Even if it was to be expect­ed,  we expe­ri­enced a mix of sad­ness and anger  when we learned  Zehra Doğan’s clan­des­tine prison works  were con­fis­cat­ed. Since then, her artis­tic strug­gle continues.

Zehra resists with­in the four stone walls of the high-secu­ri­ty jail for women in   Diyarbakır (Amed), in which she was thrown in June 2017.

She resists by con­tin­u­ing to draw, paint, write along­side her polit­i­cal co-detainees.

Draw­ing, paint­ing, despite the bans, despite the lack of mate­r­i­al. With her tal­ent, intel­li­gence and rage for life, she trans­forms every avail­able source into a work of art. She recy­cles real­i­ty and trans­forms con­fine­ment into creativity.

Luck­i­ly, a few of the works thus cre­at­ed were saved before the raid, as described by a recent­ly lib­er­at­ed co-detainee. They will soon be added to the exhi­bi­tion that is start­ing to cir­cu­late in Europe.

More than ever, in these harsh times, Zehra needs sup­port, vis­i­bil­i­ty and pro­tec­tion, even from a distance. 

The Turk­ish pen­i­ten­tiary sys­tem decid­ed to react and to hit where it would hurt, by con­fis­cat­ing and destroy­ing works con­sid­ered as “garbage”. It knows that this blind and bru­tal approach is a form of psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture. Hav­ing lived for two years as a jour­nal­ist with death all around her in towns under siege, Zehra has lived through worse times, no doubt, and is strong enough not to break. She demon­strates this to all those who sur­round her, near or far. But sup­port must be total.

We call on you to act, not to leave Zehra fac­ing the bureau­cra­cy alone. Her co-detainees sup­port her, let’s form the sec­ond cir­cle. Artists, jour­nal­ists, intel­lec­tu­als, you with pos­si­bil­i­ties to spread infor­ma­tion around you and the means to do so, mobi­lize with us! All of you who will read these lines, your pen can become a defen­sive weapon…

Along with PEN Inter­na­tion­al, send your protests to the prison author­i­ties and the Turk­ish author­i­ties, in your own lan­guage, in your own words.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter : abdulhamit.gul@tbmm.gov.tr

Prime Min­is­ter: binali.yildirim@tbmm.gov.tr

Send Zehra your writ­ten sup­port. To this end, we will offer you new mod­els of let­ters in Turk­ish, along with these.

PLEASE NOTE: A forced removal mea­sure has just been tak­en by the Turk­ish State against Zehra Doğan. She has been sent to the sin­is­ter prison in Tar­sus (Octo­ber 23, 2018). READ: Turkey • Zehra Doğan deport­ed with 20 prisoners
None of the cor­re­spon­dence sent to to the for­mer address in Diyarbakır prison will reach Zehra. New address:

Zehra Doğan C‑3
Tarsus Kadın Kapalı CİK 
Alifakı Mahallesi Alifakı sokak 
Tarsus – MERSİN 

And send­ing her one of these “red women” would be a plus, a thumb to the nose of the prison uni­verse. We have post­cards at your dis­pos­al for writ­ing worshops… 

Sevgili Zehra,

Yal­nız değilsin. Emeğin­le gurur duyuy­or, cesare­ti­ni kut­luy­oruz. Sesinin dünya­da duyul­duğunu bil­meni istiy­oruz. Özgür­lüğün için mücadele ver­meyi sürdüreceğiz.


Translation : Dear Zehra, You are not alone. We are proud of your work and celebrate your courage. Your voice is heard across the world and we will go on calling for your liberation. In friendship. 

Last but not least, orga­nize an exhi­bi­tion of the repro­duc­tions of Zehra’s work, allow her works to live out­side prison.

And read this tes­ti­mo­ny, help in spread­ing the call for the lib­er­a­tion of a young Kur­dish jour­nal­ist and artist who has no busi­ness being in jail, as is the case for all her com­pan­ions, polit­i­cal hostages of the regime.

Mukad­des Alataş, defendor of human rights, activist for wom­en’s rights, arrest­ed in May 2017, was incar­cer­at­ed in the same quar­ters as Zehra. In an arti­cle pub­lished on Gazete Kar­in­ca she describes how the works of Zehra Doğan, her friend and co-detainee who had con­tin­ued draw­ing despite the dif­fi­cul­ties, were con­fis­cat­ed in Octo­ber. The bat­tle of wills has con­tin­ued since… Mukad­des was let out on pro­vi­sion­al free­dom, await­ing sentencing.

Zehra’s drawings were “arrested in jail”

The door had opened out to the yard. All eyes were turned toward this door. The one who walked in was like a woman in a paint­ing; thick black hair, eye­brows and eyes. “I came too,” she said, smiling.

