The Nordic Africa Institute

Archives in Iceland

During the apartheid era Iceland had a conservative government which did not strongly condemn the minority rule in South Africa and therefore the public opinion was rather weak. However, this did not stop the involvement of some of the Icelandic people from participating in the liberation struggles. The Icelandic Federation of Labour for example had close collaboration with other Scandinavian labour Unions and invited visitors from the ANC to Iceland. There was also a Committee called South African Committee Against Apartheid (SAGA) which was formed in 1988. Interviews have been conducted with members of the Committee and other former activists who engaged in anti-apartheid activities. The youth groups of the leftist political parties, leftist youth organizations and the left wing student organizations staged demonstrations whenever there was an opportunity to do so. Demonstrations were carried out in connection with different national issues that were happening at that time, for instance during the summer of 1968 when there was a demonstration against a Nato meeting in Reyjavik or during the demonstrations against the US military base at Reflevik. The 1st of May, which is a Labour Day was also used by the anti-apartheid groups to demonstrate and to inform the Icelandic population about what was going on in Southern Africa.

Mr. Steingrímur J. Sigfússon, who is a Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Left-Green Movement, in 1983 raised the issue in parliament that Iceland should join the international trade embargo against South Africa. Official sources that can be accessed at the Icelandic Parliament library also contain information related to the liberation struggles.

Amnesty International, Icelandexternal link, opens in new window also has documents on the work it did during the struggle against apartheid.

The Church of Iceland through the International Council of Churches also participated in the liberation struggles.

However, since there are no assembled archives like the case is in the rest of the Nordic countries, in order to understand the involvement of the Icelandic people in the liberation struggles, one needs to consult newspaper articles. The left wing newspapers like “þjódviljinn” published a lot of articles on the actions that were taken against apartheid on Iceland. The newspaper articles can be found in the database at the National and University Library of Iceland. The database of newspapers can be accessed at: www.timarit.isexternal link, opens in new window. There are a few articles that can also be accessed via the library catalogue and that have been written by the Icelandic people (in 2004, for example there was a thesis written by a student on the attitudes of the Icelandic people towards Apartheid in South Africa.)