Protest at US Embassy in Reykjavík on Nakba Day

US embassy protest Nakba day félagið ísland palestína facebook

A group of locals gathered in front of the US Embassy to Iceland in Reykjavík yesterday afternoon to protest the United States’ ongoing support of Israel’s actions in Gaza. The event was also held to mark Nakba Day, a commemoration of the permanent displacement of a majority of the Palestinian people in 1948 preceding the establishment of Israel.

The event featured speeches from a Palestinian from Gaza and from a US citizen as well as a performance by Bashar Murad, a Palestinian musician residing in Iceland. Protesters called on the United States to stop sending weapons and funds to Israel. The protest was organised by the Iceland-Palestine Association, founded in 1987.

Protest Icelandic government response

Locals in Iceland have held regular protests since October 7 calling on the Icelandic government to condemn Israeli authorities for their actions and use its influence to call for a ceasefire in the conflict. Iceland abstained from voting on a ceasefire in an emergency meeting of the UN in October but voted in support of a ceasefire at a later UN meeting.

Locals have also criticised the Icelandic government for dragging its feet in extracting Icelandic visa holders from Gaza and suspending funding to UNRWA in January. The country reinstated UNRWA funding in April 2024.

 

Cynthia Nixon Joins Icelandic Student Protest

Cynthia Nixon

Students were joined in their protest in support of Palestine outside the University of Iceland yesterday by Sex and the City actress and former candidate for Governor of New York Cynthia Nixon, Stöð 2 reports.

Powerful movement

The Icelandic students had teamed up with American counterparts to erect a camp on the field in front of the university in downtown Reykjavík to support U.S. and international student protestors campaigning for a free Palestine.

“We were just touring around the city and we heard about the protest so we wanted to come take a look and take off our hats to the students,” Nixon said. “I think that they’re aware also of what’s been happening in different campuses in the U.S. It’s really exploding and we’re all just trying to do what we can and I think this movement of young people is very, very powerful.”

Election pressure

The actress has been outspoken about Israel’s actions in Gaza and joined a number of celebrities in supporting South Africa’s genocide case against Israel before the International Court of Justice. When asked by a Stöð 2 reporter on whether authorities cared about the student protests, Nixon said that the students’ pressure would be important with an election approaching in the U.S.

“I think they need to care because it’s such a terrible wrong but I think they need to care also because there’s an election coming up for president in November,” Nixon said. “I for one do not want to see Donald Trump re-elected, but Joe Biden has to do better.

The protest outside the University of Iceland ended when police arrived at the scene and asked the students to take down the camp.

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Demonstration in Support of Palestine in Front of Iceland’s Parliament

Pro-Palestine demonstration, January 27th

As promised, despite the shutting down of the solidarity tent, where Palestinians and their allies had been camped in front of Parliament from December 27th until their permit expired on January 24th, demonstrations calling upon the Icelandic government to take action regarding Palestine have continued.

Demonstrators assembled at Hallgrímskirkja church in downtown Reykjavík at around 2:00 PM yesterday and then marched west, chanting, drumming and carrying banners, before reaching Austurvöllur, the square in front of Parliament. Among the attendees were esteemed author Illugi Jökulsson, who gave a speech, as well as rapper Alexander Járl performing a musical number.

Bashar Murad performs

The highlight of the event was Palestinian singer Bashar Murad, who is set to compete in Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin song contest. Bashar first came to the attention of most Icelanders after the Icelandic band Hatari represented Iceland at Eurovision in 2019, which that year was held in Tel Aviv. The band visited Palestine and became acquainted with Bashar Murad, who was already an established artist, and collaborated with him.

At the demonstration, Bashar gave an a cappella performance of “Mawṭinī”, which means “My Homeland”, the lyrics to which were written by the Palestinian poet Ibrahim Tuqan with music by Lebanese musician Mohammed Flayfel composed for it in 1934. The song has a long and storied history, and is considered by many to be the unofficial second national anthem of Palestine.

The demands remain the same

The demands of the protesters, reiterated at the demonstration’s conclusion, have not changed. Palestinians in Iceland have implored the Icelandic government to follow through on their policy of family reunification, wherein those seeking international protection in Iceland may also be reunited with their families. This policy has been applied, for example, to Ukrainians in Iceland, but the family members of many of the Palestinians in Iceland are still in Gaza, and they want the government’s help in retrieving them. The government has thus far contended that it is not obliged to fulfill this request.

