Reports on Millityetci Hareket Partisi (MHP) and Ulkucus (Gray Wolves), including their treatment by authorities and their treatment of Alevis (1998-2000) [TUR34901.E]

According to two articles, Millityetci Hareket Partisi (MHP), or Nationalist Action Party, was founded as a Turanist or pan-Turkic entity that envisioned a Turkic-speaking area between Europe and China (The Economist 24 Apr. 1999; Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 30 June 1999). An article in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs states that the party, with origins dating back to the 1940s, gained "prominence in the 1970s as an ultra-right movement of paramilitary action" (ibid.).

The MHP was banned, along with all other parties, by the generals in 1980 but "won a new lease of life when the Soviet Union's collapse led to the re-emergence of Turkic states to the east" (The Economist 24 Apr. 1999). The death of the party's "commander," Alpaslan Turkes, in 1997, initiated "a succession of party congresses at which delegates often drew guns on each other and sometimes even opened fire" (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 30 June 1999). The defeat of Turkes' son, Tugrul, and the victory of Devlet Bahceli in 1997 signalled a change within the MHP as the new leader "continued to purge the MHP of its most notorious villains, recruited a host of academics instead, and nudged the party closer to the mainstream" (ibid.; The Economist 24 Apr. 1999).

On 18 April 1999, MHP won 130 seats, representing approximately 18 per cent of the vote, in parliamentary elections (Turkish Daily News 27 Apr. 1999; Boston Globe 23 May 1999).

No information on the treatment of the MHP by authorities could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

The Ulkucus, or Grey Wolves, are described as "MHP's paramilitary wing" and "youth wing" (The Economist 24 Apr. 1999; Boston Globe 23 May 1999). The group was "armed and active in universities, the police force, and in schools" during the 1970s (ibid.). The Ulkucus "took on leftist militants in gunbattles in the streets of Ankara and Istanbul before the 1979 coup" (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 30 June 1999). According to the Boston Globe, the Ulkucus was "responsible for the assassination of many leftists, unionists, journalists, and Kurdish activists" in the 1970s (23 May 1999).

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs' article states that Ulkucus has "often formed the basis for Special Teams used in the war against Kurdish separatists in southeast Turkey and have been held responsible by Kurds for some of the worst brutality in the conflict" (30 June 1999). The MHP has supported the government's military approach towards the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and "opposes any concessions to Kurdish separatists" (FAS n.d.). According to an article in The Economist, "Turkey's minorities of Kurds and Alevis (who practise a liberal brand of Shia Islam) particularly fear and hate the MHP" (24 Apr. 1999).

No further information on the attitude of the MHP and the Ulkucus towards Alevis could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In an April 1999 interview conducted by Ilnur Cevik of the Turkish Daily News, Bahceli stated that "in defending democratic reforms" the MHP did not want to "promote ethnic elements and lead to the disintegration of Turkey" (27 Apr. 1999a). Bahceli stated that "if we wanted to improve democracy in Turkey by promoting different ethnic and religious values, we would not be able to achieve progress, and we would push Turkey into danger. That should be avoided" (ibid.). According to a 1999 Turkish Daily News report by Kemal Balci, "some observers" view the MHP ideology as a "danger for Turkey because this infrastructure provides a suitable environment for both ethnic and religious conflicts" (27 Apr. 1999b). However, the article states that Bahceli declared repeatedly during the election campaign that individuals involved in crime or "who have mafia or gang connections" no longer belonged to the MHP movement (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


The Boston Globe. 23 May 1999. Jonathan Gorvett. "Turkey Dances with 'Gray Wolves' Party." (NEXIS).

Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, Toronto. March 1994. Nergis Canefe Günlük. "MHP/MCP, the Turkish State, and Alevi Turks: Dangerous Alliances."

The Economist. 24 April 1999. "A Swelling Tide of Nationalism May Change Turkey Politics." (NEXIS).

Federation of American Scientists (FAS). 8 August 1998. "Grey Wolves." [Accessed 20 July 2000]

Turkish Daily News. 27 April 1999a. Ilnur Cevik. "MHP leader Bahceli: Democratic Reforms and Human Rights Improvements are Musts for Turkey's Integration with the World." [Accessed 20 July 2000]

_____. 27 April 1999b. Kemal Balci. "MHP: Hard to Live With, Harder to Live Without." [Accessed 20 July 2000]

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. 30 June 1999. Jon. P. Gorvett. "Turkish Round-up: Howling With the Wolves -- Turkey's Election Shock." (Ethnic News Watch/NEXIS).

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998. H. Ayla Kilic. "Democratization, Human Rights and Ethnic Policies in Turkey." Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs.


McDowall, David. May 1994. Briefing Note Regarding the Current Status of Alevi Kurds. (Prepared for the Newfoundland Legal Aid Commission).


Resource Centre Turkey country file.

World News Connection (WNC)

Internet sites including:

Department of State



Immigration and Nationality Directorate

Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity

Keesing's Worldwide

Minorities at Risk

Republic of Turkey

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