In Germany, the pressure on political decision-makers to finally ban the extremist Turkish organization “Grey Wolves” is growing.
Most recently, a court ruling in Cologne caused a sensation in which two members of the “Ülkücü” movement, as the nationalists are called in Turkey, complained that the German authorities had confiscated their weapons. The 20th Chamber of the Administrative Court rejected the urgent application of the two extremists from Bonn. The police headquarters in Bonn had previously revoked the gun license for sport shooters. They are considered unreliable in terms of weapons law because they belong to the “Ülkücü” movement – the so-called Gray Wolves – which is classified as right-wing extremist. This was flanked by observations made by German security authorities.
The court dealt extensively with findings about the “Ülkücü” movement, especially since those affected do not deny their membership. In photos, one of them showed the characteristic wolf sign with his hand. He was also present at a board meeting of the “Federation of Turkish-Democratic Idealist Associations in Germany e.V.”, ADÜTDF in short. This organization is considered the largest “Ülkücü” umbrella organization in Germany. According to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, this represents the interests of the extremely nationalist Turkish “Party of the Nationalist Movement” (MHP). Around 160 local associations with 7,000 members are affiliated with the ADÜTDF in Germany. Two smaller “Ülkücü” umbrella organizations bind other clubs with around 3,400 members.
But it’s not just the courts and German politics that are dealing with the Gray Wolves again. Former German national soccer player Mesut Özil, a popular role model in the German-Turkish community, seems to be a supporter of the movement. The former German sportsman retired last March and is now keeping fit with his personal trainer. The 34-year-old, who wore the national teams shirt 92 times in his career, now has a tattoo of the symbols of the Gray Wolves on his left breast above his heart. His fitness trainer posted a photo of himself and Özil on Instagram showing the tattoo. The coach declined to comment. The tattoo also shows three crescents, which refer to the logo of the right-wing nationalist party MHP. It is part of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s coalition government.
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In recent years, Özil has repeatedly attracted attention because of his closeness to Erdogan. Before the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the soccer star, who was born in Gelsenkirchen, had his picture taken with the Turkish President. The photo was taken shortly before the tournament and the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey. Özil’s behavior and his partisanship with Erdogan sparked a debate about integration in Germany. The footballer himself was awarded the Bambi for integration in 2010.
Özil, the son of Turkish parents, decided at the age of 18 to pursue a career in the German national team and obtain German citizenship. After widespread criticism of his relationship with President Erdogan and his performance in the national team, Özil resigned as a national player in July 2018. In his statement, Özil justified his decision with “racism and a lack of respect” that he felt in Germany.
In Turkey, the group’s trademark, the wolf salute, is part of the political mainstream. It can often be seen at Erdogan’s events, even opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu has also shown it. The Ülkücü were founded in the 1960s as a paramilitary group by Alparslan Türkeş, who also founded the MHP and was involved in the 1960 military coup. At the time, the Gray Wolves’ commandos carried out bloody attacks on socialists, trade unionists and left-wing student leaders.
How it looks now with a nationwide ban on organizations remains unclear. In response to a question in parliament, the German government confirmed that the “Ülkücü” movement was part of a network of organizations “on and through which the current Turkish government exerts influence”. The federal government has information on individual “Ülkücü” supporters and Turkish nationalists who have publicly described themselves as “Erdogan’s soldiers” in the past.
A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior explained that the federal government generally does not comment on the consideration of a ban – “regardless of whether there is reason for such considerations in individual cases”. “Otherwise there would be a risk that those potentially affected would act accordingly and the effectiveness of operational official measures could be impaired or thwarted.” The CDU member of the parliament Christoph de Vries, on the other hand, has the impression that apparently little has happened. “As far as I know, there has not been any substantial progress in examining the ban on organizing, which also has to do with the fact that club activities came to a standstill during the Corona period, like everywhere else.”
An organizational ban must always be legally watertight and should not give the opportunity to challenge in court. “But we expect that the ban procedure will be carried out by the Federal Minister of the Interior with the necessary seriousness and consistency, including the necessary use of resources,” warned de Vries.
The “Gray Wolves” in their overall structure are “the largest right-wing extremist organization in Germany and, with their ultra-nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic world view, a danger to our liberal democracy”. Parliamentarian de Vries mentions “the increasing ties between the Gray Wolves and the Turkish AKP and President Erdogan”. This shows that “there is an urgent need for action here”. “Parliament’s call for a ban is therefore more relevant than ever, and the Federal Ministry of the Interior is well advised to take the Bundestag’s declared cross-party will seriously.”
The Green MP and Islamic scholar Lamya Kaddor formulated it clearly: “In my view, a ban on the Ülkücü movement as one of the largest, nationalist, right-wing extremist movements in Germany would be consistent and correct”, the security services categorize the movement as a whole in the realm of foreign-related extremism.
In the opinion of FDP interior speaker Linda Teuteberg, the anti-Semitic, racist and illiberal ideology of the “Gray Wolves” requires a “clear response from the well-fortified, free constitutional state”. She expects “that the Federal Minister of the Interior will seriously examine whether and how a ban on the clubs associated with the ‘Gray Wolves’ can be enforced in a court of law”. When taking decisive action against any threat to the constitution, “there shouldn’t be any cultural discounts”.
Teuteberg also warns that the movement “attempts to specifically influence German society and politics, particularly through legalistic associations and activities.” Anyone who sympathizes with the inhuman ideology of the “Gray Wolves” or actively spreads it “cannot be a partner in the democratic constitutional state for integration or in interreligious dialogue”.
It remains to be asked whether the political commitments of the German parties will lead to constitutional consequences. Politicians who at least sympathize with the extremist movement are seen again and again at events organized by Turkish associations close to Ülkücü, not just in Germany but also in countries like Austria and France. Critics of this behavior see it as pandering to the Turkish community for votes and support. The world’s largest football association, the German DFB, should also have to make a statement. It also has an influence on the Turkish community in Germany through the many football clubs that are also members of the sports association. A clear signal from all sides, from politics and sport, is urgently needed.
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