Why we need to worry about the Grey Wolves of Turkey

If reports of their involvement in the Bangkok bombing are true, the arena of international terror may now be expanding to Southeast Asia.

 |  3-minute read |   29-08-2015
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Could the ultra-nationalist organisation "Grey Wolves" from Turkey be complicit in the Bangkok bombings of August 2015? If true, it suggests that the arena of international terror is now expanding to Southeast Asia.

Thai authorities started examining Turkish nationals who entered Thailand during the past fortnight, and local newspapers are stating that both the police and the immigration authorities are analyzing the possibility of any ties with the Grey Wolves.

On Saturday, Thailand police arrested a person from Bangkok's Nong Chok district, and local media identified him as a Turkish national.

Also read: How social media 'sleuths' are killing the Bangkok bombings probe

Of the many theories related to the Bangkok bombing, this recent formulation is increasingly gaining traction with a whole lot of people, including the Thai authorities. This theory was aired at a talk at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) on August 24 by Anthony Davis, a security analyst with IHS-Jane's, who systematically analysed existing motivations before zeroing on the Turkish-Uighur connection and the "Grey Wolves".

The Grey Wolves are a pan-Turkist organisation who share ethnic, culture and faith ties with the Uighurs in China. It was on July 9 this year that Thailand repatriated 109 Uighurs to China; and a day later, the Grey Wolves staged protests in Turkey targeting Chinese establishments and burning Chinese flags. The Thai consulate in Istanbul was also attacked and its windows were smashed, following which the Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha even raised the possibility of closing their Embassy in Turkey.

It is this attack on the Thai consulate that was quoted by Anthony Davis while pointing towards the possibility of involvement of Grey Wolves, an organisation which was earlier based on Turkish ultra-nationalism, but has increasingly adopting an Islamist platform.

Also read: Bangkok bombings: An internal conspiracy or external terror?

It was after the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union, that the Grey Wolves started working with other groups in Central Asia. Since then, they have been involved in Chechnya, and they were later banned in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Their ideology also resonates with a section of Uighur separatists, who often refer to their homeland not by the Chinese name Xinjiang, but prefer to call it "East Turkestan".

Davis is not the only one who is connecting the Uighurs with Turkey.

Xinhua, the official news agency of China quoted their Ministry of Public Security to say that "These illegal immigrants (Uighurs) had been on their way to Turkey, Syria or Iraq to join jihad." Xinhua went a step ahead stating that "Several recruitment gangs were uncovered in Turkey by a Chinese police investigation," and even blamed Turkish diplomats in "some Southeast Asian countries for facilitating the illegal movement of people."

The United States spokesperson John Kirby criticised Thailand's "forced deportation," and urged Thailand "to allow those remaining ethnic Uighurs to depart voluntarily to a country of their choice".

That Uighurs were not allowed to depart to a country of their choice, and instead sent back to China is what rattles many - something that was evident in the reaction by the Grey Wolves the day after the repatriation.

Writer

Bajinder Pal Singh Bajinder Pal Singh

He is a journalist based in Thailand, who specialises in south and southeast Asia. His interests include science, environment and education, and their interface with media.

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