Turkish involvement in the Syrian war has been heavily dominated by Islamist fighters, but the conflict has also drawn in an unlikely quarter — Turkish nationalists. The far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and its youth branch, the Idealist Hearths, have recently come into the spotlight with high-profile losses on the Syrian battlefield. The MHP is the main body of Turkey’s ultranationalist movement, also known as the Gray Wolves, whose hall of fame includes failed papal assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. The Alperen Hearths, the youth branch of the smaller Great Union Party, which represents the ultranationalist movement’s Islamist-leaning wing, are also visibly interested in the Syrian war.
The reason Turkish ultranationalists have gone to fight in Syria is the Turkmens, the ethnically Turkish minority that has increasingly found itself in Russia's crosshairs. After the Russian airstrikes began Sept. 30, military operations targeting Bayir Bucak, the Turkmen region in the Latakia countryside, intensified. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), meanwhile, stirred public sensitivities over the Turkmens, and the government propaganda most resonated in the ultranationalist quarter.