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.


And the website and social media campaign:

Dual citizenship can complicate diplomatic protection

A good overview on some of the implications on dual citizenship when visiting one’s country of origin, in light of the Mohammed Fahmy verdict (Mohamed Fahmy, jailed Egyptian-Canadian journalist, sentenced to 7 years).

A counter example to some of the comments on the Government side during the debate on C-24 Citizenship Act, who talked about the benefits of dual citizenship, not the risks.

As Macklin notes, some countries do not allow dual nationals to enter with their Canadian passports:

As well, unlike Canada, many countries, in particular non-G8 countries, do not recognize dual citizenship. Canada doesn’t require an individual to give up any citizenship of another country. But whether that persons country of origin recognizes their dual citizenship is a question from country to country, Niren said.

Some applicants will have to give up their home citizenship because they’re not going to be recognized anymore. For example, many Chinese nationals coming to Canada must give up their Chinese citizenship, as China doesn’t recognize dual citizenship.

A government of Canada website also cautions Canadians who have dual citizenship that it “may not be legal in the country of your second nationality, which could result in serious difficulties.

“You may have outstanding obligations in the second country, such as military service or taxes. Dual citizenship can also cause problems in a third country if there is confusion over which citizenship you used to gain entry,” the website says. It advises people to contact the appropriate foreign government office in Canada before heading abroad.

Some countries may also feel more justified on their claim on a dual citizen who has gotten in trouble with the law if that person used that country’s passport to enter.

An easy solution for Canadians would seem to be to always use their Canadian passport.

But “some countries take the position that they don’t mind if you’re a dual citizen, we don’t care, but when you’re coming into our country, you use your passport from this country,” Macklin said.

Dual citizenship can complicate diplomatic protection – Canada – CBC News.

Citizenship – Varia

Catching up on citizenship issues while I was away.

Good piece by Nicholas Yeoung of the Star sharing some anecdotal reactions to the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act:!/article/53147e0bec0691be4e000037

More on the British revocation provisions regarding those convicted of or suspect of terrorist activities. In contrast to the proposed approach by the Canadian government, the UK Minister has the authority, not the courts, and the UK does not intend to respect the international convention on statelessness:

How a British Citizen Was Stripped of His Citizenship, Then Sent to a Manhattan Prison | The Nation

Some op-eds on perceived remaining issues related to changes in the government’s approach to citizenship, starting with the first generation limit and a somewhat plaintive complaint about the impact on his daughter, born, living and growing up in the USA, who will not be able to pass on her Canadian citizenship to her children. Part of the risk of expatriate life, and if it is that important to her family, there are a number of paths available (but none are cost-free, ranging from the family spending time in Canada, to the daughter marrying a Canadian or giving birth in Canada).

A more serious issue is to what extent is the government required to provide consular assistance, given the increased range of situations Canadians find themselves:

No surprise that an ATIP request shows that the proposed shorter waiting time for people serving in the Canadian military is more symbolic than real, with only a minimal number of potential applicants:

The usual monthly update on citizenship processing stats, showing improvement given Budget 2013 money. The test is whether the government will continue to publish these stats should the trend turn, or commit to service standards and quarterly reports, rather than press releases when it serves their interest.

And pity the abandoned Chinese millionaires:

Consular policy shift a solution in search of a clear problem

Good piece by Natalie Brender on the recommendation for a shift in consular policy to address “Canadians of convenience”, noting some of the practicalities and other issues involved (see also Doug Saunders’ Deny assistance to Canadians living abroad? It won’t work – The Globe and Mail):

This perspective would suggest, for example, that if there’s a major problem of expatriate “free-riders” reaping the benefits of citizenship without making equivalent contributions to Canada, it could be reasonable to square matters from a fiscal angle by imposing a higher charge for renewal of expatriate Canadians’ passports. The goal of limiting “free-ridership” would also support the government’s move in 2008 to restrict transmission of Canadian citizenship to one generation born abroad.

All parties involved in the ongoing discussion about Canadian citizenship — politicians, bureaucrats, citizens and the media — would help make the conversation about policy solutions more lucid if they began with a clearer focus on what the “Canadians of convenience” problem is really all about.

Consular policy shift a solution in search of a clear problem

Deny assistance to Canadians living abroad? It won’t work – The Globe and Mail

There is a real issue here, both financial and philosophical (what should be the extent of consular service provided to Canadian citizens that have minimal connection to Canada). Saunders is a bit too dismissive of the officials who quite properly identified the issue and possible options, although he does have a point on implementation challenges and risks. And a nice plug for the upcoming Citizenship Act proposed extension of residency requirements (which will not solve the consular issue, however):

And it would need to be very well-run indeed, because the risks are horrendous: Do we really want to create a situation where we will refuse to come to the aid of a Canadian citizen in deep trouble, just because she has a good job abroad and hasn’t had the wherewithal to take a trip home for a couple of years? Do we want to risk having a Canadian die abroad of a treatable malady, or suffer torture in a foreign prison, because we have inaccurately gauged their days spent in Canada?

It would be near-impossible to implement, open to tragic flaws, and probably unconstitutional.

Far better to deal with the problem of “Canadians of convenience” using a policy change suggested by Chris Alexander, the minister of citizenship and immigration: Change the rules for obtaining Canadian citizenship so that you’re required to have lived in Canada for four out of the last six years, rather than three out of the last four years.

This longer residency requirement would put Canada in line with many other Western countries. And it would solve the problem at its source, rather than through an awkward, expensive, inhumane and probably illegal attempt to deny assistance to Canadians abroad.

Deny assistance to Canadians living abroad? It won’t work – The Globe and Mail.

The background article is here.