In addition, they have asked that the government cease deportations of Palestinian asylum seekers, and they have called for a meeting with government ministers.

Demonstrations are likely to continue, as per a statement organisers of the solidarity tent made shortly after it was taken down: “Our shared responsibility does not end at this tent; it extends to the ongoing pursuit of justice, peace, human dignity and the protection of vulnerable lives in Palestine. We feel that we have no choice but to continue.”

Protests in Front of Parliament Yesterday, Foreign Minister Accused of Possible Hate Speech

Following remarks made by Foreign Minister and Independence Party chairperson Bjarni Benediktsson last Friday regarding both the tents of Palestinian protesters and their allies in front of Parliament in particular and asylum seekers in general, protests were held in front of Parliament yesterday. Attendees gathered both to criticise the government’s policies towards Palestinian asylum seekers and to call on the government to show substantial support for Palestine.

In addition, the refugee and asylum seeker assistance NGO Solaris has said that the Foreign Minister’s remarks possibly fall under Article 233a of the General Penal Code, which is Iceland’s law on hate speech.

Family re-unification

At around 3:00 PM yesterday afternoon, protesters gathered in front of Parliament, many bearing the Palestinian flag and slogans showing support for Palestine and the asylum seekers who have been camping in front of Parliament since December 27th. Mayor of Reykjavík Einar Þorsteinsson has said that they have a license to camp on this property, and that their protests have been peaceful. RÚV reports that the license is set to expire tomorrow, January 24th, but that an extension of this permit has been applied for.

Intense but peaceful

Those camping in front of Parliament are doing so in large part because Iceland’s government has an established policy of family re-unification for those granted international protection in Iceland. The government has been criticised for not assisting in retrieving family members of asylum seekers from Gaza, while Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir has contended that the government is not obliged to do so.

They have also called for a meeting with relevant government ministers, and for authorities to cease deporting Palestinian asylum seekers from Iceland. As none of these demands have been met, and with the Foreign Minister’s recent remarks calling the tents “a tragedy” as well as calling for increased police powers and tightening border restrictions, protesters assembled en masse in front of Parliament yesterday afternoon, with many just outside the entrance. Police were called at that point, but saw no cause to intervene.

Minister has “neglected his government duties”

Meanwhile, Solaris responded to the Finance Minister’s remarks with a Facebook post of their own, saying in part:

“While the minister has neglected his governmental duties and continues to refuse to meet with the Palestinian community in Iceland with regards to family reunification for their family members in Gaza, he chooses instead to use his public influence to spread misinformation about community members at their most vulnerable moment.”

They accuse Bjarni Benediktsson of conflating those exercising their legal right to apply for international protection with organised crime. They add further that his remarks may well fall under Article 233a of the General Penal Code, often known as Iceland’s hate speech law, which states:

“Anyone who publicly mocks, defames, denigrates or threatens a person or group of persons by comments or expressions of another nature, for example by means of pictures or symbols, for their nationality, colour, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, or disseminates such materials, shall be fined or imprisoned for up to 2 years.”

“Free to disagree”

For his part, Bjarni Benediktsson has dismissed this accusation, stating that people are free to have differences of opinion in a democratic society, including the opinion to disagree with his opinion.

Solaris also stated that they have witnessed numerous increased examples of hate speech, including threats and encouragement of violence towards people seeking international protection, and have filed charges with the police regarding some of them.

“This is a moment where we as a community must continue to show our rejection of deplorable attempts to undermine democracy, that we stand with and for human rights, hold our elected government officials accountable for their duties and intervene in hateful discourses against vulnerable members of our society,” they write in closing.

New Mayor Sympathises With Protesters

Reykjavík Mayor Einar Þorsteinsson has defended the right of Palestinian protesters to assemble on Austurvöllur square outside Alþingi, Iceland’s parliament, adding that the protest has been peaceful and that the protesters’ cause is sympathetic to all.

In a Facebook post Friday night, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Independence Party leader Bjarni Benediktsson called for tighter regulations for asylum seekers and increased border control. He posted a picture of tents pitched by Palestinian protesters outside Alþingi, saying that it was “incomprehensible” that this was allowed by Reykjavík authorities.

