The War Nerd: Gray Wolves — The Fascists Nobody Wants To Talk About
By Gary Brecher.Republished from the Radio War Nerd subscriber newsletter. Subscribe to Radio War Nerd co-hosted with Mark Ames for podcasts, newsletters and more!. Posted with THE EXILED.
There’s a gigantic, well-organized, extremely violent fascist group with tens of thousands of active members in Germany right now.
And nobody notices.
You’d think all the fascist-hunters would have sniffed it out by now, but it goes right by them as if these guys were invisible.
Which is odd, because this group is not trying to hide, or pretending to be harmless. They’re not shy about it, and it’s not just talk. They have quite a record. They’ve been rampaging for decades, and if anything they’re stronger now than they used to be. They’re closely linked to CIA and Nazi groups; they’re very busy beating, burning, and murdering minorities of all kinds, and boast quite openly about hating literally everyone who’s not a member of their own ethnic group and sect, even suggesting that members go on “hunting expeditions” against minorities which they’d already almost wiped out back in the 20th century.
This group recently held massive, open rallies in the cities of Germany, and it’s only in the last few years that the government has even attempted to ban the public symbols and salutes of this massive fascist group.
There’s something grotesquely comic about this. We have a swarm of fascist-spotters who’ve spent the last few decades waiting for fascism to emerge in Germany when it was marching around, shouting at the top of its lungs, beating minorities, celebrating genocide, and supporting ethnic cleansing right in front of their damn faces.
I’m talking about the Gray Wolves. And I defy anyone to find a more successful, out-front, no-kidding, massive, effective, ruthless fascist organization anywhere in the world. They’re adapting quickly, and even have their own fierce Wiki defenders.
Here are a few highlights from their long, successful career:
In 1978, Gray Wolves started pogroms against Alevi Kurds in Maras (also known as Kahramanmaras) in South-Central Anatolia.
Location is important here. Maras is due north of Aleppo across the Syrian border, NW of Kobane, and above all just up the road from Gazantiep. Gazantiep is a key city for right-wing Turkish nationalists, a city dominated not just by people who are ethnically Turkish but who identify as rightwing Turks of the most intensely nationalist kind. This kind of population lives in a state of siege, glories in that feeling, and is almost always willing to lash out against the sea of minorities they imagine surrounding them. That’s why Gazantiep keeps making the news as a nice convenient safe house for IS and their Turkish allies, some of whom killed 57 Kurds at a wedding in 2016.
It’s important to emphasize that people who are ethnically Turkish are not a bloc. Some of the bravest people on earth, languishing in the Turkish state’s prisons or buried in unmarked graves, are proudly Turkish by ancestry.
And then there are the young men who join the Gray Wolves. Those men are murderous fascists, and it’s cowardice to pretend not to see that.
Violence by these men against minorities has never stopped, but it hit its peak — more like the highest peak in a mountain-range of a graph — in 1978, before the Anglosphere had any handle on sectarian violence in the Middle East.
The target of the Gray Wolves in Maras was a double minority: Alevi Kurds. Alevi Muslims are often considered heretics by Salafists and other Sunni fundamentalists. They were massacred with impunity in Ottoman pogroms. Erdogan’s AK Party, which very much wants to revive Ottoman practice and Ottoman borders, openly considers the Alevi heretics fair game for the Gray Wolves’s death squads.
Those who were killed in 1978 were not only Alevi, but Kurds — and the Turkish state, which embraced Wilsonian ethnic nationality with a vengeance, a terrible vengeance, hates Kurds simply for being Kurds. So the Kurdish Alevi of Maras were a natural target twice-over.
The campaign against them built up for weeks, as pogroms usually do, with the unpredictable pace partly a result of working with unstable, violent mobs but also part of a strategy to terrorize the victims, who never know when things will go from bad (very bad) to even-worse.
The details of the massacre are very typical, sickening but not unusual:
Witnesses to the massacre.
Seyho Demir: “The Maras Police Chief at the time was Abdülkadir Aksu, Minister of the Interior in the last AKP government. The massacre was organised by MIT (the Turkish secret service), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Islamists together… As soon as I heard about the massacre, I went to Maras. In the morning I went to Maras State Hospital. There I met a nurse I knew…When she saw me, she was surprised: ‘Seyho, where have you come from? They are killing everyone here. They have taken at least ten lightly-wounded people from the hospital downstairs and killed them.’ This was done under the control of the head physician of the Maras State Hospital. Everyone knows that such a big massacre cannot be carried out without state involvement. In the Yörükselim neighbourhood they cut a pregnant woman open with a bayonet. They took out the eight-month foetus, shouting “Allah Allah” and hung it from an electricity pole with a hook. The pictures of that savagery were published in the newspapers that day. The lawyer Halil Güllüoglu followed the Maras massacre case. The files he had were never made public. He was killed for pursuing the case anyway. Let them make those files public, then the role of the state will become clear.”
