The Grey Wolves conquering Europe

Grey Wolfs


  • The ultra-nationalistic and Islamist Turkish movement „Gry Wolves“ aka „Ülkücü“ were recently covered on the front pages of international newspapers again after days of riots in Austria’s capital Vienna
  • This study is trying to line out:
    • the historical and ideological background of the movement
    • using violence by group members
    • its broadening strategy not focusing anymore only on Turkey, but acting internationally
    • the concept how to infiltrate the third and fourth generation of Turkish people living in Europe
    • its success in infiltrating European parties, to serve the movement’s interests and protect Turkish nationalism and intolerance against minorities throughout Europe

The danger of Islamist terror became a main visible fear for the European public and its policy makers.

Security and police forces across Europe were challenged by Islamic bombers, religiously motivated terrorists, fighting against the principles of a liberal society, based on freedom, tolerance and diversity.

At the same time, experts warned for a long time that Europe is successful in eliminating those threats, while policy, administration and security close their eyes on the so-called legalistic extremism, a danger that is not based on attacks, murders, but on erupting the European societies by infiltrating its core institutions through legal ways, dividing the European multi-ethnic basis, creating „parallel societies“, where minorities live a life of delusion, not inclusion.

Beside a movement like the Muslim Brotherhood, preaching a political Islam as a „global cure“ for societies, law and politics, the Turkish legalistic extremism, seen in a movement like Ülkücü, combines nationalism, racism, the fight against equal rights for women, ethnic and religious groups with religion, for a self-claimed Turkish superiority.

Such a concept is not located on Turkey anymore. Erdogan’s policy and the one of his coalition partner MHP serves as an example how to export nationalistic and Islamist ideology to Europe and its Turkish communities, trying to destabilize its societies and policy, winning the exile Turks for their course.

Turkish ultra-nationalists in Germany and Austria

Their symbol: the gray wolf. Their name: Ülkücü, Turkish for idealist. Their leader: Alparslan Türkes. Their goal: a Turkish empire and the elimination of political opponents.

They are no longer only organized in Turkey, there are also at least 20,000 Turkish ultra-nationalists in Germany and around 5.000 in Austria, but the numbers of supporters is on the rise. Disguised in harmless-sounding club structures, they have been undermining German and Austrian party politics for years – almost unnoticed by the public. Youth institutions that offer perspectives with Koran lessons and combat training take care of the youngsters. They promote a radical youth where borders blur: Some young wolves from Europe even moved to Syria as „God’s warriors”.[1]

Alparslan Türkes and his ideology

He is considered impulsive, tends towards radical simplifications and dreams of a Turkish empire. This is how his followers describe their “Basbug”, their self-proclaimed “leader” – Alparslan Türkes.

Born in Cyprus in 1917, the 16-year-old emigrated to Turkey with his parents in 1933. A steep career followed there: Türkes decided to begin an officer career and succeeded early. The young officer becomes an enthusiastic Nazi supporter. His sympathies for its ideology even put him in custody several times during the Second World War – nevertheless he became a colonel in the general staff.

In 1964, Alparslan Türkes became general inspector of the “Republican Peasant and National Party” (CKMP) – enough influence to fill high party bodies with his supporters. He disempowers other minded CKMP members.

On August 2, 1969, he took over the party chairmanship. His first acts: a new party constitution, in which his rights as party leader are expanded together with a new name: “Party of the National Movement”, MHP for short.

The gray wolf becomes a symbol of the movement, based on a myth: According to legend, a wolf in pre-Islamic times led and saved the endangered Turkish tribes from the Altay Mountains in Central Asia. The gray wolf is considered a powerful hunter that roams the country freely and independently. Since he lives from hunting, he will never recognize others as free and independent. The movement of the Gray Wolves follows this picture: All non-Turkish sections of the population, especially minorities in their own country, are “racially” persecuted. Propaganda is being used against leftists, socialists and communists. The declared goal of the movement is the establishment of a Pan-turanian nation that stretches from the Balkans through Central Asia to China and unites all so-called “Turkic peoples” in a “Greater Turkic empire”. The mythical wolf is the leader of his pack. That is why Alparslan Türkes likes to call himself an “upper wolf”. Türkes dies in 1997.

Its symbol, the gray wolf, is still used as a sign of distinction today: followers greet the world with the wolf salute. In addition, the howling wolf, along with the Ottoman war flag with the three crescents, is a popular flag motif on the scene. Officially, Turkish followers call themselves Ülkücüs, idealists, unofficially they are the Gray Wolves.

Howling young wolves

The most important element of the party is the youth organization, the so-called Ülkücü Youth. The party has founded numerous youth organizations in Turkey since 1965. The harmless expression hides paramilitary combat troops who want to enforce the party’s ideology and goals through propaganda and violence. Paramilitary training camps are set up to train young people. As early as 1969, there were 34 command camps in which 100,000 young gray wolves were trained.

