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A Layman's Guide To WWIII:
Who's Who in Palestinian Politics
By Kevin Filan

The Grey Wolves

The Ba'ath Party   |  Fatah   |  The Grey Wolves   |  Hamas   |  Hezbollah

In the 1970s they were responsible for thousands of bombings and murders; today the National Movement Party (Milliyetci Hareket Partisi, or MHP) is Turkey's second most popular political party. Their paramilitary organization, the Borzgut ("Grey Wolves," after the legendary she-wolf who led enslaved Central Asian Turks to freedom in modern-day Turkey) has been linked to drug smuggling, organized crime, and a number of terrorist incidents, including the 1981 shooting of Pope John Paul II. As Turkey becomes increasingly important to Europe and the U.S., MHP dreams of a "Turkish belt" extending from the Adriatic Sea to the Chinese wall could well prove to be an important wild card.

On Nov. 3, 1996, three people were crushed to death when their speeding black Mercedes hit a tractor and overturned. The crash killed Husseyin Kocadag, a top police official who commanded Turkish counter-insurgency units. It also killed Abdullah Catli, a convicted fugitive who was wanted for drug trafficking and murder, and Catli's girlfriend, Gonca Us, a Turkish beauty queen turned mafia hit-woman. Catli was carrying a government-approved weapons permit and six ID cards, each with a different name, as well as several handguns, silencers and a cache of narcotics. Further investigation revealed a large smuggling organization, with NATO weaponry smuggled throughout the Middle East in exchange for heroin… all with the support and collusion of top Turkish government officials.

The MHP has not always enjoyed such cozy relations with the Turkish government. In the 1980 military coup, MHP founder Aspalan Turkes was imprisoned and his organization banned. At that time they were seen as dangerous terrorists and closely allied with extremist Islamic elements. Like the Brownshirts of World War II Germany, the Grey Wolves were notorious as street thugs and rabid anti-Semites: Grey Wolf literature espoused the superiority of the "Turkish race" above all others, spoke of "Jewish-Masonic-Communist conspiracies" against Turkey, and advertised Turkish translations of Mein Kampf and other Nazi publications. Their star rose again during the long civil war in Turkey's southeastern provinces, where a majority Kurdish population struggles for autonomy… or at least the freedom to speak Kurdish publicly. The MHP is uncompromisingly anti-Kurdish, and staunchly supportive of Turkey's long and bloody "dirty war" against the Kurds. As more and more Turkish lives were lost to PKK (Kurdistan Worker's Party) terrorism, the MHP's message found an ever-wider audience. Among that audience was the Turkish government, which had faced repeated setbacks in its Kurdish campaigns and found that the tactics employed by the Grey Wolves were more effective, if more brutal.

The MHP also has a long history of anti-Communism; this is not surprising, given their desire to "liberate" the "Turkic" republics of the Soviet Union - Azerbaijan, Turkmenestan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan - and join them in a "Turanian Empire." This has aroused concern among Russian politicians who are already uprisings in Chechnya and who fear that Islamic fundamentalism will gain a foothold on their borders. (While the Grey Wolves are not specifically Islamist, and have been critical of attacks on minority Alevi Turks, they have a history of collaboration with Islamist parties, and many have noted a growing Islamist flavor to Turkish pan-nationalism). The United States has in the past taken advantage of this anti-Communist fervor; the 1996 hearings also revealed long-standing CIA cooperation with the Grey Wolves, including with the death squads that killed thousands of Turkish leftists, communists, journalists and union organizers.

The Grey Wolves are not fond of their Arab neighbors: Grey Wolf thugs have regularly attacked members of Turkey's Arabic-speaking minority, and Grey Wolf rhetoric still blames the Arabs for their "betrayal" of the Ottoman Empire. Despite their past anti-Semitic rhetoric, the MHP is generally pro-American and pro-Israel. Many of the Grey Wolves distrust the Islamic parties as being "too Arabic." At present they are primarily interested in expanding their influence into Central Asia. All this could change should they once again find themselves in league with the Islamic parties. There is growing disenchantment in Turkey with NATO and with Europe's perceived "anti-Turkish" bias: there is also a fear that Kurdish autonomy in Iraq could lead to further struggles with Turkey's Kurdish population. Should the conflict spill over into eastern Turkey, it is possible that Turkey's present (good but shaky) relations with Europe could worsen considerably … and difficult to predict how they would react.

 

 


Mike Doughty



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