This week, MUCF decided to withdraw all association contributions to two Azerbaijani organizations in Sweden. This is after, among other things, Blankspot’s reviews and an investigation into connections with the ethnofascist Gray Wolves.
By RASMUS CANBÄCK January 17, 2022
Prior to this year’s grant applications for ethnic organizations, the Agency for Youth and Civil Society Affairs, MUCF, has denied continued funding to two Azerbaijani associations.
The associations in question are the Azerbaijani Congress in Sweden and the Azerbaijani National Federation, both of which have received grants from the authority for many years (in this text they are referred to as the “Congress” and the “National Federation”, respectively).
The decision documents state that Congress will now be denied funding as a direct result of Blankspot’s reporting during the autumn. The association organized invitational trips for journalists to Azerbaijan together with the Azerbaijani government and plans to organize more .
The MUCF’s decision states that they can not rule out that the Congress has direct relations with the Azerbaijani dictatorship, and that it is contrary to the conditions of democracy.
Congressman Emil Mirzoev has in two statements to the MUCF denied that there are any links between him and the regime, which the administrator of the authority did not obey.
In addition to reviewing the invitation trips, Blankspot has also published photos of him from meetings with the Azerbaijani ambassador from the embassy.
The decision regarding the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions is based on an extensive investigation carried out during the autumn. The decision to investigate came in January 2021 after the site Nyhetsbyrån accused representatives of the Riksförbundet of having links to the Gray Wolves.
Prior to 2021, the MUCF assessed that the evidence was insufficient and appointed the inquiry.
The task of the inquiry was to answer the questions of whether the Riksförbundet has links to anti-democratic movements in general, and the Gray Wolves or the Azerbaijani regime in particular. The time period studied was the financial years 2020 and 2021.
The assessment from MUCF states: “The investigation shows that there may be certain organizational links between the Azerbaijani National Union and the Gray Wolves and / or the Azerbaijani dictatorship.”
The basis for the decision continues to present the documents, which are based on an analysis of board members’ social media and a demonstration from October 2020 in support of Azerbaijan in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
These show that several members have ideological sympathies that have many common points of contact with the Gray Wolves’ ideology.
Blankspot wrote in connection with a review of one of the invitation trips that the Gray Wolves participated in the demonstration, and that a then board member, Rahim Sadiqbeyli, is one of those who arranged an invitation trip to Azerbaijan.
In a statement to MUCF, Azar Farrouki, chairman of the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions, and Teymur Eminbayli, treasurer, deny all contact with the regime and claim that they do not know who the Gray Wolves are.
– The Azerbaijani National Federation does not know of any organization called Gray Wolves, the national federation has never entered into any cooperation with so-called Gray Wolves.
Furthermore, they believe that 60% of the board members are considered persona non grata, not welcome, in Azerbaijan, because they are oppositional and against the country’s government.
But who are the Gray Wolves in Sweden? What does it mean that representatives from the Azerbaijani National Federation “share their ideology” and what consequences can the decision have for the National Federation?
The inquiry describes the Gray Wolves as nationalist, anti-Semitic, racist and based on extreme right-wing ideology, which has its roots in the so-called pan-Turkism (also called “turanism”). The purpose of the movement is to defend and strengthen everything “Turkish”, and it strives to form an ethnically homogeneous Turkish state.
In short, it is a Turkish ethnofascist movement.
The movement’s mother party, MHP, the National Action Party, holds a seat in Turkey’s parliament. They serve as a support party for the ruling party, the AKP, led by President Recep Teyyip Erdogan. The Gray Wolves have historically been partly the MHP’s militant branch, and partly formed part of its youth union.
In several European countries, such as France, the Gray Wolves are considered a terrorist organization with violent capital. The most famous act in Europe is the shooting of Pope John Paul II in 1981 .
In Sweden, the Gray Wolves are suspected of having been involved in several acts of violence. One of the more noticed is shootings against a Kurdish demonstration in 2017 where the Gray Wolves are suspected of the act.
Former Green Party Minister for Housing Mehmet Kaplan was forced to resign after having dinner with the Gray Wolves.
In a conscious strategy, the Gray Wolves have over the past decade worked to spread their ideology through non-violent methods. Part of this work is to work through democratic functions, such as through association life.
The Swedish-Kurdish debater and journalist Kurdo Baksi believes that it is only a surface.
– The gray wolves are suspected of an assassination attempt in Fittja six years ago. I know the victim. In the last decade, several Kurdish associations in Sweden have been subjected to attacks. The gray wolves are suspected by the police but no one has been brought to justice for these crimes.
He goes on to explain that the Gray Wolves have sympathizers in Sweden.
– You can see that 841 people in Sweden voted for MHP in the summer of 2018. There is no doubt that there are supporters of both the political party and its militant branch.
In the case of the Swedish Confederation, it is not a matter of direct connections or membership in the Gray Wolves, but of the Pan-Turkish ideology.
The inquiry shows that several members, including the treasurer Teymur Eminbeyli, are the initiators of the organization MHB, Milli Herekatçılar Birliyi (National Movement Association), which advocates a territorial unification of the Turkish world.
In addition, Eminbeyli claims to belong to the Azerbaijani opposition, which was gradually forced out of Azerbaijan after losing power to the incumbent regime in 1993. The opposition leader was Abulfaz Elchibey, who died in 2000.
