Members of the Grey Wolves, a Turkish Islamist group, have demonstrated in the Swedish city of Malmö. Last week, the group was banned in France amid the nation's crackdown against Islamist extremism, the newspaper Expressen reported.
The demonstration was organised in support of Azerbaijan, following the violent conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the police, an association called United Azerbaijan had sought, and received, permission to demonstrate.
On Facebook, however, the Grey Wolves posted an invitation to the demonstration, urging their followers to come and support their “blood brothers in Azerbaijan”.
During the demonstration, protesters made the Grey Wolves sign and brandished the organisation's symbols.
According to the Swedish-Kurdish author and journalist Kurdo Baksi, it is unusual for the Grey Wolves to show up and demonstrate.
“I have checked and I don't know whether it has ever happened before. It's unusual. This is an organisation that in the 80's hid in laundry rooms because they did not want publicity,” Baksi told Expressen.
Baksi also ventured that members of the organisation seek to “test their limits”, acting on a “direct order” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “They are now using the conflict in Azerbaijan and the beheading of the teacher in France to justify Erdogan's criticism of Europe,” Baksi added.
Javidan Humbatov, the contact person for United Azerbaijan that organised the demonstration, underscored that they have no connection with the Turkish nationalist organisation and stressed that it is impossible to control all the participants.
The demonstration in Malmö went smoothly, and the police have no reports of any disturbances.
Self-styled as a cultural foundation, the Grey Wolves are often seen as the military branch of the Turkish Nationalist Movement party (MHP). It maintains a pan-Turkic stance, and its logo contains a wolf and the Islamic crescent. The group's members are known to have participated in violent attacks on Kurds, Armenians and Greeks.
Earlier in November, the Grey Wolves were banned in France, as Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the organisation was responsible for inciting hatred and committing violent acts.
Previously, the organisation was banned in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, among others, as the organisation expanded its sphere of influence to former Soviet states with Turkic and Muslim populations in the early 1990s. The Grey Wolves have been classified as an extremist organisation in Russia.
The Swedish Green Party was hit by a political scandal involving the Grey Wolves in 2016, when images emerged of party heavyweight and then-Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan attending a dinner party alongside leading members of the organisation.