Wednesday, 25 May 2011
This is my own translation of a German newspaper article that was published a few months ago.

How the Far Right Grey Wolves Attract Young Turks

Essen.

The “Grey Wolves” are gaining ever more influence over Turkish youths in North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), warn experts. Above all they attract frustrated young men. They disseminate their racist propaganda over the internet – and jeopardise integration.

The Turkish nationalistic organisation, the Grey Wolves, has new premises in Bochum.

The Dahlhausen district of Bochum is well-known as a social flashpoint. Many immigrants live here. Exactly the right terrain for the “Grey Wolves”. A few weeks ago the Turkish right-wing extremists moved their headquarters into a former pub. They visit families, make contacts in mosques and associations. In their recruitment, above all they target young men who are disenchanted with German society. The citizens of Bochum are worried. Some have turned to the city looking for help, but nothing can be done. Although the unwelcome neighbours are monitored by the Agency for the Protection of the Constitution, they have not been banned.

Employees of the Agency for the Protection of the Constitution count around 70 associations of the nationalist movement with more than 2000 members in NRW. There are Grey Wolf association centres in almost every large town. “Their influence on Turkish youth has significantly increased,” says the Bochum educationalist Kemal Bozay, who is familiar with the scene. Particularly in the third generation, the sense of having no prospects is something that is increasingly widespread. “The young people feel excluded from mainstream German society. They are looking for an identity, for a place where they will be acknowledged,” explains Bozay. “The organisation uses that.”

Danger for Integration

The movement’s greeting symbolises a wolf’s head.

The Grey Wolves, also called the Ülkücü movement, lure young people with a generous offering of leisure activities and a sense of community. And then, completely by the way, they will be indoctrinated in courses into the organisation’s racist Turkish cult. The whole thing works according to the principle: we are in here and they are out there. With fatal consequences: “The strengthening of an overblown sense of Turkish national consciousness gives grounds for concern, as this hampers integration of the young people into the living and social circumstances of Germany,” warn NRW’s agents for the protection of the constitution in their most recent report.

The SPD’s regional parliament member, Serdar Yüksel, also speaks of a danger for integration. “This is a huge problem that’s coming towards us. If we don’t counter it, we’ll drive young people in droves into the arms of the Turkish far-right.” The academic Bozay and the politician Yüksel are in agreement: the attack on immigrants by Thilo Sarrazin and the subsequent debate had given the Grey Wolves an additional boost.

Thought comparable to German Neo-Nazis

Even from the families there is mostly very little resistance. “The Turkish associations take children off the streets”, says Cem Sentürk from the Centre for Turkish Studies in Essen. Therefore the parents are completely happy when the young people spend their time in the association centre rather than somewhere else. Particularly as the Turkish right-wingers mostly seem polite and moderate. Major political events have become more rare, says Sentürk. Instead, they have taken up social engagement. That makes it more difficult for the authorities to keep tabs on them. The Grey Wolves have even officially renounced violence.

But the Mr Clean facade is a sham. Behind it hides an ideology that can be loosely compared with German neo-nazi thought: exaggerated nationalism, a leadership cult and the conviction that their own race is superior. There are similarities even in their perceived enemies: the German and Turkish far-right is united in its hatred of Jews and homosexuals. Even the dream of a great empire (reich) exists among the Grey Wolves: it is to be called “Turan” and stretch from Central Asia to the Balkans.

Hate-filled propaganda on the internet

On the internet the Turkish far-right shows its true face. In Videos, chats and blogs Kurds, Jews and other “enemies” are the targets of hate-filled and sometimes highly aggressive propaganda, as a study by the NRW Agency for the Protection of the Constitution shows. In particular, portals like Youtube and Facebook are used in a targeted way. On Facebook there are various group pages, which, however, can only be accessed on a member’s recommendation.

Symbols of the movement are the wolf figure and three white half-moons. The “Grey Wolf” is a figure from the pre-islamic origin myths of the Turkish tribe.

The young people also place many of their own videos on the net. In these they present themselves “as ‘hard men’, who will defend Turkey, if necessary with their lives,” write the agents for the Protection of the Constitution. “The voice of the underground, I’m also called the Grey Wolf. (...) We are as strong as 1000 volts. You want to fight me? You have made a mistake! And for the six in maths I gave my teacher a slap. (...) If you insult my country I will give you a deathblow,” raps a rather fierce voice, while in the background images of Turkish soldiers, flags and other national symbols pass by.

“Problem underestimated”

The verdict of the NRW Agency for Protection of the Constitution: “From this it is clear that, not least through the internet, an Ülkücü youth culture has been created. This youth scene appears to be radicalising further.” Many young people also first come into contact with the ideology of the Grey Wolves via the internet, says Bozay. They then carry this body of thought into clubs and schools. In recent years, teachers had complained recurrently of serious confrontations with ideologically-indoctrinated young people.

But even the adult world is not immune from the Grey Wolves. Warnings are constantly being issued about radical Turks slipping into established German parties. In NRW the German-Turkish forum of the CDU [the mainstream right-wing party in Germany] and, in places, also the SPD [mainstream left-wing party in Germany] have been infiltrated by members of the Grey Wolves, says Yüksel. “They have also succeeded, to a significant extent, in infiltrating the integration councils.”

Due to lack of knowledge, in many parts of German society, the problem is entirely underestimated, says Yüksel. Even in youth work and schools there are no plans to effectively counter the influence of the Grey Wolves, confirms Bozay. “If thousands of Turkish right-wing extremists meet up in the Essen Grugahalle, we’re not worried about it,” says Yüksel. “But if 100 NPD [German far-right party] members stage a march, we immediately organise a counter-demo.”

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