Icelandic activist Haukur Hilmarsson was reportedly killed in combat in Afrin, Syria. He was 32 years old.
According to a post from the International Freedom Battalion (IFB), a group of international fighters working alongside the YPG in Syria, this was his second tour of combat in the region. After first being deported from Iraq after trying to enter Rojava, he returned shortly thereafter and distinguished himself in Raqqa, where he rose to the rank of commander. After helping rout the Islamic State from the area, he later joined the fighting against encroaching Turkish forces in northern Syria. It was in Afrin, a Syrian city that has seen heavy casualties lately, where he ultimately fell in combat.
“In death we say he has become immortal,” IFB writes of him. “For we will never forget his struggle, his name, and his example – and we shall never give up his fight.”
Worst of all, members of his own family are at a loss to know exactly what became of him. His mother, Eva Hauksdóttir, posted a brief note on her personal site, saying that no one had contacted them about Haukur. She says that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been in touch with law enforcement and authorities in Turkey, but she is asking that if anyone has any definitive information about Haukur that they contact email@example.com.
Haukur, who took the nom de guerre Sahin Hosseini in the IFB, has been a well-known activist in Iceland for many years. He was dedicated to human rights, and first gained national attention in 2008 when he and another man attempted to block the deportation of then-asylum seeker Paul Ramses Odour by standing in the way of an airplane carrying Ramses that was trying to leave Iceland. Paul was grateful for this act, later telling reporters that the two men “saved my life”. Paul is today an Icelandic citizen.
Haukur was also active in the 2008-2009 protests against the government, gaining attention in the symbolic act of climbing onto the roof of parliament and hoisting the flag of the Bónus supermarket chain on the building’s flagpole. Protesters on the scene were so enamored with the act that they aided him in evading arrest.
He was also a prominent member of No Borders – Iceland, continuously fighting for the rights of asylum seekers in Iceland, and has even written for Grapevine on a number of occasions. He was utterly uncompromising on this subject, writing the following in 2015:
“Borders ensure neither peace nor security. Rather, they tamper free movement, business, survival and happiness. They are man-made, and their maintenance requires the relentless effort of heavily funded institutions. The pushbacks and deportations of refugees are intentional and carefully meditated acts of oppression. An all-out resistance to the entire establishment of border control is needed for the preservation of refugees lives. On these points there can be no negotiation. No room for opportunism. This is our ideology in a nutshell.”