No formal complaint from Alþingi

In an interview with RÚV Saturday, Einar responded to Bjarni’s comment, saying that the city does not give permission for protests, as the right to protest is secured by the Icelandic constitution. He added, however, that in his opinion it wouldn’t be aesthetically pleasing if one group took over Austurvöllur square for weeks or months and stayed overnight in tents.

Einar, a city counsellor for the Progressive Party who took over as mayor on Tuesday, added that he had sympathy for the Palestinian families in question. “These are people who have lost family members and people who are waiting desperately for news of their loved ones and I think we all sympathise with this cause,” he said. “But it should be mentioned that the protests have been peaceful, which may be the reason that Alþingi hasn’t formally complained and the police has spoken positively about these protests.”

Limited to one tent

Einar went on to say that communications with the protesters had been good and that their license for camping had now been limited to only one tent, with no permission to stay there overnight. He said that other groups had since showed interest in camping, a regrettable development in his opinion, and that the city would revise its process in granting these licenses to make sure that Austurvöllur remains a forum for the public to protest and campaign for their causes.

The Palestinian protesters have been camped outside of Alþingi since December 27. The group has made three demands of Icelandic authorities. Firstly, to carry out family reunifications for residents of Gaza whom they have already granted visas. Secondly, a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market. Thirdly, to stop the ongoing deportations of Palestinian people in Iceland and grant them international protection.

Calls for Iceland to Join South Africa’s Genocide Case

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Some 100 protesters convened outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Tjarnargata this morning to protest the government’s handling of policy towards Palestine. They criticise authorities for not doing more to bring residents of Gaza who already hold Icelandic visas to the country on the basis of family reunification. The protesters chanted: “The children of Gaza are our children”.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir met with protesters outside and sat down with an advocacy group leader to discuss pleas for Iceland to support South Africa’s case against Israel before the International Court of Justice, Mbl.is reports. South Africa has is seeking an emergency suspension of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Public support for Palestine

Katrín met with Hjálmtýr Heiðdal, head of the Association Iceland-Palestine, who handed her a letter from the association along with a copy of South Africa’s charge. “If authorities suspect a genocide in the making, not to mention one already in progress, then it is their duty to step in,” Hjálmtýr told Mbl.is. He added that the best thing that the Icelandic government could do at this point would be to support South Africa’s case. “It is very important to do so right away.”

Hjálmtýr reiterated that Katrín had in the past supported the idea of severing political relations with Israel and added that polls show that three of every four Icelanders support the Palestinian cause. “110 children are being killed every day and it just keeps going,” he said. “They have to try to stop this. South Africa’s case could apply some pressure.”

Activists camped out in front of Alþingi

Local activists slept in tents in front of Alþingi, the Icelandic Parliament, on Saturday night in solidarity with Palestinian protesters who have camped there since December 27. The group has made three demands of Icelandic authorities. Firstly, to carry out the family reunifications for which they have already granted visas. Secondly, a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market. Thirdly, to stop the ongoing deportations of Palestinian people in Iceland and grant them international protection.

Pitch Tents Outside Parliament in Protest

No Borders Iceland / Facebook. Palestinian protesters camp outside Iceland's parliament

Local activists slept in tents in front of the Icelandic Parliament on Saturday night in solidarity with Palestinian protesters who have camped there since December 27. They criticise Icelandic authorities for not doing more to bring residents of Gaza who already hold Icelandic visas to the country.

“We won’t stop or back down until our demands are met,” Askur Hrafn Hannesson, one of the Icelandic activists who slept outside Parliament this weekend told RÚV. He says over 40 people joined the group of Palestinians who have been camping outside Alþingi for nearly two weeks.

Asking to be reunited with family members in Gaza

Most of the Palestinian protesters have family members who have been granted residence visas in Iceland on the basis of family reunification but are still stuck in Gaza. The group is calling on Icelandic authorities to do more to retrieve their family members from the strip, where over 30,000 people have been killed by Israeli attacks since October 7 and conditions are life-threatening.

While Icelandic authorities say the Rafah border crossing between Palestine and Egypt is closed, a statement from the group of protestors points out that countries such as the UK, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Sweden received refugees from Gaza in December.

Three demands to Icelandic authorities

The group has made three demands of Icelandic authorities. Firstly, to carry out the family reunifications for which they have already granted visas. Secondly, a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market. Thirdly, to stop the ongoing deportations of Palestinian people in Iceland and grant them international protection.

