The Turks call their country Turkey

Right-wing extremism

Kemal Bozay

Kemal Bozay studied political science and education at the universities of Cologne and Bonn. Project manager of the intercultural youth project Mixopolis, a project of the association Schools on the Net. He did his doctorate on the subject of "I am proud to be Turkish! Ethnicization of social conflicts in the age of globalization". The third edition of his book "Gray wolves howl again. Turkish fascists and their networking in Germany", published together with Fikret Aslan, was published in 2012. Together with Dierk Borstel, Bozay is co-editor of the 2016 anthology "Inequality ideologies in the immigration society".

For more than five decades there has been an ultra-nationalist, racist and violent movement in Turkey, the traditions of which go far back in history. It is also present in Germany with numerous clubs and several umbrella organizations. The so-called "gray wolves" increase tensions among people of Turkish origin and are directed against the principle of human dignity formulated in the Basic Law - in recent years they have intensified their activities.

The participant in a demonstration in Frankfurt am Main wears a headband from the right-wing extremist Turkish party "Gray Wolves". On November 10, 2007, around 1,000 Turks, including many members of right-wing Turkish parties, demonstrated against the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

They call themselves "Ülkücü" followers - translated into German the word "Ülkücü" means something like "idealism". Their symbol is the "gray wolf" (Bozkurt), which comes from an old Turkish myth and is supposed to symbolize the strength and aggressiveness of the movement. They propagate an "ethnic nationalism", their great ideal is "Turan", a Greater Turkish Empire, as well as the elimination of political opponents.

We are talking about the right-wing extremist, Turkish nationalist movement that has also existed in Germany for decades. It is organized in hundreds of local associations and in umbrella organizations such as Türk Federasyon, ATIB or ATB. The so-called "gray wolves" exaggerate the Turkish nation and allegedly emphasize Islamic values. They incite against actual or supposed leftists and all non-Turks - including Armenians or Kurds, even if they have Turkish citizenship. They also deal with conflicts from their mother country in Germany. With an estimated more than 18,000 members [1] it is likely to be the strongest right-wing extremist organization in this country - numerically more than three times as large as the current NPD.

Predecessor and origin of the "gray wolves"

The ideological and historical basis of Turkish right-wing extremism - and thus also of the Gray Wolves - are Turkish nationalism and Turanism, which arose in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Their masterminds include Ziya Gökalp, Hüseyin Nihal Atsız, Fethi Tevetoğlu and Reha Oğuz Türkkan. The ideology of Pan-Turkism and Turanism [2] asserts the racist, historical and moral unity and superiority of all Turkic peoples, from Afghanistan / China to the southeastern tip of the Balkans. The unification of these peoples in a Greater Turkish Empire under Turkish rule was and is being propagated. The Turanist or Pan-Turkist idea excludes any equality between the various nationalities and religions from the outset.

In the final phase of the Ottoman Empire, the so-called Young Turkish government had elevated Pan-Turkism and Turanism to state doctrine. It tried - unsuccessfully - to rebuild the already collapsing multiethnic state on a purely Turkish nationalist and Islamic basis, which was reflected, among other things, in unleashed violence against the Armenian population group and ultimately in the genocide.

In the course of the Second World War, fascist movements also grew stronger in Turkey. Shortly after the National Socialists came to power in Germany in 1933, a new phase in German-Turkish relations began. Although Turkey remained officially neutral, it continued to strengthen relations with Germany. The Hitler regime, for its part, continued the policy of the "urge to the east" that Kaiser Wilhelm II had begun with the construction of the Baghdad Railway (from 1903). The Nazis viewed Turkey, Iran and the Arab countries, which they sought to bind closely to themselves, as rich sources of raw materials and ideological allies both against the Western powers and against Bolshevik Russia under Stalin. For example, from the 1930s onwards, Turkey was one of the most important suppliers of chrome ore, which was important for the German war industry.

Under Franz von Papen, Reich Ambassador to Turkey under National Socialism, the Nazis promoted fascist Turkish movements. [3] They showed great interest in the Turanist circles, which for their part were enthusiastic about the Nazi ideology. [4] The aim of the cooperation with Turanist circles was to bring Turkey to the side of Hitler's Germany in the Balkans and Middle East policy. With the support of Nazi Germany, Turanism flourished again from the 1930s, whose supporters were particularly organized in the Turk Ocağı (Home of the Turks) association. As early as 1934 there were pogroms against Jews in Turkey.