Meryem Polat: “They started in the morning, burning all the houses, and continued into the afternoon. A child was burned in a boiler. They sacked everything. We were in the water in the cellar, above us were wooden boards. The boards were burning and falling on top of us. My house was reduced to ashes. We were eight people in the cellar; they did not see us and left.”(EZÖ/TK/AG)
All accounts agree that the massacre not only happened with state collusion but state encouragement. No one was punished. Many were, in fact, promoted, and hold high positions in Erdogan’s government today.
That’s the pattern here: the Gray Wolves as the street-fighting wing of the state. The parallel is closer to Indonesian Islamists in 1965 than the SA in 1930s Germany, but so many people have trouble taking any fascism clearly unless it can be soldered to 1930s Germany that I may as well make the analogy for, as they say in the academic biz, heuristic purposes.
The Gray Wolves ideology is very widespread and acceptable in many (not all) communities in Turkey. This leads to a lot of more or less lone-wolf killings (as it were), as when a soldier who was a member of the Gray Wolves killed a fellow soldier for being an Armenian a few years ago.
Older readers might remember the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II back in 1979.
The assassin was one Mehmet Ali Agca, a longtime member of the Gray Wolves.
He had a track record of killing leftists and other enemies on behalf of the “Idealists” (seriously, that’s what the Wolves call themselves):
“The weapon used in the Feb. 1, 1979, murder of a Turkish newspaper editor, Abdi Ipekci, for which Mr. Agca was convicted, was supplied by a member of the Idealist Clubs, according to the Turkish authorities. Other members helped Mr. Agca escape from prison. Still others prepared a false passport for him. And on the day of the killing, he went to the National Action Party offices.”
Note the familiar pattern: Ali Agca kills a leftist editor who’s annoying the Turkish state, gets caught, and manages to escape with a lot of help from Turkish intelligence.
They hardly bothered to hide their collusion in the escape. The Turkish state was killing a lot of leftists, a lot of intellectuals, a lot of minorities — the usual suspects for classic fascists like Ali Agca.
But as you older readers might recall, nobody in the media talked about Ali Agca as a Turkish fascist. He was, for Cold-War purposes, smeared as a Bulgarian agent.
The “Bulgarian connection” never made much sense, but it served the US/UK/Israel/Saudi intelligence agencies’ PR purposes. Remember, Turkey is NATO — very, very NATO.
NATO might survive the loss of many other small European states, but it could not survive losing Turkey. So the US/UK state will always side with the Turkish state and help them cover up fascist atrocities, blaming them on the Soviets until those useful patsies took their final dive.
Blaming Bulgaria rather than the obvious suspects, the Gray Wolves to which this thug Ali Agca had been murderously loyal all his life, was especially bizarre since there was an obvious sectarian motive: the Gray Wolves hate Christians, as they hate all other minorities, ethnic or religious, and make a point of staging provocations at all occasions when the remnants of what was once a huge Christian minority dare to show themselves in public.
Orthodox Christians are the Wolves’ preferred prey. They prefer not to do anything too bloody to high-profile Western targets like a pope, but when you squirt sectarian hate into weak minds and itchy trigger fingers for generations, some of the lads are going to pick the wrong victim.
Perhaps that’s what happened when Ali Agca went from NATO-approved murderer of leftists and Kurds, to shooting the Pope. We’ll never know, because it was quickly twisted into the ridiculous “Bulgaria did it” farce by the guys who enjoy a few cocktails with their opposite numbers from Ankara at all those NATO conferences.
And we’ll never know how much daily violence this massive fascist gang inflicts. Occasionally the Turkish state gets irritated enough to send a suicide bomber or two to kill Kurdish peace demonstrators, as it did in Ankara in 2015, killing 86 demonstrators and maiming a hundred more. But that state, our NATO ally, supports a whole madhouse of Arab and Turkmen jihadis as well as its own stable of disposable Gray Wolves assassins, so it may never be clear whether it was the Wolves, precisely, who pressed the detonators.
But it’s a statistical certainty that somewhere along the long line from greenlighting an attack like this and sending red-hot ball bearings splattering into the bodies of teenagers with peace banners, many of the men involved were members in good standing of the good ol’ Wolves.
Violence by the Gray Wolves is a constant in Turkey, usually unreported — especially now that Erdogan’s party has imprisoned thousands of journalists and intellectuals, and terrorized the rest into quietism or collusion. We may never know how many Kurds are murdered daily in the southeast of Anatolia, because no one who matters, in the Turkish state or its many powerful allies in the West (e.g. the Michael Flynn story) want you to know about it. It’s rare for those stories to make the news at all, but God knows you can’t forget them once you’ve read them.
