Established by Colonel Alparslan Türkeş in late 1960s, it rose to prominence in late 1970s political violence in Turkey when its members engaged in urban guerrilla warfare with left-wing activists and militants. Scholars have described it as a death squad, responsible for most of the violence and killings in this period. Their most notorious attack, which killed over 100 Alevis, took place inMaraş in December 1978. They are also alleged to have been behind the Taksim Square massacre on May day, 1977. The masterminds behind the attempt on Pope John Paul II's life in 1981 by Grey Wolves member Mehmet Ali Ağca were not identified and the organization's role remains unclear. Due to these attacks the Grey Wolves have been described by scholars and journalists as aterrorist organization. The organization has long been a prominent suspect in investigations into the Turkish "deep state", and is suspected of having had close dealings in the past with the Counter-Guerrilla, the Turkish branch of the NATO Operation Gladio.
A staunchly Pan-Turkist organization, in the early 1990s the Grey Wolves extended their area of operation into the post-Soviet states with Turkic and Muslim populations. Up to thousands of its members fought in the Nagorno-Karabakh War on the Azerbaijani side, and the First and Second Chechen Wars on the Chechen side. After an unsuccessful attempt to seize power in Azerbaijan in 1995, they were banned in that country. Kazakhstan in 2005 also banned the organization, classifying it as a terrorist organization.
Under Devlet Bahçeli, who assumed the leadership of MHP and Grey Wolves after Türkeş's death in 1997, the organization has been reformed. The organization has also been active in the Turkish-controlled portion of Cyprus. It has affiliated branches in several Western European countries with significant Turkish populations, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. In Germany, they are the largest far-right organization with at least 10,000 members and are monitored by the authorities as an extremist organization. According to a 2014 estimate, the Grey Wolves are supported by 3.6% of the Turkish electorate.
Name and symbolism
The organization's members are known as Ülkücüler, literally meaning "idealists". Its informal name is inspired by the ancient legend of Asena, a she-wolf in the Ergenekon, a myth associated with Turkic ethnic origins in the Central Asian steppes. In Turkey, the wolf also symbolizes honor. The Grey Wolves have a "strong emphasis on leadership and hierarchical, military-like organisation."
The Grey Wolves and MHP supporters are known for their hand sign, which represents a wolf head. It is made by holding up the forefingerand little finger. However, according to commentator Mehmet Ali Birand, the sign is not exclusively used by Grey Wolves members.
The Grey Wolves also use what scholar Ahmet İnsel describes as "fascist slogans imported from America", such as "Love it or leave it" (Ya Sev Ya Terk Et!) and "Communists to Moscow" (Komünistler Moskova'ya).
The Grey Wolves adhere to an extreme form of Turkish nationalism. It has been characterized as neo-fascist by scholars, mainstream media, and leftist sources. R. W. Apple Jr., writing in the New York Times in 1981, described MHP and its satellite groups as a "xenophobic, fanatically nationalist, neofascist network steeped in violence." The organization's ideology emphasizes the early history of the Turkic states in Central Asia and blends it with Islam. Synthesis of Turkish identity and Islam is widely prevalent in their rhetoric and activities. One of their mottoes is "Your doctor will be a Turk and your medicine will be Islam." Other sources have described it as secular.
Their ideology is based on the superiority of the Turkish race and the Turkish nation. According to Peters, they strive for an "ideal" Turkish nation, which they define as "Sunni-Islamic and mono-ethnic: only inhabited by 'true' Turks." A Turk is defined as someone who lives in the Turkish territory, feels Turkish and calls themselves Turkish. In their ideology and activities, they are hostile to virtually all non-Turkish elements within Turkey, including Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Greeks, Christians overall, and Jews. They embrace anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as those put forward byThe Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They have distributed the Turkish translation of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.
The Grey Wolves are Pan-Turkist and seek to unite the Turkic peoples in one state stretching from the Balkans to Central Asia. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Grey Wolves called for "a revived Turkish empire embracing newly independent Central Asian states of the former Soviet Union." They have proposed "a pan-Turkish extension of the Turkish nation-state." Due to their pan-Turkic agenda they are hostile towards Iran and Russia.
