Elín­borg Harpa Önundar­dóttir. Photo / Art Bicnick, courtesy of The Reykjavík Grapevine.

“I have a responsibility to take” – Elínborg Harpa on fighting the system

It was two years ago during Reykjavík Pride that Elín­borg Harpa Önundar­dóttir was arrested, which Elínborg believes was because of their involvement in protests in solidarity with people seeking asylum in Iceland and against deportations. Now, they have been found guilty of disobeying police orders and have been sentenced to a two month probationary prison sentence, standing for two years, as well as more than one million ISK in legal fees. GayIceland spoke with Elín­borg—who has since come out as trans-masculine and non-binary—about the incident, their connection to the queer community, and moving forward.

First, how did Elín­borg get involved in activism? “My family was quite a ‘normal’ family, as in rather mainstream. I would describe them as Social Democrats. I think I got affiliated with radical politics when I was in my last year of my philosophy degree. I’m not really sure what happened, but I guess I was reading more radical philosophers like Michel Foucault, some feminists theorists such as de Beauvoir, together with existentialism. I started to think about freedom a lot—freedom of the individual, justice and responsibility, and what this all means.

“I appealed my case to the land court, and I’m going to defend myself. I’m going to be my own lawyer.”

From there, I started looking for answers to these questions, not only in texts, but also in real life. This led me to groups that organize in the spirit of anarchism(s). I got to know people who were involved in radical, horizontal political organizing, had conversations with them, and one thing led to another and I started being a bit more active in what they were doing at the time.”

They soon became involved in groups such as No Borders Iceland, which supports asylum seekers and refugees and protests Iceland’s policy of deportation.
“When you get to know people who are refugees and asylum seekers, then you really see how messed up the European system and the Icelandic system is. Then you can’t go back, you can’t really look away. I also connected the violence that is happening to people seeking protection in Western countries with white privilege and white supremacy. I thought as a white person, I also have a role to play and a responsibility to take. For me, if you don’t want to support a system like that, you have to fight it. If you don’t actively fight against it, I think you’re complicit.”

Elínborg emphasizes that refugees and asylum seekers in Iceland continue to face serious challenges and discrimination.
“Recently 18 refugees were illegally made homeless and without all services and financial support. This was done by the Immigration Office and defended by the Minister of Justice,” they say. “They were homeless for over a month and the public in Iceland took people into their homes. One person was homeless from the end of March until the middle of June.

They are not able to use the homeless shelters since they do not have kennitala (a national ID number ),” Elínborg adds. “In mid-June the appeals board confirmed that this treatment goes against the law, so now people are pressing for the head of the Immigration Department, Þorsteinn Gunnarsson, and Áslaug Arna, Minister of Justice to resign from their positions. One of the people put to the street is disabled and needs personal assistance in everyday life. This makes him extra vulnerable in the situation of being homeless and without financial resources.”

“I guess it’s quite recent for me to be identifying as trans non-binary. It’s been for a little bit over a year with my closest friends and some of my family.”

In 2019, Elín­borg was involved in demonstrations to protest deportations of people who had been denied asylum from Iceland. One of these actions was a sit-in protest in the lobby of the Ministry of Justice, and another was a peaceful demonstration in front of the Parliament building. It was for their involvement in these protests that Elín­borg believes they were arrested at the 2019 Pride parade. But what were the circumstances around their arrest?

“It seemed to have been their intention to arrest me all along, and the Pride organizers were full participants, if not responsible. I saw in the police reports that the organizers of Pride had contacted the police and had a special meeting with police explaining that they were afraid for the safety of the march because of me and some other comrades. That was the biggest slap in the face.

I also didn’t feel support from the Icelandic queer community at all, other than from my friends. In general it seemed like the queer community didn’t really care, or didn’t see it as a big deal. At least not until a year later, when I decided to talk a bit more about the experience, and then I got some support from organizations like Samtökin ’78 and Trans Ísland. But the Pride committee themselves, they never really showed me any interest and have denied all my requests of accountability.”

Elín­borg is trans and non-binary, and as a member of the queer community themself, they say this lack of apology and responsibility from the Pride committee was what hurt the most. “They lost allof my trust, and a lot of my longing to work with the greater queer community in Iceland also diminished,” they say.

