Open Letter To Iceland's PM Demands Action In Bringing Home Man Missing In Syria - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Open Letter To Iceland’s PM Demands Action In Bringing Home Man Missing In Syria

Published April 24, 2018

Photos by
International Freedom Battalion

50 days have passed since Haukur Hilmarsson was reportedly killed in action in Syria, and some 400 Icelanders have released an open letter to Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir calling upon her to take more decisive action in finding and bringing him home. Update, 14:15: The Prime Minister has responded.

Friends and family of Haukur have been frustrated by the apparent lack of interest within the Icelandic government in taking real steps to locate Haukur. In particular, Haukur’s mother, Eva Hauksdóttir, has been pleading with the government to expedite matters, but to no avail.

Increasingly, more Icelanders are pressuring the Icelandic government on this matter. Most recently, a friend of Haukur’s addressed Parliament directly from the spectator’s gallery, questioning their lack of effort.

Now, Stundin has released an open letter to Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, signed by 400 Icelanders, many of them prominent members of Iceland’s cultural and activist scene.

“Haukur has always, in Iceland as elsewhere, fought for his political ideals: freedom, equality, natural conservation, freedom of movement, the rights of refugees and immigrants, a world without greed or borders, a society without capitalism, sexual inequality, racism or other forms of bigotry,” the letter reads in part. “For these ideals, Haukur also fought in Raqqa and Rojava in Syria.”

The letter points out that Haukur’s case has been under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for over a month now, only for them to provide Haukur’s family with very little information, “providing neither conclusive evidence nor any leads on the whereabouts of Haukur.”

“We, the undersigned, cannot stand silently by and witness the lack of action and the incompetence of the government in this matter,” the letter concludes. “This is why we demand you immediately focus on Haukur’s case in the following manner.”

As such, “it is likely that in the back channels of [Foreign Minister] Guðlaugur Þór there is no political will to see to it that this matter is handled comprehensively. Family and friends of Haukur have then justifiable reason to fear that now, after we have been handed this information, the Foreign Ministry’s interest in finding the whereabouts of Haukur has come to a dead end.”

Haukur’s family and friends have conducted their own research, to the best of their ability, to try and come to the bottom of this. While Turkish media had reported that Turkish authorities had Haukur’s remains and would be returning them to Iceland soon, the Turkish government has denied this is the case. For context, Haukur was last seen in Afrin, fighting against Turkey’s military offensive on the Syrian town.

“We, the undersigned, cannot stand silently by and witness the lack of action and the incompetence of the government in this matter,” the letter concludes. “This is why we demand you immediately focus on Haukur’s case in the following manner:

“1. That the government will use every means at their disposal to determine where the Turkish media got their information that Haukur’s remains would be sent to Iceland, as was brought to light by most outlets who released news about the case. The same goes for information, which mbl.is cited, that a Kurdish journalist in Syria provided that Haukur’s remains were in the possession of the Turkish army. The word of the Turkish government will not be taken into consideration where this question is concerned, rather independent sources will be sought out to determine whether this information has any basis in reality.

“2. If Haukur is being held by Turkish authorities or their allies, dead or alive, the Icelandic government will push with all their weight to bring him back to Iceland.

“3. Haukur’s supporters will be ensured satisfactory access to the information regarding this process, and to the results of Iceland’s efforts into his disappearance.

“4. The Icelandic government formally seeks permission from the Turkish authorities (or other relevant institutions or governments) for a select group of Haukur’s supporters to travel unobstructed to Afrin where the group can look for him, an area that Turkish authorities say is now under their control.”

Apart from Haukur’s family and many friends, some of the other undersigned include poet and activist Birgitta Jónsdóttir; Reykjavík city councilperson Hjálmar Sveinsson; musician Logi Pedro Stefánsson; and artist Bryndís Björnsdóttir.

Update, 14:15: Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has responded to this letter on her Facebook page. In executive summary, she says the Icelandic government has done or is continuing to do all the things Haukur’s supporters are demanding, with one exception: the handing over of all relevant data. Katrín says that the dearth of information given to Haukur’s supporters is due to the confidential nature of many of these diplomatic communiques, which in some instances contain personal information about individuals which could put them in danger if revealed.

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