Erdoğan supporters told to keep politics out of Austria
The Local · 19 Jul 2016, 09:51
Published: 19 Jul 2016 09:51 GMT+02:00
“I am more than critical against demonstrations in the name of Erdoğan in Vienna,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) told the Kurier newspaper.
“To spread the domestic political opinion from Turkey to Austria under the cover of freedom to demonstrate is unacceptable.”
There are around quarter of a million people with Turkish origin living in Austria, with over 76,000 living in Vienna.
According to the Wiener Zeitung, around 4,000 marched in Vienna on Saturday night to show their support of the nearly-ousted president, with other gatherings taking place in Bregenz, Linz, and Salzburg.
“Erdoğan, for you we give our lives, our hearts belong to you,” was one call heard from protesters.
At one point on Saturday the demonstrators attacked the garden of a branch of the Turkish-Kurdish restaurant chain Türkis, reflecting the ongoing tensions between the Turkish government and the Kurdish minority in the country.
Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, whose remit includes integration, supported the right of the demonstrators to protest and remain loyal to their homeland. He underlined the importance, however, that “out of respect, they refrain from importing the political conflict to Austria.”
Presidential candidates condemn the violence
Both presidential candidates - who are going head to head in the second presidential election in October - also criticised the violence from the Erdogan supporters in Austria.
Independent Green-backed Alexander van der Bellen told the Kurier: “In Austria there is freedom to demonstrate as long as it is peaceful. I condemn, however, the attempt to bring the conflict in Turkey to Austria in a violent form.”
“Everyone that accepts the right to demonstrate, has to see that the same rights - such as freedom of speech, press freedom, independent justice system, and freedom to demonstrate are being denied in Turkey by President Erdogan.”
The Freedom Party’s presidential candidate Norbert Hofer also added that Austria “is not a place to bring Turkish politics on the street”.
Protest was 'for democracy'
The head of the Austrian branch of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), which promotes Turkish engagement in the EU, denied organising the weekend protests.
UETD Austria President Cem Aslan also argued that most of the people on the street were not for Erdogan but rather “against the coup and for democracy.”
Researcher on Turkey at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs Hakan Akbulut told the ORF, however, that the majority of Turkish citizens living in Austria vote for the AKP, the conservative party closely aligned with Erdogan.
“We can also assume that the majority of people who now go on the streets here support the AKP,” he said.