We sur­round­ed her, as we do with all new arrivals. We start­ed to talk. Then we helped her find her bear­ings.  Came the moment for the jail­house joke. The play, the come­di­ans, every­thing was impro­vised. The play began. We were curi­ous to see how Zehra would react. Our actress­es’ per­for­mances were very cred­i­ble. Zehra was fol­low­ing. She was hes­i­tant. At one point, she leaned over gen­tly and whis­pered in my ear: “This would­n’t be a prison joke, by any chance?” We all broke out laughing.

On the fol­low­ing days, see­ing how every­thing seemed “nor­mal” to Zehra, I talked to her about that. She laughed and answered: “While I was work­ing on-site as a jour­nal­ist, I wit­nessed so many abnor­mal things that all this strikes me as per­fect­ly normal.” 

Zehra… A painter, a jour­nal­ist, a keça Kur­dan [Kur­dish girl]

She had paint­ed on the car­board from a milk car­ton. Oh boy! This was such a huge prob­lem. “How did this car­board make its way inside?” Card­board and draw­ing were thus “arrest­ed”! This “war­rant­ed an inves­ti­ga­tion”, it was urgent “to inves­ti­gate right away”.

At first, Zehra drew on news­pa­per with a ball­point. Because draw­ing mate­ri­als were for­bid­den inside. Short­ly there­after, she moved on to the pro­duc­tion of her own mate­r­i­al. She start­ed cre­at­ing green with pars­ley, yel­low with turmer­ic. Would she be able to repro­duce the col­or brown with cof­fee grounds? I must say that, some­times, her mix­tures kept us from sleep­ing. Try to imag­ine the oily smell of toma­to sauce, once removed from the dish­es, and spread on news­pa­per. Some­times, she man­aged to pro­duce tru­ly beau­ti­ful col­ors. For exam­ple, by leach­ing the dye from my hair…After mak­ing a paint­brush out of a bird feath­er, paint out of fruit and veg­etable, and can­vas out of news­pa­per, Zehra moved on to “chain­work”.

We hung Zehra’s news­pa­per draw­ings on the walls of the court­yard. We did so in order to be pho­tographed in front of them and to send the pho­tos out­side. Our painter had also want­ed to be pho­tographed in front of her work, while draw­ing on news­pa­per with her bird­wing paint­brush. When we request­ed this shot from the prison pho­tog­ra­ph­er, we learned our painter had com­mit­ted anoth­er “crime”. “As if if was­n’t enough that she was draw­ing inside, pho­tograph­ing all this besides, that was sim­ply impos­si­ble”. And there goes anoth­er inci­dent war­rant­i­ng an inves­ti­ga­tion. And yet, we had demon­strat­ed our enthu­si­asm, “No, you must put that draw­ing, that one, a bit high­er!”… Thir­ty women, giv­ing advice, is not a lit­tle thing…

Zehra was nev­er idle. She has writ­ten the sto­ries of the wom­en’s lives, she has giv­en draw­ing lessons, she taught draw­ing to every­one, whether they knew how to hold a pen­cil or not. I was also one of her pupils.

She con­tin­ued to draw and to set her work aside. Sud­den­ly, there was a raid in the mid­dle of the night. The whole admin­is­tra­tion team entered the quar­ter in a rage. They ran­sacked through all our things, hit­ting with their mal­lets every­where, left and right. Who knows, we might have dug a tun­nel! When the raid was over, they had found “proof of the crime”. They had in their hands the draw­ings Zehra had done on news­pa­per. They also had a few books they had grabbed, just in case. They left. We stayed there, watch­ing them go. Cleanup took hours. And after see­ing her draw­ings dis­ap­pear, Zehra’s eyes were filled with tears.

 “They were my best draw­ings. Pro­duc­ing the paints was so hard. And the hair, I’d had so much trou­ble get­ting those colors. ” 

All of us were cursing.

We had been so hap­py when we had leached the dye from my hair to give it to the women in the draw­ings. And they had tak­en away those women with red hair. They had maybe thrown them into the garbage can a bit fur­ther down…

Zehra had drawn the total destruc­tion of Nusay­bin. She had com­mit­ted a “crime” and was con­demned for it. She had also com­mit­ted a “crime” by relay­ing infor­ma­tion out of Nusay­bin, and been con­demned for that also. So many times in jail, we saw Nur­say­bin through her tears.

Zehra is very inven­tive and has­n’t thrown in the tow­el. She will go on writ­ing and draw­ing. And the marks she made on my body before my lib­er­a­tion are still there.

Mukad­des Alataş

And don’t for­get that a book done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Zehra is avail­able in French. You can order it from Kedistan.

Français: Des œuvres de Zehra Doğan con­fisquées ou détru­ites Cliquez pour lire

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