I don’t know why they put us in jail, we come out stronger than before”. This is what Zehra Doğan said in 2016, when she had been released for a short peri­od from the prison of Mardin, wait­ing for her tri­al, after 141 days.

Dur­ing these 141 days in prison, she had access to artis­tic mate­r­i­al, so she cre­at­ed a col­lec­tion of art­works, which were exhib­it­ed in Amed.

Photos ©Jef Rabillon

When she was cer­tain that she would be sen­tenced to prison for “ter­ror­ist pro­pa­gan­da” after a hear­ing and on a charge relat­ed to her work as an artist and jour­nal­ist, Zehra Doğan took refuge in Istan­bul, wait­ing for her arrest order.
She stayed there until June 2017.

On June 12, 2017, a year ago, on her way home, after vis­it­ing her moth­er in Mardin, she was arrest­ed again at a road check.

She has now been incar­cer­at­ed for one year in the high secu­ri­ty prison for women of Diyarbakır (Amed), an infa­mous prison of dis­as­ter. With­out a reduc­tion of sen­tence, Zehra still has 1 year and sev­er­al months of prison ahead of her.

She had entrust­ed Kedis­tan with a large part of the works she pro­duced in Istan­bul, hid­den in an almost clan­des­tine way in ear­ly 2017. These works are now exhib­it­ed in Europe, in orig­i­nal for­mat, or for some of them, in the form of repro­duc­tions. For exam­ple, Zehra’s repro­duc­tions are cur­rent­ly on dis­play in Det­mold, Ger­many, at the ini­tia­tive of the Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al group. In 2017, there had been an agree­ment with an art pub­lish­er to make a book out of it, almost exhaust­ed since.

These orig­i­nal works will be the sub­ject of a new major exhi­bi­tion in Sep­tem­ber-Octo­ber, dur­ing a fes­ti­val ded­i­cat­ed to Zehra Doğan. The pro­gram will soon be displayed.

They will be accom­pa­nied by oth­ers, more recent, nev­er shown before.

And yet, all artis­tic mate­r­i­al is for­bid­den today for Zehra in her prison. It’s a rule that applies to all female prisoners.

But Zehra keeps draw­ing. Despite the seizure of some of her works, despite the destruc­tion of oth­ers — or the con­fis­ca­tion of nat­ur­al pig­ments that she puts up in var­i­ous mix­tures, odor­ous but effec­tive — despite the exca­va­tions, Zehra has not put away her pen­cils, nor renounced to cre­ate brush­es. It was even report­ed that blood was one of the ingredients.

All this may seem like a Sysiph-like strug­gle, but cen­sor­ship and repres­sion are part­ly bypassed, and some “prison works” reach her sup­port­ers, we now have over fifty, which, giv­en the cen­sor­ship, gives a glimpse of Zehra’s con­tin­u­ing creativity.

The so-called “clan­des­tine” works of 2017, escaped from Istan­bul, have large­ly doc­u­ment­ed the states of siege of the cities in Bakur, and described the real­i­ty of the lives of Kur­dish women. Jour­nal­ism and artis­tic tal­ent are close­ly inter­twined, with par­tic­u­lar uses of media. The con­di­tions of cre­ation — in an apart­ment, com­pli­cat­ed and Spar­tan — had how­ev­er allowed her the use of can­vas­es and acrylics, as well as torn or tense news­pa­pers. And although a great feel­ing of emer­gency is present and ren­dered in each of the works, their “fin­ish­ing” is always precise.

We want to men­tion that all the works of Zehra which arrived in Europe, were also dig­i­tized and archived by Jef Rabil­lon, a pho­tog­ra­ph­er from Angers, in sol­i­dar­i­ty with Zehra.

Here are some examples:

Photos ©Jef Rabillon

The “prison works”, on the con­trary, are of “ran­dom” for­mats, cre­at­ed with “prison” mate­ri­als and pig­ments (some­times blood) and car­ried out under con­straint and cen­sor­ship, with the com­plic­i­ty of the co-pris­on­ers. Every­thing that pass­es under Zehra’s hand con­tributes to her cre­ations. And when cer­tain works fall into the hands of the guardians, they are imme­di­ate­ly qual­i­fied as “waste”.

