With the aim of opening a platform for hearing the voices and experiences of refugees in Iceland with regard to languages and language rights, The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding organised a public seminar on the topic, on 28 February in the main auditorium of Veröld – House of Vigdís.
After the opening remarks of Sofiya Zahova, Director of the the Vigdís International Centre, the first talk of the seminar was given by Þórir Jónsson Hraundal, assistant professor and Director of the Middle Eastern Studies programme at the University of Iceland, who outlined the geography and illustrated the linguistic diversity of the region that has been defined as the “Middle East”.
Invited speakers at the seminar were Erna Huld Ibrahimsdóttir and Qusay Odeh, who both have long-term experiences and professional careers in translating for communities and individuals. In their talks, both of them provided guests with insights into the challenges and experiences that Middle Eastern refugees face in Iceland with regard to languages, and offered their ideas on how individuals, organisations and institutions can help to improve the situation. Both emphasized the importance of keeping in mind that refugees from the Middle East are an extremely diverse group in terms of ethnicity, social background and languages.
The seminar, which was held in connection with the annually celebrated International Mother Language Day, continued with a lively panel discussion moderated by Sofiya Zahova in which all speakers participated, followed by comments and questions from guests in the auditorium.
Watch a recording of the event here: