Ultra-nationalism in Austria and Turkey feed off of each other – Turkish-Austrian politician

Austrian right-wing politicians and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are “greatly complimentary for each other,” as both their narratives feed into each other’s nationalist tendencies, former deputy and human rights spokeswoman for Austrian Greens Alev Korun told Ahval in a podcast.

“Austrian right-wingers say Turks are not democratic, they shouldn’t be in the European Union,” Korun said. “Erdoğan’s discourse feeds off of this, and they both need each other.”

The former congresswoman said nationalist, autocratic parties and politicians “use similar tactics, and always need a scapegoat". In this sense, there are similarities between Austria’s right-wing parties and Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s tactics, she said.

Erdoğan and his AKP can use the anti-Turkish sentiment in Austria, expressed by the right-wing government, to mobilise his own base, she added.

Many Austrian political actors are squarely against Turkey’s accession to the European Union, except for the Greens, and public opinion on Turkish immigrants leans towards the negative as they are seen as refusing to integrate, the politician said.

“Human rights violations in Turkey, the threat to freedom of thought and the thousands of people including journalists having been imprisoned for expressing opinions in Turkey play a big role in increasing tensions with Austria,” she added. Other points of contention are the degradation of democracy, as well as women’s and minority rights.

Even social democrats in Austria believe Turkey should be kept out of the EU at all costs, she said, and “this is something that even determines how political discussions are had. It is possible to score points over whether Turkey should be allowed in.”

In recent years, the anti-Turkish sentiment has transformed into a “Muslims-as-terrorists” rhetoric, she added.

The Greens politician believes Austria has failed to take steps to fully integrate immigrants who arrived in the country in the 1960s as workers, and social policies have not allowed the Turkish immigrants to properly take root, bringing up issues with class, income and social mobility.

“When people are pushed to the margins of society, Erdoğan told them he was proud of them,” she said. The Turkish president urged the diaspora in Austria to remain as Turkish as possible, and never assimilate. 

“Thousands of people cried as they watched that speech. Because that wasn’t something they heard Austrian politicians say in decades.”

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a way with using the people’s need to be acknowledged as fully realised human beings, combining it with nationalism, she said.

Austrian Turks are widely nationalistic, and this political leaning being abused by the likes of AKP and its partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in fact harms other peoples with a background in Turkey, she added.

Korun spoke of individuals with professional video equipment following demonstrations “defending the right to life and women’s rights” had been discovered by Austrian police. “These are not protest organisers, or the Austrian police. These are professional videographers, and one of them has already admitted to recording footage for (Turkey’s national intelligence service) MİT.”

The MİT was revealed to have an extensive network of informants and operatives in Europe’s German-speaking countries. Instrumental in revealing this information was Kurdish-Austrian politician Berivan Arslan, who has recently entered police protection in her adopted homeland over an alleged assassination plan by MİT.

Earlier in the summer, nationalist Turkish groups had attacked rallies organised by Viennese Kurds. Korun herself attended the demonstrations against the attacks afterwards.

“I don’t think the relationship between Turkey and Austria will get better anytime soon,” she concluded.