The Turkish flag was hoisted over Iceland’s government offices yesterday in an act of protest against what friends and family of Haukur Hilmarsson see as the Icelandic government’s unwillingness to find and retrieve his remains.
Kvennablaðið was first to report that Darri Hilmarsson, Haukur’s brother, climbed onto the roof of the government offices and hoisted the flag at about 11:00 yesterday, as Icelandic Independence Day celebrations were kicking off. Witnesses told Kvennablaðið that Darri remained on the roof until a squad car, two motorcycle cops and special forces arrived. He was arrested, taken into custody, and likely will be charged.
The protest act itself was a fitting tribute to Haukur, who received widespread praise for having climbed onto the roof of Parliament and hoisted the flag of the Bónus supermarket chain during the 2008-2009 popular protests against the government. But yesterday’s protest had a more immediate reason.
As reported, Haukur was allegedly killed in action last February in Afrin, Syria while fighting with the International Freedom Battalion. Since then, the location of him or his remains has been a mystery. Haukur’s mother and his friends have repeatedly called upon the Icelandic government to take action in retrieving his remains — reportedly being held by Turkish authorities, who control this area of Syria now — or to be allowed into the area to search for Haukur themselves, to no avail.
In a statement to the press, the organisers of the protest say that police response to Haukur’s case “does not change the conduct of the Icelandic Foreign Ministry or the Prime Minister’s office in this matter, and where the situation has reached the strange point where the Turkish police control how Icelandic ministries will conduct searches for Icelandic citizens, it is very appropriate on the Icelandic national holiday to make this surprise switching of power visible.”
At least one Icelander has already said they intend to travel to Syria to search for Haukur themselves. It is unknown when or if this person has already departed for the destination. Icelandic government authorities have not yet commented on yesterday’s event.