Hördur Torfason (Reykjavík, 1945) is a professional activist from Iceland. One Saturday in October of 2008, as the massive financial crisis broke out in his country, Torfason planted himself in front of Parliament and began urging passers-by to intervene.
Citizen pressure has successfully exacted accountability from Iceland’s bankers and politicians over their part in the crisis, which is why the country and its citizens (who number 320,000, or the same as the population of Valladolid) are role models for many 15-M protestors.
Question. What brings you to Spain?
Answer. I was invited to come, and I am also very interested in what is happening here. I want to learn, and to share.
Q. Icelanders are role models for many protestors here. Why do you think that you have become heroes to them?
A. Because we reacted immediately. I organized protests from October 11, 2008 to March 14, 2009, and they were a success. We made three demands, which I drew up after speaking with people, and asking them what they wanted. Their answer was the resignation of the government, and the board of the central bank and of the financial regulating body. I kept organizing protests until these demands had been met.
Q. You’ve been in Barcelona, Córdoba and Palma. What was your impression of the protestors?
A. I’m amazed at how organized they are, at how clear their ideas are, and at how well they debate.
Q. What advice do you have to offer the protestors here? What steps should they take?
A. They will discover that themselves. They are smart. What I would say to them is to resist. To continue, to not give up, and to go home and get some sleep once in a while. It’s necessary.
Q. How is the trial of Iceland’s former prime minister going?
A. He has used his power and wealth to launch a big propaganda campaign, to complain and to protest his innocence, which he has a right to do. We will see what the court says. What is more interesting for Icelanders is that we have chosen 25 people to draft a new constitution. They are now doing this; we can follow them on the internet, write to them, make suggestions, and they respond.
Q. Would you say you are anti-system?
A. No, human beings need a system. The question is how we prosper. We are seeing now how our politicians have deceived us, and this is a global problem.
Q. You have advised against the use of violence.
A. We must be peaceful, logical and reasonable with politicians. What we did in Iceland was meet together; I met with many politicians, with ministers and with the president to discuss the situation. We maintained contact with them. I don’t think that anybody that I have spoken to in Spain is interested in a war or in violence. In my experience, when the police arrive, it is because the politicians are scared. We are protesting peacefully against corruption, and they know it.