Elchibey made himself known for being as much a politician as an ideologue, and during the Soviet era he advocated a rapprochement between Azerbaijan and Turkey, instead of belonging to Russia. In 1998, he also wrote the book “On the Road to All of Azerbaijan” in which he clarifies the country’s territorial claims in an area that far exceeds today’s borders. He called the idea “the whole of Azerbaijan.”
The common denominator that exists between the Gray Wolves’ ideology and the Elchibey movement is based on pan-Turkism; to unite, through territorial claims, the Turkish-speaking world, stretching from Istanbul in the west to China’s border in the east.
In Pan-Turkish rhetoric, only Armenia stands in between, and in addition the Nagorno-Karabakh region has been under Armenian control since 1994. Therefore, the conflict is also interesting for Turkish Pan-Turkists, and not only Azerbaijani.
It is not uncommon for Gray Wolf participants to make a pilgrimage to Elchibey’s tomb in Baku.
On the association’s treasurer, Teymur Eminbeyli, Facebook, he has a “cover picture” of two children wearing t-shirts with Elchibey’s face on. In other photos, he wears the same t-shirt himself.
The Azerbaijani political scientist Bahruz Samadov, who researches the Azerbaijani opposition and the rhetoric of the Aliyev regime at Charles University in Prague, explains that the Elchibei movement is not the same as the Gray Wolves.
– Simply put, Elchibey was never a Gray Wolf, but he is considered an important person in the Pan-Turkish ideology. The Gray Wolves can be seen as the most radical branch of pan-Turkism, and Elchibey is deeply respected by them.
He goes on to argue that Elchibey and pan-Turkism have been dominant in the Azerbaijani opposition.
– The opposition’s overall discourse is strongly influenced by pan-Turkism as an ideology. In fact, the takeover of power by Heydar Aliyev (now the father of President Ilham Aliyev) was not a radical breach of Elchibey’s ideology. Heydar really politicized Elchibey’s panturkism by declaring Turkey a peculiar ally, a special brother , by saying “One nation – two countries”. It can be said that Heydar was pragmatic in that respect, while Elchibey was a convinced nationalist.
Bahruz Samadov concludes by explaining that the term “Gray Wolf” is sometimes used as an overarching term for radical panturkists, and that it is therefore not surprising that some have not heard of the organization.
– You could say that Gray wolf is an umbrella term to describe the most radical. In Azerbaijan, however, the Gray Wolves were associated with a militant branch that fought in the first Karabakh war in the 1990s. They were sponsored by extremist nationalists in Turkey. However, many were killed or imprisoned by Heydar Aliyev in 1995, and at the same time many of the country’s opposition panturists fled – including those who sympathized with Elchibey.
However, this is not the first time that the Azerbaijani Federation has been in bad weather.
As early as April 2016, when the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh flared up for the first time in 22 years, the national federation organized a demonstration at Sergels torg.
At the time, Barbaros Leylani, Vice-President of the Turkish Federation, was the speaker. In the acclaimed speech, he then exclaimed “The Turk wakes up! The Armenian dogs should beware. Death to the Armenian dogs. Death! Dead! ”, Which meant that Leylani was reported to the police and had to resign from his position of trust.
It was only a couple of days before the pictures of Mehmet Kaplan’s dinner with the Gray Wolves were leaked.
Later, Leylani was convicted of incitement against an ethnic group for his statement.
The Azerbaijani Federation, which invited him as a speaker, was never held accountable.
When Blankspot contacts MUCF, they announce that a decision on the 2022 grant has been made, and that the associations have three weeks to appeal the decision.
The authority has still not investigated whether the associations should repay money for previous years.
The inquiry by the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions refers to the financial years 2020 and 2021, and for that period the association received SEK 709,580. In the event of a refund claim, all or part of the amount can be requested back.
Congress was not granted a grant for 2021 and is not subject to repayment claims for at least that year.
It is unusual for associations to be liable for repayment based on breaches of democratic conditions. The conditions are described in the decision:
According to Section 4 of the Ordinance (2008: 63) on state grants to organizations formed on an ethnic basis, grants may be awarded to organizations that conduct activities that do not conflict with the ideas of democracy. I prop. 2009/10: 55 pp. 155-157 stated i.a. the following about the condition that organizations in their activities must respect the ideas of democracy: The condition includes the same issues as the condition that the purpose must be compatible with the values that characterize a democratic society, e.g. respect for human rights, non-discrimination, gender equality and the fight against racism. MUCF interprets this as meaning that both the purpose of the organization and the activities conducted must be compatible with the principle of equal value for all people.This means that grants may not be given to an organization if the person or its representatives within the framework of the activity act in a way that is contrary to the requirements of the ideas of democracy, including equality and the prohibition of discrimination. As a representative of an organization, it is serious to support non-democratic activities, even if it is not in the name of the organization.
For the Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions, MUCF’s administrator writes: “MUCF thus considers it problematic from a democracy point of view that there are representatives from the organization who support non-democratic activities.”
The most well-known example of an organization that has been forced to repay state subsidies is Sweden’s young Muslims, who in the Court of Appeal in 2019 were sentenced to repay SEK 1.3 million in violation of democratic conditions. The Doku Foundation wrote that the association was dissolved as a result of the repayment claim, and never managed to repay the money.
The day before publication, Blankspot applied to the Azerbaijani National Union and shared the article with them to give the organization the opportunity to submit comments. They have not returned.
Top image: A man makes the “wolf sign” at the demonstration on October 17, 2020. The wolf sign is the symbol of the Gray Wolves, but is also used in Azeri contexts to express the unification of Azerbaijan with the Azerbaijani parts of Iran.