And Zehra devel­ops her graph­ic research, her improb­a­ble mix­tures, her prints and her shapes, on unex­pect­ed sup­ports. Small and medi­um for­mats con­tain graph­ic and pic­to­r­i­al research which, although some ele­ments are rec­og­niz­able from pre­vi­ous works, rep­re­sent yet anoth­er open peri­od in Zehra’s art.

And this art is not a soli­tary prac­tice, iso­lat­ed in prison, cut off from the com­mu­ni­ty of pris­on­ers. It is lived, cre­at­ed, exe­cut­ed, pro­tect­ed, in the com­mune of women in which Zehra brings and receives. It is an act of col­lec­tive resistance.

Zehra, you know, keeps writ­ing too. She pre­pares short sto­ries, life sto­ries, and main­tains ongo­ing cor­re­spon­dence, despite the uncer­tain­ties and depri­va­tions of mail or com­mu­ni­ca­tion, some­times brought as “dis­ci­pli­nary sanc­tions”. Each let­ter is an invi­ta­tion to accom­pa­ny Zehra in her reflec­tion as a woman, fem­i­nist, artist and jour­nal­ist of Kur­dish cul­ture. She also describes the intense intel­lec­tu­al activ­i­ty of the pris­on­er community.

And the draw­ings accom­pa­ny, illus­trate or tell the dai­ly life of impris­on­ment, which they live in per­ma­nent resis­tance, punc­tu­at­ed by joy and sadness.

Here are some prison works which will be vis­i­ble dur­ing the exhi­bi­tion of Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber, in Brit­tany, once again.

Photos ©Jef Rabillon

We could tell you about Zehra Doğan on pages and pages. This woman, a young artist, with her rec­og­niz­able and assertive style, put in a cage and deprived of basic free­dom, under threat, like so many polit­i­cal hostages in Turkey, now sees her name quot­ed through­out the world as a sym­bol of oppres­sion in Turkey.

Two years ago, while she was already resist­ing in the prison of Mardin, she took the lib­er­ty to com­pose and pub­lish a clan­des­tine news­pa­per, “Özgür Gün­dem — Jail” with her fel­low pris­on­ers; her close friends and her fam­i­ly felt very alone in sup­port­ing her. Her name and face are now the sub­ject of pub­li­ca­tions, let­ters, and even works of art. The lit­tle streams became a river.

But this sup­port — which is now trans-nation­al — is still scat­tered, an asso­ci­a­tion here, a trib­ute there, a pub­li­ca­tion, a prize… with exhi­bi­tions orga­nized via Kedis­tan… and it is not how­ev­er a sim­ple “rep­u­ta­tion” on Google which will weigh in the con­crete require­ment of her release.

It is time for all the sup­port ini­tia­tives to work togeth­er, for each to join and strength­en the oth­er. With one year of impris­on­ment, the demand for her release must be heard, even under the elec­tion cam­paign, in Turkey.

To set our­selves the goal of act­ing togeth­er on an inter­na­tion­al scale to pro­mote Zehra’s nec­es­sary free­dom, and with it that of all polit­i­cal hostages in Turkey, is a pri­or­i­ty. It is now on the agen­da to think togeth­er on how to achieve this.

Kedis­tan — who will con­tin­ue to ensure that Zehra is exhib­it­ed in all forms, and that these exhi­bi­tions make the con­text in Turkey heard of — there­fore calls on all asso­ci­a­tions, artists and good­wills, to make their sup­port con­verge, as was once the case around Aslı Erdoğan, now free.

Zehra Doğan is a “hostage” jour­nal­ist and artist. So we are not ask­ing for a favour, but for the end of her imprisonment.

You can read the special dossier dedicated to Zehra Doğan
(French, English, Spanish, Turkish, Kurdish)

Visit her multilingual website zehradogan.net

You can also follow her on social networks
Facebook : @freezehradogan | Twitter  @zehradoganjinha

Zehra Doğan • Crear es resi­s­tir, ser libre Haga clic para leer
Zehra Doğan • Créer c’est résis­ter et rester libre
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Zehra Doğan • Yarat­mak diren­mek­tir ve özgür olmak­tır
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