International petition calls on Turkey to release Canadian academic

More than 2,200 people have signed a petition for the release of Cihan Erdal, a 32-year-old PhD student recently detained in Turkey, local media reported on Saturday.

Erdal, a permanent resident of Canada, had travelled to Turkey to visit family before being detained in police raids targeting the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Sept. 25. According to local reports, Erdal was in Turkey for working on his field work to complete his PhD.

Scholars including Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Silvia Federici, Étienne Balibar and Enzo Traverso have signed a petition in his support along with #freecihanerdal hashtag.

Erdal, a former executive committee member of the HDP, was held alongside more than 80 others in relation to what has become known as the Kobane incidents.

In Oct. 2014, several days of street protests broke out across Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the predominantly Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria was set to fall to Islamic State (ISIS) forces despite repeated requests for support.

More than 34 people were subsequently killed in the protests, violence the government has sought to blame on the HDP years after it happened.

HDP representatives and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) senior officials met months after the Kobane incidents in early 2015 and signed peace protocols between the Turkish state and outlawed People's Workers Party (PKK). The peace talks were consequently collapsed in July of 2015, following the general election in June in which the AKP lost its majority.

The charges against Erdal appear based on HDP social media posts calling on people to join peaceful protests, a statement by the Canadian university where he is completing his doctorate said.

Erdal denies any involvement in the allegations, Carleton University said.

On Friday, two former HDP MPs Gültan Kışanak and Gülser Yıldırım were charged with similar offences in court.

“I reject all the allegations. I have never called for any (violent) incidents,” Yıldırım said. “If there was ever a call, we made calls for democracy and against ISIS.”