America may have some pretty unsavory laws, but few are as overtly horrible as this 400-year-old law that was just revoked in Iceland.
For four whole centuries, it was perfectly legal to hunt down and kill Basque people (an indigenous ethnic group of Spain) if they ever set foot on Icelandic soil. It was this legislation, developed in 1615, that led to the “Slaying of the Spaniards” the only massacre in Icelandic history. Thankfully nothing similar has happened since, but it wasn”t until last week that the Icelandic government was like, “Oh it”s probably not cool that we”re allowed to do this.”
It all started in 1615. Three Basque whaling ships sailed into Reykjarfjorur at Westfjords but were overcome by a horrible storm.The survivors were forced ashore.
Due to the nature of the northern seas, the Basque survivors were forced to stay with Icelanders for the winter, which they did mostly without conflict. That is until one night when a group of hungry Spaniards entered an empty store and stole some dried fish.
Apparently the most offensive thing you can do in Iceland is steal someone”s fish.
As punishment for the stolen fish, commissioner Ari Magnusson of Ogur very reasonably ordered that every one of the Basques be hunted down and killed. And not only just this particular group of Basques, but all Basques for all time, if they should dare set foot on their island again.
Seriously how good was this fish? You realize the Basques were whalers and could have easily provided more than enough food as payment, right?
On April 22nd, 2015, the current Westfjords commissioner officially repealed that order after 400 years of awkwardness with people of Spanish descent. “It”s safe for Basques to come here now,” the politician said.
It should be noted that this revocation of the law is more symbolic than legal, as murder and presumably all-out massacre of any kind have been illegal in the country for ages. It”s not as though Icelanders had actually been using this odd loophole to do nefarious things to a relatively obscure Spanish ethnicity.
But still, did you have to leave the Basques hanging for so long?