Turkish Grey Wolves.

The «Enemies» of Alevis, ethnic and religious minorities and now Chineses


Politically motivated assaults on Asians rise in Turkey


Aykan Erdemir – Merve Tahiroglu – In the political arena, ultranationalists and Islamists became coalition partners in two so-called “Nationalist Front” governments in 1975 and 1977. That period saw exceptional political violence, with daily gang fights between the radical left and far-right factions that took more than 4,500 lives. The Grey Wolves were the dominant force among the far right, attacking not only leftists but also Alevis — adherents of an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam who make up between 10 and 15 percent of Turkey’s population. One of the most notorious massacres occurred in 1978, when a mob of ultranationalists killed at least 111 in the southern city of Kahramanmaraş, most of them Alevi. The perpetrators placed the burnt and mutilated bodies of their victims, which included pregnant women and children, on sticks for display. The violence ended only in 1980, when the military intervened in a coup d’état.

In the following decades, some ultranationalist factions became too Islamized for the movement to stay intact. In 1993, Islamist nationalists formally split from the MHP — then, as now, Turkey’s main ultranationalist movement — and launched the more religiously extreme BBP. Today, the rivalry between the two parties extends to their youth wings, with each vying to outdo the other in its commitment to radical nationalism.

Despite the formal split, boundaries remain permeable between Turkey’s ultranationalists and Islamists because of shared religious-conservative values. After the 1980 coup shut down the parties that made up the Nationalist Front government, their newer iterations once again formed a political alliance in 1991 and entered that year’s election on a joint ticket. And while coalition negotiations have only just begun, the AKP’s socially conservative voter base is most compatible with that of the MHP — making a partnership between the two among the likeliest coalition scenarios.

Such a coalition could lead to a third Nationalist Front-style government, and a return to the intolerant atmosphere of the 1970s. While the right-left polarization of the Cold War era has softened, ethnic and religious minorities remain a compelling target for ultranationalists and Islamist radicals. To many ultranationalists, perceived concessions in the Kurdish peace process and a record number of Kurds and Alevis elected to parliament last month are all affronts to the nation which must be remedied by whatever means necessary.

Turkey — rarely a haven of intercommunal bliss — is now witnessing an alarming rise in xenophobia. Last September ultranationalists lynched a 20-year-old man in Antalya for speaking Kurdish, and two months later BBP’s youth wing tried to march to Istanbul’s main synagogue holding a banner threatening to “besiege your temples.” In recent months, the doors of Alevi homes across the country have been ominously marked with red X’s. During the visit of a world-renowned Armenian pianist to the city of Kars last month, the local Grey Wolves leader wondered aloud whether his followers should “go on an Armenian hunt.” With ultranationalists thus emboldened, a return to the violence of the 1970s is distinctly possible. Full article.

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