Ottawa Citizen Op-Ed by Kennelly: Turkey must release Carleton University PhD student on legal grounds

Cihan Erdal’s case must be viewed not only through the lens of academic freedom and human rights, but also through the rule of law.

Jacqueline Kennelly

Publishing date: Oct 07, 2020

The detention of Cihan Erdal, a PhD student in sociology at Carleton University, has sparked a wave of outrage from academics and members of the public across the country and the globe. An open letter calling for his release has garnered more than 1,600 signatures from Canadians. After only one day of circulation, a second letter geared towards international academics has 260 signatures, and is growing.

Erdal is currently a permanent resident of Canada, having settled here with his partner who works for a Canadian HR company. He had travelled to Turkey in August of 2020 to visit his elderly parents and conduct some basic fieldwork for his doctorate when he was caught up in a sweep of arrests.

The Canadian government is obliged to move carefully here. As a Canadian permanent resident who continues to carry Turkish citizenship, Erdal is bound by the Turkish legal system under the Vienna Convention. As its ally, Canada can and should help Turkey avoid a legal contradiction and support the release of Cihan Erdal on fundamental legal grounds so that he can continue to build his promising scholarly career in his chosen home country of Canada.

Dr. Jacqueline Kennelly is a Full Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University, and Cihan Erdal’s doctoral supervisor.

Radio Arc-en-ciel AEC-FPP, 2 octobre 2020

Dans cette émission, Jalal Haddad et Öykü Gürpınar ont parlé de la campagne #LiberezCihanErdal, de la position de la Turquie sur les affrontements entre l’Azerbaïdjan et l’Arménie, du COVID et de la “tenue républicaine”.

Spring Magazine Op-Ed | Free Cihan Erdal!

October 2, 2020

By Abram Lutes

On September 25, eighty-two individuals were arrested in Turkey as part of a broad campaign of repression against the People’s Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi, HDP) a socialist and feminist party which also stands against the repression and marginalization of Turkey’s Kurdish population. The Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleges, with little evidence, that the HDP has ties to terrorist organizations.

Repression in Turkey

One of those eighty-two people was my colleague and fellow CUPE 4600 member, Cihan Erdal. Cihan has not been allowed to see a lawyer or even read the details of the charges laid against him. But in 2014 Cihan signed a petition asking the Turkish government to do more to protect Kurds from attacks by ISIS. The Turkish government alleges that this petition incited illegal protests which were brutally repressed by the Turkish authorities in 2014. Others arrested for signing the petition include an HDP Mayor and fellow worker Sırrı Süreyya Önder of the Turkish cinema workers’ union SineSen.

Cihan is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Carleton. Contrary to the allegations of the Turkish government, he is a deep believer in peace. As his partner Omer told CBC, “Cihan is one of the kindest, most peaceful people in the world. He wanted to represent voices of LGBTQ youth, students, ecologists, make their rights and needs visible. To accuse him of calling for violence and terrorism. It’s devastating.”

Cihan has been an active member of our local and the larger Carleton community. When Cihan first began studying at Carleton, CUPE 4600 assisted him in securing his priority TA-ship and defending his priority status from attempts by administration to revoke it. Students and colleagues have all been touched positively by Cihan’s presence at our institution and that inspires us to fight tirelessly for his release.

Canadian government failing to act

However, in spite of Cihan being a significant member of our community, working and paying his taxes in Canada for many years, and making significant contributions to the prestige of scholarship in Canada, the Canadian government has been extremely reluctant to intervene to secure his release. Global Affairs gave a mealy-mouthed statement to the media that they are “monitoring the situation”, yet have not made an attempt to visit Cihan in detention or grant him consular services because he is a permanent resident rather than a full citizen.

However, there are many precedents for Canada intervening in individual human rights cases even when the victim is not a Canadian citizen. The fact that Cihan is both an accused political dissident and openly LGBT puts him especially at risk for abuse in detention. HDP leaders detained with Cihan have reportedly started a hunger strike to protest abuses and poor conditions in detainment, raising serious questions about the predicament in which Cihan is being held.

Turkish President Erdogan’s government is sometimes described as “populist”, yet it fights vociferously against popular movements for labour, women’s, LGBT, and minority rights. With the construction boom which earned Erdogan popularity imploding, the government is lashing out at external enemies – antagonizing Greece and Armenia – and internal ones – like the HDP and anyone critical of its reactionary agenda – to preserve its legitimacy.  Independent media from Turkey has reported that the accusations against the eighty-two detainees are legally baseless and likely an attempt by Erdogan to kneecap the HDP with an election just around the corner.

