One victim of a self-titled Gay Death Squad says they’ve threatened him claiming “gays should be put in extermination camps” among other hateful comments on trans and disabled people in Iceland.
Arnar Máni Ingólfsson, a young gay man living in the capital area of Iceland, has received calls, messages, and harassment from a person claiming to be a gay basher. Now Arnar is going public with the screenshots and has the support of the community and the country on his side.
Iceland is often held up as one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to LGBT+ rights. We’re always accepting of the queer community here, right? Pride is a big family-friendly event and the gays can get legally married, so there’s nothing to worry about, right? There’s no progress left to be made and no bigots to be found in Iceland!
Wrong! Sadly harassment, hate speech, bullying, homophobia, and transphobia are alive and well in Iceland. One man is proving how alive and well it truly is by harassing queers and even the disabled. Though the harasser hasn’t been identified yet, the queer community is looking for anyone who might be able to help identify him by his voice.
“I get paid to bash the gays”
“I just find it sad that people still think this way and people do not fully realize it. Many people say that gay people, the disabled, and people of color are doing well here, but we still have a long way to go with things like this. People are just starting to hide their opinions and saying them on fake accounts,” Arnar Máni, said in an interview with news site Vísir this week, when asked about the harassment he’s had to deal with.
Despite knowing that what they’re saying could be construed as a hate crime the assailant can be heard on one phone call saying: “It’s not a hobby if I get paid to bash the gays. The Mormons pay me, I’m in the gay bashing squad. We’re not gay killers, we have not killed any gays. But there is more to it, [it’s about] killing the gay in you. Do you understand? Pushing you back into the closet. It’s not about killing the person, it’s about killing the gay man in you.”
The man, who’s identity is still unknown, goes on to say it’s not about killing anyone because they know they’re not legally allowed to do so. “We do not kill gays (laughing maniacally). It’s just not allowed. Just a little bashing, just a little like that. To rape children like gays do,” says the caller.
Stirring the Pot
Arnar, who recorded the calls and has screenshots of all his messages, says that it’s obvious this person is harassing him for attention. In a way various news articles about him might be exactly what the guy wants, to have gotten a rise out of him. “I told him that at least 20,000 people had heard the recording of him, but he just encouraged me to keep sharing,” Arnar says in an interview with DV, the news site that broke the story. “He’s told me directly that he’s just trolling people to get a reaction,” he says now, in an nterview with GayIceland.
“They said in one call that gays should be put in extermination camps as if they were Jews. He’s also been attacking trans people and disabled people, some people that can’t even really defend themselves.”
“He wants to beat us and has said he gets paid to beat gays,” says Arnar. Although it’s unclear whether the suspect is serious about his threats or “joking,” it’s obvious that more serious charges have come up because of his actions. With the police involved Arnar hopes to find out who this person is and put a stop to their “jokes.” It remains unclear whether this person is doing it for money from someone else, as a dare or challenge, or with serious intent to harm.
Trans people and disabled people under attack
Adding to the confusion is the element of religious affiliation or apparent lack thereof. “I think it’s just one guy and he let his friend help him or something, but the one guy that I have been talking to is the one who’s been saying all this stuff. It’s very strange. They’re pretending to be Mormons. We have real Mormons in Iceland but these are just fake profiles,” says Arnar. Although the Mormon church, in general, has not been known to be queer-friendly, Icelandic Mormons and leaders of the official religious organization in Iceland have not come out to denounce this hate speech.
It gets worse too. Arnar says the perps even included slurs alongside holocaust comparisons in one recording: “They said in one call that gays should be put in extermination camps as if they were Jews. He’s also been attacking trans people and disabled people, some people that can’t even really defend themselves,” says Arnar. The perpetrator clearly knows what he’s doing is unacceptable and abhorrent. “He’s saying that he knows what he’s doing is wrong but he doesn’t regret it,” says Arnar, as if this behavior is fun for him.
