ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Austrian Interior Ministry on Monday banned the flags and symbols for 13 political organizations from various parts of the world, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Anyone who displays the groups' banners in public would be fined at amounts starting at 4,000 euros and reaching as high as 10,000 euros for repeated offenders, reports Kronen Zeitung. In US dollars, that range is approximately $4,500 to $11,250.
The plan was a joint effort between rightwing parties within the ruling conservative-populist coalition of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ).
Opposition parties voted against the measure, which will go into effect on March 1. According to Vienna Online, the ban also includes symbols for Hezbollah and the Croatian fascist group known as Ustasha.
Exemptions to the ban will apply for those not using the symbols to endorse the groups they represent, including use for media, films, exhibitions, and academic use, Breitbart reported.
"The new thing is that we have an extreme rightwing government since one-and-half years, and they try to criminalize a lot of different groups, especially groups with a migration background," Thomas Schmidinger, a political scientist at the University of Vienna, told Kurdistan 24.
"So forbidding the PKK symbol is part of this whole package."
In neighboring Germany, there has been an ongoing controversy over a 2017 order from the Interior Ministry that prohibited various Kurdish symbols, including those of the YPG, YPJ (Women’s Protection Units), and PYD (Democratic Union Party), suggesting they were linked to the outlawed PKK which has fought a decades-long insurgency against Ankara over Kurdish rights in Turkey.
A court in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia acquitted an activist in December from using the YPG flag, but critics say that German officials continue to harass or prosecute citizens for posting the YPG flag on social media or waving it during protests.
YPG spokesperson Nouri Mahmoud told Kurdistan 24 last year that some European governments are not acting "rationally" when it comes to such bans since it was the YPG that fought against the Islamic State in Syria, "in order to prevent attacks such as what happened in Paris, and could happen in Berlin, UK, or Washington."
Editing by John J. Catherine