Dr. Aykan Erdemir is the Senior Director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. He is a former member of the Turkish Parliament (2011-2015) who served in the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, EU Harmonization Committee, and the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on the IT Sector and the Internet. As an outspoken defender of pluralism, minority rights, and religious freedoms in Turkey and the Middle East, Dr. Erdemir has been at the forefront of the struggle against violent extremism, religious persecution, hate crimes, and hate speech. He is a founding and steering committee member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a drafter of and signatory to the Oslo Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief (2014) as well as a signatory legislator to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. He is a member of the Anti-Defamation League’s Task Force on Middle East Minorities. Dr. Erdemir was awarded the Stefanus Prize for Religious Freedom in 2016 and the First Freedom Award of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) in 2019 in recognition of his advocacy for minority rights and religious freedoms.
After completing his BA in International Relations at Bilkent University, Ankara, Dr. Erdemir received an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and PhD in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University with his doctoral dissertation, “Incorporating Alevis: The Transformation of Governance and Faith-based Collective Action in Turkey.” He was a doctoral fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (2002-2004) and a research associate at the University of Oxford’s Center on Migration, Policy and Society. Dr. Erdemir worked as faculty member at Bilkent University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration (2015-2016) and Middle East Technical University’s Department of Sociology (2004-2011), where he also served as the Deputy Dean of the Graduate School of Social Sciences (2005-2011) and the Director of the German-Turkish Masters in Social Sciences program.
Dr. Erdemir has edited seven books, including Rethinking Global Migration: Practices, Policies, and Discourses in the European Neighbourhood (KORA) and Social Dynamics of Global Terrorism: Risk and Prevention Policies (IOS Press). He is co-author of the 2016 book Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces (Routledge). His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, The Hill, Newsweek, The Huffington Post, The American Interest, The National Interest, The Diplomat, The Cipher Brief, Business Insider, New York Post, WORLD, Providence, Long War Journal, The Globalist, Turkish Policy Quarterly, Hürriyet Daily News, Kathimerini, Ahram Online, Al Arabiya, The Jerusalem Post, and The Times of Israel, and quoted in media including The Economist, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, The New York Times, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Time, and Foreign Policy.