On 4 November 2020, France banned the Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves group. The ban on the far-right group comes amid rising tensions between Ankara and Paris over fight against extremism, and after a memorial to the Armenian genocide near Lyon was defaced with pro-Turkish slogans.

It comes amid growing tensions between France and Turkey in the light of a territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.

During the first Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988–94), around 200 members of the Grey Wolves fought on the Azerbaijani side against the Armenian forces.

Grey Wolves during the first Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988–94)

In 1993, Azerbaijani Interior Minister Isgandar Hamidov founded 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 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 organisation stating that “Grey Wolves of Azerbaijan are not subordinate to the Turkish group”.

Protests in Baku, March 2012

The Grey Wolves’ activities in Turkey are generally directed against ethnic minorities and left-wing politicians and groups. The group is banned in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, although after the collapse of the Soviet Union it was mostly active in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

The recruitment of new members takes place among the youth, specifically the unemployed and university students. In the branches in Germany, it is mostly schoolchildren and students belonging to the third generation of Turkish migrants who are involved in the group, usually through a parent who is a member of the organisation.

Berlin, Germany. April 6, 2016. Sympathizers of the Grey Wolves show their salutation during the demonstration of Azerbaijani and Turkish protesters against Armenian President SERZH SARGSYAN in front of the Federal Chancellery in the government district of Berlin. Credit: Jan Scheunert/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

October, 2020, Azerbaijani protesters in Washington DC playing loud music clearly calling for “jihad” and using the “Gray Wolves” sign.

Video source: Instagram account of @Goliath.the.great

An Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Washington DC Ani chapter-led community-wide protest against Azerbaijan’s attack on Armenia was met by a hostile pro-Aliyev mob that, under the direction of Azerbaijani Ambassador Elin Suleymanov, unloaded a toxic barrage of hate-speech and threats of violence. 

AYF Washington DC Chair Alex Manoukian’s peace sign was met with Azerbaijani/Turkish “Grey Wolves” terrorist signs. Photo: Kristine Antanesian 

Who are the Grey Wolves? 

The origins of the Grey Wolves may be possibly traced to 1968, when they were apparently built up by certain elements in the Turkish intelligence (as well as Suleiman Demirel) mainly as a counterweight to left-wing Communists and possibly student activists. They derive their name from the Grey Wolf legend and use their hands to mimic the heads of wolves.

There are three Grey Wolf mottos worthy of mention:

  • The Nation of Turks is neither Turkey nor Turkestan, but the great nation of all Turks, the great and immortal kingdom of Turan;
  • Our aim is to unify 100 million Turks into a single nation;
  • All things are for the Turks and for the benefit of Turks.

There are surprising parallels between the statements above and the beliefs of Nordic Nazism. The first two mottos resemble the pan-Germanic philosophy of creating a vast Germanic super state stretching from the shores of the Atlantic to the borders of Siberia. The third motto bears the echoes of the Nazi “Aryan superman” or “ubermensch”, in which the Nordic-Germanic race (HeerenVolk) is to tower above all others by ruling and enslaving them.   

Sources: Wikipedia, Aravot, Rozaneh Magazine, Ahval News, UpTek, BBC