Turkey on Monday expressed concern about the pro-PKK demonstrations taking place in the Austrian capital Vienna, as it strongly criticized authorities for failing to take measures to prevent the protest by the terrorist group.
In a statement, the ministry said it condemned "harsh intervention" by Austrian security forces which resulted in youths of Turkish-origin being injured and some workplaces belonging to the Turkish community suffering damage during the pro-PKK protests in Vienna.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that demonstrations held by the terror group and its sympathizers were "a new manifestation of insincerity in the fight against terrorism."
"We urge the Austrian authorities to fight properly PKK which is recognized as a terrorist organization by the European Union, and not to make of the issue material for populist politics."
The statement concluded that the Austrian ambassador to Turkey would be summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to convey its concerns regarding the organization of pro-PKK demonstrations and violence against Turkish people in the country.
The developments in the European country prompted Turkey’s ambassador to Austria, Ozan Ceyhun, to step in and urge the Turkish community to remain calm against all the PKK provocations in order to protect the peaceful environment.
“Unfortunately,” Ceyhun said in a video addressing the Turkish diaspora in Austria, “recently we have been witnessing some unpleasant events in Vienna. The members of the terrorist group (PKK) and their supporters are provoking Turkish citizens to flock to the streets and try to interrupt our peaceful lives in here. We do not want that. You (the Turks in Austria) have also been showing (your desire to have peace) at all times. I, as your ambassador, express my gratitude to you for that stance.”
The ambassador stated that by simply staying at home and not giving the provocations a chance to succeed, Turks are already acting in a way that is compatible with Turkish manners.
“However, we observe that these provocations are likely to continue. Thus, I call on you to stay at home, just like during the pandemic lockdown, since there is peace in Vienna as long as you are at home. Do not give any credit to these efforts to provoke you,” he said, assuring the Turkish community that Turkish state authorities have been doing whatever it takes to bring the PKK provocations in Europe under control.
“Just know that as the Turkish state, we have been taking every step that is necessary against these moves. We have been delivering both your and our state’s opinions on the issue to our interlocutors (the Austrian authorities). Our relationship with the Austrian authorities is as it should be. Let’s not give any chance for the terrorists to interrupt peace in Vienna by staying at home,” Ceyhun reiterated.
Turkey has long criticized European authorities for tolerating PKK activities in the country and has pressured them to take stricter measures against the propaganda, recruitment and fundraising activities of the group.
Speaking to Daily Sabah, Zeliha Eliaçık, a European studies researcher at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), said that PKK supporters easily conduct their activities in European countries, posing as civil society organizations.
“Many groups conduct activities in the name of the PKK under the mask of civil society. Although these activities and organizations are mentioned in intelligence reports, governments do not take precautionary measures against them," she said.
Despite its status as a designated international terrorist organization, the PKK has enjoyed relative freedom in European cities and has a particularly strong presence in Germany.
PKK supporters have been allowed to hold rallies, recruit militants and collect funds in Germany, which is home to some 5 million people of Turkish origin, including Kurds.
Media's role in public opinion
Eliaçık touched upon the media’s role in shaping public opinion about PKK and its supporters in Europe.
“When we look at the recent media reports about the pro-PKK rallies in Europe, they do not call them ‘PKK supporters’, they prefer the term ‘Kurds’. Describing the tensions between PKK supporters and the Turkish diaspora, they use the term ‘clashes between Turks and Kurds’,” she said, underlining the misrepresentation of events by the media.
Another example of media propaganda fostering a misconception of the PKK in Europe is that some news outlets specifically note that the PKK is recognized by Turkey as a terrorist group, although it is designated as a terrorist organization by many international actors, including the European Union and the U.S.
The PKK terror group continues using the European Union's territory for propaganda, recruitment, fundraising and logistical support activities, according to a report by the EU's law enforcement agency released last week.
Europol's annual terrorism report, titled "European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2020," suggests the PKK is actively engaged in propaganda activities as well as collecting money in European countries such as Belgium, Germany and Romania.
"Members and sympathizers of the PKK have continued to be involved in legal and illegal activities to raise funds to support the group and its affiliates," the report said.
In addition to the media’s impact on public opinion, governments also have a responsibility for the tolerance toward the presence and activities of the PKK in Europe.
Eliaçık stressed that there is a dispute between Turkey and the EU over the definition of terror. European countries use this difference as an instrument against Turkey whenever they desire.
“There is an unofficial agreement between some European governments and the PKK. As long as they do not physically damage streets, their activities and rallies are tolerated although the PKK is recognized as a terrorist group,” she added.
Eliaçık underlined that the Turkish diaspora in Europe faces pressure due to Islamophobia and xenophobia while, on the other hand, there is great tolerance toward PKK supporters, stating that this contradiction is an invitation for social conflict.
“There is also a false perception in Europe that the Turkish diaspora acts in line with the directives coming from Ankara. This is the common sensitivity and instinct of the Turkish community against terrorism, not a directed movement,” she added.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter on Sunday: "We do not want to see images of violence in the streets in Austria, particularly in Vienna, and will therefore not allow conflicts to be brought from Turkey into Austria!"
Austria's Foreign Ministry said over the weekend it would invite Turkey's ambassador for a discussion on Monday.
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people. The Turkish military is currently conducting anti-terror operations against the PKK in northern Iraq, where it has bases.
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