorney demanded its release “with no time delay so it won’t be censored or manipulated.”

Oslo police said that they had reason to believe that the shooting was a hate crime and are holding the suspect on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and terrorism. 

A memorial service for the victims of the shooting was held at the Oslo Cathedral on Sunday morning. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and members of the royal family attended the procession. 

“I know how many of you felt when it turned out that the perpetrator belonged to the Islamic community,” Støre said at the service, addressing Norway’s Muslim community. “Many of you experienced fear and unrest. You should know this: we stand together, we are one community and we are responsible for the community together.”

Thousands of mourners also gathered for a June 27 rally outside Oslo City Hall, according to NRK.

Reports of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in Norway are low compared to other countries. The country recently celebrated 50 years since the homosexuality was decriminalized, and same-sex couples have been able to marry and adopt children since 2009. Popular attitudes toward gay people are overwhelmingly positive, with 78 percent of Norwegian respondents expressing positive attitudes toward queer people in the 2020 World Values Survey.


Still, Norway has experienced some hate-motivated shootings, including when a far-right extremist killed 77 people at a left-wing summer youth camp in July 2011. Since then, the country has instituted some gun-control laws, including a ban on semi-automatic weapons and mandatory safety classes for gun owners. 

At the service, Støre said the shooting wouldn’t halt progress for LGBTQ+ Norwegians. 

“The shooting in the night hours put an end to the Pride parade, but it did not stop the fight and the efforts to fight discrimination, prejudice and hatred,” the prime minister said during his Sunday address.

Jackie Richardson is a freelance writer based in Western New York. She has worked at The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, and The Sophian.

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