We are honored to share Cihan Erdal’s letter with the Canadian and global public.
Cihan Erdal is a PhD student and LGBTQ+ rights defender at Carleton University in Ottawa. Erdal has been imprisoned in Ankara, Turkey since late September. Erdal is a former high-ranking member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey’s third largest political party and a key member of the opposition to President Erdoğan and the reigning Justice and Development Party. Turkish officials have long made a point of imprisoning leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party on trumped-up charges. Erdal was apprehended and imprisoned in September, while visiting Turkey to see family and conduct research for his PhD thesis. Erdal is a prisoner of conscience and his first trial is on April 26th, 2021, 7-months following his detention.
I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. I have been working as an assistant lecturer and research assistant at Carleton University since 2017. I am also the coordinator of the Center for Urban Youth Research (CUYR) established within our university. As part of my position, we bring together researchers, academics and activists working in the field of youth from different countries (Canada, USA, UK, New Zealand, Kenya, Romania etc.) to produce knowledge and policies. I work on various topics such as youth in different countries, civic education and curriculum content, the role of youth in social movements, the experiences of young activists and their youth.
I have worked on my academic studies in the Sociology Department of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University between 2013-2017, and in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, since 2017. I earned important research scholarships thanks to the unconditional support of my mother and father, my esteemed spouse and professors and parents who are at their 60 working as farmers in Western Turkey. As a young Turkish academic at Carleton University, where I have been studying and working on a scholarship since 2017, I have tried to successfully represent the society and culture I grew up in.
But you may have heard my name with the injustice we have experienced recently. I was detained on September 25, 2020, in Istanbul, where I came to visit my family, to see my nephew’s birth and to continue the field study for my doctoral thesis. I have been held in Ankara Sincan Prison as a political hostage for 5 months as part of the case related to the Kobani protests that took place on October 6-8, 2014.
Today, in line with some political calculations, my freedom is arbitrarily and unlawfully seized due to an event for which I have no responsibility. This situation creates the risk that I may lose my doctoral research, which I have been carrying out with a great effort for four years, and my scholarship. With completely unlawful and baseless allegations and political motives, not only my individual freedom and right to education and work but also universal norms and values of law are being usurped.
The European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber decision on Selahattin Demirtaş dates December 22, 2020, very certainly indicates that there is no concrete evidence whatsoever that can convince an objective observer and justify our arrest. Although it’s tried to be presented as a new case, the ECtHR Grand Chamber decision regarding Mr. Demirtaş required the end of our unfair and arbitrary arrest without any necessity of a new application.
“The voice of every segment and citizen who believe in the rule of law, human rights, democracy and freedoms against this incredible injustice we live in will have a great meaning for the democratic future of our countries.”
Aside from the peculiarity of my trial because of a meeting that I did not attend and an invitation I did not share, as a person that objected to preachers of violence in every division of life without ifs or buts, I have to say that I find it disgraceful for law and justice that I am subjected to terrifying accusations regarding a painful incident of violence. The fact that I shared a link to a newspaper that reported the painful cry of a Kurdish father who lost his soldier son in 2015 and my one-sentence comment of “This war is not our war” being presented as “evidence” to “being a supporter of a terrorist organization” is not only a misdeed against me and my loved ones but also against Turkey’s future.
What I understand from many different historical experiences in the world is that what really fives terrorism is the attempt to substitute “terrorists-terrorist supporters” and “fighters against terrorism” instead of “citizen”. It is the mentality that makes the wheel of hate permanent and cannot escape the obsession of creating enemies. It is not a crime to be an antimilitarist or to oppose war anywhere in the world.
The opposite of violence is not just an ethical nonviolence; Of course, the principle of nonviolence is an indispensable condition of democratic politics. But beyond that, it is necessary to build a strong actor of word and truth in the face of violence. We cannot create a democratic society unless we aim to take away from our lives by taking a radical, ethical and active attitude against violence in all its forms and layers (physical, symbolic, masculine, etc.); I’ve always been in this belief. I have never been in a position to defend any type of against citizens.
“I have defended that words, talking, dialogue, negotiations are our basic needs for our century to create a world that is really different from the 20th century, which was an era of violence.”
When I was a member of the Green Left Party and the HDP Central Executive Committee, I believed in the potential of the policy of ‘becoming a party of Turkey’ to end violence radically and radically. An increase in the number of citizens that hear, talk to and understand one another could have changed the country’s fate in favor of the poor, those who are considered surplus, and those who are ignored. I enthusiastically desired the transition from a reality in which the rulers, professional politicians talked and the young people died, to the democratic peaceful atmosphere where Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, Laz, young people of different ethnic, religious, sexual and political identities talk with each other, argue and act together in Turkey. It was the spirit of Ahparig Hrant Dink who made me believe strongly that it was possible to create a change through the truth-telling, the power of word, and the magic of conscience. In the last four years, when I moved away from active politics in Turkey and focused on my academic studies in Canada, I did not leave the language of nonviolence, peace and love.
“The logic-defying charges against me with an indictment that was prepared seven years later, especially the allegation that ‘I acted upon instructions’ is extremely serious spiritual violence.”
In the past November, we heard the following statetemt from Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül: ‘Let justice be served, though the world perishes. This is what we expect from judges, members of the judiciary.’ It is remarkable that this ancient maxim attributed to Ferdinand I, the successor of Charles V, is recalled by authorities today. In fact, our humble expectation is neither the doomsday to come nor the perishment of the world; it is the implementation of the ECtHR and Turkey’s Supreme Court verdicts, which is a constitutional obligation. It is the sacredness of human life and rights and their fulfillment.
I would like to thank each and every person whose presence I felt by my side from the first moment I was detained and who gave their support with their letters, messages, prayers and good wishes.
“If they want to find links to an “organization”, the only address to be found is the honest academics and intellectuals of the country and the world that I feel honored to work with, activists who are trying to make the world a better place, my friends, relatives, my family and my spouse.”
With the belief of righteousness, as I always try to do, I will continue to pursue truth, reason, conscience, humanity, nature and the common good for all living things, without hurting anyone, without losing intellectual integrity.
We will definitely see that universal legal norms and values, and of course, love, solidarity and goodness have won.
Hope to see you on free days,
Sincan F2 Prison, Ankara Turkey