In the course of the Second World War, Alparslan Türkeş appeared on the political stage for the first time, who later became the leader of the "Gray Wolves". Despite his young age (born in 1917), the Hitler sympathizer already played a leading role in the Turanist movement. In 1944, when the Allied victory was in sight, the Turkish government arrested and sentenced 23 leading political figures of Turkism and Turanism, including Turks. Türkeş and his sympathizers were sentenced in the first instance in the so-called "Racism-Turanism Trial" to prison terms of different lengths - he himself received ten years - but was later acquitted. [5] The beginning of the Cold War is considered to be the reason for the release of the Turanists. Concerned about the growing influence of the Soviet Union and communism, Turkey turned more and more to the West in the second half of the 1940s, left and communists were persecuted more strongly than Turkists and ultra-nationalists. Historically, that was the beginning of a reorganization of Turkish right-wing extremism.

The "Ülkücü" movement in Turkey

Within the "Ülkücü" movement, two main currents are currently distinguished: those around the "Party of the Nationalist Movement" (MHP - Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi) and those around the "Great Unity Party" (BBP - Büyük Birlik Partisi). Both currents are represented in Turkey as well as in Europe by two parties, their own mass organizations and numerous associations and mosque communities. The MHP is an extremely nationalist party, which is also the largest reservoir of the right-wing extremist movement in Turkey. Your youth organization "Ülkücü Gençlik" (Idealistic Youth) is also active in Germany.

The MHP as a fascist mass and action party emerged in the 1960s from its predecessor, the Republican National Peasant Party (CKMP - Cumhuriyetçi Köylü Millet Partisi). On May 27, 1960, a group of 38 officers, the "Committee of National Unity", overthrew the national-conservative government of the Democratic Party (DP) under Adnan Menderes, which had emerged from the first free elections in Turkey in 1950. Menderes and two other government leaders were executed in the wake of the coup and the DP was banned. One of the putschists was Alparslan Türkeş, who particularly wanted to push through his Turanist ideas. However, he was soon expelled from the committee and transferred to the Turkish embassy in New Delhi as a military attaché.

In 1964, Türkeş resigned from military service and joined the CKMP on March 31, 1964. He and his supporters quickly gained influence in the party and in 1969 pushed through the renaming of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The party's flag has been changed to three inverted crescent moons on a red background. The symbol of the three crescent moons - the official flag of the once powerful Ottoman Empire - was intended to appeal to other national-conservative and Islamic-oriented groups of voters.

In the 1960s and 1970s the movement radicalized. Türkeş had issued a so-called three-stage strategy and described it in the MHP-affiliated newspaper Devlet (The State): conquering the streets, conquering the state and conquering parliament. For example, militant youth groups were formed under the name "Gray Wolves" and paramilitary commandos were set up, which were supposed to be responsible for conquering the street through terror and violence. In Turkey in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, these groups carried out numerous, sometimes paramilitary, murder attacks against socialists, trade unionists, student leaders, progressive teachers and scientists, journalists and Kurdish politicians, and continued pogroms against Alevis, for example in Kahramanmaraş , Çorum, Sivas, Gazi, Ümraniye. Mehmet Ali Ağca, who committed the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in Rome in 1981, was also a supporter of the Gray Wolves. Their aim was to create a state of civil war in Turkey that would call for the "strong man" and ultimately bring the MHP to power.

At that time, the MHP also achieved parliamentary successes. In elections it won up to 6.8 percent of the vote and in the 1970s took part in two center-right governments of the so-called "Nationalist Front". The MHP always saw itself as a militant and radical wing of state nationalism. After another military coup on September 12, 1980, all parties were initially banned and in 1982 a new constitution was drawn up which, among other things, put a ten percent threshold into force in the parliamentary elections. The MHP reacted to the ban in 1983 by founding a new party under the name of the "Nationalist Labor Party" (MÇP - Milliyetçi Çalışma Partisi). With the lifting of the general ban on political parties in 1992, it took on the name MHP again.

In 1993 the "Great Unity Party" (BBP - Büyük Birlik Partisi) split off from the MHP as an extremely nationalist and at the same time strongly Islamic party. It has a mass youth organization called "Alperen [6] Ocakları", which also takes a radical line. The murders of the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007 and of Christian clergy in Trabzon and Malatya are assigned to the spectrum of the BBP. [7] The leader of the BBP was Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, a longtime advisor and companion of Türkeş. After the 1980 military coup, he was imprisoned for several years before founding the BBP. In March 2009 he was killed in an unexplained helicopter crash.

