From Iceland — News In Brief: Late June, 2014

News In Brief: Late June, 2014

Published July 9, 2014

News In Brief: Late June, 2014
Nanna Árnadóttir
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Former prime minister and first openly gay head of state Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir delivered a moving speech about LGBT rights at Toronto’s WorldPride Human Rights Conference last week. In her speech, Jóhanna expressed gratitude for LGBT activists and told the audience that she lived with shame and inner conflict before coming out, but that her “story [was] also a tale of triumph. Because in the end love conquered all.

Speaking of epic Icelandic women, Björk made international news again last week when MoMA announced they were putting together a special retrospective of her work. According to Klaus Biesenbach, chief-curator-at-large for MoMA, the New York museum plans to pay tribute to the Icelandic singer in a new “highly experimental exhibition that offers visitors a direct experience of her hugely collaborative body of work.”

Things are going less great for ten year-old Harriet Cardew, an Icelandic girl from Kópavogur who was denied a passport recently because the National Registry will not recognise her name. As a rule naming committees are put in place to stop people from naming their children things like ‘Satan’s Seed’ but Iceland’s is especially strict. Harriet, who has an Icelandic mother and English father, needed the passport to go on vacation but as the National Registry would not budge her parents were forced to seek an emergency passport from the British embassy instead.

While we’re on the topic of Iceland seeming unreasonable, the director of the Icelandic Tourist Board says that tourists “no longer” regard Iceland as a cheap travel destination. Icelanders have become increasingly aware of what they see as unfair mark-ups on goods and services directed at tourists. The cost of renting a car in Iceland, for example, is three times higher than in other Scandinavian countries. The cost of accommodation and food is also on the rise.

Meanwhile the private sector believes that tourists should pay more and the director of the Federation of Icelandic Industries says it is “tragic” that tourists often arrive with everything they need rather than spend money on goods and services in Iceland (cue side-eye).

The whaling company Hvalur hf. continues to unapologetically hunt whales and have landed sixteen fin whales since the season started earlier this month. Hvalur hf. intends to export the whale meat to Japan despite reports that whale meat is not selling there and is in fact piling up in cold storage.


Hoping to change Iceland’s attitude to whaling, about 60 volunteers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) are expected to arrive this summer, to talk to Icelanders and tourists alike about the downsides of whale hunting.

Meanwhile, Réné Kujan of the Czech Republic is attempting to make a positive impact on Iceland too by running one marathon each day for 21 days in a bid to raise money for charity. This is not the first time Réné has run long distance in Iceland. He ran around the country two years ago, from the northern most point of Iceland to the southern most point last year.

Réné isn’t the only one working up a sweat for a good cause; over 500 people are taking part in the ‘WOW Cyclothon’ bicycle race circling Iceland, with the aim of raising money for the National University Hospital of Iceland.

In closing, Iceland seems to have topped yet another global list. In the past Iceland has been crowned most peaceful nation, most feminist nation and now, perhaps less prestigiously the nation that smokes the most pot per capita. The UN’s annual World Drug Report estimates that approximately 18.3% of Icelanders aged 15–65 smoke cannabis, the highest per capita percentage in the world followed by the United States at 14.8% and New Zealand at 14.6%.

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