German military sacked two Turkish nationalists due to 'Grey Wolves' link

Interior Ministry documents reveal scope of ultra-nationalist influence among Turkish diaspora

People gestures the "Grey Wolves" salutation and wave flafs during an election rally of Turkey's opposition Nationalist Action Party (MHP) May 24, 2015 in Ankara, ahead of the June 7 general elections. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN (Photo by ADEM ALTAN / AFP)
Powered by automated translation

Far-right Turkish nationalists have more than 12,000 supporters in Germany, two of whom were sacked from the armed forces because of their links to the militant Grey Wolves movement, officials have revealed.

German Interior Ministry documents handed to MPs also reveal “isolated cases” in which Turkish extremists have forged connections to the criminal underworld.

Officials have stopped short of announcing a ban on the Grey Wolves after crackdowns in France and Austria. They said Turkish nationalists had toned down their public pronouncements in Germany.

The details were passed to left-wing MPs alarmed by the movement’s presence in Germany, which is home to a large Turkish diaspora.

The Grey Wolves group is associated with Turkey’s Nationalist Action Party, an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party. It rose to prominence during street battles and political violence in the 1970s.

Also known as the Ulkucu movement, the ideology of its supporters “is not confined to the modern territory of Turkey but relates to the right-wing extremist utopia” of a fictional larger state, the German ministry wrote.

Known as Turan in the ideology of Turkish ultra-nationalists, such a state would “encompass the areas inhabited by all the population groups that can be classified as Turkic”.

The number of Turkish nationalists in Germany suspected to be right-wing extremists was estimated at 12,100 last year, up by 10 per cent on a year earlier. German intelligence agencies routinely collect data on membership of suspected radical groups.

In the past five years, “two people were identified as supporters or sympathisers of the Grey Wolves” in the German armed forces and were dismissed, according to the Interior Ministry, which did not give further details.

Some nationalists are believed to have visited Turkish mosques in Germany in the run-up to presidential elections in Turkey this year, it said.

Turkish expats in Germany strongly backed Mr Erdogan in both rounds of voting in May’s election, in which campaigns laid on buses to take people to polling booths in Berlin.

However, nationalists generally try to appear law-abiding and have “noticeably moderated their outward presentation in recent years” amid speculation over a possible ban, MPs were told.

Austria in 2018 outlawed the Grey Wolves’ symbols and salute, a move condemned by the Turkish government. France banned the movement outright after a memorial to the Armenian genocide was defaced with nationalist graffiti near Lyon.

Germany’s parliament debated a possible ban in 2020 but any decision would ultimately be up to the Interior Ministry, which shut down a neo-Nazi group called Hammerskins on Tuesday.

It refused to reveal in the latest document whether a ban was under consideration, saying any public speculation would create “the danger that potentially affected people would adjust their behaviour accordingly”.

Updated: September 20, 2023, 2:44 PM