Français | English

Fatoş İrv­en, or “İrw­en” (with the Kur­dish spelling she com­mon­ly uses) a Kur­dish woman, teacher and artist was thrown in jail fol­low­ing a court deci­sion rest­ing on no evi­dence — in appli­ca­tion of the “anti-ter­ror­ist” law, of course.

We con­stant­ly under­line the fact Zehra Doğan is not the only one suject­ed to this fate as an artist, and even though the accu­sa­tion is dou­bled with that of pub­lish­ing as a jour­nal­ist in her case, the basic com­mon denom­i­na­tor for all is their sta­tus as free Kur­dish women, unsub­mis­sive to the Turk­ish State.

Dur­ing her first incar­cer­a­tion in Mardin jail, Zehra Doğan had also met a famous “secret wit­ness” — a woman forced through ill treat­ment to sign a blank state­ment. Fatoş İrw­en is now impris­oned in the same jail as Zehra. Like all the oth­er women in this “high-secu­ri­ty” jail, she will be deprived of any­thing that rates as “leisure materials”.

Vec­di Erbay met Fatoş’ broth­er, Niyazi İrv­en. Here is a trans­la­tion of the inter­view pub­lished on Sep­tem­ber 20 in Gazete Duvar.

At the end of the arti­cle, you will also find a brief pre­sen­ta­tion of dif­fer­ent works by Fatoş that Kedis­tan wish­es to share as a ges­ture of sup­port. It is a form of art known as con­tem­po­rary conceptual.

Artist and teacher Fatoş İrv­en went to Diyarbakır air­port last Sep­tem­ber 9th. She had just spent the Kur­ban (Aïd) hol­i­day with her fam­i­ly in Diyarbakir. She was to return that evening by plane to Istan­bul where she has lived for years, work­ing as a teacher, draw­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in exhi­bi­tions. There was lit­tle time left before the start of school activ­i­ties and work for an upcom­ing exhi­bi­tion await­ed her.

At the air­port pri­or to board­ing she pre­sent­ed her ID to a police­man, expect­ing him to glance at it and hand it back. But the police­man said : “Right this way…there’s an arrest war­rant against you.”

It was around 21h when Fatoş called me,” says her broth­er Niyazi İrv­en, speak­ing of that evening. “Over the phone Fatoş told me ‘they are hold­ing me, come get my things’. We drove urgent­ly to the air­port. The police­men did not tell us why they had tak­en Fatoş, but they allowed us to talk with her. Fatoş didn’t know why they had arrest­ed her either. After­wards, they took her to the police sta­tion. While we were try­ing to find out where they had tak­en her, Fatoş called us again : ‘they’re tak­ing me to jail’ she told us. We were stunned, we couldn’t under­stand what was going on, and nei­ther could the lawyers. »

We talk with Niyazi İrv­en in a café about Fatoş’ arrest. “You didn’t think at all about the tri­al opened against her in 2013 ?”. “No” he answers, “nei­ther Fatoş nor we had thought she would be sought rel­a­tive to that trial”

In the middle of a confrontation…

Accord­ing to Niyazi İrv­en, in 2013 Fatoş İrv­en had gone to a hos­pi­tal in Dağkapı because of an eye prob­lem. On her way back, the bus she had board­ed found itself in the mid­dle of a con­fronta­tion between the police and demon­stra­tors. The bus dri­ver then opened the doors and asked the pas­sen­gers to get out, say­ing “I can’t go any further.”

Fatoş İrv­en and all the oth­er pas­sen­gers stepped out of the bus. The police inter­vened using tear gas and water canons and arrest­ed sev­er­al peo­ple. Fatoş İrv­en was among them. Niyazi spec­i­fies “Fatoş was then held in cus­tody for two to three days.”

Fatoş İrv­en was released a few days lat­er but a tri­al remained pend­ing against her. She was charged with “resist­ing the police, oppo­si­tion to the law against demon­stra­tions and assem­blies, pro­pa­gan­da for a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, belong­ing to a ter­ror­ist organization”.

Short­ly there­after, she was sus­pend­ed from her work because of her time in cus­tody. She only found more work five months lat­er. Since Fatoş taught in Istan­bul, the tri­al pend­ing in Diyarbakır was fol­lowed by her lawyers in that town.

Only artist in a large family

Fatoş İrv­en, whom her broth­er Niyazi describes as “lov­ing her work and her stu­dents” was born in the Sûr neigh­bor­hood of Diyarbakır (Amed). She grew up in a large fam­i­ly and spent her entire child­hood and youth in the Melik Ahmet neighborhood.

Her inter­est in paint­ing pried open the doors of the draw­ing sec­tion at Dicle Uni­ver­si­ty for Fatoş. After receiv­ing her diplo­ma, she was post­ed in Bat­man. She worked a few years in Bat­man, then asked to be post­ed in Diyarbakır. Then, her pas­sion made her move to Istan­bul, the Art cap­i­tal. She was admit­ted into artis­tic cir­cles and par­tic­i­pat­ed in a num­ber of exhi­bi­tions abroad.

Niyazi İrv­en says “Fatoş is a lover of paint­ing. At home, she would say ‘if there’s a fire some day, save my works and my mate­r­i­al first’. No one in the fam­i­ly could dis­suade her from paint­ing. My father pro­vid­ed her with great moral and finan­cial sup­port. He would tease Fatoş some­times, saying’your works will make us wealthy.”

