Lawyer urges government to press Turkey on detained Carleton student – CBC News

Cihan Erdal, 32, in solitary confinement at detention centre in Ankara

Oct 24, 2020

Cihan Erdal, a 32-year-old PhD candidate at Carleton University and a permanent resident of Canada, is being held at a detention centre in Ankara, Turkey. (Submitted by Ömer Ongun)

The lawyer for a Carleton University PhD student in solitary confinement in Turkey says he hopes the Canadian government will raise the matter with Turkish authorities.

“Canada does have the right to make inquiries or ask questions of Turkish authorities in a situation like this, where it appears that there may be fundamental human rights at risk,” said Paul Champ, Cihan Erdal’s lawyer. 

Erdal, a 32-year-old PhD candidate at Carleton and a permanent resident of Canada, was taken to a detention centre in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in late September. Erdal was in Turkey in August to check on his parents during the pandemic, and stayed a few more weeks to conduct his doctoral field research.

He was among dozens of people across Turkey named in warrants and arrested on Sept. 25.

“Cihan is a loved member of the Ottawa community and … we’d love to have him home.” – Paul Champ, Cihan Erdal’s lawyer

“Many of the people in prison with him right now are elected officials — mayors, parliamentarians — and so Canada can reach out in those kind of circumstances and ask questions and [raise] concerns about the reasons for his arrest,” said Champ.

Allegations against the detainees relate to a letter written in 2014, which called on the Turkish government to step in to help the Kurdish town of Kobani, in Syria, at the height of ISIS attacks. The Turkish government accuses the signatories of supporting demonstrations that ensued in 2014, as people filled the streets to protest the Turkish military’s inaction.

Champ said he doesn’t know for sure what Global Affairs Canada has done in Erdal’s case, if anything.

Ömer Ongun, left, poses with his partner Erdal in this submitted photo. Erdal was among dozens of people named in warrants and arrested on Sept. 25. (Submitted by Ömer Ongun)

“Even when it’s a Canadian citizen abroad, I don’t always know exactly what the Canadian officials are doing,” he said. “It’s very sensitive obviously, because it deals with sovereignty of another nation, and Canada doesn’t want to overstep and make the situation worse.”

In September, Global Affairs Canada told CBC it was aware of Erdal’s detention, and said “Canadian officials continue to monitor this case closely.”

In an email response to CBC Thursday, Global Affairs said it “has raised concerns with Turkish authorities,” but did not expand on exactly what officials have done.

WATCH | Federal government could make inquiries, says lawyer:

How Canada may be able to help a Carleton PhD student detained in Turkey

Paul Champ, lawyer for Carleton PhD candidate Cihan Erdal, says the federal government could make inquiries about why Erdal has been detained in Turkey. 1:06

Erdal ‘doing much better,’ says partner

“It’s very difficult. You feel like you’re outside of the prison, but you’re somehow in a different prison,” said Erdal’s partner Ömer Ongun, a permanent resident living in Ottawa. Ongun hasn’t been able to see or speak to his partner since he was detained. 

“It’s day 27 behind bars,” said Ongun on Wednesday, explaining that Erdal is waiting for a trial without formal charges being presented to him.

WATCH | Professors, activists are calling for the release of Carleton student:

Ottawa community calls for release of Carleton student detained in Turkey

Professors and activists are calling for the release of Cihan Erdal, a Carleton doctoral candidate who was detained in Turkey last month. CBC News spoke with Erdal’s partner, Omer Ongun. 

Ongun said Erdal’s parents were able to visit him this week, and brought back news that he’s doing better than earlier. He said Erdal was able to receive newspapers and a few books. 

“He’s doing much better mentally, but of course the conditions are challenging.”

He said Erdal is “receiving a lot of respect” from guards at the detention centre. “He said they’re calling him ‘professor,'” Ongun said.

Champ said the next step is getting Canadian authorities or the ambassador in Ankara to get involved.

“Hopefully [get them] just asking questions and reinforcing with Turkish authorities that Cihan is a loved member of the Ottawa community and that we’d like him home,” said Champ.

With files from CBC’s Adrian Harewood and Priscilla Hwang

From Turkish media

October 21, 2020

Following media outlets have published stories on Cihan Erdal (in Turkish):,909769

2,500 academics worldwide sign petition for Turkey to release Cihan Erdal – Duvar English

October 18, 2020

Some 2,500 academics worldwide, including famed international scholars Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Silvia Federici, Etienne Balibar, and Enzo Traverso, have signed a petition for Turkey to release Cihan Erdal, a PhD candidate and researcher at Carleton University in Canada and an LGBT activist, who was detained in Istanbul on Sept. 25.

Some 2,500 academics worldwide have signed a petition for Turkey to release Cihan Erdal, a PhD candidate and researcher at Carleton University in Canada and an LGBT activist, who was detained in Istanbul on Sept. 25.

Famed scholars Enzo Traverso, Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar, Noam Chomsky, Silvia Federici, Toni Negri and Wendy Brown are among the names who signed the petition titled “#FreeCihanErdal.”

Erdal, 32, was detained in an operation targeting Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over 2014 Kobane protests and was arrested on Oct. 2.

The petition for Erdal’s release said that he was in Istanbul for his doctoral fieldwork on youth-led social movements in Europe.

Before moving to Canada for his studies at Carleton University, Erdal was a member of the HDP as a youth representative of the party in 2014. He is currently the coordinator for the Center for Urban Youth Research in Canada.

Carleton University previously called for international support to secure his release.

Petition to release Carleton Sociology student Cihan Erdal garners international support

Friday, October 16, 2020

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