“It started from the end of the 1960s: These paramilitia, these death squads and thugs who, by the way, were deliberately built along the lines of the SA and SS, fought wildly in Turkey with political opponents. What does wild fighting mean, they have committed targeted attacks on political opponents, ”explains Nikolaus Brauns, historian. [2] “In the period between 1975 and the 1980 military coup, there were approximately 5,000 deaths in armed conflict. The majority of these deaths were social democrats, socialists, trade unionists or members of ethnic, religious minorities such as Alevis and Kurds.”

Until the early 1980s, paramilitary divisions of the Gray Wolves were responsible for thousands of political murders in Turkey. Occasionally, supporters of the movement also took up arms in Germany to eliminate political opponents. Several political murders in Turkey in recent years are attributed to supporters of even more radical secession from the MHP. So the murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007 in Istanbul. Murders of Christians in Turkey in 2006 and 2007 are also related to the Gray Wolves.


In the meantime, the Ülkücüs have also arrived in Germany: In 1978, the Turkish Federasyon (ADÜTDF), the MHP’s foreign department, was founded in Frankfurt am Main, with the support of German politics: the Bavarian Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauß (CSU) and the CDU-City councilors together with Turkey experts from the German Foreign Intelligence Service (BND) are helping to establish the association.

Brutal association work

Berlin-Kreuzberg, 1980: Turkish ultra-nationalists have just raided a group of communists while handing out leaflets. 36-year-old teacher and trade unionist Celalettin Kesim gets caught between the fronts. He bled to death. A memorial stone at the Kottbusser Tor in Berlin-Kreuzberg reminds of January 5, 1980.

But the target of the ultra-nationalists are not just ordinary citizens.

The MHP was banned in Turkey from 1981 to 1987. But at the same time two other organizations of the Gray Wolves are founded in Germany: the ATIB in Cologne and the ATB in Frankfurt am Main. The three umbrella organizations Türk Federasyon, ATIB and ATB currently maintain around 303 clubs nationwide with at least 18,500 members.

Türk Federayson: On June 18, 1978, the “Federation of Turkish Democratic Idealist Associations in Europe” (ADÜTDF) was founded as the foreign department of the MHP in Frankfurt am Main. It maintains around 160 clubs nationwide with around 7,000 members.

ATIB: In 1987 the “Union of Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations in Europe” (ATIB), which propagates a stronger orientation towards Islam as a defining element of Turkish culture, split from the Turkish Federayson. It is based in Cologne. There are around 123 clubs in Germany with 11,500 members.

ATB: The ATB, “Association of Turkish Cultural Associations in Europe”, founded in 1992 in Frankfurt am Main. It is considered the German representative of the “Great United Party” (Büyük Birlik Partisi – BBP) based in Turkey. Similar to the ATIB, the ATB combines the Islamic component with Turkish nationalist ideas. There are 20 associations in Germany, members unknown.

Perpetrator and victim

Mehmet is a member of one of these German clubs. He receives lessons about Turkishness, begins to pray and fights bitterly against his archenemy, the PKK, an underground Kurdish organization.

“I grew up in a settlement. Mostly migrants, Turks, Kurds lived there. 70 to 80 percent of the people in the settlement were foreigners. The parents of a good friend were MHP members. I couldn’t do anything with it at first. My parents are atheists, have always been more leftist. Nevertheless, we checked out the youth centre from them. It was housed next to a mosque, in the annex. I was 17 then.

“And indeed, it was fun to be there. We could hang out. We met cool people there. Most of them had a dreaded reputation in adolescence. That impressed me. Over time, we were taught smaller things. For example, people once came and asked: Where does your name come from? Then they explained to me that it comes here and there, of course from Turkish. And that I should be proud being a Turk. At some point they said to me: You are a smart guy, we could teach you more. And then I was right in the middle of it.

There is a party book, Dokuz Isik, the ‚Doctrine of the New Lights‘. That was the party book of our founder, Mr. Türkes. I had to read that. It always went like this: you got books, you read them, bring them back and you are being asked. These books were always about the proud Turk. The older people also taught us how the party works, how we should act politically in Turkey, how we should act here in Germany. I also received a religious education. I was taught about Islam. Why Turkishness is anchored in Islam, what position Turkishness is in Islam, why we are a highlighted nation. That was real instruction. It was a kind of brainwashing that we got there.

You got these books, you had to go to events, you were in a closed circle. The older ones watched over us. They always paid attention to what you do. That one behaves outside, conforms to the party guidelines. For example, that you go to the mosque and pray. I never really had anything to do with religion. Nevertheless, I stood there at some point and prayed almost every day.