In its early days the Grey Wolves were staunchly anti-communist and waged armed fighting against far-left groups in Turkey.
According to sociologist Doğu Ergil, the Grey Wolves—"the militant youth wing of the Turkish ethnic nationalists that are dissatisfied with the inertia of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) camp"—are supported by 3.6 percent of the Turkish electorate as of 2014. According to analyst Ankarali Jan, the Grey Wolves have largely unofficial presence in Turkey's major universities, but their "real power is on the streets, among disaffected poor people in predominantly Turkish Sunni neighbourhoods." One source claimed that the MHP and Grey Wolves "retain strong support within the military."
According to Ruben Safrastyan, because the Grey Wolves are subtle and often formally operate as cultural and sports organizations, information about them is scarce.
The organization was formed by Colonel Alparslan Türkeş in the late 1960s as the paramilitary wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). In 1968 over a hundred camps for ideological and paramilitary training were founded by Türkeş across Turkey. Canefe and Bora describe it as a grassroots fascist network, which had an active role in the economy, education, and neighborhoods. Nasuh Uslu characterized it as a well-disciplined paramilitary organization, while Joshua D. Hendrick compared its organization to the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS). Young males (mostly students and economic migrants) from rural areas who have settled in Istanbul and Ankara made up the majority of its members. In 1973 Israeli orientalist Jacob M. Landau wrote that the importance of the Grey Wolves "is attested to by the fact that Türkeş himself assumed responsibility for the formation of these youth groups and assigned the supervision of their training to two of his close associates".
1970s violence and the coup of 1980
By the late 1970s the organizations had tens of thousands of members. Amberin Zaman wrote that Turkish authorities had lost control over it. Members of the Grey Wolves were involved in numerous assassinations of left-wing and liberal activists, intellectuals, labor organizers, ethnic Kurds, officials, journalists during the political violence between 1976 and 1980. During this period, the organization became a "death squad" engaged in "street killings and gunbattles". According to authorities, 220 of its members carried out 694 murders of left-wing and liberal activists and intellectuals. In total, some 5,000 to 6,000 people were killed with the Grey Wolves committing most of it.
Their most significant attack of this period was the Maraş massacre in December 1978 when over 100 Alevis were killed. They are also "alleged to have been behind" the Taksim Square massacre on May 1, 1977. The Grey Wolves became a "state-approved force" and used attacks on left-wing groups to "cause chaos and demoralization and inflame a climate in which a regime promising law and order would be welcomed by the masses." During this violent period, Grey Wolves operated with the encouragement and the protection of the Turkish Army Special Warfare Department The conflict between left-wing and right-wing groups eventually resulted in a military intervention in September 1980 when General Kenan Evren led a coup d'état. According to Daniele Ganser, at the time of the coup, there were some 1,700 Grey Wolves organizations, with about 200,000 registered members and a million sympathizers. Following the 1980 coup the Grey Wolves and MHP were banned. Their activism was diminished. The nationalist view was that they were "used and then discarded" by higher powers.
Links to the Turkish government and NATO
In the late 1970s, former military prosecutor and Turkish Supreme Court Justice Emin Değer documented collaboration between the Grey Wolves and Counter-Guerrilla—the Turkish stay-behind anti-communist organization, part of NATO planning which was supposed to prepare networks for guerrilla warfare in case of a Soviet invasion—and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Martin Lee writes that the Counter-Guerrilla supplied weapons to the Grey Wolves, while according to Tim Jacoby, the CIA overtly transferred guns and explosives to Grey Wolf units through an agent in the 1970s.
During the Susurluk scandal of 1996 the Grey Wolves were accused of being members of the Counter-Guerrilla, the Turkish branch of Operation Gladio. Abdullah Çatlı, second in command of the Grey Wolves leadership, was killed during the Susurluk car crash, which sparked the scandal. The April 1997 report of the Turkish National Assembly's investigative committee "offered considerable evidence of close ties between state authorities and criminal gangs, including the use of the Grey Wolves to carry out illegal activities."
In the 2008 the Ergenekon trials a court document revealed that the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) armed and funded Grey Wolves members to carry out political murders. They mostly targeted members of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA), which attacked Turkish embassies abroad in retaliation of thedenial of the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish intelligence services also made use of the Grey Wolves in the conflict against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) by offering them amnesty in exchange.
