Ilhan Erdem was arrested in Istanbul on Monday over alleged links to the alleged masterminds of the failed coup attempt in Turkey July 15th. He is the second Canadian national to be swept up by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sharp retaliation against the Gulen movement. Canadian authorities are unsurprisingly scant on details.
Erdem has worked for years as an Imam in Ottawa, where he was also a member of the Anatolian Heritage Federation (AHF). A friend of the family says that he has been working as an education consultant in Turkey for the last three years.
He was arrested on Monday in Ataturk airport on what the AHF calls trumped-up charges. According to Turkish press, he is accused of leading the Gulen movement in Ottawa.
The Gulen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, is a world-wide network endorsing the teachings of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is a former ally of Erdogan who turned into one of his most popular critics.
The president wasted no time in blaming him for the coup attempt that left 246 people dead earlier this month. This claim provides the government with a justification to crack down on the dissident group – a suspiciously convenient one, according to some. It is nonetheless accepted as accurate by the majority of officials, including the Trudeau government.
The Turkish population has demonstrated both against the coup and against Erdogan’s authoritarian response (namely the imposed emergency state).
AHF has stated that Erdem’s views are “simply aligned with those of Hizmet.” According to the Federation, the Canadian is victim of Erdogan’s persecution of all his detractors, “including peaceful Hizmet participants.”
Concerns for two Canadian Detainees
On Monday, while Erdem was being arrested, the Canadian government was meeting with the Turkish ambassador to discuss the case of Davud Hanci, a Calgarian recently arrested under similar circumstances. Hanci was visiting his sick father in Ankara with his wife and two children when he was arrested for allegedly having a hand in the coup attempt, according to his family.
His relatives expressed concerns over his safety to Radio-Canada, especially after seeing photos of people arrested in connection to the coup being beaten and mistreated on social media. They said Hanci’s wife was able to see him for a few seconds. He reportedly only had time to say that he was okay and anxious.
No one has been able to contact Ilhan Erdem to date.
Canadian officials have been tight-lipped about both cases. In fact, they only confirmed that a second Canadian citizen has been detained in Turkey, but refused to identify him, citing privacy concerns.
They had adopted the same stance in the case of Homa Hoodfar, a Montreal Professor currently detained in Iran, even advising the family against speaking to the media. The information came from relatives in Hoodfar’s case and from the Anatolian Heritage Federation in Erdem’s.
A source not authorized to speak publicly confided to Radio-Canada a few details about the meeting of Canadian authorities with Turkish Ambassador on Monday. They said that the government was trying to know more about the specific motives of Hanci’s arrest and wanted to express official concerns the Turkish government’s increasing resemblance to a military dictatorship.
Late on Wednesday night, Global Affairs Canada assured that they are providing consular assistance to Erdem’s family and that they are in contact with the Turkish embassy.