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‘Protest against Grey Wolves has ritual character’

21 December 2008 – The extreme nationalist Turkish Grey Wolves are lingering in the Netherlands, according to the new Racism and Extremism Monitor. However, critics say the movement is as vital as Dutch extreme right organisations.

Over the past years, there have been a number of controversies over VVD district council members in Zeeburg who would have connections with the Grey Wolves and over the district subsidising Grey Wolves organisation Tükem.

Researcher Jaap Tanja of the Anne Frank Foundation wrote an article on the Grey Wolves for the Racism and Extremism Monitor published earlier this month. The same publication contained an article claiming Geert Wilders’ PVV is ‘extreme right’.

According to Tanja, the Grey Wolves are lingering. The Turkish Federation Netherlands (TFN) has financial problems, congresses attract ever fewer visitors and there are few concrete reports of threats, violence, criminal connections and discrimination involving the Grey Wolves.

There are frequent protests against meetings of the Grey Wolves, often instigated by reports of the Turkish extreme right research group. These protests “tend to be ignored by venue owners or governments and therefore have a highly ritual character”.

Meanwhile, ‘radical ideas’ have been observed at universities, colleges and Turkish-language websites, even though no in-depth research has yet been done on this issue. Perhaps the organisations of the Grey Wolves are no longer the vehicle for Turkish nationalism, Tanja suggests.

Ernst Haffmans of the Turkish extreme right research group thinks the distinction is somewhat artificial. “Grey Wolves of course are a non-existent, fluid group, an umbrella term for Turkish ultra nationalists. No, they don’t wave their TFN membership card at every incident”.

Haffmans thinks it is exaggerated to say the Grey Wolves are lingering. “If you compare the Grey Wolves with Dutch extreme right or ultra nationalist organisations, the Grey Wolves certainly aren’t lingering; a few times each year they organise meetings that are advertised publicly and attract hundreds to thousands of people. That would be unthinkable for similar Dutch organisations. So what do you mean by lingering?”

Haffmans does have the impression that there are financial problems and that Grey Wolves organisations do not obtain subsidies as easily anymore as they used to. Further, he says that too little is known about incidents involving discrimination and threats. The incidents that are known are far from trivial, he says.

Tanja questions the way in which the Turkish extreme right research group screens political candidates: “some candidates are unhesitatingly branded as Grey Wolves, because they are a member of have been a member of an organisation that is connected to the TFN”.

Haffmans says the criticism is unjustified: “According to the social genealogy which the Monitor itself uses, extreme right persons can be perfectly analysed through their membership career”.

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