In the 1990s the Grey Wolves turned their focus on the Kurds and participated in the conflict against the PKK in southeastern Turkey. In 1999 Hürriyet Daily News described the organization as "the staunchest opponent to the Kurdish cause in Turkey."
In May 1998 the Grey Wolves were involved in two murders. On May 3 a group of Grey Wolves reportedly attacked two students in Bolu who were passing before the organization's building. Kenan Mak, one of the students was killed. On May 5 a worker named Bilal Vural was killed in Istanbul's Şişli district, allegedly by the Grey Wolves. His family claimed that he was "brought several times to the Ülkü Ocakları building where ultranationalists forced him to become a member." They also added that he was killed because he was a member of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP). As a result of these murders Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Sinan Yerlikaya and the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) requested the organization to be closed by the authorities.
During the 1999 general election Grey Wolves attacked members of the pro-Kurdish HADEP, allegedly with impunity.
In August 2002 Grey Wolves burnt Masoud Barzani's effigy in a protest in Ankara. Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who had claimed the partly Turkmen-inhabited Iraqi provinces of Kirkuk and Mosul, as part of Iraqi Kurdistan.
On November 9, 2010 Hasan Şimşek, a Grey Wolves member and a student, was killed at the Kütahya Dumlupınar University during an apparent fight between Kurdish and Turkish nationalist student groups. At his funeral MHP leader Bahçeli stated that "We expect every kind of measure to be taken to prevent the expansion of the PKK mob, who have a tendency to grow in the universities." Violence between Turkish and Kurdish students also broke out in Marmara University of Istanbul on November 12.
In September 2011 the Ankara Police Department raided 40 locations across Ankara belonging to the Grey Wolves. They took 36 people into custody and seized numerous guns and knives. According to police they were planning an attack on the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (BDP).
In October 2014 the Grey Wolves were involved in deadly clashes and riots when Kurds in various cities of Turkey demonstrated against Turkey's non-intervention policy during the Siege of Kobanî. Milliyet reported that a group of Grey Wolves in Sancaktepe, Istanbul attempted to lynch a young man.
On February 20, 2015 Fırat Yılmaz Çakıroğlu, leader of the Grey Wolves organisation in Ege University, was stabbed to death, allegedly, by Kurdish nationalist students.
In October 2013 the Grey Wolves demonstrated against the Kurdish–Turkish peace process across Turkey.
On September 7–8, 2015 Turkish nationalists, including Grey Wolves members, attacked 128 offices of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) across Turkey in an apparent retaliation of anti-government attacks by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Some have alleged that some of the attacks were carried out by AKP members "masquerading as Grey Wolves" or that the Grey Wolves have cooperated with AKP members in attacks on HDP offices and left-wingers suspected of sympathy for the Kurds.
On June 18, 1988 Kartal Demirağ, a senior member of the Grey Wolves, made an assassination attempt at Prime Minister Turgut Özal's life at the Motherland Party congress. Özal linked it to his visit to Greece, which had occurred three days earlier, saying that the attempt was carried out "by a group opposed to his efforts to improve relations with Greece."
On September 6, 2005 a group of nationalists, led by a Grey Wolves leader Levent Temiz, stormed into an Istanbul exhibition commemorating the anti-Greek pogrom of 1955. They threw eggs and tore down photos. The Grey Wolves issued a statement denying involvement.
The Grey Wolves routinely demonstrate outside the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Fener (Phanar), Istanbul and burn the Patriarch in effigy. In October 2005 they staged a rally and proceeding to the gate they laid a black wreath, chanting "Patriarch Leave" and "Patriarchate to Greece", inaugurating the campaign for the collection of signatures to oust the Ecumenical Patriarchate from Istanbul. As of 2006 the Grey Wolves claimed to have collected more than 5 million signatures for the withdrawal of the Patriarch and called on the Turkish government to have the patriarch deported to Greece.
On April 24, 2011 Sevag Balıkçı, a soldier of Armenian descent, was killed in service in the Turkish army by Kıvanç Ağaoglu, who was a sympathizer of Abdullah Çatlı, the late Grey Wolves leader. According to Ruben Melkonyan, an Armenian expert in Turkish studies, Ağaoglu was a member of the Grey Wolves.