“I guess it’s quite recent for me to be identifying as trans non-binary. It’s been for a little bit over a year with my closest friends and some of my family. Now I’m more open, and I’m gaining some self-esteem and self-trust to talk about it and explore this part of my identity.”

Elín­borg say they felt incredibly supported after coming out. “That’s the privilege of being and belonging to radical clusters, here in Iceland at least. A lot of my friends are queer, a few of them are trans. So there was a big support network, and everyone was really happy that I was making this discovery about myself. I’m not sure if I would have been able to do this without the fights that trans people here in Iceland have been doing for the past decades. It’s really impressive, and I’m really proud of them and I admire them a lot. I don’t think it’s been an easy fight at all.”

Now, Elín­borg is facing their own fight. After being arrested in 2019, their case has been winding through the courts. What is the status of their case now?
“There were seven people who were arrested in 2019, and six of us were charged. We’re all charged with breaking Article 19 of the police law. This article basically says that you should obey the police whenever the police gives an order. It applies a lot to traffic law. In our case, we were protesting very calmly. For example, at the Parliament we were doing a protest where we had tape over our mouths and written on our hands ‘stop deportations.’ We were standing in front of the main door of the Parliament, and people could get in and out, but they had to walk past us. Then the police shows up and tell us to stop protesting at the place we were standing and to move. When we don’t move—because we consider the right to protest and the freedom of speech to be higher than some random police law for traffic controls—we were arrested.

In the court there was no consideration at all of, was the order necessary? Was there any other way they could have dealt with this? Were the protesters actually creating danger, were they really creating chaos? It seemed to just be enough for the police to come as a witness and to say, ‘Yes, we said the order very loud and clear and everybody heard it, and no they did not obey.’ This was basically the extent of the trial.

“For me, if you don’t want to support a system like that, you have to fight it.”

“Now I’m more open, and I’m gaining some self-esteem and self-trust to talk about it and explore this part of my identity,” says Elín­borg Harpa about coming out. Photo / Art Bicnick, courtesy of The Reykjavík Grapevine.

All of us except for one person has been to court and our hearings are over. We’ve all been found guilty. I appealed my case to the land court, and I’m going to defend myself. I’m going to be my own lawyer, because I couldn’t find a lawyer with a suitable permit who was willing to work with me for an amount that I could imagine my community paying. In the end, it’s the fines that really get you. You have to put a lot of energy into financing these court cases. And this is energy that could go into so much else. I guess that’s one of the goals of the state, to distract you from what you were doing by making you go through the court system.”

Elín­borg and the others charged under Article 19 believe the application of this law contravenes their right to protest and expression. “The police are using this regulation to arrest protesters and stop protests,” they say. “It’s really serious and it should be stopped. That’s why we’ve decided to turn our defense into an offense, and try to bring charges against the regulation. We are taking the cases that have already been denied by the land court to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. We’re hoping that this is the first time Article 19 will be tried by the Strasbourg court, if they accept it.”

This time around, they’re hoping that Iceland’s queer community will stand by their side and support them through the process.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Nasdaq

         

        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        Blue Lagoon
        - a world of wonder

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

        From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        Whales of Iceland
        - larger than life

        Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

        Landsbankinn
        - leading financial institution

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

        Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

        The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

        Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

        Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        Aurora Reykjavik
        - northern lights center

          Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

          Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

          The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

          Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

          Contact Aurora

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            Dohop
            - get inspired

            Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

            Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

            More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

            VSÓ Ráðgjöf

               

              VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

              Macland
              - for all your Apple needs

              From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

              Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
              For all your Apple needs. We are here.

              Ísey skyr
              - once tasted never forgotten

              Our Story
              Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

              For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

              Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
              This is our secret and you are in on it

              You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

              Núðluskálin
              - noodle bar

              Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

              All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
              We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
              Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

              Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

              Seatours
              - adventure cruise

              Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
              and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

              The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

              600x400-seatours-tasting

              This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

              600x400-seatours

              The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

              Birds, possible to spot:
              -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
              -eider ducks
              -shags
              -kittiwakes
              -fulmars
              -white-tailed eagle

              The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
              Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

              Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

              Contact Us


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              Thank You. We will contact you as soon as possible.