Cihan is not even a member of the HDP and has not been active in Turkish politics for several years yet has been caught in this brutal spiral of repression. Canada should not stand idly by as its NATO ally eliminates political and intellectual dissent and represses popular movements and should work urgently to secure Cihan’s safe return to Canada.

Challenge the repression

As the far-right continues to tighten its grip on power in Turkey and many other countries around the world, as a labour movement we must be organized to face the challenge of repression and defend our members against anti-labour attacks wherever they arise. I am immensely proud of my local and CUPE National for their swift and firm response to Cihan and the other 82 political prisoners’ detainment. We have also been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the academic community at large.

In the coming days and weeks we will continue to put pressure on the Canadian and Turkish governments for the release of political prisoners and Cihan’s safe return to Canada. You can join the campaign by writing your Member of Parliament about Cihan’s detention, contacting the Canadian embassy in Turkey, and by staying alert for future actions in solidarity with Cihan and his fellow prisoners.


Abram Lutes
Abram Lutes is the Vice-President External for the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 4600, which represents Teaching Assistants and Contract Instructors at Carleton University. He is also an M.A. student in political economy studying populism and underdevelopment. He tweets at @abramxlutes

SYRIZA Youth demands the immediate release of Cihan

Cihan Erdal: The queer activist illegally detained (along with others) in Turkey

Η Νεολαία ΣΥΡΙΖΑ αναφέρει σε ανακοίνωσή της για τη σύλληψη του Cihan:

Τον 32χρονο Cihan τον συνέλαβαν έξω από το σπίτι του, αυτόν και δεκάδες άτομα την Παρασκευή 25/09.

Αυτή τη στιγμή βρίσκεται σε κέντρο κράτησης στην Άγκυρα.

Συνελήφθη μετά από ένταλμα που εκδόθηκε σε ολόκληρη την Τουρκία, με κατηγορίες που σχετίζονται με μια επιστολή που γράφτηκε το 2014, που καλούσε την τουρκική κυβέρνηση να παρέμβει και να βοηθήσει την κουρδική πόλη Kobani, στη Συρία, στο αποκορύφωμα των επιθέσεων του ISIS.

Την ώρα της σύλληψης, τηλεφώνησε στον σύντροφό του και του είπε: «Σε αγαπώ, βρίσκονται στην πόρτα μου. Θα με πάρουν μακριά» Ζητάμε την άμεση απελευθέρωση του Cihan και των παράνομα συλληφθέντων.

Ζητάμε να λάβουν τέλος οι πολιτικές διώξεις μελών του HDP από την κυβέρνηση του Ερντογάν.

Αλληλεγγύη στους νέους και τις νέες της Τουρκίας που ασφυκτιούν από το ολοκληρωτικό καθεστώς Ερντογάν

*Φωτογραφία από την τοποθέτηση του Cihan, ως εκπροσώπου του HDP, στο συνέδριο της Νεολαίας ΣΥΡΙΖΑ το 2017

Police operation against HDP: LGBTI+ activist Cihan Erdal has been taken into custody too

Yiğit E Korkmaz

LGBTI+ activist Cihan Erdal was also detained in operation, which ended up with the detainment of 82 former HDP executives in 7 provinces. Erdal, a former Central Executive Committee member of the HDP, was also one of the founders of the LGBTI Peace Initiative.

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ankara decided to detain 82 people in 7 provinces as part of the “investigation regarding the Kobane demonstrations” held in 2014.

On the morning of September 25, former mayors and parliament members from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and several party executives were detained by home raids.

LGBTI+ activist Cihan Erdal is also among those who have been taken into custody. Erdal, a Ph.D. student at The University of Carleton in Canada, was detained while in Istanbul as part of their thesis research.

Cihan Erdal was a member of the Party Assembly and the Central Executive Committee of the HDP for two consecutive terms. Erdal, who has also been involved in the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) and the HDP’s LGBTI commissions for many years, is also one of the founders of the LGBTI Peace Initiative:

“We also think that the fight against heterosexism in the LGBTI issue cannot be separated from the struggle against capitalism and all other sources of inequality. The HDP is a party that aims to eradicate homophobia and transphobia-based discrimination. On the other hand, there is a “New Life” politics that we propose in general. We say that this policy and proposal is equally valid and necessary for Kurds, for trans’ and for homosexuals. We can’t solve the intertwined and complicated state of identity, social, ecological problems with answers that isolate all these problem areas from each other. There will be no new life there.”

Responding to questions from KaosGL.org after the HDP’s success in the election of June 2015, Erdal had said, “A political party that openly defends LGBTI rights, proposes LGBTI equality and freedom in great detail with a separate title in the election program, and declares it everywhere, has torn down the election threshold.”