The circle was drawn ever closer. The smart people who were loyal, who went through everything, were encouraged. The people who didn’t do much were quickly forced to leave. But I was appointed youth spokesman after a year. My area of ​​responsibility was those under the age of 18. Above me was the youth board.

We were initially a small group, only 20 to 30 young people. That was shortly before Solingen.[3] Then, after the attack in Solingen, we had a membership increase of definitely 100 people. Most of them were young people under the age of 20. One of the reasons why they came to us: We helped when they had problems, for example in conflicts with Kurds or Germans. For us, helping meant mobilizing people, going there and then beating up the others. Somewhere we were a kind of thug party.

We even got a combat training: For example, once a week we were trained in taekwondo, and we were also taught boxing and kickboxing. This served as combat training against the PKK.

Every now and then we went with 30 to 40 people into a settlement where the PKK dominated. We wanted to provoke them. Or we went to a fun fair with 40 to 50 people, mixed up a bit. Then young people came from the PKK. There was always competition between us. We came with 20 people, then the 30 people mobilized and so it went on until the older ones got involved. It never escalated completely, but it was always clear that the older ones have guns, firearms.

The elderly were also constantly concerned with the struggle between the PKK and the MHP. For example, there was extortion and protection money. Shopkeepers who paid protection money to the PKK came to us and asked for protection and help. The older ones then sent people from us, who took over the shop and protected the shop owners from the PKK. It was a constant struggle. “

“He pulled the gun and fired”

But not only Kurds are seen as enemies, a counseling center in Berlin-Kreuzberg also became a target in 1984: “Our facility, a counseling center for women from Turkey, should help women to become more confident, to stand on their own two feet in life and to stand up for themselves to fight against their husbands,”recalls the then law student Seyran Ates[4], who often helps out at the advice center. “We are committed to gender equality and these people, these ultra-national, traditional people, men above all, didn’t want that.”

Fatma E. dies. Seyran Ates survives – seriously injured: An artery is hit, the bullet is in the throat. Seyran Ates has to pause her studies for six years. But the worst thing for her is: “This man who was caught and was in custody was clearly one of the Gray Wolves. You could prove that. Nevertheless, he was acquitted.” The shooter apparently has powerful supporters. Witnesses are intimidated and relatives of Seyran Ates receive calls. One tries to bribe her with money, so that she withdraws her statement.

Ates: “The German Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV)[5] did not want to investigate. The most frightening thing for me as a co-plaintiff was that the representative of the BfV was asked by the judge, what he could say about the Gray Wolves: There is no registered association called Gray Wolves, so he cannot comment on it suspected perpetrators are acquitted for lack of evidence.“

Entry into German and Austrian party politics

The Turkish ultra-nationalists have always been almost completely unobserved by the public. Alparslan Türkes is also aware of this and goes one step further: a year before his death in 1996, he calls his supporters to join the CDU at an annual general meeting in Essen’s Grugahalle.[6] German party politics should be infiltrated.

Mehmet also notices that the older club members are increasingly drawn to German parties:

“We boys weren’t interested in German politics. We knew there was our party, the MHP, and there was the PKK, our enemy. We didn’t like CDU and so. For us, these were Nazis. The older ones, on the other hand, were already trying to gain a foothold in German party politics. Logically, it was about influencing. If you have the opportunity to infiltrate a party, you do it, of course. I know, for example, that there are many in the SPD. Of the 100 MHP party members, two to three are definitely in the SPD. If I had not resigned, I would also be active in German party politics today in order to work in accordance with the goals of the MHP – for example, for a policy conforming to Turkey, for a very liberal policy on foreigners, or for a discriminatory Kurdish or PKK policy. “

Ultra-nationalists in German politics

Zafer Topak is one of those Ülkücüs that has drawn into German politics. Topak also publicly describes himself as an idealist, i.e. as a gray wolf. Nevertheless, he has been a member of the CDU for years, has been on the board of the Hamm branch since 2008 and is a member of the city’s integration council. Already in 2010 it became known in the press that he had sympathy for Turkish ultra-nationalists.

He still doesn’t understand why he should be excluded. After all, there are around 40 other sympathizers of the Gray Wolves who are members of the CDU, he argues.

In addition, both the party’s NRW chairman and governor Armin Laschet and his manager of the CDU NRW were informed: “The manager told me that I can stay with the CDU, but I shouldn’t please mention in public that I’m an Ülkücü” Topak claims.

Topak is not an isolated case: The Hamburg Green Party politician Nebahat Güclü announced that she would quit the party after running for the Turkish Federayson (ADÜTDF).[7] A scandal for the Greens. Despite her departure, Güclü denies knowing who she is getting involved with. Nebahat Güclü: “I can be accused of having known this organization as the chairperson of the Turkish community in Hamburg.”