Niyazi says he has a par­tic­u­lar love for some of Fatoş’ works and explains his sister’s attach­ment to visu­al arts. “I espe­cial­ly loved some of her works. I insist­ed but she would not give them to me. She said ‘These works are not meant to stay impris­oned in homes. I want them to be seen in exhi­bi­tion halls’, and she want­ed Art to be avail­able to everyone.”

A secret witness’ testimony

With Niyazi İrv­en, we go back to the top­ic of the tri­al that end­ed with his sister’s con­dem­na­tion. His expres­sion changes as he speaks on this top­ic. From his smil­ing demeanour as he talks of Fatoş’ child­hood, her work as a teacher and an artist, his face turns dark. “An injus­tice was inflict­ed on my sis­ter, but we don’t know how or to whom we can talk about it,” he says.

He says a “secret tes­ti­mo­ny” was made against Fatoş İrv­en and con­tin­ues : “The secret wit­ness is said to have declared to the police that she was throw­ing stones at the police­men. The judge asked for evi­dence, pho­tos, videos, any­thing that could be found. There was noth­ing at all. Despite the lack of evi­dence, they sen­tenced a teacher, an artist, on the word of a secret wit­ness. This is what the court decid­ed. Let’s say this is pos­si­ble. How is it that the Court of Appeal can con­firm a sen­tence when there is no evi­dence sup­port­ing it ?”

They [the fam­i­ly, the lawyers] are about to appeal to the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Tri­bunal. Niyazi İrv­en holds no hope in the func­tion­ing of the judi­cia­ry insti­tu­tions. “Years will go by before they deal with my sister’s case, per­haps she will be out of jail by then.”

Niyazi İrv­en vis­it­ed Fatoş last week in Diyarbakir prison. “Her morale is good but the fact she will do jail time for noth­ing both­ers her” he says.
I ask Niyazi İrv­en : “Has she start­ed paint­ing in jail ?” In order to sup­ply her with draw­ing mate­r­i­al, a request must be sub­mit­ted to the prison admin­is­tra­tion. Niyazi answers : “We will know in the com­ing days. Fatoş can’t stay with no pos­si­bil­i­ty to paint. I hope there won’t be any prob­lems and that they will allow her to paint.” He adds that he brought her some sheets of paper on his last vis­it. “At least she can do pen­cil draw­ings to keep busy.”

Niyazi İrv­en also says that Fatoş’ works that have already been exhib­it­ed in Euro­pean coun­tries, notably in Italy and Ger­many, will soon be includ­ed in a new group exhi­bi­tion sched­uled for Sep­tem­ber in Istan­bul at the TÜYAP galery. “Her friends called us to say they wished to exhib­it Fatoş’ works at the TÜYAP. We said yes, of course. Fatoş would like it too.”

Tak­ing into account sen­tence adjust­ments, teacher and artist Fatoş İrv­en should be in jail for approx­i­mate­ly 2 years. With­out there being any evi­dence of a crime, on the basis of noth­ing oth­er than the tes­ti­mo­ny of a wit­ness whose iden­ti­ty is kept secret.

Vec­di Erbay

In support for Fatoş…

A few of her works…

• Group Exhi­bi­tionPost-Peace
24 Feb­ru­ary – 7 May 2017 • Wüstem ber­gis­ch­er Kun­st (WKV) – Stuttgart
“Kırk Kere Söylersen…” (“If You Say It Forty Times…”)
2017 | HD video | 5’05” | In Turk­ish with Eng­lish sub-titles
Sound : Ser­gio González Cuer­vo | Trans­la­tion : Aslı Özgen Tuncer, Sevil Tun­aboy­lu, Fatoş İrv­en | Titles : Selj & Sinan

• Group Exhi­bi­tion Bize Ait Bir Oda (In ref­er­ence to “A Room of One’s Own” by Vir­ginia Woolf )
May2017 • Ark Kültür – Istanbul

Göç Çiçek­leri” (The flow­ers of exile)

• Group Exhi­bi­tion “Hay­at Nor­male Dönüy­or” (Life returns to normal)
January/February 2016 • Bey­oğlu Stüdyo Açık – Istanbul

Fatoş İrw­en par­tic­i­pat­ed in an event with a filmed video per­for­mance in which she does embroi­dery on the palms of her hands :
“We must free our hands, first… We can re-embroi­der the Earth with our freed hands. The response we will give from Earth to the pow­er that places itself in the heav­ens, that claims to come from the heav­ens, must be in our hands.”

… and the video here

• Group Exhi­bi­tion “Yeryüzünün Sınır­ları” (The fron­tiers of the Earth)
Févri­er 2016 • Karşı Sanat, Istanbul

A pho­to of Fatoş’ per­for­mance, titled “Tuz” (Salt)

• Group Exhi­bi­tion “EVvel Mekan içinde” (There was a place/house)
Jan­u­ary 28 2011 • In an lived-in house…

Kapı Aralığı” (Through the half-open door)

In this col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence in which sev­er­al artists par­tic­i­pat­ed, Fatoş İrven’s per­for­mance attract­ed a lot of atten­tion. For this per­for­mance, the artist would dress, pre­pare her­self, put on make­up in a dim­ly lit bed­room with a half-opened door. A staged expe­ri­ence of voyeurism for the spec­ta­tors whose reac­tions and sur­prise served as a gauge to mea­sure the impor­tance of intimacy.

Dark­Deep” by Fatoş İrwen

Translation & writing by Kedistan. You may use and share Kedistan’s articles and translations, specifying the source and adding a link in order to respect the writer(s) and translator(s) work. Thank you.
KEDISTAN on EmailKEDISTAN on FacebookKEDISTAN on TwitterKEDISTAN on Youtube
Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.