Mag
Articles
ICELAND’S FINEST ENTER HISTORY

ICELAND’S FINEST ENTER HISTORY

Words by

Published April 8, 2005

On June 1st 2004 the Icelandic foreign minister was present when Iceland took over control of Kabul International Airport from Germany. Hallgrímur Sigurðsson was made overall commander of the airport, and many other command posts were filled by Icelanders. But even though they were still civilians by Icelandic law, they had to be able to defend themselves like soldiers, and in fact were told to stand and fight if attacked.

Iceland and other NATO countries provide the manpower to run KAIA airport, with equipment and machinery being provided by NATO. A deal was made with the Germans before they left that they would leave behind their security equipment and lend it to NATO. However, the Germans felt insulted at being relieved by Icelanders, and removed all their security equipment. Fortunately, apart from a few mortar shells, the airport was not attacked during the Icelanders’ stay. But danger still awaited on the streets of Kabul.

The Chicken Street Massacre
On October 23rd 2004, a suicide bomber blew himself up on Kabul’s shopping street, known as Chicken Street. An Afghan woman and an American woman were killed, and eight other people wounded, including three Icelandic peace troopers. The Icelanders were shopping for carpets, and had been in the store for upwards of an hour. Commander Halli was in the store, but escaped unharmed. His response to the attacks was: “Shit Happens.”

The three wounded Icelanders were sent home on sick leave, and were met at the airport by their wives. All three recovered, although one of them suffered the permanent loss of a testicle.

Commander Halli was recalled in November and is currently working as an air controller at Reykjavik Airport. Kabul’s International airport was placed under the command of another Icelander, Garðar Forberg. Turkey took over control of KAIA when the Icelanders’ shift ended on February 1st 2005. The last Icelanders are set to return on the 1st of June, a year after they had first arrived. Thus ended Iceland’s first armed venture since the Viking age.

Valur Gunnarsson is the former editor of the Grapevine, and is currently working on a documentary about Icelandic involvement in Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN / ICELAND Comparisons*
By Valur Gunnarsson

Area:
Afghanistan: 647,500 sq km
Iceland: 103,000 sq km

Population:
Afghanistan: 28 million
Iceland 395,000

Median age:
Afghanistan: 17.5 years
Iceland 33.8 years

Life expectancy:
Afghanistan: 42.46 years (male: 42.27 years, female: 42.66 years)
Iceland: 80.18 years (male: 78.18 years, female: 82.27 years)

Population growth:
Afghanistan: 4.92%
Iceland: 1%

Birth rate:
Afghanistan: 47.27/1000
Iceland 13.83/1,000

Literacy:
Afghanistan: 36%
(male: 51%, female: 21%)
Iceland: 99.9%

GDP growth:
Afghanistan: 29%
Iceland 2.6%

Below poverty line:
23% (Iceland officially does not have poverty. It does, however, have more than 100 homeless people).

Major exports:
Afghanistan: Opium (around a third of GDP), fruits and nuts, handwoven carpets, wool, cotton, hides and pelts, precious and semi-precious gems. 80-90% of heroin in Europe comes from Afghanistan.
Iceland: fish and fish products 70%, animal products, aluminum, diatomite, ferrosilicon

Afghanistan External Debt:
$8 billion in bilateral debt, mostly to Russia.
Iceland External Debt:
2.6 billion

Telephones:
Afghanistan Main Lines: 33,100
Iceland Main Lines: 190.000
Afghanistan Cellular Phones: 15,000
Iceland Cellular Phones: 280,000

Internet users:
Afghanistan: 1000 (.af established as Afghanistan’s domain in March 2003)
Iceland: 195,000

Afghanistan Military: 7,000 men
Iceland: 17 men

*All data retrieved from the CIA World Fact Book.



Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

The Ghosts Of Best-Ofs Past

by

Compiling the BEST OF REYKJAVÍK has always been, at best, a half-absurd proposition. As much as we love our city, it is a tiny one, a miniscule one. It is a city that hosts exactly two competitors for the category of ‘best Indian food’, in a country where the Prime Minister ceremoniously and reverently chomped down the first Big Mac served at the island’s first McDonald’s franchise back in ’93 (miss u, cheap cardboard hamburgers and delicious fries). Yet, compiling the BEST OF REYKJAVÍK, half-absurd as the act may be, is always a deeply satisfying endeavour. The best part is:

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Best Of The News

by

In reviewing the past year in news, you will see certain patterns emerge: certain public figures, events and topics that seem to ignite social media and office break room conversations for days, weeks or even months. Arguments are had, alliances are formed, and people are unfriended over these very stories. These are news trends that never really go away; they just change form and come back to pay repeated visits, for better or for worse. Let Grapevine take you back over the past year to savour the delectable banquet that is the very best the news has had to offer.

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Completely Unthinkable

by

As you read this, the State Prosecutor is reviewing the latest findings of a months-long police investigation of the Ministry of the Interior, over a memo on Nigerian asylum seeker Tony Omos that found itself in the hands of select members of the media last November. This memo impugned Tony’s reputation, with accusations— which later proved false and misleading—at a time when he was facing impending deportation, and the Ministry was facing a protest. So far, those investigations have seemingly confirmed what has long been suspected: the memo originated in the Ministry, that Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Searching For Ido

by

In the summer of 2004, exactly 10 years ago, a tragic accident happened on Laugavegur, Iceland’s most popular hiking trail. Ido Keinan, a young man from Israel, passed away after getting trapped in a vicious storm. Only one kilometre away from the hut in Hrafntinnusker, he died of exposure to the fierce elements. To this day a memorial on the Laugavegur trail reminds hikers of the highlands’ hidden dangers. Friday, June 25, 2004, Ben-Gurion airport, Tel-Aviv—Dressed in a black t-shirt and baggy jeans, Ido Keinan, 25 years of age, says goodbye to his family. He is about to take a

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Raccoons In Iceland: A Sad History

by

As visitors to Iceland will no doubt soon realise, Iceland’s fauna is not particularly diverse. Several attempts have been made to remedy this fact by importing exotic (at least by Icelandic standards) animals to Iceland, but these trials have not been too successful. In the spring of 1932, an enterprising bookbinder named Ársæll Árnason came from Germany bearing a cargo of seven raccoons—to the best of our knowledge the first time raccoons touched Icelandic soil. Ársæll had previously been involved in shipping several young muskoxen to Iceland, all of whom died soon after their arrival in Iceland, a story regular

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

The Last Emperor Of Atlantis Was An Icelander

by

Karl Kerulf Einarsson, aka Dunganon, aka the Duke of St. Kilda, aka Emperor Cormorant XII of Atlantis, was both an artist and a poet, but his most remarkable creation was himself…or I should say his various selves. Born in 1897 near Seyðisfjörður in eastern Iceland, Karl moved with his family to the Faroe Islands when he was still a child. He may have derived some of his eccentric genes from his father, a grocer who displayed a dead cat playing a violin in the window of his Torshavn shop. Early on, Karl realised that he could find a better playing

Show Me More!