Since October 7, protests and solidarity actions in support of Palestine have been held in Iceland regularly, with the next scheduled for tomorrow at 9:00 AM outside the cabinet meeting at Tjarnargata 32.

Palestinians Continue Protest Outside Parliament

Palestinian protesters outside Iceland's Parliament

A group of Palestinians who have been protesting outside Iceland’s Parliament has received permission from the City of Reykjavík to continue camping in Austurvöllur square until January 17, Vísir reports. Most of the protesters have family members who have been granted residence visas in Iceland on the basis of family reunification but are still stuck in Gaza.

The group is calling on Icelandic authorities to do more to retrieve their family members from the strip, where over 30,000 people have been killed by Israeli attacks since October 7 and conditions are life-threatening.

Western countries have received refugees from Gaza

Naji Asar, who has been granted visas for 14 family members, including eight children, told Heimildin he cannot understand how it was easy to rescue 120 Icelanders who were in Israel on October 7 but not his family members. “If you don’t want to help, help me go back home,” he added. “I want to die with my family. I don’t want to die slowly.”

While Icelandic authorities say the Rafah border crossing between Palestine and Egypt is closed, a statement from the group of protestors points out that countries such as the UK, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Sweden received refugees from Gaza in December.

Three demands to Icelandic authorities

The group has made three demands of Icelandic authorities. Firstly, to carry out the family reunifications for which they have already granted visas. Secondly, a meeting with the Minster for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Social Affairs and the Labour Market. Thirdly, to stop the ongoing deportations of Palestinian people in Iceland and grant them international protection.

Icelandic activist groups have organised regular protests and solidarity marches calling on Icelandic authorities to carry out the family reunifications that have been promised, as well as and condemn Israel’s ongoing aggression and apply sanctions against Israel. The next solidarity march will be held this Saturday at 2:00 PM outside the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Protest, Parliamentary Resolution Call for Immediate Gaza Ceasefire

Protestors outside US Embassy in Reykjavík

Demonstrators gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavík to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. A few hours before the protest, the Icelandic Parliament unanimously passed a resolution calling for the same thing, condemning violence against civilians and calling for adherence to international laws.

Protestors call for “immediate ceasefire”

A number of people gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy, near the Laugardalur neighbourhood in Reykjavík, to partake in a protest under the banner “Immediate Ceasefire” yesterday. The protest began at 5 PM, with speakers including Dr. Sveinn Rúnar Hauksson, physician and Chair of the Iceland-Palestine Association, and activist Lisa Mackey, Vísir reports.

A few hours before the protests, Parliament approved a resolution from the Foreign Affairs Committee calling for a ceasefire, with all votes in favour.

“The Parliament resolves that an immediate ceasefire for humanitarian reasons must be established in the Gaza region to ensure the safety of civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli. The Parliament condemns all acts of violence directed against civilians in Palestine and Israel. The Parliament demands that international laws be fully adhered to in the interest of humanity, the safety of civilians, and the protection of civil infrastructure,” the Parliamentary resolution reads, which, as noted by Mbl.is, was passed unanimously with 49 votes, following two discussions at yesterday’s parliamentary session.

Important to send a clear message

The resolution states that the Parliament condemns the terrorist attacks by Hamas on civilians in Israel that began on October 7. Similarly, the Parliament condemns all actions by Israeli authorities in the aftermath that violate international humanitarian laws, including the immense suffering, casualties, civilian deaths, and destruction of civil infrastructure. It is imperative that all violations of international laws by the warring parties be thoroughly investigated.

“The Parliament calls for humane treatment and immediate resolution of hostages, access for aid and humanitarian organisations, and that emergency shelter and medical assistance be provided to the public without delay,” it states. Additionally, the government was tasked with contributing additional aid for humanitarian assistance and investigating violations of international laws to follow up on the emphases outlined in the resolution.

As noted by Mbl.is, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, in her comments on the vote, thanked the Foreign Affairs Committee for its excellent work in highlighting clear viewpoints reflected in the proposal and for achieving this consensus. She stated it was extremely important for Iceland to send such clear messages to the international community, a clear will of the Parliament for an immediate ceasefire, and for the respect of international laws in the interest of humanity. “I want to take this opportunity to say that I am very proud to belong to the Parliament of Iceland at such times,” Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated.