French government considers ban on ultranationalist pan-Turkic “Grey Wolves” movement

PARIS — French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced on Monday that the cabinet of the French government will discuss disbanding and outlawing the pan-Turkic ultranationalist “Grey Wolves” organization during a session on Wednesday.

The decision was made following recent clashes between the Armenian and Turkish communities near Lyon, France, during demonstrations by the Armenian community against the Turkish-supported Azerbaijani offensive in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Last week, after the clashes, hundreds of Turkish and Azerbaijani nationals marched through Lyon last week on a so-called “hunt for Armenians”.

In footage circulated on social media, a man can be heard saying in French: “Where are you Armenians? Where are you? We are here sons of bitches.”

Overnight on Sunday, the National Armenian Memorial Centre was defaced with graffiti with giant letters “RTE”, in reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the words “Grey Wolves”.

The Grey Wolves organization was formed in the late 1960s by Colonel Alparslan Türkeş to act as the grassroots paramilitary wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), currently in a ruling coalition with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

It is unsure to what degree France will ban the Grey Wolves, but it is likely that they will at the least criminalize the organization’s salute, a hand gesture in the shape of a wolf. The salute was banned in Austria in February 2019 and a ban was proposed in Germany in October 2018 but not adopted.