Women, Life, Freedom: Candlelight March in Solidarity with Activists in Iran and Afghanistan

UN Women in Iceland hosted a candlelight march against gender-based violence on Friday night. RÚV reports that this is the first time the march has been held since the COVID-19 pandemic began and took place under the slogan “Women, Life, Freedom,” echoing the rallying cry that has taken up by feminist activists and protestors in Iran and beyond.

The march began at Arnarhóll and ended at Bríetartorg, a small square in downtown Reykjavík that commemorates activist and suffragette Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir (1856 – 1940). Harpa concert hall was illuminated in orange during the event, as orange has come to symbolize a better, violence-free future for women and girls around the world.

First Lady Eliza Reid and Minister of Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir

According to a Facebook post about the event, the candlelight march marks the beginning of 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, “an international campaign that commences on 25 November—the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women—and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day.” This year, the 16 Days of Activism campaign continues with its ongoing mission to end femicide, “the murder of women  because they are women.” Event organizers say that 81,000 women and girls were killed globally in 2020, around 47,000 or 58% of whom died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member. This equates to a woman or girl being killed every 11 minutes in their home.

“By taking part in UN Women Iceland’s Candlelight March,” concluded UN Women in Iceland, “we show solidarity with the brave women and girls of Afghanistan and Iran who are leading the fight against their countries’ regimes’ repressive treatment of women and girls, while being met with brutal and often lethal force.”

‘There’s no going back because there’s nothing to go back to’

Zarah Mesbah speaks at the 2022 Candlelight March

Friday’s march was led by activist Zahra Mesbah, an Afghan woman who was born in Iran, Iranian Zoreh Aria, and UN Women in Iceland director Stella Samúelsdóttir. Individuals from both Afghanistan and Iran were invited to walk in front. In her speech, Zahra emphasized unity, saying: “The only thing that matters is that I am a person, and all people deserve freedom and to live with dignity.”

For her part, Zoreh urged attendees to show their support for the Iranian women who are risking their lives every time they protest. “In their minds, there’s only one way forward and there’s no going back because there’s nothing to go back to,” she said. “They are fighting for freedom and dignity. We ask people to stand with peace, freedom, and the Iranian nation and to ask the government to take action.”

All photos taken by Heiðrún Fivelstad on behalf of UN Women in Iceland.

Vigil to Commemorate Nuclear Bombing Victims Will Be Virtual This Year

The annual candle floating ceremony to commemorate the victims of the US nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not take place in person at Tjörnin pond in downtown Reykjavík this year, Vísir reports. In deference to the more stringent social distancing measures now in place to quell a recent jump in community transmitted infections, organizers will record a smaller, more sparsely attended event and stream it online.

The victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings have been memorialized during the annual candle floating vigil every year since 1985.

This year’s online vigil will be streamed on August 6, although the event itself will take place at 11pm on the evening before, to mark the time that the nuclear bomb exploded in Hiroshima 75 years ago.

Candlelight Vigil for Nuclear Disarmament Held in Reykjavík

The Kertafleyting, a candlelight vigil protesting nuclear weapons, was held in Reykjavík on Thursday night, mbl.is reports. The well-attended event, which has been held annually since 1985, commemorates the victims of the 1945 nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while also urging nations around the world to abolish nuclear weapons entirely.

Attendees floated candles on the surface of Tjörnin pond and also listened to speakers including Hjörtur Pálsson, who read his poem “Klukkurnar í Nagasaki,” or “The Clocks in Nagasaki,” as well as Sigursteinn Másson, a representative of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Iceland and Norway, who delivered a speech. The event was moderated by Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, the chairman of Efling labor union.

“These weapons are still today one of the greatest threats to mankind’s existence,” read an announcement from the Coalition for Peace. “And immense amounts of money are being devoted to their continued development. The likeliness of nuclear weapons being employed, either by accident or deliberately, has rarely been higher. The United Nations has drafted an accord, banning nuclear weapons and we urge Icelandic pacifist policy makers to sign and ratify that agreement.”