ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish journalist and artist Zehra Doğan was released from a Turkish prison on Sunday after serving almost 20 months in jail for a painting the Turkish government deemed “terrorist propaganda.”
Doğan, who was sentenced to two years, nine months, and 22 days on March 24, 2017, was tried over a painting depicting the destruction in the town of Nusaybin in the Kurdish province of Mardin which remained under an on-and-off curfew for months in 2016.
The courts deemed the artwork as “terrorist propaganda” for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) whose fighters lead a guerrilla warfare against Ankara.
“They asked me why did you depict the Turkish flag on these destroyed buildings, and sentenced me to two years and 10 months. Whereas, they are the ones who took the photograph. I only painted it,” she tweeted after the court ruling.
She was referring to a photograph of a devastated Nusaybin with Turkish flags hung on destroyed buildings.
While in prison, Doğan, who has been nominated for the Index on Censorship 2019 Freedom of Expression Arts Award, continued to write and produce art despite not having access to materials.
The artist began using food and even her own blood as paint and letters, milk cartons or newspapers as her canvas.
Doğan had also founded the Kurdish JINHA, Turkey’s first women’s news agency, which was shut down in 2016 under Statutory Decree No. 675 along with 180 other media outlets in the wake of the failed coup.
“We are very pleased to hear about her release and that she can rejoin her loved ones,” CEO of Index on Censorship Jodie Ginsberg said.
“We admire her strength and her perseverance to keep her art alive despite imprisonment and conditions,” Ginsberg added.
“Her detention was unjust, and we hope that there is justice for her and many others who continue to be arbitrarily detained in Turkey.”
Speaking after her release, Doğan said she was happy to be free but also upset for the hunger strikers still behind bars, Ahval reported.
There are over 300 Kurdish political prisoners who are involved in an indefinite hunger strike in a protest led by pro-Kurdish MP Leyla Güven which has nearly reached its fourth month.
The protests aim to end the policy of isolation and the release of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed PKK leader, according to Ahval.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany