Music is key to Grey Wolves' activities

Searchlight - February 2007

Music plays a key role at political-cultural events organized by the fascist Grey Wolves because they see it as a means to galvanise and strengthen the ultra-nationalist Turkish movement. The Grey Wolves claim that their music is just for enjoyment, but it is clear beyond doubt that it carries a poisonous political message and, like hate music the world over, is used to recruit supporters.

Last June, the Dutch Turkish rap-group Arka Sokak performed at a festival officially sponsored by the Utrecht City Council. Arka Sokak's repertoire includes a song, titled Turks, Kurds, that sets out exactly where the band stands on the position of the Kurdish minority in Turkey: "Do you know how it ends with a ravishing dog, they will be taken one by one and will get a bullet in their head. Our soldiers will exterminate you anyway, the Turkish people hate you to the marrow."

Arka Sokak's views are no great surprise as they move around in Turkish nationalist extremist circles. They also performed in Oldenzaal last year at a cultural event organised by two member organizations of the Netherlands Turkish Federation, the Dutch Grey Wolves' front organisation.

The Grey Wolves are using music as part of a process of familiarising young Turks with what they consider to be Turkish culture and to proclaim the alleged superiority of this culture.

In his book, Basic Principles, Alparslan Türkes, the godfather of the Grey Wolves who died in 1997, spelt out the importance of culture for the Turkish ultra-nationalist. "Nowadays on the face of the earth an unspoken but furious battle, between various nations, is taking place, a war amongst cultures. They can conquer as many ramparts as they want, beat an army battle after battle. As long as they do not conquer the hearts and minds of the nation, the nation is not lost. It is a proven fact that you are part of a nation that you choose to belong to. In a cultural war, every nation strives to destroy the language, the religion, the traditions and the national and spiritual values of another nation and to replace these with their own cultural values."

Crowd at the Memon Centre-gathering
  concert in London  
Some of the musicians that perform at Grey Wolves' meetings, festivals and demonstrations are so-called troubadours (asik). The most notorious of these balladeers is Ozan Arif who, for a short time, sat in the Turkish parliament for the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), the political wing of the Grey Wolves. Four years ago, Arif gave a concert in London, performing together with other known Grey Wolves musicians, including Esat Kabakli and Mehmet Ali Bilgic. The gathering, held at the Memon Centre in Balham, south London, was organised by the Türk Dünyasi Egitim Vakfi (Foundation Education Turkish World) and attended by the former chairman of the French Turkish Federation.

Other types of music favoured by the Grey Wolves and the ultra-nationalist milieu around them are pop music and march music. Since the 1990s, rap music has been popular, especially in Germany with Sert Müslümanlar (Tough Muslims), Mehmet Borukcu and Cartel the leading artists. In The Netherlands, additionally, Mehter orchestras perform at Grey Wolves events. These traditional bands have their roots in the military music and orchestras of the Ottoman era and play a type of march music that is very popular because it recalls the days of Turkish power during the pre-1922 Ottoman Empire.

The musicians who project this chauvinistic outlook scarcely hide the ideas that motivate them. During performances, for instance, they make the Grey Wolves symbol (see picture above) and wear the insignia of a howling wolf and three crescents, the same symbols that appear on their cassettes and CDs.

On some cassettes and CDs, musicians promote the ideal of 'Turanism' or Pan-Turkism which refers to "the unification of all people of Turkish descent that live in an area reaching from the Eastern Mediterranean to Sinkiang in China and from the Volga to Southern Anatolia".

  Homesick for Turan  
Ozan Arif has even produced a cassette with the title "Homesick for Turan" with a map on it depicting Turkey, the former Soviet Republics and Armenia as one entity.

Every central aspect of the Grey Wolves' ideology, including nationalism, pan-Turkism, xenophobia, racism, opposition to democracy and the desire for a powerful centralised state, comes through in the music, together with all the objects of the Grey Wolves' paranoia, the most popular of which are communists, Kurdish "separatists", Armenians, Russians, America, the European Union and the Iraqi Kurds. In effect, the lyrics of many of the most popular songs amount to a call for war.

This kind of rubbish is performed at gatherings of the Grey Wolves and their various front organisations all over the Netherlands, and also Germany. However, politicians, mayors and local councillors appear to lack the understanding that these concerts and events are not just taking place for fun and dance, but play a vital part in the Grey Wolves' recruitment and brainwashing of mainly young people.

It is an irony that not a single event organised by this notoriously violent fascist outfit has been banned in The Netherlands while official bans continue to make it difficult for the more usual nazi suspects to perform openly.

By Ernst Haffmans, in Utrecht, for the Research Group on the Turkish extreme right