Austrian President defends New Year baby against racist abuse

Baby Asel and her parents were abused on social media for their Islamic faith.
Baby Asel and her parents were abused on social media for their Islamic faith. Photo credit: Vienna Hospitals Association

Austria's President has had to come to the defence of the country's first baby of 2018.

Asel Tamga was born at 12:47am on January 1 in Vienna, making her a 'New Year's Baby' - a title commonly awarded to children born on New Year's Day across the German-speaking world.

A photo of baby Asel with parents Naime and Alper Tamga was published by many of Austria's news outlets, but some attacked the family because of their Islamic faith, abusing them via social media.

Austrian newspaper Heute reported that they received a "hate wave" of bigoted comments on their Facebook post about Ansel's birth.

"I'm hoping for a cot death," one commenter reportedly wrote. "If she's 18, she's already a terrorist," said another.

Many commenters targeted Asel's mother for wearing a headscarf, while others demanded that the Austrian government "deport the scum immediately".

On January 6, President Alexander Van der Bellen shared a Facebook post written by Kurt Schwertner, a prominent member of a Roman Catholic charity, which condemned the abuse of the Tamga family.

"Just a couple of hours after her birth, the sweet girl already had to experience an unbelievable wave of violent online hate postings," wrote Schwertner.

"This is a new dimension of online hate, targeting an innocent infant."

"Welcome, dear Asel!" added President Van der Bellen, also writing that "all people are born free and equal to dignity and rights".

Austria has seen a resurgence of right-wing extremism in recent months. The Far-Right Freedom Party (FPÖ), which was founded by Nazi Party members after WWII, was invited to become the government's junior partner in December. 

The FPÖ campaigned to tighten Austria's immigration policy and implement stricter policies around asylum seekers.

Thousands protested against the new coalition government, with some holding banners reading "Don't let the Nazis govern".