The conflict over minority rights for the Kurds and the dispute with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) [8] contributed in the 1990s to the fact that the - already strong - nationalist tone of Turkish politics as a whole intensified. Especially after the arrest of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, the nationalist mood reached a climax in 1998; During this time, the MHP assumed an important key role in Turkish politics. After the death of its leader, Türkeş, in 1997, the MHP, under the new chairman Devlet Bahçeli, opted for a more moderate demeanor. The party no longer openly propagated street violence. The MHP has grown its following over the years, overcame the electoral threshold of ten percent, which is very high in an international comparison, in the parliamentary elections in November 2015 with 11.9 percent and, after initial delimitations, is currently an important strategic ally of the AKP government under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In the course of this external moderation and the rapprochement with the AKP government, new tendencies of division emerged within the MHP. For example, Meral Akşener, who has meanwhile been excluded from the MHP and who mobilized a referendum against President Erdoğan at the constitutional referendum in 2017, is trying to found a new nationalist and right-wing populist party together with the former vice-chairman of the MHP, Ümit Özdağ. [9]

The ideology of the gray wolves

The ideology and attitudes of the Turkish right-wing extremists and the Gray Wolves are based on a conglomerate of different discourses and pillars. In addition to racist positions, this also includes sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and other notions of inequality, as well as authoritarianism, the cult of the leader, acceptance of violence, etc. The following elements should be emphasized in particular:

Nationalism and "Idealism" (Milliyetçilik ve Ülkücülük)

The starting point of the political ideology of the Turkish right-wing extremists is a so-called "idealistic nationalism". This includes a pronounced nationalism and racism towards all (in the ethnic sense) non-Turkish population.


Even if an open racist position within the Gray Wolves is hidden or often denied for tactical reasons, racism is a central pillar of the MHP ideology. It is directed primarily against Armenians, Kurds and Jews. Nihal Atsız, a pioneer of the gray wolves, formulated the most important elements of Turkism more than 60 years ago as follows: "A Turk believes in the superiority of the Turkish race, values ​​their national past and is ready to embrace the ideals of Turkism sacrifice, especially against Moscow [that is, the communist Soviet Union at that time], the bitter enemy. "[10] Last but not least, the racism of MHP and Gray Wolves is also evident in their anti-Kurdish positioning, such as the threatening statement by Alparslan Turkis:" If you Kurds continue to speak your primitive language (...), you will be exterminated by the Turks in the same way as Georgians, Armenians and Greeks [on Turkish soil] were exterminated to the roots. "[11]

Nine Lights Doctrine (Dokuz Işık)

At the center of MHP policy is the so-called nine-lights doctrine of Alparslan Türkeş, in which he combined excessive, extreme nationalism and Islamic piety. According to Türkeş, the nine cornerstones of the MHP ideology are: nationalism, idealism, sense of honor, science, unity, peasantry, freedom and independence. The most important thing about the Nine Lights Doctrine, however, is not so much its content, but rather that it established and permanently strengthened Türkeş's authority as a founder of ideology. In this sense, the political scientists Karl Binswanger and Fethi Sipahioğlu state that "the diction and content (...) are reminiscent of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf'". [12]

Leader Principle (Başbuğ)

Authoritarian structures and unquestionable following play an important role with gray wolves like MHP. Party founder Türkeş is venerated as a "leader" (Başbuğ) long after his death. His photo hangs in all Gray Wolf locations and is shown at major events. The biography of Türkeş can be found on all of the movement's websites. Its principles are obeyed like an order by the supporters of the Gray Wolves.

Islamic nationalism and Turkish-Islamic synthesis

In the course of the history of the MHP, Islam has been accentuated differently in different phases. Although an "idealistic" Turkish nationalism is at the center of the MHP ideology, a relatively strong significance is ascribed to Islam. The reference to Islam served and still serves in the context of social discourse as an antipole to the influence of secular, liberal and often pluralistic ideas, such as minority rights and equality. The MHP has thus made an active contribution to the fact that the so-called "Turkish-Islamic synthesis" [13] by political scientists has become a core ideologue of Turkish legal nationalism. The central implication of this "Turkish-Islamic synthesis" is the idea of ​​the inseparability of Turkish-national and Islamic components in Turkish history. At the same time, the MHP's emphasis on Islam serves to influence broader Islamic population groups more strongly and to be able to recruit them more easily. This currently applies not only to the MHP, but to all conservative-nationalist parties and Islamic movements in Turkey.

