France bans Turkish ultra-nationalists: Who are the ‘Grey Wolves’?

France bans Turkish ultra-nationalists: Who are the ‘Grey Wolves’?
A French army soldier stands guard as a police officer walks by a wall where graffiti was painted overnight in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon. (AFP)
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Updated 04 November 2020

France bans Turkish ultra-nationalists: Who are the ‘Grey Wolves’?

France bans Turkish ultra-nationalists: Who are the ‘Grey Wolves’?
  • Group active in European countries with significant Turkish population, such as Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and France

ANKARA: In a move that is likely to increase tension between Ankara and Paris, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced on Monday that France will ban the Turkish ultra-nationalist group the Grey Wolves. 
The group is linked to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a political ally of the ruling government in Turkey.

During the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where France and Turkey backed opposing sides, the group became notorious for organizing “Hunt for Armenians” marches in France and for vandalizing the Armenian Genocide memorial outside Lyon with their own slogans and references to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

During the march, the group members threatened Armenians with slogans such as “We are going to kill them.” Four people were injured in Lyon last Wednesday during clashes between Turkish nationalists and Armenians who were protesting against Azerbaijan’s military moves.

The banning of the group, which was urged by the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism and the Coordination Council of Armenian Organisations in France, will be discussed by the French cabinet on Wednesday.

The Grey Wolves was established in the 1960s in Turkey by MHP as a militant wing and was responsible for triggering chaos in the streets in 1970s and 1980s when its members fought leftists and were responsible for many assassinations.

Their salute symbol, with the thumb touching the tips of the middle two fingers and the index and little fingers raised, is seen by many as neo-fascist and was banned in Austria last year. A ban has also been considered in Germany.

This year in August, Russian International Affairs Council, a pro-Kremlin think tank, also labeled the group as an “extremist” organization.

The Grey Wolves have active branches in European countries with a significant Turkish population, such as Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and France.

Samim Akgonul, a political scientist at Strasbourg University in France, said the Grey Wolves are not the most visible Turkish organization in France but they have been active from time to time, especially during crises related to the Armenian issue, such as the French memorial laws recognizing the Armenian genocide.

“Historically the supporters of the Turkish far right MHP party are organized autonomously in Europe, separate from Turkey’s official bodies such as the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), the European division of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs,” he told Arab News.

He said that since the coalition between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the MHP in Turkey in 2013, the mobilization of the Grey Wolves in favor of the Turkish state and the president had become much more frequent, especially in Lyon and Paris. 

Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish ultra-nationalist who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, was also linked to the group.

According to Akgonul, the main reason for their ban in France is their recent activity against French-Armenians amid an atmosphere of general violence.

He said they were also a collateral victim of the Islamist terror in France and the response of President Erdogan to those acts of terror.

Neither the Turkish government nor its nationalistic partner have reacted yet to the statement of French minister Darmanin about disbanding the group.

Turkey expert Matthew Goldman, from the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, noted that the Grey Wolves are not an officially organized group in France, and so Darmanin’s announcement that they will be “dissolved” leaves many questions unanswered until the ministers discuss the issue on Wednesday.

“The far-right politician Marine Le Pen accused Darmanin of merely using empty words, tweeting that it is meaningless to claim to disband a group that is not actually organized. Instead, she called for shutting down the AKP-connected Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation, which is an official organization with 70 mosques in France,” he told Arab News.

As French President Emmanuel Macron wants to compete with Le Pen to show that he is tough on both Turkey and Islamism, Goldman wondered whether he would turn to Milli Gorus next.

German police recently stormed a Milli Gorus mosque in Berlin as part of an investigation about suspected fraud over a COVID-19 subsidy program, prompting a very sharp reaction from Erdogan.

Goldman said that if French authorities take on Milli Gorus too, it was likely to spark a strong response from Ankara.

“The Grey Wolf aggressions, responding to both the Nagorno-Karabakh war and the France-Turkey dispute, appear to be the worst of both worlds for the French public: Street gang violence and Islamist violence, even though the Grey Wolves are actually more nationalist than Islamist,” he said.

“Hopefully French authorities will be able to prevent further violence, but they are already struggling to control the coronavirus pandemic and anti-lockdown protests, so the situation is ripe for more conflict,” Goldman added.


