October 23, 2008 / 11:26 AM / 10 years ago

Icelanders use humor to vent spleen at Britain

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Icelanders who feel they have been branded terrorists by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are fighting back — with a snowball, a gun made from Lego blocks and bubble gum.

Brown used anti-terrorist laws to freeze the assets of Icelandic bank Landsbanki after what he said was Reykjavik’s “completely unacceptable” failure to guarantee British deposits.

Icelanders were outraged, saying the decision was deeply damaging to a country that does not even have a standing army.

“It is so unfair, and so ridiculous — using a terrorist law against Iceland is like using a terrorist law against the Vatican,” said photographer Thorkell Thorkelsson.

“The difference is there are more weapons in the Vatican.”

Thorkelsson asked people to come to his studio bearing arms to show how dangerous Iceland is.

Pensioner Hulda Edelvy posed for a photograph brandishing a staple remover and a pair of pliers. “I wanted to show my support, to team up,” she said.

The snowball, Lego gun and bubble gum turned up among more unusual objects. “A veterinarian came here with a castration ‘weapon’,” Thorkelsson said.

Exhibition co-organiser Heba Soffia Bjornsdottir said the idea was to help people release their anger through something creative and positive.

“Getting over this will take some time, they really hurt us, they stabbed us in the back.”


Brown has been lauded by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman as a steady hand in the global financial crisis, but not many in Iceland would agree with that.

The country says freezing Landsbanki’s assets precipitated a financial meltdown and helped bankrupt its largest bank, Kaupthing, which it says would otherwise have survived.

“Thank God there are not more steady forces out there,” said furrier Eggert Johannsson. His shop window boasts a sign addressed to the British Prime Minister and his Finance Minister Alistair Darling: “Brown, Darling your credit is not good here.”

“We are not that happy with Brown trying to make himself the white knight by attacking Iceland,” Johannsson said. “We are small enough for him to attack.”

Some young people started a website www.indefence.is, which carries photographs of Icelanders, some with their children, at home holding placards saying “We are not terrorists.”

More than 20,000 people, or about 7 percent of the island’s population, signed up during the first 12 hours it was posted.

“Gordon Brown unjustifiably used the anti-terrorism act against the people of Iceland, for his own short-term political gain,” said a statement on the website. “This has turned a grave situation into a national disaster.”

David Orn Johannsson, a computer science student who had a job offer from Kaupthing before it collapsed, said the British move was a sinister sign of the times.

“People can do anything claiming they are working against terrorism. We are seeing the world turn into something George Orwell wrote about in ‘1984’,” he said.

Editing by Philippa Fletcher

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