Turkish Player Sparks Uproar After Celebrating With Grey Wolves Salute

Grey Wolves Salute
The Grey Wolves is infamous for attacks on minority communities in Turkey and abroad. Credit: Canlanma, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

Turkish player Merih Demiral sparked outrage after celebrating his second goal against Austria in Euro 2024 with an ultranationalist Grey Wolves salute.

Demiral scored a brace to drive Turkey to victory and celebrated his second goal with the “wolf salute,” a gesture associated with the Grey Wolves, a far-right extremist group closely linked to Turkey’s ruling coalition party the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and sparked backlash on social media.

The Grey Wolves salute is banned in Austria and is punishable by fines up to €4,000.

Grey Wolves Salute
The Turkish published a post on X showing him celebrating with the salute with the phrase “ne mutlu Türküm diyene,” meaning “How happy is the one who says I am a Turk!” Credit: Twitter

The Al-Ahli and former Juventus center-back netted home after only 58 seconds to give Turkey the lead against Austria, before scoring another goal at around the hour mark to seal the game and send Turkey to the quarter-finals at the tournament hosted in Germany, despite Austria grabbing a goal.

“He openly displays the symbol of the fascist Grey Wolves. These paramilitaries were responsible for thousands of deaths, and today they sit in the Turkish government together with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s AKP [Justice and Development Party]. When will UEFA react?” Austrian journalist Michael Bonvalot said on X.

Duzen Tekkal, a German-Yazidi journalist, expressed outrage about the gesture, saying that she has received death threats from Grey Wolves members in Germany for years.

“The fact that Merih Demiral is showing the right-wing extremist wolf salute here is a mockery of the victims,” she lamented.

In a post-match interview, Demiral said that he was happy after scoring two goals and celebrated with a gesture that made him “very proud.”

“I had a goal celebration in mind, which I did. I am very proud because I am a Turk, therefore after the goal I felt it deeply, and I wanted to do it, and I am very happy about doing it,” the Turkish goal-scorer said.

Grey Wolves salute

The phrase, coined by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, carries a sinister meaning for minorities in Turkey, such as Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians.

The Grey Wolves is infamous for attacks on minority communities in Turkey and abroad. In 2021, the European Parliament called on member states to apply the terror label to the Grey Wolves movement and ban the group in Europe.

It said that the group was “especially threatening for people with a Kurdish, Armenian, or Greek background and anyone they consider an opponent.”

In March, a group of Turkish nationalists did a wolf salute while attacking several Kurdish families returning from Kurdish New Year (Newroz) celebrations in Belgium. At least six people were injured and the Kurdistan flag was burned.

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