More racist incidents in Austria, anti-racism group says

An anti-racism group has recorded a sharp increase in racist incidents in Austria over the past two years, the leader of the group said Wednesday. The group, ZARA, has recorded 950 racist incidents so far this year. That number already is higher than the total 907 incidents the group recorded in all of last year - a figure that was a six-fold increase since the organization began documenting racism in 2000. Kayahan warned against interpreting the figures as a definitive statement that racism is on the rise in Austria. "All we can say is that we are receiving an ever increasing number of reports," he said.

Austrian police do not compile statistics on racist crimes, spokesman Maj. Rudolf Gollia said.

ZARA encourages people who experience or observe racism to contact the group, whose experts then investigate the incident. Cases deemed to be racist become part of the group's statistics.

Though acknowledging that the increased number of reports could be a reflection of the group becoming better known in Austria, Kayahan argued that it also indicates how underreported hate crimes are. He said politicians' behavior contributes to the prevalence of racism in Austria.

In one case recorded this year, a woman of Arabic heritage found rat poison in her baby's carriage after being orally abused by neighbors angered that she had left the carriage in the hallway of their apartment building for a few minutes.

That case is now in court, Kayahan said. A verdict is expected next year. A.M.

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