Turkey Violates Peacekeeper Responsibilities by Promoting the Grey Wolves
01/27/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Turkish President Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev approved the building of a Grey Wolf School in the captured Nagorno-Karabakh city of Shushi. On January 30, 2021, they will begin to lay the school’s foundation.
The leader of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahceli gave this announcement during a Parliamentary address on January 16th. He stated, , “I said that ‘If our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan grants permission, and if the President of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, finds it appropriate, it is our goal to build a school of nine classrooms in Shusha by the Ulku Ocaklari Education and Culture Foundation on my personal instructions. I said that the name of this school will be the late Üzeyir Hajibeyli, born in Shusha and composer of the Azerbaijani National Anthem and that it will be founded on 30 January 2021.’With the mutual agreement and approval of our President, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the President of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, our project to build a school in Shusha was approved.”
The Ulku Ocaklari Education and Culture Foundation is an official name of the Grey Wolves, which the international community recognizes as a terrorist organization. It is often described as Turkey’s MHP’s paramilitary wing and acknowledged their presence during the forty-four-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh). ICC documented their role in the conflict in the recently released report entitled The Anatomy of Genocide: Karabakh’s Forty-Four Day War.
The report recommends that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom name the Grey Wolves as an Entity of Particular Concern. It explains that the Grey Wolves have “became known as a death squad and were involved in many religious freedom violations.” It further argues that religious freedom abuses during the Nagorno-Karabakh war “were often done using the cloaked language familiar to those associated with the Grey Wolves… Both Turkey and Azerbaijan once had a vibrant, diverse society. Today freedom of conscience and identity does not exist there. This is what is at stake in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The city of Shushi belonged to the Armenian Christian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh until the Turkish-Azeri invasion in November 2020. During the invasion, Turkey targeted, dismantled, and/or destroyed Armenian Christian sites. The Armenian name of Shushi changed to Shusha as part of the forced demographic change. The city is important as it overlooks Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital of Stepanakert and is militarily considered a linchpin.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The opening of a Grey Wolf school in Shushi further proves that this war has had strong ideological foundations from its start. Turkey has adopted a so-called peacekeeper position following the war, and we are disappointed in their approval of a school by a group that is internationally known for its extremism. It is no coincidence that some of the worst religious freedom incidents in Turkey’s history were at the hands of the Grey Wolves. This decision is completely incompatible with Turkish-Azeri promises to protect religious diversity. Unfortunately, similar decisions may be forthcoming if the international community continues to look the other way on Nagorno-Karabakh.”