Right-wing Austrian deputies stage racist, sexist attack on Bosnian-born deputy in parliament

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Alma Zadic, a Bosnian-born deputy in the Austrian parliament, faced racist and sexist verbal attacks from right-wing deputies while delivering a speech, the latest in a string of events showing the rising racism and xenophobia in the country.

Speaking at the parliament's general session about the Interior Ministry's proposed bill on the Austrian domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism (BVT), Zadic of the left-wing List Pilz was interrupted twice by deputies from conservative and far-right parties that have been ruling the country in a coalition government headed by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz since late 2017.

During her criticism directed at Interior Minister Herber Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party (FEOe), in which she claimed that Austria is not safe due to a recent proposal, a deputy was heard shouting, "You are not in Bosnia, do not confuse this." Later another was heard saying, "Alma, you're safe with me!"

As the attacks led to public outcry, parliament television released a statement identifying the deputies as Johann Radler of the conservative People's Party (OeVP) and Wolfgang Zanger of FPOe.

In his comments to Austrian media outlets, Radler defended himself, saying Zadic's comments about Austria were misleading and if one is to apologize, it should be Zadic. Radler added that he worked together with Zadic in the Parliament's Bosnian Friendship Group, helped house Bosnian refugees during the Yugoslavian War and equipped a hospital and Red Cross Station in Bosnia.

FPOe Secretary General Christian Hafenecker also defended Zanger, saying his comments did not involve sexism.

Zadic said that is it not the first time her ethnic origin or gender has been used to attack her, adding that this attitude is incompatible with the parliament's dignity.

The verbal attack was also condemned by the main opposition Social Democratic Party (SPOE) and liberal The New Austria (NEOS).

Austria is home to some 1.3 million foreign-born residents out of a population of nearly 9 million. In addition to the country's Croatian and Slovene minorities living in the southeastern states of Carinthia, Styria and Burgenland, the country also faced a massive refugee influx during the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The migrants from the former Yugoslav republics making up some 5 percent of Austria's population with Bosnian Muslims being the majority.

Meanwhile, Turks are the second biggest ethnic group in Austria after Germans with a share of 2.5 percent in the total population. The country's Turkish minority is among the prominent victims of the rising far-right, racist xenophobic trends in Austria, which recently announced it will shut down seven mosques (including a Turkish mosque) in the country and possibly expel 60 Turkish imams along with their families, eliciting harsh reactions from Ankara.

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