Now that the story has been all over Icelandic news sites from DV to Vísir and RÚV, the mood is changing. “I think he’s starting to get a little nervous now because he’s stopped sending messages and harassing people,” says Arnar. “I think I’m like the only person he actually talked to on the phone and I’m the only one who’s talking about it and putting it online. But I’m not the only one he’s been sending messages to,” he clarifies.
“Red all over from queer blood”
The whole thing started just because Arnar was added to a random group chat and called incessantly. “I got added to a group chat on Facebook messenger and they just called again and again and again,” he says. “I finally answered like “stop calling me” and then they started to say all these things.”
Although the whole thing could be construed as a harmless joke to the biased eye, Arnar says there’s definitely an edge of something more serious to this situation. Some of the messages back and forth included the harasser telling Arnar about a friend of his nicknamed for his work bashing in the gays. “In one screenshot I have from him he calls his friend a nickname: Kiddi Rauði (loosely translated Chris Red). Apparently, he’s called Kiddi Rauði because he’s red from the blood all over him from bashing gays,” says Arnar. “I think they are just some psychopaths,” he says casually.
“He sent me a live location that he was just maybe 20 or 25 meters from me, outside the police station.”
All in all, Arnar is taking it seriously but doesn’t feel threatened or in serious danger. That was until he realized this person was also following him around town. When asked if he thought this person was just trolling him or if he was serious, Arnar says: “Well he told me that he was just trolling but when I went to the police station to make a report about this he asked me where I was and I told him “I’m at the police station.” And he sent me a live location that he was just maybe 20 or 25 meters from me, outside the police station around Hlemmur [in downtown Reykjavík], just walking around there.”
Bravery in the face of bigotry
Even though a report with the police has been filed and an investigation may be underway, it’s not clear if the basher is still actively following Arnar around based on information he may have. When asked if he thought this person posed a real threat of danger to him, Arnar says “no”. “I don’t think so. I think they’re just trying to make me scared.”
Arnar isn’t really scared though. By most counts his actions calling the perp out on the phone and in messenger were brave. Taking the issue to the police to report must also be commended with bravery as most hate crimes against queer people go unreported and therefore unresolved. If Arnar wasn’t so courageous the assailant wouldn’t have been called out and may have continued harassing others.
Even so, Arnar isn’t done being harassed. He says that he and his friends have been playing a bit of cat and mouse with this guy and he’s still around. “I was in Hagkaup Skeifan [a supermarket] this weekend and one of my friends told him to come there, like challenging him saying: “Send me a picture of where you are and I’ll be there,” says Arnar. “He sent a picture [of his location], but it was after we left. But he was there, he just didn’t want to show himself.”
It’s just a joke, right?
When asked if he has any idea who these people are, if they were bullies from childhood or someone he knows messing with him, Arnar says “no”. “I don’t know these people but I know that they know who I am.” He supposes that they’re having a great time finding marginalized members of society to play with and pick on, though it’s obviously in poor taste. “I really don’t see what is so funny about this. Someone has to talk about this. If it’s all a joke it’s not funny. We need to find out who this is because these actions have consequences.”
For now, the police have taken over the official investigation and Arnar is content with their reaction. “The police took this very seriously [when I went to report this] so I hope they’re going to figure this out. I also had a meeting with Samtökin ‘78 [the National Queer Organization] and they’re going to be working with the police on this also,” says Arnar. Even so, he isn’t sure how much of a difference it will make. “[The guy] doesn’t even care about the police getting involved, I think it’s just a really shitty person behind this. There was another guy that was with him on the one call … I think he’s much older than the main guy. We have a theory that it could be like a son and his father, but that’s really messed up so I hope that’s not the case.” Arnar also hopes this person is found and held accountable for their actions. “The police told me they’re going to try to figure out who this is,” he clarifies.
What does your mother think?
When asked if he faces a lot of prejudice for being queer in Iceland Arnar says it’s not really new, but this time it’s more serious. At the same time, his baseline for harassment online is quite high considering he’s “seen comments like “go kill yourself” online. He says “it’s never been this serious but I don’t think serious stuff like this happens in Iceland that often. Even when I just post on TikTok I get trolls or fake profiles commenting ‘faggot’ and ‘shit’, in Icelandic.”
