A Norwegian lesbian couple's rescue of 40 children during the Utoya Island youth camp attacks has been hailed as a heroic act -- but some are calling the muted response from the international media an act of discrimination.
The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat was the first to carry the story of Hege Dalen and her partner, Toril Hansen, who braved gunfire while making trips to lift frightened youngsters from the water surrounding the island.
The blog Talk About Equality translates the report as follows:
“We were eating. Then shooting and then the awful screaming. We saw how the young people ran in panic into the lake,” says Dalen to HS in an interview. The couple immediately took action and pushed the boat into Lake Tyrifjorden.
Dalen and Hansen drove the boat to the island, picked up from the water victims in shock in, the young and wounded, and transported them to the opposite shore to the mainland. Between runs they saw that the bullets had hit the right side of the boat. Since there were so many and not all fit at once aboard, they returned to the island four times.
“We did not sleep last night at all. Today, we have been together and talked about the events,” Dalen said.
Some authorities were quick to suggest the week-plus delay in coverage of the rescue was an indirect act of homophobia. "Have the media ignored a gold-plated tale of bravery and heroism just because they don’t like the sexual orientation of the protagonists? I don’t know, obviously," writes Tom Chivers, Strategic Events Editor for the Telegraph. "But it’s not as though it’s just traditionally minded, conservative news organisations, who might be expected to have misgivings about homosexual marriage, which have not reported on Mrs. Hansen and Mrs. Dalen’s heroism."
Still, others like Bår Stenvik, an Oslo-based author and journalist, have begged to differ -- and say the most likely explanation for the lack of coverage is that the lesbian couple simply had not spoken publicly about their ordeal. "One of the remarkable aspects of this incident has been that there are so many stories to be told, with so many victims and witnesses," Stenvik told the International Business Times.