A new report has tracked the establishment of a Turkish extreme nationalist “Grey Wolves” cell in Bosnia.
According to journalists with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), Huseyin Cakalli has established a Grey Wolves branch in Bosnia by making connections with members of the main Bosniak nationalist party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA). The branch is currently run by young people under Cakalli’s leadership.
Once a student of architecture in Bosnia, Cakalli returned to Urfa, Turkey, to set up a company. He is married to a Bosniak woman, oversees Grey Wolves’ activities in Bosnia, and is purportedly on friendly terms with the mayor of Urfa.
In preparing their report, BIRN journalists met with Cakalli in Urfa’s local Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) office, Turkey’s far-right party with an alliance with Turkey’s ruling party. The party has 47 MPs in the Turkish parliament, and the office where the interview took place was reportedly decorated with both the flags of the MHP and the Grey Wolves.
According to the report, Cakalli condemned moves by European authorities to curb the influence of the Grey Wolves group, including France’s ban on Grey Wolves’ activities and the prohibition of the Grey Wolves’ salute in Austria. He also criticized proposals in the EU and US to declare the Grey Wolves a terrorist organisation.
He compared the treatment of members to the treatment of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in the West, whom Turkey accuses of leading a terrorist organisation responsible for the failed coup attempt in 2016.
“We always face accusations from EU countries, but Gulen doesn’t,” he said.
Turkish authorities have faced criticism for exploiting the 2016 failed coup attempt as a means to instigate a broad crackdown on the opposition and media, leading to the arrests of thousands of alleged “Gulenists.”
In his interview with BIRN, Cakalli reportedly claimed to be proud of his involvement in the search for Gulenists in Bosnia.
“I reported Gulenists in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I called the local police. They came and asked who they are,” he said.
Turkish requests to extradite suspected Gulenists were rejected by the Bosnian state court in 2018, on the grounds that the United Nations had not officially declared Gulen’s movement to be a terrorist organisation.
A 2021 European Parliament resolution described the Grey Wolves as right-wing extremists. The resolution said the organisation was growing in Europe, and needed to be closely monitored by authorities.
“It is especially threatening for people with a Kurdish, Armenian or Greek background and anyone they consider an opponent,” it read.
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