For Arnar, what upset him the most was being called a pedophile. “The thing that made it go over my line was when they called me a child abuser like I was a child molester. Because I’ve heard before that someone was going to beat me up for being gay but like, in one clip he said: “Fourty percent of all gay men are child predators.” I asked him if he could send me the research where it says that but he just told me to “google it yourself”,” says Arnar.
“In the end, I’m going to figure out who this is. Someone will. He has to answer for his actions. I won’t be afraid to tell anyone who this was.”
Despite Iceland’s outward image of a Nordic queer utopia, Arnar says there’s still a lot of work to be done and hate crimes and harassment based on someone’s sexuality are still happening. “We have a lot of issues that we need to fix in Iceland like this kind of stuff,” he says. “In the end, I’m going to figure out who this is. Someone will. He has to answer for his actions. I won’t be afraid to tell anyone who this was,” says Arnar bravely.
He also thinks it’s ridiculous that this person is behaving so badly so publicly. “The voice clips are out there everywhere now and his mother is probably listening to it online,” says Arnar. “It’s probably very likely she’s heard it and I don’t think she’ll be very proud of her son and his actions. I think no mother wants to hear their child talk like that,” he says.
Support from all around
In response to Arnar’s Twitter thread with audio recordings going viral, various members of Iceland’s queer community have broken out the pride flags again in solidarity and protest. Þorbjörg Þorvaldsdóttir, head of National Queer Organisation Samtökin ‘78 tweeted out: “We need hate crime legislation, a clear government policy, and targeted action against hate crimes IMMEDIATELY.”
In social media posts Ingileif Friðriksdóttir a co-founder of Hinseginleikinn, an educational platform about the LGBTQIA+ community in Iceland, says: “Stand Together Against Hate! Hate speech and threats against gay people are unfortunately a fact in Iceland today. It must be eliminated. It’s not just the struggle of gay people. It is the struggle of all of us. Let’s show that we will not suffer in our society. Let us spread the love and be visible. Because love always wins.”
Actor extraordinaire Bjarni Snæbjörnsson posted: “Let’s allow homosexuality to take over our social media. Let’s stand together with love and send a clear message against hate, prejudice, and ignorance. The kind of society I want to live in. It’s very shocking to hear and read the hate that is now bubbling to the surface. At the same time, it’s good that this is coming up because we get to see that there is still a lot left and we may NEVER fall asleep at the wheel. It’s our social duty as a nation. We reject violence. The shame is never ours. Such violence is never our fault. Let’s talk about the violence against us and empower each other. On the website of Samtökin ‘78, you can report violence and seek counseling.”
The rest of Icelandic social media has erupted with comments about the case and harassment with many queer members of the community supporting Arnar. One post wrote it clearly by saying “this is for those who say “Why do we still need a pride parade?” or “Haven’t you gotten all your rights?” Iceland isn’t the “Queer Paradise” everyone thinks it is,” with headlines about abuse posted around.
Could be charged for recording the harasser
For now, calls and messages from the bigot have been quiet. “He’s leaving me alone now because he knows I’m only going to post more screenshots and audio from him,” says Arnar. Saved in his phone are over 30 minutes of audio recordings and screenshots. “Somebody told me this guy could, in theory, charge me for recording him without knowing, but to do that he would need to go to the police station and tell them who he is, and he won’t do that,” he says.
Whether or not the culprit is found and held accountable, it’s obvious that online trolls like this have many ways of hiding their identity, multiple accounts to use and reuse. Pitifully the same harassment continues with the same computer, just under a different username and different login. “It’s most likely the same person behind both of these fake profiles. He made yet another new profile today, so this continues…,” says Arnar.
** If you or anyone you know recognizes this behavior or the voices of the “Gay Bashing Squad,” reach out to the police, Lögreglan, through this form, anonymous by phone at +354-800-5005, in person at any station, or to Samtökin ‘78.