A Pakistani artist’s lifetime spent creating medallion portraits of Saudi leaders

A Pakistani artist’s lifetime spent creating medallion portraits of Saudi leaders
Updated 16 sec ago

A Pakistani artist’s lifetime spent creating medallion portraits of Saudi leaders

A Pakistani artist’s lifetime spent creating medallion portraits of Saudi leaders
  • Khalil Najmi, a medallion portrait artist from Karachi, has created several images of Saudi leaders

KARACHI: Khalil Najmi was glued to the screen of his black and white television set when new channels broadcast King Faisal bin Abdulaziz’s attendance at the Islamic Summit in Pakistan in February 1974.
Mesmerized by the charismatic Saudi leader, Najmi, then a teenager, sketched the king’s portrait and started to learn more about the Kingdom and its royal family. His interest continued, leading to new work on medallion portraits of Saudi leaders.
“My father was in the Merchant Navy and brought me a portrait of King Faisal,” Najmi told Arab News. “I was deeply moved by the inscription under the image that labeled him as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.”
Najmi had an artistic flare since childhood and would engrave images on chalks and erasers during his school days. But King Faisal’s appearance during the summit held in Pakistan’s Lahore was a “turning point” in his life, he said, as it made him realize he wanted to create portraits of high-profile leaders.
The decision to focus on medallion portraits came from a meeting with a blind man in Karachi who told the artist he had wanted to see what Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah looked like.
“I put his hands on my medallion portrait of Jinnah and he gently ran his fingers on it as if he was trying to create the image in his mind,” Najmi said. “After a while, this man started crying uncontrollably and repeatedly thanked me for helping him feel what Jinnah must have looked like.”
The nature of his job required years of dedication, concentration and hard work.
“I began my work on the current set of portraits in 2016 and completed nine of them, which include three sets in three different mediums,” he said. “In 2016, I completed the portraits of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
Najmi’s work also includes portraits of UAE leaders Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, and Sultan Qaboos of Oman.
“One of my hand-carved portraits of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa was acquired by the office of Pakistani Army Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and was presented to the Middle Eastern leader in January this year,” he said.
But his ultimate dream is to present the portraits of Saudi leaders to the Kingdom’s crown prince, Najmi said.
“I hope he can graciously grant me the honor to personally present them to him as a souvenir,” Najmi said. “I have produced these portraits with great love for the Saudi royal family.”


Indian women set sights on new military roles as court opens top ranks to female soldiers

Indian women set sights on new military roles as court opens top ranks to female soldiers
Updated 3 min 17 sec ago

Indian women set sights on new military roles as court opens top ranks to female soldiers

Indian women set sights on new military roles as court opens top ranks to female soldiers
  • From November, women will be allowed to take the NDA entrance exam straight out of high school, like men, and aspire to senior positions.

NEW DELHI: Women in India have welcomed the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on Wednesday that will make it easier for females to join the military from November — a significant development in a country where gender inequality remains a major social concern.
India ranked 140th of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, slipping 28 places in a year due in large part to its declining percentage of women in professional and technical roles.
Only a tiny fraction of India’s 1.4 million-strong army are women, who have only previously been able to join the country’s armed forces if they have a college degree. This meant that they were already over the age limit to enroll in India’s National Defense Academy, from which the majority of the military’s high-ranking officers graduate.
However, from November, women will be allowed to take the NDA entrance exam straight out of high school, like men, and aspire to senior positions.
“This ruling is very encouraging for a society that discriminates against women from birth,” Jagmati Sangwan, a Haryana-based activist known for campaigning against female feticide, told Arab News on Thursday. “The Supreme Court’s decision will help improve the mindset of the people.”
Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, told Arab News that the court’s decision was “a welcome ruling” as “no spaces should be barred to any gender.”
Dr. Ranjana Kumar, president of the New Delhi-based Center for Social Research, an NGO supporting female empowerment, said: “Access has to be equal. If a woman wants to join the armed forces, she must be allowed to (take the) exams. You cannot deny the right to join any service or any job on the basis of (gender).”
She added that she expects the ruling to “encourage many women to come forward.”
“When police forces opened their doors for women, many women joined,” she said. “Day by day, women’s participation in police forces has increased.”
Women have served in India’s security forces since British colonial rule, mainly as nurses and peacekeepers. In recent years, their roles have expanded. India’s oldest paramilitary force, the Assam Rifles, started inducting women in 2016, and the army police followed suit in 2019.
But without NDA training, opportunities for women remain limited, especially when it comes to the higher ranks. So the upcoming admission of women to the defense academy is seen as a new beginning by women such as 18-year-old girl scout Yashika Singh from New Delhi, who hopes to become an officer in the future.
“The way has been cleared for women to join the NDA,” Singh said. “I will really make an attempt to join the armed forces. This is challenging, but cool.”
However, the court’s decision has also met with resistance in military circles.
Retired Lt. Gen. PG Kamath of Mission Victory India — a think tank whose members are active and former military officers — suggested women lacked the physical ability to become army officers.

