The ongoing detention of Cihan Erdal, a 32-year-old PhD student at Carleton University, has sparked a growing international movement advocating for his release.
More than 2,200 people, including famed international scholars Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Silvia Federici, Étienne Balibar and Enzo Traverso, have signed a petition supporting him.
Erdal, who is a permanent resident of Canada, has been living here since 2017. He and his partner, Omer Ongun, intend to make Canada their home. Erdal and Ongun travelled to Turkey in August 2020 to visit family, and Erdal stayed a few extra weeks to conduct fieldwork with Turkish and European youth for his doctorate.
Unexpectedly, on the morning of Sept. 25, 2020, Erdal was detained and later imprisoned alongside 16 other academics, activists and politicians.
“Cihan is an outstanding student,’’ says his PhD supervisor Jacqueline Kennelly.
“He won an Ontario Graduate Scholarship and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant last year, along with other internal departmental scholarships each year he has been here. He has been working with me as a research assistant on various projects, most recently as the co-ordinator of the Centre for Urban Youth Research. He is an extraordinarily hard worker, and an extremely smart and accomplished academic with several publications in both Turkish and English.’’
Erdal is a former central executive committee member of the left-wing opposition party, HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), a legal political party in Turkey and currently the country’s third largest party.
The arrests came following an investigation regarding 2014 protests in support of the Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria against Islamic State (ISIS) militants. The prosecutor’s accusation appears to be largely based on HDP’s Twitter posts calling for demonstrators to join the democratic protests.
Erdal strongly refutes all accusations and has stated that he was not in attendance at HDP meetings where the issue was discussed, nor was he aware of any tweets regarding the protests of Oct. 6, 2014.
Erdal has no previous arrest, detention or prison sentence and, to date, no proof has been presented to corroborate the accusations made regarding his involvement in the protests.
He is currently being held in solitary confinement pending trial. He has minimal access to the outside world, clean clothes, sufficient food or school materials, including his books and notes.
Sign the petition to demand the release of Cihan Erdal here.
Read an opinion piece by Dr. Kennelly published in the Ottawa Citizen here.
For more information, contact Jacqueline Kennelly