Asylum Seeker Threatens to Set Himself on Fire Skip to content

Asylum Seeker Threatens to Set Himself on Fire

red-cross-iceland-logoIt appears that desperation drove 53-year-old asylum seeker Mehdi Kavyan Pour to take a taxi to the facilities of the Icelandic Red Cross in Reykjavík with two containers filled with gasoline around 10 am this morning. The taxi driver thought a car was leaking.

Inside the Red Cross’s office, he appears to have taken its employees hostage and then threatened to set himself on fire if his issues weren’t sorted out, as reported on

The Special Forces of the National Commissioner for the Icelandic Police was called to the scene and tried to get Pour to leave the building without resistance but he responded by pouring gasoline over himself. Some of it was splattered on staff members.

No one was harmed and Pour was overpowered by the Special Forces. They sprayed him with a fire extinguisher while he was being arrested—he never managed to light a fire.

The Red Cross issued a statement, reading:

“It is terrible to see that desperation drives people to such actions but the most important thing is that we managed with the resources we had to assist the man without him harming himself or others. It was resolved in a professional manner with the assistance of specialists.”

This is the second time Pour has taken desperate measures to raise awareness of his situation. In November 2008 he and three other asylum seekers went on a hunger strike which lasted for at least ten days, or until Pour was taken to hospital.

Pour, who comes from Iran, described to at the time that he had worked for the Iranian postal and television service where he was given the task of listening in on phone calls made by civilians.

After classified information disappeared from his office, two of his coworkers died in a mysterious way. He stated he would rather die from starvation in his bed in Iceland than return to Iran and die in prison.

Now, four years after the hunger strike, seven years have passed since Pour came to Iceland. His application for political asylum has been rejected at least once.

His lawyer, Helga Vala Helgadóttir, wouldn’t comment to on his case other than saying that he is now being questioned by the police and that his future in Iceland remains unclear.

Click here to read more about the situation of asylum seekers in Iceland.

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