Austrians blast Vienna’s support of Iranian Embassy event

Demonstration and a wave of criticism from Austrian-Iranian dissidents and experts follow event sponsorship.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
November 14, 2011 01:55
4 minute read.
Iranian Army’s Land Force Academy graduation

Iranian Army’s Land Force Academy graduation ceremony 311 R. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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BERLIN – The city of Vienna’s sponsorship of an Iranian embassy event at a local educational center for adults on Saturday sparked a demonstration and a wave of criticism from Austrian-Iranian dissidents and experts on relations between the Alpine state – Austria – and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post on Friday, Vienna-based expert on Austrian- Iranian relations Dr. Diana Gregor wrote, “This event proves yet again that Austria is not headed towards a change of heart at all – despite the latest IAEA report proving Iran’s nuclear weapons program and its military dimensions and despite all evidence from the UN highlighting the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran.”

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Gregor, who has lectured in the United States and written extensively about the relationship between Austria and Iran, continued that “This event does not only send the wrong signal to the international community but it also shows that Austria is sticking to its guns when it comes to the Islamic Republic.”

“Instead of boycotting the regime, Austria prefers to justify such an event by differentiating between politics and culture. This behavior is cowardly, shameful and wrong in so many ways.”

The veteran Austrian journalist Karl Pfeifer, who is currently in Israel delivering a lecture on radical rightist extremism in Hungary, told the Post on Saturday that “it is really mind-boggling.”

“Austrian Social Democrats who declare themselves to be anti-fascists help the bloody Iranian regime to spread their venomous propaganda. In Hungary the national-socialist Jobbik is doing the same. Recently, in a disgusting deal, Austria voted for full membership of the PA and the Social Democratic diplomat Eva Novotny got a position at UNESCO. It is give and take.”

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The Mayor of Vienna, Michael Häupl, is a member of the Austrian Social Democrats. Post e-mails on Saturday to the city of Vienna’s spokesman, Oliver Stribl, were not immediately returned. A second spokesman from the city of Vienna told the Post during a telephone conversation that he did not have “time to research the matter” and was not informed about the event. E-mails and telephone calls on Saturday to the Vienna education center, including its program head, Eva Schröder, were not immediately answered.

Hiwa Bahrami, a member of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan-Iran, in Vienna, said in a statement, “Those who provide space for representatives of the Iranian embassy and treat the embassy like an ordinary contractual partner, supply the regime with legitimacy, which the regime has already long lost by the Iranian population.”

Bahrami, a prominent Iranian-Kurdish dissident in Austria, added that the cooperation between Vienna and Iran’s embassy means “support for the policies of the regime” in Tehran.

Anti-Iranian regime activists announced a protest on Saturday in front of the city-financed educational center in Vienna.

“The Austrian way – snuggling with the Mullahs for business,” is how Samuel Laster, an Israeli-born journalist living in Vienna, termed the close diplomatic cooperation between Austria and Iran.

Laster has reported and blogged on Austrian-Iranian relations over the years. He said a “fundamental anti- Semitic consensus in Austrian society” permits the “elimination fantasies of the Mullahs against Jews and Israel” to continue.

Austria’s policies, say critics – mirror Germany and Switzerland’s dovish efforts to stop Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons. The three central European countries have longopposed crippling sanctions targeting Iran’s financial and energy sectors.

Gregor, the Vienna-based Iran sanctions expert, said “Europe needs to stand united with regard to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and human rights abuses. However, Vienna seems to be one of the weakest links within the European Union and enjoys allowing things to go on as long as Austria has nothing to be afraid of. Austria, whether ruled by socialists or conservatives, has a long tradition of close ties with Iran.

“Austria’s Erwin Lanc became the first Western foreign minister to visit Iran in 1984, after the Islamic Revolution.

Former Austrian president Kurt Waldheim, whose presidency was clouded by revelations about his Nazi past, visited Tehran in 1991 as the first head of a Western state.

Meanwhile, on Monday the EU foreign ministers are slated to discuss Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

According to the EU agenda, “During lunch, ministers are expected to have an exchange of views following the publication of the new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency concerning Iran’s nuclear program.”

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