The march in Bregenz on Saturday. Photo: APA (Werner Kaplaner)
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Vienna on Friday evening to draw attention to the plight of the Kurds in Kobane, which is currently besieged by radical Islamist Isis forces. A demonstration in Bregenz had clashes leading to two stabbings on Saturday.
"If Kobane falls, there will be uprisings of the Kurds in Turkey," said Berivan Aslan, a Greens' Member of Parliament and a native Turkish Kurd, in an Austrian Press Agency (APA) interview on Friday during a demonstration in Vienna. About 30 groups, including Kurdish cultural associations and the group Asylum in Need had called for "solidarity with Rojava". Thousands answered the call.
On Friday afternoon, rumors circulated that "Islamists" had called for violence against the demonstrators. However, the demonstration around the Vienna Ring took place without incident.
The demonstration, which started from the museums' quarter and finished at Ballhausplatz, was directed not only against the terror of the IS-militia and the Salafists, but also against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been called a "terrorist" in chants of the crowd.
"The attack on Kobane is organized by Turkey," said a 35-year-old Kurd who fled from Syria five years ago. "Kurdistan is in danger - from all sides we are attacked, because we have oil and rich cities like Kobane. We need not own land, but we want freedom."
In fact, Turkey jeopardized the peace process with the Kurdish population, if they remain so passive while Kobane is in conflict, warned Aslan and reminded Austria of its duty to act: "As a neutral country, which campaigns for human and women's rights, Austria must ask what significance it holds in international politics if it can not prevent genocide."
Aslan called for "the abolition of border blockades in Turkey, more humanitarian aid, and that people are given the chance defend themselves."
Amid the flags with portraits of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and the PKK, there were symbols consisting of a small group of rainbow flags in the air, which were worn by members of the association "Queer Solidarity of migrants and asylum seekers".
Here it is rather unusual, but in its native Turkey, the PYD (Democratic Union Party) often join together with activists of the gay / bi / transsexual scene, reported a 24-year-old computer science student.
Friday's march in Vienna. Photo: APA (Punz)
According to police, the solidarity rally of the Vienna Kurds went "according to the program and peacefully."
In the vicinity of the demonstration identity numerous searches had been carried out, to keep potential troublemakers from the event.
During these searches, a signal pistol and three knives were found, as well as "a disconcerting flag." To date there have been five warnings but no arrests, said police in a press release.
Problems in Bregenz
Although the demonstration in Vienna was without incident, a similar demonstration the following day in Bregenz had problems. Two people were seriously wounded Saturday as a Kurdish demonstration was attacked by radical Muslims in the western Austrian city of Bregenz, police said, days after clashes in neighbouring Germany left 23 injured.
The two men were rushed to hospital with stab wounds in the stomach and one was in critical condition, a police spokesman said, according to a report from Agence France-Presse.
A few hundred Kurds marched through Bregenz Saturday afternoon to show support for Kurdish fighters defending the Syrian city of Kobane on the Turkish border, currently besieged by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).
Following the stabbing incident, the march had to proceed under a massive police presence.
On Friday, a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Vienna with several thousand protesters passed off peacefully.
In neighbouring Germany, at least 23 people were hurt this week in violent clashes between Kurds and radical Muslims.