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Alparslan Türkeş

Alparslan Türkeş
(1917 – 1979) was the founder and long-time leader of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and their paramilitary wing, the Grey Wolves.

Known as the Basbug (commander-ruler) to his supporters, Türkeş’ support for the establishment of ‘Turan’ – an ethnonational state stretching from modern-day Turkey to East China and uniting all Turkish ethnicities – shaped the ultranationalist politics of both these organisations. Türkeş joined the military as a young man, rising to the rank of Colonel. Prone to quoting Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Türkeş was among the Nazi’s primary contacts in Turkey during the Second World War. He spent ten months in prison for these "fascist and racist activities" in 1945.

In 1968, Türkeş founded the MHP and became de facto leader of the Grey Wolves. The success of his ultranationalist party – and the integration of the Grey Wolves into the activities of Turkey’s deep state – saw Türkeş serve as the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey between 1975 and 1978. He established international contacts during this period, meeting regularly with Bavarian Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauss to ensure the security of Grey Wolves members in Germany.

However, after the military coup of 1980, the Grey Wolves and the MHP were outlawed alongside an array of other parties while Colonel Türkeş was imprisoned for his role in the political violence that plagued Turkey during the 1970s. Türkeş Grey Wolves’ are estimated to have carried out at least 600 murders during this period.

Released in 1985, Türkeş returned to parliament two years later. He died in a car crash in 1997, two years before his MHP won a record 18% of the vote in the 1999 Turkish General Election.

Türkeş legacy – the revival of Turkish ultranationalism – lives on in the organization he founded. Today, the Grey Wolves are embedded within, and insulated by the Turkish government. The MHP forms a significant part of President Erdoğan’s ruling coalition. Two of Alparslan Türkeş’ sons followed their father into politics. His youngest son, Ahmet Kutalmış Türkeş,  was elected as an AKP deputy in Istanbul in 2011. His eldest son, Tuğrul Türkeş, was briefly Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey between 2015 and 2017.