In September 2020, the Turkish government conducted a series of arrests in response to numerous deadly protests throughout Turkey dating back to 2014 in relation to invasions in Kobanî, Syria carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Kobanî is a Syrian town near the Turkish border. The protests began after ISIL began to invade the town as a means to gain more control and territory along the Turkish-Syrian border. At the time, many people expressed frustration and disappointment towards the inaction and idleness of the Turkish government in fighting back against the attacks.
Cihan Erdal, a Turkish PhD student, with Canadian permanent residency, at Carleton University in Ottawa, and a member of Turkey’s Green Left Party, was one of the many individuals who were arrested over 5 months ago.
On September 25 2020, while on a trip to visit his family in Turkey as well as to conduct some research on youth-led social movements, he was detained by Turkish police on accounts of involvement with HDP (People’s Democratic Party), a Turkish left-wing opposition party. He is accused of having incited people through Twitter to engage in the protests back in October, 2014.
His doctoral supervisor at Carleton University, Jaqueline Kennelly, wrote in an opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen: “Although he was serving as a student member of the HDP executive at this time, he was never a major player in the HDP and has not lived in Turkey since January of 2017.”
Cihan Erdal was a also a member of the Green Left Academy (Yeşil Sol Akademi). In 2017, he was in charge of conducting the opening speech for the Green Left Academy Conference which took place in Istanbul from May 26 to May 28.
He speaks of combatting Turkey’s oppressive regime, defending academic freedom, tackling the patriarchal system, and fighting for more ecological politics. Throughout his speech, Cihan Erdal expresses his wishes to build a better future with the help of the Green Left Academy.
His speech can be viewed on YouTube with English subtitles.
The European Greens’ Reaction
In January 2021, over 4 months after his arrest, members of the European Green Party demanded his release:https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1352212503594479616&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fglobalgreen.news%2Feuropean-greens-ask-for-the-release-of-imprisoned-former-turkish-green-left-party-member%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px
A few members of the European Parliament released a statement on January 21 2021, urging the Turkish government to release not only Cihan Erdal, but all other prisoners of conscience as well as journalists, political activists, academics, and many more.
“CIHAN ERDAL IS A PEACEFUL HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND AN ACADEMIC. IT IS BEYOND ABSURDITY THAT HE IS FACING AN INDICTMENT CALLING FOR 38 COUNTS OF AGGRAVATED LIFE SENTENCE BASED ON THE EVIDENCE OF TWO TWEETS, WHILE CIHAN WAS ONLY TRYING TO MAKE TURKEY A BETTER PLACE. WE ASK FOR HIS IMMEDIATE RELEASE AND CALL FOR AN END TO THIS TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE.”-Ska Keller, Co-President of the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, and other members of Parliament
The European Greens strongly condemn these unjust acts committed by Turkey that go against several human rights. In Article 8 of the European Parliament Urgency Resolution, the European Parliament calls attention to Cihan Erdal’s case.
Support From Back Home
Through numerous petitions and social media activity, growing pressure is being put on the Turkish government to release Cihan Erdal as promptly as possible.
Cihan’s family, friends, and his partner Ömer Ongun are worried for his well-being. During his imprisonment, they have created a website which includes various resources to help him such as petitions, social media accounts, letter templates to send to local MPs and press coverage.
The following links include petitions urging for the release of Cihan Erdal as well as additional resources for further reading:
- Petition to release Carleton Sociology student Cihan Erdal
- Change.org #FreeCihanErdal petition
- Twitter account for @freecihanerdal
Athena is a second year undergraduate student at Concordia University in Montreal pursuing a BA in Honours Political Science. She is passionate about international relations, tackling social and climate issues, defending human rights, and learning about what is happening in terms of politics on the other side of the world.