France will ban the Turkish ultranationalist Gray Wolves group, the interior minister said, days after its members were linked to anti-Armenian demonstrations and vandalism.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin described the Gray Wolves on November 2 as a “particularly aggressive group.”
He said the move to ban the Gray Wolves, also known as the Idealist Hearths, will be put to the French cabinet on November 4.
In Turkey, the Gray Wolves are linked to the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Devlet Bahceli. The party has a political alliance with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The plan to ban the Gray Wolves comes after two anti-Armenian demonstrations by people carrying Turkish flags in the Lyon and Grenoble areas. The demonstrations are believed to be tied to the Gray Wolves.
French media also reported that a monument in Lyon dedicated to the victims of the 1915 massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was defaced with pro-Turkish Gray Wolves slogans and “RTE” in reference to Erdogan.
The Gray Wolves are considered the militant wing of the MHP, known for their pan-Turkish and far-right ideology.
In the past, they are believed to have had ties to the Turkish “deep state” and mafia, having been involved in street violence against leftists in Turkey during the 1970s and 1980s. Its members have also been involved in attacks on Kurdish activists and aided the state’s fight against Kurdish nationalist militants.
There have been tensions in France between its large ethnic Armenian population and Turkish communities over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey has strongly backed its ally Azerbaijan in the conflict over the separatist enclave that is part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by Armenian forces since the early 1990s.
There have also been weeks of tensions between France and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, Syria, and Libya.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera on November 1, President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey of adopting a “bellicose” stance towards its NATO allies.
Tensions have risen further after the beheading of a French schoolteacher who showed his pupils cartoons mocking Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.
In the wake of the killing, Macron has defended free speech, including the right to mock religion, triggering sharp rhetoric from Erdogan and a call to boycott French goods in Turkey.
France has also been taking steps to ban radical Islamist groups.