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Fifty teens in violent brawl in Austria

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Cafe at Base 20 youth centre. Photo: base20.jugendzentren.at
11:43 CET+01:00
A fight between 50 teenagers that left seven people injured and five arrested has become the latest incident in an ongoing feud between young Afghans and Chechens living in Austria.

The fight, which happened at the weekend near the Base 20 youth centre in Vienna's Brigittenau district, started following online bullying and insults made over social media.

The argument quickly escalated to the streets, where the youths armed with knives, iron bars and wood, attacked one another in a mass brawl.

According to Gabriele Langer, the head of the youth centre, there had been no indicators beforehand that there was a problem and the fight had suddenly started when a group of young Chechens left the centre and met the Afghans outside.

She added that the insulted teenagers probably felt group pressure to respond in order to “save face”.

Most of the group fled when police arrived, although five were arrested and seven people aged between 14 and 17-years-old were hurt, including with life-threatening injuries.

Following the fight, locals said many residents now had a ‘bad feeling', with witness Maria Ritt saying: “I feel uncomfortable if I go out alone.”

Conflicts between young ethnic groups in Austria is nothing new but is now, according to Langer, “mixed with the asylum topic”.

Ten years ago around 30,000 Chechens fleeing wars in their home region were granted asylum in Austria, at the time making them the biggest diaspora of that ethnic community in Europe.

By the end of 2014, however, the number of Afghans in Austria had overtaken the number of Chechens, and with it ethnic clashes between the groups on issues related to ‘territory control', pride, women and drugs also increased.

Police have been called out to major fights between these two groups throughout Austria, including in Vienna, Graz, Salzburg, Wels, Linz and St. Pölten.

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Speaking to newspaper Die Presse, spokesperson for the Vienna probation service Nikolaus Tsekas says the repeated clashes between Chechens and Afghans “has to do with the fact that they share many similarities.”

Although they live in a strongly patriarchal society, according to the magazine Profil, around 50 percent of Chechens and Afghans in Austria do not have a father in their lives. Both communities suffer from low levels of education, with some people having missed years of schooling due to fleeing wars, and high levels of unemployment.

Tsekas adds: “Both groups have a bad reputation. It is now probably also about deciding who has the toughest guys.”

Efforts have been made with some success to calm the conflict between the groups in Vienna, with community leaders working with the police on the issue. The latest brawl, however, suggests much more work is needed to resolve the peace between the two.

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