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Artist Zehra Doğan Arrested After Turkey’s Failed Military Coup

Zehra Doğan, a Turkish painter and journalist, was among those detained in Turkey’s wave of arrests after the failed military coup on July 15, Helen Stoilas of the Art Newspaper reports. Prosecutors used her art as evidence of ties to the militant group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which fights for Kurdish rights.

On July 21, Doğan, the editor of feminist Kurdish news agency JINHA, was approached by police and arrested while sitting at a café. She is accused of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization. “Art and paintings can never be used in such a way,” Asli Pasinli, Doğan’s lawyer, said. “This is an attack on art and artistic expression.”

President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on suspected supporters of the military coup has led to the closing of three news agencies, sixteen television channels, forty-five newspapers, fifteen magazines, and twenty-nine publishers as well as the incarceration of forty-seven journalists.

Doğan will be kept in custody while she awaits a trial. Established in 2012, JINHA employs only women and publishes daily news about women from Kurdistan, Turkey, and around the world.

On July 26, Doğan wrote the following message to JINHA from her prison cell:
“I always tried to exist through my paintings, my news, and my struggle as a woman. Now, although I’m trapped between four walls, I still think that I have absolutely done my duty in full. In this country, dark as night, where all of our rights have been scratched out with the red of blood, I already knew that I would be imprisoned. I want to repeat Picasso’s teaching: do you really think that a painter is just someone who uses her brush to paint bugs and flowers? No artist turns her back on society; a painter needs to use her paintbrush as a weapon against oppressors. Not even the Nazi soldiers tried Picasso because of his paintings, and yet I am on trial because of my drawings. I will continue to draw. When a woman takes up that riot of colors, she can make a prison out of brushstrokes. But they’re just brushstrokes…. Don’t forget, it’s my hand that holds the paintbrush!”