Armenian monuments in Lyon desecrated, with the Loup Gris (Grey Wolves) and RTE (acronym for Recep Tayyip Erdogan)

France to Ban Turkish ‘Grey Wolves’ after Defacement of Armenian Memorial

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LYON, France (Combined Sources) — France is to ban a Turkish ultra-nationalist group known as the Grey Wolves, the interior minister said Monday, November 2, after a memorial to victims of the Armenian Genocide was defaced over the weekend.

The dissolution of the Grey Wolves will be put to the French cabinet on Wednesday, Gérald Darmanin told a parliamentary committee.

“To put it mildly, we are talking about a particularly aggressive group,” he said.

His announcement came after a memorial center outside Lyon dedicated to the Armenian Genocide was defaced with pro-Turkish slogans including “Grey Wolves” and “RTE” in reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The incident in the town of Décines-Charpieu came against a background of intense communal tensions in France between its Armenian minority and the Turkish community over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Four people were wounded outside Lyon last Wednesday in clashes between suspected Turkish nationalists and Armenians protesting against Azerbaijan’s military offensive.

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Hate speech against Armenians has surged amid the ongoing hostilities in Karabakh, with Turks and Azerbaijanis declaring what they call “a hunt of Armenians” and threatening them. For example, a group of Turks in France attacked Armenians rallying to protest Azerbaijan’s aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh, and hit two of the rally-goers with hammers on October 28.

Hundreds of Turkish ultranationalists marched through the streets of two French towns on October 29, chanting threats against Armenians, as tensions over the war in Nagorno-Karabakh boiled over.

A French anti-racism group and an organization representing France’s Armenian community said what they called the “hunt for Armenians” was orchestrated by the Grey Wolves, a militant Turkish ultranationalist group which is active in Western Europe and banned in a number of countries, including Austria. Footage of the marches, which took place on Wednesday night, was circulated on Twitter accounts featuring wolf emojis and references to the Turkish name of the ultranationalist organization, Bozkurtlar.

The International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) and CCAF, the Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations in France, both called Thursday for the Grey Wolves to be banned.

“French people of Armenian origin must be able to live in France in safety, without being targeted by acts of violence and racial hatred,” the CCAF said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the CCAF, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said no Armenians were injured during the intimidating marches, as most people were at home due to coronavirus restrictions.

The National Armenian Memorial Centre was daubed with the giant letters ‘RTE’, in reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and with the words ‘Grey Wolves’. © Jeff Pachoud, AFP

The move by Darmanin risks further stoking tensions with Ankara.

In Turkey, the Grey Wolves are closely linked to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Devlet Bahceli that had a political alliance with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The Grey Wolves caused havoc on the streets in Turkey during the 1970s and 1980s when its members frequently clashed with leftist activists.

There have been weeks of tensions between France and Turkey, which reached a peak last month when Erdogan questioned President Emmanuel Macron’s mental health.

France responded by taking the highly unusual step of recalling its ambassador to Ankara for consultations.

Macron in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Saturday accused Turkey of adopting a “bellicose” stance towards its NATO allies, saying tensions could ease if Erdogan showed respect and did not tell lies.

There have also been weeks of tensions between France and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria, and Libya.

Tensions have risen further after the beheading of a French schoolteacher who showed his pupils cartoons mocking Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.

In the wake of the killing, Macron has defended free speech, including the right to mock religion, triggering sharp rhetoric from Erdogan and a call to boycott French goods in Turkey.

France has also been taking steps to ban radical Islamist groups.

(With reporting by AFP, dpa, France 24 and RFE/RL)

 

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