Zehra Doğan is a journalist for the feminist news agency JINHA. Because of her articles and drawings, she has been accused of being a member of an illegal organisation, and is currently being held in the women’s prison at Mardin.
We are launching a campaign of support, with the agreement of her friends and those close to her, to tell both Zehra and the authorities who have put her in prison that she is not alone.
We can be sure that she will share this solidarity with her fellow prisoners.
We ask you to send her postcards.
In order for your messages of support to reach her, they must obey certain rules.
The prison demands that all messages be written in Turkish.
If you can’t write Turkish, don’t worry.
- Choose a postcard with no writing on the image.
- Write your message in Turkish yourself. You can use one of the model letters you will find here.
- You can ask one of your local Kurdish [or Alevi] associations in your area. [It’s an excellent opportunity to make new acquaintances.]
- When your postcard is ready, we would love it if you would take a photo and send it to us. We regularly publish mosaics of the messages we are receiving, and it allows us to keep track of the messages in case of partial censorship or complete blockage of the mail.
- Please use this address for the photos: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Put your postcards in an envelope. On the envelope, add your name and address as sender.
Please add correct postage.
- Send your card to the following address in Turkey:
Mardin E Tipi Kadın Cezaevi
47100 MARDIN Turkey
If you don’t want to take part in this yourself for personal reasons, you can still help Zehra by sharing this message as widely as possible on your favorite social networks or email lists.
JINHA editor Zehra Doğan, currently imprisoned in Mardin E Type Closed Prison, has written a letter to JINHA. In her letter, Zehra described the prison as a place of resistance, and said, “I know that with the tenets of women’s resistance that JINHA has taught me, I will tear down the prisons with my pen and my paintbrush.”.
Here is Zehra’s letter:
Hello dear JINHA,
In this prison, one of the strongest grounds for comradeship, far from all of you, I have once again woken up to a new day today. In this city where the autumn winds blow over the arid Mardin earth, and with this historic city’s past, one is always daydreaming. This is the birthplace of Mani, who went from land to land to tell the people of the truth, with the manifesto that the final word lay in his paintings alone. It is the city of Shahmeran, who legends say contained wisdom within her. To stay here, even as a prisoner, gives me strength.
“Yes, it’s hard for me to be a prisoner in my own land, but the moment I stepped foot here, I found myself surrounded by 45 wise women, women who have become goddesses. When I saw the sparkle in their eyes, I realized that the greatest arena of struggle is the small and cramped space between these four walls. When I saw that every woman I spoke with carried a great story of struggle in her heart, I drew strength from them. My first day in prison, I was devastated that I would be so far from my profession and from JINHA, but then I saw that the most important news is actually here. This is a place where there needs to be a journalist, where the resistance against every instance of injustice needs to be reported to the public. Who knows; maybe that’s why I’m here. When I was being interrogated under arrest, the interrogators, with their masculine mindset, kept asking me, ‘Why do you practice this profession? Why do you write news? Why do you draw?’ In fact, when we first started our work at JINHA, which is the heritage of women’s resistance, we took up our pens with the cry, ‘We write without thinking what men will say.’ And as we wrote, we learned that ‘if women start to write, men’s reflections in the mirror start to shrink.’ That was why I was not obligated to give them any answer.
“When I was imprisoned, as they were putting me behind iron bars, they couldn’t take away my greatest weapons against oppressors: my pen and paintbrush. Indeed, I got the right to have them thanks to countless wise people who gave their lives for this cause, and I know quite well that they can’t easily take this right away from me. I don’t think that I’m isolated from society here at all; nor am I far from JINHA. On the contrary, at the moment I see myself as JINHA’s prison reporter, and that makes me very proud. We are the media arm of the women’s struggle for our freedom, and that’s why prison is one of the media arm’s strongest arenas. ‘Free life must be infinite reality.’ And I think that I can see this infinite reality best here.
“I see a prison that contains this many wise people as one big intellectual academy. During my imprisonment, in particular, I came to realize how honorable my profession is. The first day that Özgür Gündem newspaper was closed down was the worst day for many people in the prison. My cellmate was so sad she couldn’t keep back tears. And that was how reality descended on me like a slap in the face. Our newspaper, the newspaper that wrote the truth and its pain and resistance, had been shut down, and we ourselves had been imprisoned. The popular reaction demonstrated this most intensely. I saw an example of it through my imprisoned friend. That was when we thought, ‘so the newspaper’s been closed and lots of us have been put in jail; in that case, it’s long past time for us to put out the newspaper here.’
“Everyone was overjoyed at this idea and we got to work immediately. There are countless prisoners here who should be reported on and who have undergone various forms of torture and violations of their rights. There couldn’t be a better idea for publicizing the reality here than putting out a newspaper. We went without sleep for days to release Prison Özgür Gündem and to stand up for the newspaper. We’ll continue to do so at specific intervals. We may not have a computer or a printing press, but we have pens and paper. We may not have cameras to photograph the people we’re reporting on, but that’s when our identity as painters comes into play. If we can’t shoot photos, we’ll draw. The more I wrote and drew, the more they told me. At first, I was the only one working on our newspaper. The very day we put it to paper, the iron door opened and another journalist, Şerife Oruç, joined us in prison. At precisely the moment we needed her most, she appeared before us. Maybe lots of people have read it; we have a newspaper now.
“Now, there are lots of journalists in our barracks. Many of our friends have trained themselves to be reporters and writers for Prison Özgür Gündem. I am also giving art lessons twice a week so that they can draw pictures to accompany the news. We’ve even recently begun preparations for an art exhibition, with proceeds to be sent in solidarity with the self-government areas. We devote more of our time to these pursuits than to imprisonment. This is just how Apê Musa’s little generals ought to be, and all our friends here have this spirit. The writer says, ‘Seeing as humans’ salvation isn’t in God, it must be on earth.’ This is why we’re working to turn the prison into an arena of struggle. Maybe I won’t be released; this is Turkey, after all. I’m not much expecting a positive outcome.
“I know that with the tenets of women’s resistance that JINHA has taught me, I will tear down the prisons with my pen and my paintbrush. Don’t forget; the pen and paintbrush are still in my hands. I embrace each one of you with longing.