Turkey condemns Austria’s ban on ‘Grey Wolves’ salute

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Turkish nationalist protesters flash the nationalist organization's "grey wolf" sign and hold placards during a protest against Germany on June 2, 2016 in front of the Germany consulate in Istanbul after German parliament labelled the World War I massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide. AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Turkey on Thursday condemned Austria’s move to ban the Turkish nationalist “Grey Wolves” salute, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“We do not accept this, and we strongly condemn it,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“It is scandalous that the ‘Grey Wolves’ salute, which is the symbol of a legal political party in Turkey, is on the same list as the symbol of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK], a bloody terrorist organization,” the statement said.

The ministry called on Austria to “correct this mistake,” saying it “deeply offends bilateral relations between Turkey and Austria.”

The Grey Wolves are a youth organization linked to Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The ministry statement followed changes to Austrian law last week banning public use of symbols of “extremist organizations” in the country.

First adopted in 2014, the law for the most part applies to symbols used by neo-Nazi groups.

In 2015, it was amended to include 14 other organizations deemed as being affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda.

A new amendment that was submitted to the Austrian parliament on Dec. 11 expanded its scope to 13 new flags and symbols including, along with the Grey Wolves salute, those related to groups such as the PKK, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The “rabia” sign, the symbol of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, frequently used by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and members of his government, was also included among the prohibited signs in the new motion.

Turkey slammed the decision the following day, reacting to the inclusion of the rabia sign as well as the Grey Wolves salute.

This time, the ministry’s statement only mentioned the ban on the Grey Wolves salute.

The PKK, which has been involved in an armed insurgency in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated Southeast for decades, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

The conflict has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people.

Founded 50 years ago, the MHP has been a coalition partner in Turkish governments and currently has an alliance in elections and parliament with Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

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