Germany summons Turkish ambassador as row over Euros wolf salute grows

World

Germany has summoned Turkey’s ambassador as the row over a Turkish player’s ultra-nationalist gesture at Euro 2024 grows.

UEFA is investigating Merih Demiral for mimicking a wolf’s head with his fingers – a symbol linked to a far-right group known as the Grey Wolves – after scoring against Austria in Leipzig on Tuesday.

Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly cancelled plans to appear at a summit of Turkic states in Azerbaijan to instead attend Turkey’s quarter-final match against the Netherlands.

The Grey Wolves are the youth branch of Turkey‘s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – an ally of Mr Erodgan’s AK Party – and the gesture has sparked a diplomatic spat.

“As Euro 2024 hosts, we want sport to unite,” Germany’s foreign ministry said while announcing Turkey’s ambassador had been summoned, a day after Turkey did the same to Germany’s.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said German authorities’ approach to Demiral involved “xenophobia” and described UEFA’s probe as “unacceptable”.

Image:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Pic: Reuters

The ministry has defended the gesture made by Demiral as a historical and cultural symbol that did not target anyone.

Demiral himself said he had planned the celebration as he is “very proud to be a Turk” and saw fans making the gesture, so he “wanted to do it”.

‘No place in our stadiums’

But Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser labelled the gesture a symbol of “Turkish right-wing extremists” that has “no place in our stadiums”.

“Using the European Football Championship as a platform for racism is completely unacceptable,” she added.

Established in the 1960s, the Grey Wolves were involved in political violence between leftists and nationalists in Turkey that killed some 5,000 people around the time of a 1980 coup.

The group’s symbol is banned in Austria, while the wolf salute is not banned in Germany but the group is under surveillance.

In France, the organisation was banned outright in 2020, with the government accusing it of “extremely violent actions” and “extremely violent threats”.

Call to ban Grey Wolves

The German Israeli Society, which described the Grey Wolves as a threat to Jews as well as Armenians, Greeks and Kurds, called on German authorities to follow suit and ban the group.

“The ideological superiority of these fascist nationalists jeopardises public safety,” its president Volker Beck said in a statement.

In Turkey, the ruling AK Party and its MHP ally both defended Demiral and said the backlash was out of proportion.

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AK party spokesperson Omer Celik said those worried about racism and fascism should focus on recent elections around the continent where the far right has been on the rise.

“The Grey Wolf sign made by our son Merih after hitting the net is the Turkish nation’s message to the world, and UEFA’s launch of an investigation in this context is both ill-intentioned and part of a chain of provocations that have gained dangerous ground in recent days,” added MHP leader Devlet Bahceli.

While some have suggested President Erdogan’s decision to watch Turkey’s quarter-final on Saturday is a show of solidarity, the Middle East Eye cites one source claiming he “only wants to watch the game”.

The incident coincided with the start of a trial in Turkey of 22 people over the murder of former Grey Wolves leader Sinan Ates, who was gunned down in Ankara in late 2022.

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