In June 2015, during the visit of the Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan to the medieval Armenian city of Ani in Turkey the local Grey Wolves leader wondered aloud whether his followers should “go on an Armenian hunt.”
According to Zürcher and Linden when in March 1995 Sunni radicals attacked Alevis in Istanbul, the local police of Gazi quarter was "heavily infiltrated by Grey Wolves" and it was not until they were replaced by military units that peace was restored.
In December 1996, the Grey Wolves attacked left-wing students and teachers at Istanbul University, under alleged police sanction.
In late November 2006 the Grey Wolves staged protests against Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey. On November 22 tens of protesters symbolically occupied Haghia Sophia(Ayasofya) in Istanbul to perform Muslim prayers. They chanted slogans against the Pope, such as "Don't make a mistake Pope, don't try our patience". Reuters reported that the event was organized by Alperen Ocakları, considered an offshoot of the Grey Wolves. Police arrested around 40 protesters for violating the ban on prayers in the former Byzantine church, which was converted into a museum in the 1930s.
In July 2014 around a thousand people demonstrated in Kahramanmaraş against the presence of Syrian refugees that have fled the civil war in their country. Many protesters made the sign of the Grey Wolves, blocked roads in the city and removed Arabic-language signs from stores. AKP lawyer Mahir Ünal commented: "This doesn't make them idealists [i.e. members of the Grey Wolves] but it is certain some people's attempt to show it like something the idealists did."
In July 2015 the Grey Wolves staged protests across Turkey, burnt flags of the People's Republic of China, attacked Chinese restaurants and "tourists who were mistaken for being Chinese" in response to the Chinese government's ban on the Muslim Turkic Uyghurs to fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Korean tourists were attacked by Grey Wolves. An Uighur worked at the Turkish run Chinese restaurant which was assaulted. According to an account the Uyghur worker was violently assaulted by the attackers. Members of the Grey Wolves displayed a banner in multiple locations that read, "We crave Chinese blood." Grey Wolves members attacked the Thai consulate in Istanbul in apparent retaliation for the deportation of hundreds of Uyghurs by Thailand. Devlet Bahçeli stated that "Our nationalist youth is sensitive to injustices in China." Bahçeli stated that the attacks by MHP-affiliated youth on South Korean tourists was "understandable" and added: "What feature differentiates a Korean from a Chinese? They see that they both have slanted eyes. How can they tell the difference?"
Outside of Turkey
Azerbaijan In Nagorno-Karabakh
During the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988–94), around 200 members of the Grey Wolves fought on the Azerbaijani side against the Armenian forces. Türkeş acknowledged that his followers were fighting in Karabakh with Azerbaijani forces, but they reportedly returned to Turkey in late 1992. A 1993 article in the Russian newspaper Segodnya (ru) claimed that around 15,000 members of the Grey Wolves were under the direct command of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces or formed independent armed groups.
In domestic politics
In 1993, Azerbaijani Interior Minister Isgandar Hamidov established the National Democratic Party, which was known as Boz Qurd ("Grey Wolves"). According to Russian political scientist Stanislav Cherniavsky the Azerbaijani Grey Wolves grew out of the nationalist Popular Front in 1992 and "considered itself a branch of the Turkish Grey Wolves." It was registered by the Justice Ministry in 1994. In interviews in 1992-93 Hamidov denied any connection with the Turkish organization stating that "Grey Wolves of Azerbaijan are not subordinate to the Turkish group".
In March 1995, a coup d'état attempt against President Heydar Aliyev's government was staged in Baku by Colonel Rovshan Javadov, Turkish far-right organizations (including the Grey Wolves), and the Azerbaijani opposition. According to Thomas de Waal, the "shadowy backers of this uprising were never identified but appear to have included rogue elements of the Turkish security establishment and members of the 'Gray Wolves' Bozkurt movement." After the coup attempt Hamidov was jailed, while the Azerbaijani Supreme Court formally abolished the party due to its links to the Turkish Grey Wolves, which it considered to be a terrorist organization. Hamidov was freed by the amnesty granted by President Ilham Aliyev. In 2008 Hamidov retired from politics and as president of the party, which had been inactive since. According to a 2007 article by Mahammad Imanli and Shahin Nasrullayev the Grey Wolves no longer operate in Azerbaijan.