In fact the Gray Wolves are going mainstream, and winning a lot of votes.
Fascism is mainstream in Turkey, getting more mainstream all the time — and has been since the violent dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The Gray Wolves have quite a pedigree, a classic fascist genealogy.
Fascism is often strongest in the ruins of a defeated empire, and that was the situation in the former Ottoman Empire in the 1920s. The Empire had once ruled from Central Europe to Iraq, flowing and ebbing over the centuries (with a peak in the 16th century). At its peak, it was a fearsome conquering force.
There’s a great novel by the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare detailing the unstoppable waves of special forces that the Empire could unleash on strongpoints that held out against conquest.
The Ottomans took a long time to fall from that 16th c. peak. They were still around, partly because Britain and France always supported them against the bogeyman of the late Victorian Era, the Russian Threat.
Propped up by the two big powers of Europe, the Empire managed to survive a coup in 1908 by young officers who would go on to a career in defeat and genocide, because they guessed wrong on which side would win the oncoming Great War.
The Young Turks, as these officers were called, sided with the up-and-coming, efficient military of the neighboring empire: Germany. They guessed wrong, but not before they managed to exterminate the harmless Armenians who had recently been patronized as Turkey’s “model minority” for their docility. And this genocide went so well, so quietly, that Hitler, contemplating the genocide of the European Jews, allegedly demanded of any squeamish nay-sayers “Who remembers the Armenians?”
You get a lot of horrible echoes like that in this story. At any rate, no one cared to remember or notice the extermination of the Armenians, but the winners at Versailles were typically vengeful against the former Ottoman Empire — not by any means for wiping out the Armenians, but for being German allies, and losing.
Britain and France, now joined by the US, were as vengeful toward the former Empire as they had been lenient during its bloody final years. Ottoman rule over non-Turkish territory was erased. For a few years there was some doubt whether even Anatolia would remain a Turkish state.
Then, as most of you know, came Mustafa Kemal, soon to become Kemal Ataturk, a hero of Gallipoli (a Turkish/Ottoman victory that stood out proudly in the great defeat).
Ataturk was a typical elite young officer of the early 20th c. Those were very dangerous people, those young officers. Often impressive individuals, but completely ruthless and immensely fond of violence. That goes for all of them, right across the Continent — Hell, right across the world.
Ataturk formed a nucleus of former officers from the Great War. (Again, the international echoes are clear enough; suffice to say that these guys were the most dangerous, formidable demographic in a few generations, perhaps since the emergence of the Napoleonic elite.) They fought well, and then they went about making Turkey a monoethnic state, without mercy.
For a while, that state was professedly secular, but since it had already killed or driven out most religious minorities, the monoethnic state became, under the AK party, avowedly mono-sectarian as well.
The current chant of the Wolves many, many supporters is “My heart is Turkish and my soul is Muslim!” You must be both: ethnically Turkish and orthodox, Sunni Muslim as well. No mercy for anyone who fails either test, which means that a lot of Kurds, a lot of Alevis, a lot of secular Leftists, end up dead or in prison.
The evolution of the Gray Wolves is a classic fascist Genesis story, and the behavior of its hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of supporters is classic fascist violence. Why don’t more people notice that?
I hate to speculate, because the range of possible answers all boils down to cowardice, conformity, and the odd Euro-centrism one finds in the strangest places. They don’t get noticed because they’re not European, maybe? Fascism of the 1930s was European, and that’s the only kind amateurs notice? Odd, because Turkey is European enough to be the cornerstone of NATO.
This would not be the first time that the interests of what you could call the NATO Deep State aligned all too perfectly with the more gullible pockets of the Left. In fact, it’s very closely related to the phenomenon of not noticing, or trying very hard not to notice, the sectarian ultra-violence of the Syrian “rebels.” But this time, since Turkey is a NATO ally, it’s the violence of the state and its fascist proxies that is ignored. I struggle to come up with any other reason that the Gray Wolves get so little attention.
All I know is that we have a massive, ultra-violent, highly effective, classically fascist movement killing minorities every single day, and there’s an odd silence about it.
I would love to ask one of the innumerable online fascist hunters why they hunt stray curs and slink silently past the cold stare of the Gray Wolves. Perhaps it’s not so much any of the excuses I suggested above; perhaps some hunters just prefer smaller, easy prey to the real thing.
Gary Brecher is the nom de guerre-nerd of John Dolan. Buy his book The War Nerd Iliad. Hear him read his comic memoir Pleasant Hell in audiobook format.
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