On this, the 4th of April 2019, the kedi are pleased to finally hug Zehra Doğan at the Index on Censorship prize ceremony in London.
A few months ago, Zehra Doğan was nominated in the Arts category for this prize which comes with a one-year bursary, as recognition for a remarkable struggle on behalf of freedom of expression against censorship.
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At 29, Zehra has already won a number of prizes. In 2015, she was awarded the Metin Göktepe prize in journalism, named as a tribute to the journalist killed in 1996 while in police custody. The prize rewarded Zehra’s reports on Yazidi women. On November 5 2017, the Swiss Association of free thinkers, Frei Denken, awarded her the Freethinker Prize for that year, along with the Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad. Zehra was then in jail…On May 3 2018, Deutscher Journalisten Verband (German association of journalists) awarded her the “Spring of Press Freedom” prize. Finally, on June 19 2018, she was awarded the “Courage in journalism” prize by the International Women’s Media Foundation. Zehra was still in jail at that point.
Thus, this is the first time since 2015 that Zehra can appear in person before a jury awarding a prize for her art.
Need we specify: Zehra did not sollicit any of these prizes.
“Could you tell them that, with this prize, I and all my friends here received incredible moral support, and that I’m perfectly aware of the fact this prize was offered, through me, to all prisoners of conscience. I am honored…” she wrote on November 12 2017, for the Swiss Freethinker prize. She added :
Today, all day, I did housework, I washed the clothes, I made tea several times, I cooked. It was my day on duty. Those on duty rise à 6AM, prepare tea and breakfast, sweep the floor then mop it, dust the shelves, the TV and the windows, empty the garbage, pick up the bread and the meals in the canteen and handle their distribution, prepare more tea, clean the tea pot, clear the tables…I did all this today.
Who knows, perhaps you were receiving the prize while I was sweeping the floor. The strange and odd sides to life…
I would have loved for us to be together. But I look at this from another angle also: the fact that my thoughts are rewarded while I am a prisoner makes sense. This prize was awarded to all prisoners of opinion.
(excerpts of correspondence)
A number of associations, collectives, individuals and personalities – we can’t name them all – gathered together behind Zehra’s powerful voice tirelessly describing, as a journalist and artist, as a writer also, the oppression of her people, the Kurds, but also the concrete lid covering all thought in Turkey. This provides some reassurance concerning mankind. Such prizes, precisely, are symbols of this reassurance.
They also help Zehra Doğan in the realization of her many projects and will allow her to pursue her resistance, even far from her homeland, now that she is in exile.
As a journalist, writer, woman and Kurd from Turkey, Zehra will never be separated from these multiple identities, wherever she may be, nor will she lose her dogged determination to do battle, even when tempered and humanized by her good heart. She has not finished impressing us…
More than ever her exhibitions will display her work as an artist, of course, but also, oftentimes in her presence, her work as archivist and decoder of contemporary Kurdish history. The last exhibition was magnificent and other dates and places are being finalized. Her words will be available before the end of the year through the publication of her prison correspondence in French translation by Editions des Femmes in Paris. And Zehra’s words, never subject to self-censorship, are heard already in articles appearing in Europe. “I am out of prison and will not be silent“.
Zehra’s warmth and her smile, her strength also shine through this article but tears of joy cannot be seen by internet.
The struggle is far from over and you will hear Zehra, again and again, speaking out for jailed children, for political prisoners, for women, against patriarchy and injustices, for democratic societal projects in Syria. For those who don’t understand…perhaps she will have to draw a picture?
Because you must have suspected, she was awarded the prize !
For 2019, the Index on Censorship prize for freedom of expression and against censorship in the Arts category is awarded to… Zehra Doğan, for the struggle she conducted in prison alongside her co-detainees and in order to help her keep up the struggle.
Let’s leave the last word to Zehra, who this time received an award from her own hands….
Here is the translation of her speech in Kurdish:
As an artist, imagine yourself in a city destroyed by war. Can you think about anything other than portraying the destruction you see around you?“This picture has crossed the line between art and criticism.”These words belong to the judge who gave me a prison sentence for a picture I painted.The limits of art, which the artistic world has not been able to agree upon for centuries, have apparently been figured out by the decision of a Turkish court.It is not only art that has had boundaries drawn around it in Turkey: the things that can be said between friends, the topics you can write about, and the concepts you can debate at school with your students have all been limited by the authorities. And those who reject these limitations find themselves in prison. Journalists who reject these limitations and this “freedom of expression” either lose their jobs, their freedom, or their lives. Women who come out against the repression of the patriarchal order face more difficulties today than ever. The same is true for Kurds who want to express their identities. Kurds who do not fit into the moulds shaped for them by the authorities face house raids, arrests and even death.Turkey’s prisons are filled with artists, intellectuals and politicians, because we reject these limits forced upon our freedom of expression and we will continue to reject them. There are thousands of prisoners on hunger strike, following the example of member of parliament Leyla Güven. Many are critically ill, please share their story.Although they are trying to restrict our freedom of expression in the prisons through the books they refuse to give us and the letters they find “suspect”, there are countless inmates who have overcome this situation through their own productivity. I dedicate this prize to Leyla Güven, free prisoners and the peoples of struggle.