The Grey Wolves "set up training camps in Central Asia for youths from Turkic language groups" following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Failing to find support in post-Soviet Central Asian republics, they targeted the Uyghurs, mostly concentrated in western Chinese province of Xinjiang. They support the East Turkestan independence movement, which at times turns violent (such as during the July 2009 Ürümqi riots). In this scope, the Grey Wolves' European affiliates attacked Chinese tourists in the Netherlands. According to a 2012 report by South Asia Analysis Group, the Eastern Turkestan Grey Wolf Party (Uyghur: Shәrqiy Türkistan Bozkurt Partiyesi) is among the "major terrorist/extremist organisations of Xinjiang". The same report states that it "used to have some following in Urumchi" and was "reportedly backed by teachers, students and other intellectuals." The India-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies suggested in 2012 they are "highly limited in their reach and support base". On the contrary, China Times reported in 2015 that the Grey Wolves "enjoy wide support from China's Uyghur population."
Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 the Grey Wolves "continued to play a role in radicalizing the dispute with Greek Cypriots by actively engaging in violence on the island." They supported Rauf Denktaş, the President of the unrecognized Northern Cyprus between 1983 and 2005, and were involved in state-sponsored terror of citizens, according to Harry Anastasiou. In July 1996, Kutlu Adali, a Turkish Cypriot journalist who had criticized Denktaş and his policies, was killed by the Grey Wolves, according to some sources.
In August 1996, the Grey Wolves were involved in an attack on a protest of Greek Cypriots against the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus. Tassos Isaac, a Greek protester, was allegedly beaten to death by the Grey Wolves in the United Nations Buffer Zone.
In July 1997 the Grey Wolves clashed in Northern Cyprus with Kurdish university students who protested against Turkey's invasion of northern Iraq in search of the PKK.
On October 17, 2003 Murat Kanatlı, Turkish Cypriot journalist and editor of the opposition newspaper Yeniçağ, was "attacked by a group of 20-30 persons belonging to the Grey Wolves" according to the International Press Institute (IPI). Kanatlı had covered the Grey Wolves' demonstration against the "intervention" of the European Union and the United States in elections in Northern Cyprus.
During the 2004 referendum on the Annan Plan, the Grey Wolves campaigned for a 'no' vote". During the pre-voting period at least 50 Grey Wolves activists arrived in Northern Cyprus and caused riots against pro-ratification supporters. They were suspected of assaulting motorcyclists carrying 'vote yes' banners.
In October 2013 that the Grey Wolves opened a new headquarters in North Nicosia's Köşklüçiftlik quarter. During the opening ceremony Adem Yurdagül, the chairman of the Grey Wolves in Cyprus delivered a speech, while slogans like "Nicosia plain is home of Grey Wolves", "Cyprus is Turkish and will remain Turkish", "We are soldiers of [Alparslan] Türkeş", "The Grey Wolves Movement cannot be prevented" were chanted.
In November 2013 a fight broke out between members of the Grey Wolves and Kurdish students at the Near East University in North Nicosia resulting in arrest of 23 persons. According to the newspaper Havadis, "the cause of the fight was allegations by the Grey wolves' organization that some Kurdish students broke the windows of the Grey wolves organization’s building. Around 500 students went out on the streets holding clubs and rocks and the police asked for reinforcement in order to put them under control."
Members of the Grey Wolves fought on the Chechen separatist side during the First Chechen War (1994–96) and the Second Chechen War (1999–2000). CNNreported in 2000 that the Grey Wolves with most pro-Chechen stance were those affiliated with the Islamist Great Union Party (BBP), which had split from MHP in 1993. The article suggested that they "run the mosques and commercial activities in some parts of Istanbul. It is in these mosques, in the suburbs of the city, that offerings are collected after daily prayers for the Chechen refugees. It is money that probably also goes to soldiers on the front lines." According to Svante Cornell it is "widely believed that the Grey Wolves organised arms shipments to Chechnya, probably with at least the partial knowledge of the Turkish authorities." Russian media has alleged that the Turkish government knew and possibly supported, or at least did not prevent, the activities of the Grey Wolves in Chechnya.
