Published March 13, 2018
The news of the death of Haukur Hilmarsson, an Icelandic activist and anarchist who in all likelihood was killed fighting Turkish forces in Afrin, Syria last month, has sent shock waves through the Icelandic community. His death has brought the Kurdish cause and Turkish abuses to the forefront of attention and discussion, and his legacy as a tireless crusader for human rights has been celebrated. Some of the ways in which his memory have been honoured have raised criticism, if not outright condemnation, from the people who knew him best.
One prime example of this was a conference held last Saturday on the Syrian situation. The guests of honour were blogger Vanessa Beeley and writer Tim Anderson. Both of these people have been outspoken supporters of Bashar al-Assad, the Baathist leader of Syria whose heavy-handed response to popular protests calling for his removal prompted a civil war. The flag of Assadic Syria graced the podium of the conference, and Anderson’s book, The Dirty War On Syria, was dedicated to Haukur’s memory.
An anarchist would not back Assad
Beeley’s theories about the reality of Syria, which includes the belief that the well-documented chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians are a hoax and the White Helmets employ crisis actors, deviate so greatly from all evidence that not even journalists for public broadcasting wanted to interview her, Stundin reports. More importantly, pretty much everything Haukur stood and fought for is diametrically opposed to the rhetoric of Anderson and Beeley.
Haukur was not just a human rights activist; he was also an anarchist, and opposed authority in all its forms, let alone that of a brutal dictator like Assad. In Syria, Haukur fought in the International Freedom Battalion, a group of communists and anarchists from around the world lending tactical support to the YPG, also known as the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish fighting force that has virtually eliminated the Islamic State from northern Syria and are now battling heavy shelling conducted by Turkey. Furthermore, the Kurds in the region have organised themselves within the framework of “democratic confederalism”, an anarchist form of direct democracy on a municipal level. As such, it is highly unlikely that Haukur would have felt honoured by having his name attached to Assad.
Family and friends of Haukur displeased
Shortly after the meeting, word got out that friends and family of Haukur were deeply upset by this event. The organisers of the meeting adamantly kept the flag of Assadic Syria raised, despite repeated attempts and requests for it to be taken down, even after those close to Haukur pointed out to the organisers that they were raising the flag of a Kurdish enemy.
“This would have been a ridiculous ceremony any day of the year, but today it’s just bitter and cruel,” Haukur’s friend Benjamin Julian wrote of the event on Facebook shortly thereafter. “Haukur was killed alongside the rebels, fighting dictatorship, fascism, oppression, nationalism, chauvinism and stupidity, while Assad looks at the country as his own personal property.”
Whatever can be said of Assad, one thing is certain: everything Assad stands for, and Haukur stood for, find no common ground between them.