School Children Strike for Palestine

Alþingi parliament of Iceland

Students from capital area elementary schools gathered outside Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, on Austurvöllur square today to protest on behalf of Palestine. In a speech delivered by the organisers, the children demanded support from the Icelandic government for the Palestinian people.

Children from the lower secondary school Hagaskóli spearheaded the protest, encouraging students to leave class at 10:30 and assemble. They were inspired from visiting the protest camp on Austurvöllur earlier this year. Most of the Palestinian protesters who camped throughout January have family members who have been granted residence visas in Iceland on the basis of family reunification but are still stuck in Gaza.

Called for a ceasefire

“We’re protesting the genocide in Palestine,” organisers of the school strike said, according to Heimildin. “Authorities! Stop turning away people escaping genocide. Reunited families, like promised. Take a stance on the genocide, push for a ceasefire and a free Palestine in the international sphere. We, Icelandic students, object to Iceland being complicit in genocide.”

The children made five demands to the Icelandic authorities, calling for reunification of Palestinian families who hold Icelandic visas, supporting Palestinian refugees, taking a stance against genocide, meeting with Palestinian protesters, and pushing for ceasefire and peace on the international stage.

Eurovision controversy

“This is a genocide and nothing is being done about it,” Arnaldur Árnason, a student in Tjarnarskóli said, adding that he thought it was strange that Israel was allowed to compete in the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest and that Iceland should pull out in protest. “Russia was not allowed to participate, but Israel is still allowed to compete. It’s disgusting. I don’t understand how this is allowed.”

Hazardous Road Conditions in the North

winter tires reykjavík

Roads across Iceland are out of commission today due to harsh winter weather. Conditions are especially bad in the north and Holtavörðuheiði, a part of the Ring Road between the capital area and Akureyri, has been closed, RÚV reports.

Buses postponed or cancelled

Bus trips operated by Strætó have been postponed or cancelled this morning. Bus 57 at 10:15 from Akureyri to Reykjavík was cancelled. The bus travelling in the opposite direction at 9:00, from Mjódd in Reykjavík going north, only made it to Borgarnes.

Routes 78 and 79, between Siglufjörður and Akureyri, and Húsavík and Akureyri, respectively, have been postponed for an indefinite period. Route 59 between Borgarnes and Hólmavík has also been postponed.

Many roads out of commission

In the northeast, the road over Möðrudalsöræfi has been closed and Öxnadalsheiði road is out of commission as well. According to the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, blinding snowfall and difficult driving conditions are to be expected in many areas, especially Vatnsskarð and Þverárfjall.

The snowfall is expected to decrease tonight. However, driving conditions in Skagafjörður will get worse today and roads could be closed later on. Slippery surfaces, poor visibility and hail can be expected on roads in the area.

Deep North Episode 60: Boom Town

iceland immigration

If you’re looking for a community in Iceland that has been profoundly changed by tourism, there is hardly a better place to look than Vík, the urban centre of the Mýrdalshreppur municipality. Over the past eight years or so, building after building has sprung up in the town: a two-storey Icewear store opened in 2017, a 72-room hotel in 2018. Since 2015, the municipality’s population has nearly doubled, from 480 to 877. Ten years ago, there may have been one or two places in town for a traveller to sit down for dinner. Now there are enough restaurants for Tripadvisor to compile the top ten.

And along with the tour boom, the community in Vík has grown in recent years as well. Here’s how this South Iceland community is making the best of it. Read the story here.

Lack of Access to Grindavík “Dystopian”, Journalists Claim

An ambulance lingers just outside of Grindavík

The Suðurnes police commissioner has limited access to Grindavík for journalists since the January 14 volcanic eruption. Sigríður Dögg Auðunsdóttir, the president of the Union of Icelandic Journalists, told Heimildin that it was dystopian and surrealistic that the commissioner was “applying censorship and limiting journalists’ freedom of speech by limiting journalists’ access to the area with no rational cause.”

The January 14 volcanic eruption near Grindavík destroyed three houses, caused crevasses to form across town, and displaced the 3,800 inhabitants for the foreseeable future. The town had already been evacuated once before, on November 10 last year, due to seismic activity. Grindavík residents await a government decision on how they can be helped while displaced.

Major historical event

Journalists were allowed to enter Grindavík yesterday for two hours. This was the first time they’ve been allowed to enter since January 15. Authorities say that the restrictions are due to consideration for the residents and the vast emergency response in the area. The police have not received any written requests from residents asking them to limit journalists’ access to the town.

Sigríður Dögg says that journalists should be allowed to document major historical events, such as last weekend when residents transported their belongings from the danger area. “Especially since the commissioner has no legal foundation for these restrictions, she said.”

Chaperoned visit on a bus

The journalists were herded into a bus and chaperoned by emergency response personnel. A special unit police officer decided where the bus went. A half-dozen stops were made in town, limited to areas with crevasses or damages, but nowhere near people. Only two areas were designated for flying drones to photograph. Heimildin reports that attending journalists were unhappy with the arrangements.

In November, the union petitioned the Ministry of Justice to increase access to the danger area, but the ministry has not responded. “History has shown us that documentation of major events in Iceland’s history is incredibly important going forward,” Sigríður added. “Especially for those who experienced the disaster.”