But the Gray Wolves are not only active regionally: Chancellor Angela Merkel also demonstrated at the vigil “Stand Together – Show Face” in January 2015 side by side with Turkish ultra-nationalists from the ATIB against Islamist terror. The vigil was organized by the “Central Council of Muslims”, among others, which also includes the umbrella organization ATIB, a Turkish-Islamic cultural association that split off from Türk Federayson in the 1980s. The Gray Wolves know how to disguise themselves, that is part of their strategy, according to Islamic expert Marwan Abou-Taam.

In Austria, the situation is similar. Although parties deny any connection to the ultra-nationalistic group, SPÖ has close supporters in its ranks, critical voices inside the party are not being heard. ÖVP Chairman and Chancellor of the Republic, Sebastian Kurz, can be seen in a picture smiling together with Grey Wolves members, being proud of having the support of Turkish voters.

Since President Erdogan’s new Islamist Ottoman Empire dreams became part of Turkey’s state doctrine and he formed a coalition between his AKP and MHP, he is trying to infiltrate European policy with his ideology.

It was just a short handshake between Angela Merkel and Cemal Çetin at the NATO summit in Brussels back in 2018. But for the chairman of the umbrella organization of the Gray Wolves in Europe, the meeting at the highest level was not an everyday honor. His organization Avrupa Türk Konfederasyon was at that time aldready classified as extremist by the BfV and under observation.

Çetin was a newly elected Turkish MP for the MHP and was a member of Erdogan’s delegation in Brussels. The fact that the deputy of the Mother Party of the Gray Wolves was traveling with Erdogan was also widely spread in the Turkish media. The German Chancellery could therefore know who the Chancellor was expecting.

In Germany and Austria, the cooperation between the AKP and the Gray Wolves has been a reality since the coup attempt in Turkey 2016. In 2017 the branch of the MHP in Germany and Austria campaigned for the constitutional reform in Turkey demanded by Erdogan.

Insiders fear that the constant pressure from the Turkish government on German and Austrian politicians will gradually take effect. “We have the Gray Wolves in view. However, there is reason to fear that the political pressure on the Turkish side of Austrian authorities will weaken the observation status,” says an employee of an Austrian security agency who wants to remain anonymous.

The around 270 clubs of Türk Federasyon in Germany and Austria observe the principle of legality and do not call for the violent implementation of their political goals. But their right-wing extremist ideology of superiority remains a problem for internal security and integration. In particular through their well-functioning youth work, they swear young Turkish people to an exaggeration of “Turkishness”. This goes hand in hand with the devaluation of other ethnic groups such as Kurds, Armenians or Jews.

The work of the clubs does not remain without consequences: “Young people who are networked in particular via the Internet propagate their racism in an offensive manner and, for example, verbally call for violence or resistance,” says the security emloyee.

As the AKP majority procurer in the current Turkish government, the Gray Wolves have access to offices and positions in the security apparatus and the judiciary, said Ali Ertan Toprak, Chairman of the Kurdish Community of Germany. “The Gülen people in the Turkish state apparatus are increasingly being replaced by Gray Wolf cadres,” Toprak expects. The Gray Wolves are Erdogan’s new strategic partner, who has the chance to expand power and influence, just like the movement of the Islam preacher Fethullah Gülen. Toprak warns: “The party cadres will use their growing power to prevent peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups in Germany and Austria.“

Recent riots in Austria’s capital Vienna prove, that the newest generation of Turkish right-wing extremism is again spreading, in a generation of young Turkish families living in Austria in the second or third generation. On June 22, Turkish nationalist extremists attacked a women’s rally in Vienna. For a long time there was no peace on the streets of Vienna’s district „Favoriten“, where a high number of the Turkish community live.

It all started with a rally by a Kurdish women’s organization. The participants wanted to point out the increasing number of female murders in Turkey and Austria. Then the women were attacked by a group of Turkish male, members of the „Grey Wolves“. Around a hundred right-wing extremists emerged within a very short time, and the police were deployed on a large scale. The women fled to a building nearby and had to wait there for hours for security reasons.

The reaction of Austria’s party establishment shows that they have no answer to a question, which is in the centre of their integration policy for a long time: Should we, with all legal power, challenge those threats, confront the Turkish government with a demand of stopping AKP-propaganda and policy-making in favor of Erdogans’s ideology here in Europe, or should we stay calm, not losing the support of those Turkish youngsters?


[1]      Thomas Rammersdorfer: Graue Wölfe, S. 72 f.

[2]      Basler Zeitung, 23.09.2015

[3]      Attack on the house of a Turkish family on May 29, 1993

[4]      Interview by the author with Seyran Ates

[5]      Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz

[6]      Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Rudel auf Beutezug; 20.05.2013

[7]      Die Welt: Umstrittene Abgeordnete wechselt zur SPD; 01.08.2018

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