Searchlight, June 2005
Turkish fascist Grey Wolves celebrated 24 April, the worldwide day of commemoration by Armenians population of the genocide against them by the Turks between 1915 and 1923, with a 300-strong "youth rally" in Utrecht.
The event, the second "youth meeting" of the Grey Wolves since they established an umbrella organisation called Turkse Federatie Nederland (TFN) in 1995, has to be seen as a direct insult to the memory of the Armenian genocide, still a very controversial topic in Turkey and in Turkish communities across Europe.
Turkish ultra-nationalists claim, despite numerous eye-witness accounts, documents, scientific studies and a mountain of other evidence to the contrary that there was a genocide of the Turks by the Armenians whom they accuse of trying to take over the Ottoman Empire, together with the Russians, during and just after the First World War.
The Utrecht gathering has to be seen in the context of a massive rise of nationalism in Turkey, where the Grey Wolves, despite not being in power, still have several strongholds in society and inside the police, have taken over the streets.
The background factors in the revival of ultra-nationalism are widespread fears of the loss of national identity if the country joins the European Union and the rise of Kurdish nationalism in neighbouring Iraq. There are also concerns that the situation in Kurdish Iraq could lead to renewed demands by the Kurdish minority in Turkey for their own territory in the south of Turkey and to criticism by European countries of the human rights situation in Turkey with calls by the same countries for recognition of the Armenian genocide.
The tense situation in Turkey is now finding its reflection in the Netherlands, not least in the efforts of the Grey Wolves to exploit the nationalistic atmosphere. They still have an infrastructure in the Netherlands with 60 local branches nationwide. Some of them obtain funds from the local councils, and all kinds of support still comes from their parent organisation in Turkey, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP). The size of the Grey Wolves membership in the Netherlands is variously estimated at between 12,000 and 30,000.
The TFN, for its part, seeks to segregate the Turkish community from the Dutch community on ethnic lines, using a strong racism and claiming Turkish superiority
In this context, the expression "Proud to be a Turk" is not an innocent patriotic outcry, but represents a feeling of being part of the most superior "race" in the world and a willingness to shed blood for its honour. The parallels with the Nazis are obvious.
Likewise, for the Grey Wolves, left-wing Turks and Kurds are designated "traitors" and "enemies of the people" while the Armenian are "terrorists" and antisemitic ideas and conspiracy theories abound. For example, in March the selling of the Turkish translation of Mein Kampt topped 50.000 and thus becoming a best-seller in the country.
In Utrecht, half of the three hundred people present were women and the meeting had a strongly propagandistic and military character with children being handed out toy guns and teenagers showing off their martial arts skills. Between performances by some of the most infamous Turkish nationalist singers, chants like "Martyrs die but the nation never" could be heard.
On the walls of the meeting hall hung huge portraits of two MHP leaders, the late Alparslan Turkes, a former colonel involved in military coups in the 1960s and 1970s and the party's current boss, Devlet Bahceli, who visited the Netherlands when he was still vice-president of Turkey, in 2004.
The Dutch authorities, warned about the meeting, not for the first time, opted to turn a blind eye to these extremists whose intention is to fuel tensions between Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, Armenians and Dutch people; tensions that will benefit nobody except the Grey Wolves.
By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht