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Turkish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan. Photo: @zehradoganjinha via Twitter.
Turkish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan. Photo: @zehradoganjinha via Twitter.

Turkish Artist Zehra Doğan Released from Prison

Zehra Doğan—the Turkish journalist, artist, and activist who was sentenced to two years and ten months in prison for painting the destruction caused by Turkish security forces in Nusaybin, a predominantly Kurdish city—has been released. During her incarceration, activists from around the globe and artists such as Ai Weiwei and Banksy rallied to her defense.

Doğan was arrested in a café in Nusaybin on July 21, 2016, while on assignment for Jinha, a feminist Kurdish news agency staffed entirely by women. She served as a founding editor of the organization, which was shut down in October that same year. The news agency was one of hundreds of media outlets targeted by the government in its crackdown on opposition media in the aftermath of the country’s failed military coup.

The journalist was later charged with having connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been labeled a terrorist group by the Turkish government. The court deemed her artwork, a watercolor depicting Turkish flags hanging from the ruins of the city as plumes of smoke rise above the skyline, “terrorist propaganda.”

During her trial at the Second High Criminal Court of Mardin province in 2017, Doğan argued that her artwork was a painting based upon a photo taken and circulated on social media by the Turkish military. After her sentencing, she wrote on Twitter: “I was given two years and ten months only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, they caused this. I only painted it.”

According to Bianet, Doğan was placed in Diyarbakır Prison on June 12, 2017 and was then transferred to Tarsus Maximum Security Prison. During her incarceration, she was nominated for the Index on Censorship 2019 Freedom of Expression Arts Award, and Banksy painted a mural for the jailed artist on the Houston Bowery Wall in March 2018. Despite having no access to ink or paper, Doğan used newspapers, bed sheets, and even her own blood to continue making art.

Upon her release on February 24, she said, “I was waiting for the day when my sentence would come to an end, I am very happy.” She added: “I am sad that I have left my friends inside. I extend my thanks to every single person who supported me during this process.”