Azerbaijani Grey Wolves also participated in the fight against Russia. In January 1995 Kommersant cited the Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) in stating that the Azerbaijani Grey Wolves sent 80 fighters to Chechnya. Another 270 fighters went to Chechnya in December of that year.
Georgian Minister of State Security Valery Khaburdania stated in 2002 that the Grey Wolves were the "conduit of assistance" to the Chechen militants.
According to a report of the independent Russian online newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa, Crimean Tatar nationalists "appear[ed] to have begun cooperating" with the Grey Wolves in December 2015. According to Russian state-run Sputnik news agency the Grey Wolves established a presence in southern Ukraine, particularly Kherson Oblast.
Members of the Grey Wolves have fought in the Syrian Civil War, primarily in support of the Syrian Turkmen, whom they consider kinsmen. MHP and Grey Wolves have provided the Syrian Turkmen Assembly with relief aid and fighters. On 24 November 2015, Turkish Air Force F-16s shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M bomber aircraft near the Syria–Turkey border. The pilot was shot in mid-air parachuting toward land by Syrian Turkmen rebels under Syrian Turkmen Brigades. The Turkmen rebel group operated under the command of Alparslan Celik, a Turkish national and a Grey Wolves member from Elazığ.
An Arabic news site picked up a document allegedly issued by the Army of Conquest which said that it conspired with the Turkistan Islamic Party and Grey Wolves in theassassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey and compared it to what Suleiman al-Halabi did in his assassination. Russian news site TASS cited this in a news report.
The 2015 Bangkok bombing is suspected to have been carried out by the Grey Wolves due to Thailand's deportation of Uyghur terrorist suspects back to China instead of allowing them to travel to Turkey for asylum. A man with fake Turkish passports using the name Adem Karadag was arrested by the Thai police in connection to the bombing and bomb making materials found in his apartment.
The Belçika Türk Federasyonu (BTF) is considered to be "affiliated with or sympathetic" to the Grey Wolves. According to a study, its aim is "to foster loyalty among young people of Turkish origin to their ancestral culture, religion and history and to keep alive the Turkish identity in Europe. BTF claims to oppose not the integration of Belgian-Turksinto their host society but rather their assimilation by it." Its activities mostly focus on "issues relevant to Turkish national sensitivities". For instance, it has demonstrated against the erection of an Armenian Genocide memorial in Brussels. During the municipal elections of 2006 two member of the BTF came to the attention of the media: Fuat Korkmazer on the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) list in Ghent and Murat Denizli on the Francophone Socialist Party (PS) list in Schaerbeek, a commune in the Brussels Region. In both cases, political observers saw it as an attempt by Belgian parties to attract far-right Turkish voters in communes where there are numerous Turks, with or without Belgian citizenship. Korkmazer got a very low number of votes, while Denizli was elected but had to resign because it was discovered he had a false address and lived in another commune.
Türk Ocağı (TO), a cultural organization in Ghent is also linked to the Grey Wolves. Its chairman, Mehmet Özçelik, is a member of the Flemish Socialist Party caucus inBerchem. He denies the Armenian Genocide and is known to have attended a Brussels meeting in honor of the late Alparslan Türkes.
According to Paul Beliën, the Grey Wolves are "said to have organised the anti-Kurdish riots and raids on Kurdish shops in Brussels in 1994 and 1998."
According to Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure members of the Grey Wolves partook in a January 21, 2012 demonstration in Paris against the adoption of the bill criminalizing the Armenian Genocide denial in France. According to journalist Jean Eckian, one of the "instigators" Yuzuf Zya Arpacik, had fought in the Karabakh War and against the US forces during the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq.
As a right-wing extremist group the Grey Wolves are monitored by the German authorities. According to Neues Deutschland the Grey Wolves are the largest far-right organization in Germany by membership as of 2013. A 2014 Der Spiegel article estimated their membership to stand at no less than 10,000 people. Its members have actively engaged in attacks on and clashes with Kurds in Germany.