Mobilization of "European Turkishness"

In the course of the polarizing discussions on migration policy in Germany in the 1990s, the then MHP chairman, Türkeş, coined the term "European Turkism" (Avrupa Türklüğü) as a collective term for the Turkish nationalist identity of supporters outside of the Turkish national borders. This appeals to people of Turkish origin who, although their center of life is in (Western) Europe, are nevertheless supposed to spread their Turkish nationalistic identity. This logic also corresponds to the slogan "Become a German, stay a Turk!", With which almost all Turkish right-wing extremist organizations in the Federal Republic of Germany call on their members to acquire German citizenship, but then for allegedly Turkish national interests and the formation of one to use the strong Turkish nationalist lobby in Germany. In particular, it is about the recruitment of Turkish-speaking young people of the third or fourth generation of immigrants who were born and raised in Germany, but who often have identity problems. They should be politicized and mobilized for the Turkish right-wing extremist organizational structures.

A comparison of German and Turkish right-wing extremism reveals many parallels - but also some significant differences.

Organizations and activities of the gray wolves in Germany

Numerous Turkish right-wing extremist associations have been set up in Germany since the so-called guest worker immigration in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of them joined together in 1978 in the umbrella organization ADÜTDF (Turkish Federation of Idealist Associations in Germany, now known as Türk Federasyon). The Türk Fedarasyon is a registered association based in Frankfurt / Main and is legally independent, but in terms of content and ideology it can be described as a subsidiary of the MHP. Similar to the Türk Fedarasyon, there are umbrella organizations for MHP supporters in numerous other Western European countries (such as Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Austria or Switzerland), but also, for example, in Australia and the USA.

In the course of internal disputes, the ATB (European-Turkish Union) and ATIB (Turkish Islamic Union Europe) split off from the Turk Federasyon, which see themselves more as the Islamic-oriented wing of the "gray wolves" scene. Nationwide, Türk Federasyon, ATIB and ATB jointly maintain around 300 local associations and branches [14] and, with an estimated more than 18,000 members, leave the NPD far behind, for example. [15]

The Türk Federasyon is structured very hierarchically. According to the statutes, the organs of the association include the board of directors and the supervisory board as well as a "disciplinary council", which is supposed to punish violations of the association's principles. The Türk Federasyon imposes strict requirements on its member associations: For example, they have the express duty to "implement decisions of the federation organs", to transfer a centrally defined part of their own income and to "refrain from activities that are not approved by the umbrella organization". The Federal Republic is divided into more than ten regional associations. Some include several federal states, while federal states with a high number of member associations (e.g. Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg or North Rhine-Westphalia) are divided into up to three regional associations.

The names of the local member organizations sometimes suggest that they belong to the gray wolf scene, for example they are "Turkish Idealist Association [place name] e.V." However, the names often sound completely apolitical, such as "Turkish Cultural Center", "Association of Turkish Workers" or "Turkish-German Friendship Association". [17] Part of the recipe for success of the three umbrella organizations is that their local member associations have often been able to establish themselves as Turkish self-help organizations and mosque communities. Türk Federasyon, ATIB and ATB have an influence on numerous cultural and parents' associations, business associations, youth groups, football clubs and mosques - and thus on the social life of many people of Turkish origin in Germany. They are also active in integration councils, [18] and in some cases they appear in alliance lists with Islamic associations. In addition, there are efforts by functionaries and supporters of the Gray Wolves to join German parties (e.g. CDU, CSU, SPD, Greens) and to actively participate in order to represent their ideological and political content there. [19]

Alparslan Türkeş 'concept of "European Turkishness" is also actively propagated in Germany by Türk Federasyon: "We fight to preserve the national and ideal values ​​of the local Turkish community and to pass them on to the following generations," said the chairman at the time, Şentürk Doğruyol in May 2009 at a nationwide ADÜTDF congress in Essen. Even after accepting the German passport, naturalized Turks "would have Turkish roots and are honorable members of the great Turkish people. (...) We European Turks carry the Turkish ID with pride and will continue to carry it with pride." [20] Already In October 2004, the North Rhine-Westphalian Office for the Protection of the Constitution pointed out that the gray wolves "contribute to the emergence of a parallel society in Europe" and thus form "an obstacle to the integration of the Turkish population". [21]

