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Right-Wing Extremists of Turkish Origin: Taking A First Step Against

France's government announces a ban of the right-wing extremist Turkish Grey Wolves. It is about time that Germany follows suit

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Ronya Othmann

After the Islamist-motivated assassination of the Parisian teacher Samuel Paty, France has now decided to ban a number of political organisations. Among them are the Turkish right-wing extremist Grey Wolves. Shortly before, a memorial for the victims of the genocide of the Armenians in Lyon had also been grafittied: “RTE” (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) stood there in yellow writing and “Loup Gris” (Grey Wolves).

The Grey Wolves,”Bozkurt” in Turkish, also exist in Germany. Here, they are the largest right-wing extremist organisation; a fact which many may find surprising. According to the Federal Agency for Civic Education, there are an estimated 18,000 Grey Wolves or “Ülkücü”, as they call themselves, meaning “idealists”. Their sign is the red crescent moon and a howling wolf.

The Grey Wolves dream of a great Turkish Islamic empire that unites all Turkic peoples and reaches from the Balkans to China. They propagate the superiority of the “Turkish race”. Their hatred is directed against Armenians, Jews, Kurds, Greeks, Communists and LGBT people. The Grey Wolves are considered the paramilitary arm of the ultranationalist party MHP, founded by Alparslan Türkeş. Alparslan Türkeş is still revered as the leader by supporters of the Grey Wolves.

Since the 1960s, Turkish right-wing extremists have been organising in Germany. They gather in cultural and sports clubs, recruit and pass on their ideology there. They have long been known to migrant leftists, Kurds, Alevis, Yazidi and other minorities. Already in Turkey, the Grey Wolves have committed numerous political murders and pogroms against Alevis, for example in Kahramanmaraş 1978, Çorum 1980, Sivas 1993.

Attack on the Pope

There have also been attacks in Europe, for example, the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1981 was carried out by a follower of the Grey Wolves. In Dortmund, only last May, the Kurd Ibrahim Demir, a person of restricted growth, was kicked to death by a follower of the Grey Wolves. In July, Grey Wolves attacked a demonstration of Kurds in Vienna and the left-wing centre Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus. One could continue the list.

France is not the first country to take action against the Grey Wolves. Since last year, for example, in Austria, the signs of the Grey Wolves and the wolf salute (corresponds to the fox of silence: index finger and little finger stretched upwards, ring and middle finger touching the thumb) are forbidden. Germany, too, should now follow suit at last.

There can be several reasons why the Grey Wolves have hardly been attacked in Germany so far. One is the close relationship with NATO partner Turkey. The Turkish ruling party AKP is forming an electoral alliance with the right-wing extremist MHP, whose paramilitary arm is considered the Grey Wolves. The Turkish Foreign Ministry put up fierce protest after the ban on the signs of the Grey Wolves in Austria.

Another reason may be that the terror of the Grey Wolves is mainly directed against other migrant groups. In public perception, narratives such as “clashes between Kurds and Turks” are then often reproduced and subsumed under “crimes against foreigners”. A third reason, and this applies more to parts of the left-liberal spectrum, may be that there is a lack of understanding that non-white people can also be racists and right-wing extremists.

Left demands ban

Shortly after the last terrorist attacks in France, the Left Party demanded a ban on the Grey Wolves in Germany. They are “one of the largest right-wing extremist and anti-constitutional organisations in Germany,” said Left Party foreign affairs expert Sevim Dağdelen.

A ban on the Grey Wolves would therefore be an important first step in Germany as well. It would be a much-needed signal that their inhuman, anti-democratic ideology is not tolerated here. It would be move towards a pluralistic, open society and one against all fascism, no matter where it comes from.

But a ban alone will not be enough. Even after their ban, the Grey Wolves will continue to organise themselves under other names and underground. Education, especially a political one, will also be important here. And beyond that: right-wing extremists organise themselves transnationally, just like Islamists. In order to take action against the Turkish right-wing extremists, the European states should cooperate. Because the Grey Wolves are internationally networked. Those who fight against them should be too.

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