Carleton PhD student detained in Turkey, accused of inciting protests

An interesting and disturbing consular case that highlights a number of issues:
  • increasing repression in autocratic countries
  • calls for consular assistance are being applied to Permanent Residents, not just citizens (as in the case of Iran’s shooting down of the Ukrainian airline)
  • Canada will likely have more cases like this for those international students researching their country of origin histories and issues
  • and the intersection with LGBT identities.

In the ten years they’ve been together, Ömer Ongun has not gone a day without hearing the voice of his partner, Cihan Erdal.

It’s now been three days since they’ve spoken.

Their last conversation came on Friday, just moments before Erdal was detained in Istanbul’s Besiktas neighbourhood.

“It was 2 a.m. for us, 9 a.m. for Cihan in Istanbul. He called me and said ‘I love you. They are at my door. They’re going to take me away,'” Ongun said.

Erdal, a 32-year-old PhD candidate at Carleton University and a permanent resident of Canada, is now being held at a detention centre in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

He was among dozens of people named in warrants issued across Turkey on Friday. Ongun, also a permanent resident, said Erdal’s lawyer has not been allowed to see the specifics of his case file, but the allegations against all of the detainees relate to a letter written in 2014.

The letter called on the Turkish government to step in to help the Kurdish town of Kobani, in Syria, at the height of ISIS attacks.

Deadly protests

Thirty-seven people were killed in protests in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast that October as people filled the streets, angry the Turkish Army wasn’t moving in to protect Kobani and its people.

The Turkish government accuses the signatories of that letter of supporting the protests.

And the statement from Carleton:

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University condemns in the strongest possible terms the detention of Carleton Sociology doctoral candidate, Cihan Erdal, in Turkey today. The charges stem from events back in 2014, which the Turkish government are using to continue persecuting members of the leftist HDP political party, the third largest party in Turkey’s parliament. Cihan and 81 others, including academics, activists, and politicians, have been targeted because they are all signatories to a letter from six years ago calling for the Turkish government to step in to protect a Kurdish town from ISIS attacks, during a time when ISIS was quite active and many Kurds were being killed.

Cihan was an active member of the HDP in 2014 as their youth representative. However, he has not been involved in Turkish politics since he moved to Canada to do his doctoral studies at Carleton in January, 2017. He had only returned to Turkey to visit family and then to interview Turkish activists as part of his doctoral fieldwork. Cihan’s research is on youth-led social movements in Europe, including in Turkey, focused on the stories of young activists about their involvement in social movements. His work is in no way critical of the Turkish state. His research passed a formal proposal defense, and his research ethics proposal was approved before the COVID-19 pandemic began. He was beginning interviews online, while awaiting approval under the new pandemic ethics process to begin face to face interviews in Turkey, Athens, and Paris.

We ask you to vigorously demand the release of Cihan from detention and demand that the Canadian government consular offices support Cihan, who is a permanent resident of Canada.

More information on the arrests can be found here.

Source: https://carleton.ca/socanth/2020/the-department-of-sociology-and-anthropology-at-carleton-university-condemns-in-the-strongest-possible-terms-the-detention-of-carleton-sociology-doctoral-candidate-cihan-erdal-in-turkey-today/

And the website and social media campaign: freecihanerdal.ca

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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