The Erdoğan government reacted to the failed coup of July 2016 in Turkey by reviving its policy of repression in the Kurdish regions and with a downright hunt against actual or alleged critics, for example - again actual or supposed - supporters of the so-called Gulen movement , which the Turkish government holds responsible for the coup attempt. This mobilization and the internal Turkish polarization has led to a stronger appearance of the gray wolves in Germany as well: For example, on July 31, 2016 in Cologne, thousands of people responded to a demonstration call by Erdoğan and other AKP politicians, including numerous, recognizable by flags and symbols of the movement Pendant of the Gray Wolves. At a Pro-Erdogan demonstration in Munich, participants had shown the so-called wolf salute. [22] In Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Gelsenkirchen and other cities there were violent attacks on Kurdish institutions and educational associations close to Gülen, which were attributed to ultra-nationalists of Turkish origin. [23] At the beginning of March 2017, there was a particularly remarkable appearance in Hamburg: During a speech by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu on the premises of the Consulate General there, numerous listeners and Cavuşoğlu himself raised his right arm in a distinctive greeting from the Gray Wolves. [24]

But not only since the coup, supporters of the gray wolves have been arguing the nationalist politics of the Turkish government in this country in a martial way. On March 26, 2016, the Turkish right-wing nationalist rocker and boxing club "Turan e.V." (which already bears the Greater Turkish-Turanist objective in its name) for a demonstration under the motto "We support the anti-terror fight of the Turkish security authorities", in which more than 350 people took part. [25] When the Bundestag passed a resolution on the genocide of the Young Turkish government against the Armenians in June 2016, numerous supporters of this resolution were threatened by Turkish nationalists, among others. [26] Almost a dozen members of the Bundestag were then placed under police protection [27] - how seriously these threats from the spectrum of the gray wolves are to be taken is not least shown by several attacks carried out by their supporters in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.

Proximity between German and Turkish right-wing extremists

The racism of German right-wing extremists and the increase in racially motivated violence from the end of the 1970s brought right-wing extremists of Turkish origin into a paradoxical situation. In their violent actions against the Turkish or Kurdish left in the Federal Republic, they saw the local neo-Nazis as allies and were strengthened by the general anti-communist mood of the 1970s and 1980s in the Federal Republic. [28] Because of this ideological relationship, it was difficult for militant Gray Wolves to develop a clear position against xenophobic or anti-Turkish actions by German right-wing extremists.

In a circular from 1977, Alparslan Türkeş explicitly emphasized the ideological closeness of the MHP and the NPD: "... in order to achieve the intended goals, the unity of action of our party and the NPD as well as their experience and working methods must be used. The instructions sent by the central management of the MHP must be obeyed ". [29] Conversely, German neo-Nazis expressed open sympathy: Michael Kühnen of the militant "Action Front Nationaler Socialists" (ANS) declared in an interview in 1978: "We have very good contacts with all relevant organizations at home and abroad. We know the people - we respect them they. The gray wolves are practically a kind of equivalent, albeit based on the national tradition in Turkey, and we have great sympathy for their purpose. "[30]

The mutual respect has lasted for decades. In 2009, the then NPD state head of Hesse, Jörg Krebs, found words of praise: "In the most recent parliamentary elections on July 22, 2007, the only serious national Turkish party - which we German national activists are very familiar with - MHP (Party The Nationalist Movement - Gray Wolves) returned to the Turkish Parliament with a breathtaking 14.29 percent. 70 MHP MPs now consistently represent a policy that is primarily oriented towards the interests of their own people and therefore Turkey's accession to 'melting Pot 'EU categorically rejects. MHP is therefore a natural ally of all nationalist Germans who also reject Turkey's accession to the EU. From my personal point of view, this will apply much more in the future with regard to dealing with nationalistic Turks in the Federal Republic of Germany (...) Because one principle applies today more than ever: 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend' " 1]

But despite this, in some cases, great ideological proximity, there has hardly been any noticeable, actual cooperation between German right-wing extremists and Gray Wolves over the decades. Events like the one in April 2016 in Nuremberg are therefore likely to remain the exception: there, gray wolves demonstrated side by side with activists from the neo-Nazi party "The Right" against the left, Kurdish PKK. [32]