Racist Turkish groups attacked Kurdish families in Heusden Zolder, Leuven, Belgium, after Newroz celebrations on Sunday, sparking widespread condemnation. Deputy Mayor Yasin Gül, linked to the Turkish extremist group Grey Wolves, publicly supported the attacks on a television programme.

After racist Turkish groups unleashed violence against Kurdish families in Leuven, Belgium, following Sunday’s Newroz celebrations, the deputy mayor of Heusden Zolder, Yasin Gül, who is linked to the Turkish extremist group Grey Wolves, publicly supported the attacks on a television programme.

Appearing on CNN Turk after the incident, Gül justified the violence by accusing the Kurdish community of provoking Turkish nationals during Ramadan by parading with Kurdish flags and images associated with Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who has been held in solitary confinement on a Turkish island prison since 1999.

“Of course, national and religious sensitivities are very high in this region. That is why our citizens could not remain silent in the face of such a provocation,” said Gül.

The attacks, which included attempts to set fire to a family’s home, smashing windows and shouting religious slogans, resulted in several injuries, including two in critical condition. The attackers were reported to have made the ‘wolf salute’, a gesture synonymous with the Turkish Grey Wolves far-right paramilitary organisation.

Gül’s involvement with the Grey Wolves has been the subject of controversy in the past. In 2019, he was expelled from the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party (CD&V) after a video surfaced showing his explicit support for the organisation. “We will continue to fight until the Turkish flag is flying all over the world,” he said in the 2017 video, in which he addressed members of the Grey Wolves.

This was not the first time Gül’s name had been linked to the Turkish far-right organisation. A year earlier, photos appeared on Gül’s Facebook profile showing that he had links to the Grey Wolves. Despite attempts to distance himself from the controversy, Gül’s links to the far-right group have persisted.

The Grey Wolves, which are not banned in Belgium but are closely monitored by the security forces, are known for their far-right, extremist ideology, which aggressively prioritises Turkish nationalism.

Founded in the late 1960s as the youth wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is closely linked to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the group is notorious for its violent actions against Kurds, dissidents and other minorities, and embodies a pan-Turkist stance.

The Turkish far-right organisation has been identified by European intelligence services and policymakers as a significant security threat. Recognised as the largest right-wing extremist group in Germany, its ideology glorifies the Turkish nation and denigrates other ethnic groups. With an estimated 11,000 followers in Germany, their presence raises alarm about the extent of extremist sentiment in the country. Despite efforts in Germany to counter their influence, progress has been slow.