Vienna’s transport authority suspends four drivers for Turkish nationalist symbol

Vienna’s city transport company Wiener Linien announced on Wednesday that four bus drivers of Turkish origin had been removed from duty for flashing a hand sign associated with Turkish far-right nationalism.

The drivers were removed from duty to allow for an investigation and clarification of the matter, after a video surfaced showing the men flashing the Grey Wolf hand sign which is associated with Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), news site Der Standard wrote.

“We have no place for extremist gestures and symbols,” the Wiener Linien statement said. “Wiener Linien stands for diversity, tolerance and the peaceful coexistence of all cultures.”

According to the statement, four more drivers will also face an investigation.

Austria banned the Grey Wolf symbol, along with 12 other flags and symbols, in early 2019 as part of the country’s efforts against extremism. 

The 13 symbols in the interior ministry’s list of Islamist and nationalist symbols include banners and flags used by Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) flag is also on the list.

The ban doesn’t cover artistic use of the symbols, such as in film, theatrical performance or exhibitions, and is limited to endorsements and propaganda.

The case of the Wiener Linien drivers should not be generalised or used to incite anti-Turkish, anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim sentiment, immigrant association Turkish Cultural Community in Austria (TGK) was quoted by Der Standard as saying.