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Blinken, Egypt’s FM hold talks in New York

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UNGA. (AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UNGA. (AFP)
Updated 50 min 51 sec ago

Blinken, Egypt’s FM hold talks in New York

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UNGA. (AFP)
  • According to the US State Department, they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of common interest. 

The meeting took place in New York, where Shoukry is attending the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

His spokesman Ahmed Hafez said the meeting with Blinken covered the most prominent political, security and economic aspects of bilateral relations, as well as ways to strengthen cooperation in various important fields. Both sides agreed on the need to overcome any obstacles that might hinder bilateral relations.

According to the US State Department, they also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, diplomatic efforts on Libya and the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, an organization set up by various Middle Eastern and European countries. 


US fallout over Kabul drone strike grows with plans for multiple probes

US fallout over Kabul drone strike grows with plans for multiple probes
Updated 23 September 2021

US fallout over Kabul drone strike grows with plans for multiple probes

US fallout over Kabul drone strike grows with plans for multiple probes
  • "This is an issue that several committees are going to look at, and we've already started to do that," Representative Adam Schiff told reporters
  • The US military apologized on Friday for the Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul that killed as many as 10 civilians

WASHINGTON: A senior US Democrat said on Thursday that multiple congressional committees will investigate a drone strike that killed 10 Afghan civilians last month, to determine what went wrong and answer questions about future counterterrorism strategy.
“This is an issue that several committees are going to look at, and we’ve already started to do that,” Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, told reporters.
The US military apologized on Friday for the Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul that killed as many as 10 civilians, including seven children, calling it a “tragic mistake.”
The Pentagon had said the strike targeted a Daesh suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to US-led troops as they completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The intelligence failure raised hard questions about future risks, particularly whether the United States can keep track of threats from Afghanistan without a presence in the country.
“Particularly as we are going to be moving to an over-the-horizon strategy, we need to understand exactly what went wrong and what that means in terms of the limits of what we are able to do,” Schiff told a meeting with journalists sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
“Over-the-horizon” refers to counterterrorism efforts from outside Afghanistan, such as drone strikes from bases located 1,000 miles from their targets.
The confirmation of civilian deaths provided further fuel to critics of the chaotic US withdrawal, which generated the biggest foreign policy crisis yet for President Joe Biden’s administration.
Many of Biden’s fellow Democrats, as well as Republicans, have criticized the conduct of the withdrawal. Congressional committees have scheduled hearings with top administration officials.
Schiff said he backed the withdrawal. “We can’t occupy everywhere,” he said. “Today there is a greater risk in other parts of the world than there is in Afghanistan.”


US implores Iran to return to nuke talks without delay

US implores Iran to return to nuke talks without delay
Updated 23 September 2021

US implores Iran to return to nuke talks without delay

US implores Iran to return to nuke talks without delay
  • A senior administration official said Thursday that US patience is wearing thin
  • While Iran has said it is ready to rejoin the talks, it has not yet offered a date for a resumption

NEW YORK: The Biden administration is imploring Iran to quickly return to talks on its nuclear program after a three-month hiatus caused by its government transition, warning that the window for negotiations may soon close.
A senior administration official said Thursday that US patience is wearing thin and that further delays while Iran continues to expand its atomic capabilities could lead Washington and its partners to conclude a return to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal is no longer worthwhile.
The official, who briefed reporters on condition that he not be identified by name, spoke as diplomats from the remaining parties to the agreement have been meeting Iran’s foreign minister on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly to gauge Tehran’s willingness to return to the talks in Vienna.
While Iran has said it is ready to rejoin the talks, it has not yet offered a date for resumption, named a negotiating team or indicated that it is willing to pick up where the negotiations left off in June, according to the US official.
In discussions with representatives from the remaining parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union — the official said all of them had agreed on the importance of resuming the talks as soon as possible.
If the talks don’t resume, the official said the US would at some point determine that Iran was no longer interested in the benefits that the accord offered or that its recent technological advances could not be undone by the limits it imposed.
The UN’s atomic watchdog has said Iran is increasingly in violation of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, which former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from in 2018. The US has participated indirectly in the Vienna talks, which were aimed at bringing both Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the deal.
The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, met Tuesday with Iran’s new foreign minister, who reiterated Tehran’s “willingness to resume negotiations at an early date,” the EU said. Borrell met Wednesday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Borrell stressed “the need for full cooperation” from Iran and reiterated his concern about the overall trajectory of the Iranian nuclear program,” the EU statement said.
The last round of talks in Vienna ended in June, ahead of Iran’s elections that boosted the ranks of hard-liners. There had been speculation that the remaining parties to the deal would meet on the sidelines of this week’s UN General Assembly. But the US official said Iran had declined the opportunity to meet.