The most important Grey Wolves-affiliated Turkish organization in Germany is Türk Federasyon (Avrupa Demokratik Ülkücü Türk Dernekleri Federasyonu, ADÜTDF), which has around 200 member organizations. Founded in 1978 by 64 nationalist organizations it declined in the 1980s, but revived in the 1990s and claimed to have doubled its membership following the Solingen arson attack of 1993. It denies any direct links with the Grey Wolves in Turkey or the MHP, however, its monthly journal publishes articles praising the MHP and denouncing left-wing and Kurdish organizations in Turkey and Germany. Furthermore, in May 1998 MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli addressed a crowd of 15,000 German Turks at the Türk Federasyon annual meeting. Baden-Württemberg Interior Minister Reinhold Gall stated that Türk Federasyon is a "melting pot of extreme nationalists with Turkish migrant background". Türk Federasyon alone has 7,000 active members (for comparison, the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) has 5,000 members). According to educationalist Kemal Bozay, their influence on third generation Turkish youth—who are "looking for an identity"—has "increased significantly".
The 2013 Annual Report on the Protection of the Constitution by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior said that as a result of a June 2013 search by police in three German federal states "two live arms with ammunition, blank-firing guns, batons, electric stun guns and Samurai swords" were seized from members of the Grey Wolves.
The Ministry of the Interior of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state where 70 Grey Wolves associations with more than 2,000 members operated in 2011, also monitors the organization. Nevertheless, Serdar Yüksel, a Social Democratic Party member of the state's parliament, stated in a 2011 interview that the threat of the Grey Wolves in Germany is underestimated. He said, "When thousands of Turkish right-wing radicals come together in Essen, we're not worried. But if 100 members of NPD march, we immediately organize a counter-demonstration." Olaf Lehne, a Christian Democratic Union member of North Rhine-Westphalia's state parliament, stated in an interview that the Grey Wolves "are in this country, unfortunately, too often ignored". He also added that they have a large number of sympathizers among young people.
According to the Baden-Württemberg State Government, there are 45 Grey Wolves clubs and associations in that state as of 2012. These associations are often given non-political names (usually cultural and athletic) to conceal their identity.
As early as 1979 the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy reported that clashes between the Grey Wolves and the Dutch-Turkish Workers Association (HTIB) occurred on May Day celebrations. Organizations such as Turkish Federation Netherlands (Turkse Federatie Nederland, TFN) and Turkish Islamic Federation (Turks Islamitische Federatie) have links to the Grey Wolves. According to Wangmo and Yazilitas, the Grey Wolves in the Netherlands have engaged in a variety of activities, ranging from criminal activities and nationalist propaganda to support of football (soccer) teams. The organization was more influential in the 1990s when many first-generation Turkish immigrants "maintained a deep interest in Turkish politics and who had a deeply felt Turkish identity." Grey Wolves activists have participated—with varying successes—in the local politics of several Dutch municipalities.
On September 13, 2015 an explosion occurred at a Kurdish civil center in Stockholm, Sweden, following clashes between Turks, Kurds and anti-fascists at a rally organised by the Swedish Grey Wolves.
On May 13, 1981 Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Grey Wolves member, attempted on Pope John Paul II's life in St. Peter's Square. The masterminds were not identified and the organization's role remains unclear. According to Daniel Pipes and Khalid Duran Grey Wolves appear to have been involved in the assassination attempt and write that Ağca "in his own confused way mixed Turkish nationalist sentiments with fundamentalist Islam." However, Italian investigators could not establish his link to the Grey Wolves.
Illegal drug trade alllegations
Grey Wolves members and leaders have been involved in international drug trafficking since the 1980s. In the early 1980s U.S. anti-terrorism officials at the State Department reported that Türkeş is "widely believed to have been involved" in moving heroin from Turkey into Western Europe. According Stephen E. Ambrose, the leaders of Grey Wolves had built in the late 1980s an army by trading drugs for military equipment, ranging from assault helicopters to tanks. Drugs were transported to Italy, where organized crime processed them. According to Peter Dale Scott, the author of the book American War Machine, in 2010 there were drug producing and dealing groups that had clear ties with the Grey Wolves and its affiliated political party, MHP.