Friends of Haukur Hilmarsson call for help bringing him home

Iceland has been shocked to hear of the death of Hilmarsson, a well-known anarchist activist caught in a Turkish airstrike just outside the Kurdish enclave of Afrin — now his friends are calling for help confirming his death/finding his body and say they may travel to Syria to get him.

Hilmarsson’s family have repeatedly expressed their anger at the Icelandic government over its inaction in the aftermath of his reported death in February. On March 8th they formally asked the Foreign Ministry to push NATO and Turkish authorities to return his body, and collared Foreign Minister Godhlaugur Thor Thordharson himself on the 13th. But since then little progress has been made, and as of mid-April they still only have hearsay reports of his death.

According to friends, the problem is that all of his old comrades have been either killed or chased away so there is no direct information available, and they say they are willing to travel to Badina, where he is thought to have been killed, to try and find at least a DNA sample to confirm beyond doubt that he’s gone. Writing in an open letter, a friend said:

Haukur became a sort of folk treasure during the uprising against the government and the bankers back in 2008 when he hoisted a yellow flag with a pig on it on top of Alþingi, the parliament building. He is known for a lot of other things. He was Iceland’s most active activist. He once stopped an airplane from leaving Keflavík airport by jumping the fence to save the life of a refugee and succeeded. He climbed cranes and did all kind of stunts in his actions to protect Icelandic nature from exploitation of foreign aluminium companies and others who seek cheap energy for heavy industries. Sadly he was still losing that battle little by little every year. He was a humanitarian, environmentalist and against all kind of fascism. He hated most forms of government, an anarchist at heart.

No-one knew that Haukur had gone to Syria. One day he just disappeared. The shock that I got on March 6th when I heard that Haukur had been killed in combat in Syria was surreal. Shortly after, pictures of Haukur in combat gear started to come forward and reality started to sink in.

Apparently Haukur went to Syria last summer to end the reign of Isis, which he saw as the worst form of fascism around. For the last six months, Haukur had been fighting Isis in some kind of international group effort of volunteers to end their reign. According to news he was doing a pretty good job until the Turks decided to put an end to this nonsense. This is not a normal. This is not something that Icelanders are known to do.

Haukur is supposed to have fallen in a Turkish airstrike close to a town called Badina in Afrin on February 24th, We have heard many different stories about what happened but we can not find anyone who saw him fall. We are being told that he went missing in some kind of operation and most likely killed in an airstrike. His death was announced ten days after he went missing after his comrades had searched all hospitals in the area and could not find him.

He originally went to Syria with a Greek anarchist group called RUIS (Revolutionary Union for Internationalist Solidarity) They joined a group called IFB (international freedom battalion) who supported the Kurds and the constitution of Rojava in Afrin in the fight against ISIS. He was known among the Kurds as Sahin Hosseini and should stand out in the area with his blond hair.

The past weeks have been hard for everyone who knew Haukur. Our worst thought is not that he is dead. He might be a prisoner of the Turks and we all know what treatment terrorists get in the hands of the Turks. The first news about his death came from Turkish media and we feel it is suspicious that the Turks knew his name if he was truly dead. In a few days I will be going to Syria in an attempt to find him. If there is anyone who can help me get in contact with good people in Afrin or close to the border in Turkey, please let me know. I have traveled to war zones before and I know that most people are decent human beings who like to live in peace and help others as they can. Thanks to all that spend their time reading this, I truly appreciate it.

Many people are worried [about the decision to travel to Syria] and that is an understandable feeling. The situation in Afrin however is probably one of the safest in Syria at the moment since the Turks have full control over the area. The town that I will go to is close to the borders of Turkey and very limited fighting has been going on there. After receiving recent photos and videos from the area I do not see the massive destruction of cities and towns like in other parts of Syria.

I am not the only one planning to go there. There are a number of Haukur’s friends who want to search for him and it will be difficult to convince them not to go. This is our last ditch effort in finding out what happened to Haukur since the “correct diplomatic way” is not working as it should. This is the first time that Icelandic authorities have had to deal with this kind of stuff and frankly they have no idea how to handle it.


You can get in touch with the writer via laruspall at hotmail.com.