In a month-long exhibition, some forty original works by  Zehra Doğan are on exhibition since March 5th at the Rennes Opera House.

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The emotion displayed by the town’s representative Jocelyne Bougeard was not feigned, nor was that of the hundred or so people on hand for the opening. Zehra was freed last February 24th. All the same, she continues to deeply touch those who visit the exhibition of her paintings and drawings to which cling the recent past of the Kurdish land in Turkey, the massacres and destructions, as well as the life of the imprisoned women.

Works that cannot leave you unmoved by the story being written in blood at the gates of Europe.

Thank you again to the Rennes Opera. It is rarely the practice for an opera house to open its doors in such a welcoming fashion to an artist bearing such messages.

Zehra Doğan’s message was read by a member of Amitiés Kurdes de Bretagne who were the initiators along with local institutions of this event which is embedded in a week devoted to women.

Dear friends,

Every moment you spend in this place where you are imprisoned for having freely expressed your thoughts, for having written or drawn,  you search for a possible escape on every wall. You know that moment will come when the rays of light will make their way inside, and you wait for it impatiently.

In that box locking you in, stoned in on four sides, every message of support that finds its way inside helps the light to break out on these grey walls and brings you life. In this space where I was walled in, your support surrounded me, embraced me. I felt as if at the heart of green branches of ivy. Living with such a sensation, in such a place, is the finest feeling in the world.

Thanks to this, I was stronger than I ever was on the outside. I thank you for the attention you paid to each sentence that I wrote and to your support which allowed my voice to be heard in the outside world.

I have been freed from the box that was holding me prisoner.

But now, I find myself in a much larger box.

In this country, after every trial, a new one awaits, like a game of Russian dolls. With the prohibitions, we discover other obstacles.

In Turkey, unfortunately, although freedom of expression is a constitutional right,  people are jailed every day simply for having expressed their thoughts.

Presently, Turkish prisons are overflowing with journalists, intellectuals, authors, artists or enlightened people. Many authors see the work they write in jail confiscacted, artists cannot access the materials they need in order to create.

Here in Turkey, They strive to produce the unicellular citizens of a monotype country.

There are still questions of torture and grave violations of human rights in the jails.

In Turkish jails: babies, old people, sick people

Hundreds of babies and young children are jailed with their mother. These children don’t know what a flower means. They don’t know the scent or the texture of earth. These babies never see the sun.

In the jails, dozens of old people are still incarcerated. Often,  these ancient ones can’t even act alone anymore, even for their daily needs.

Sick detainees die, after decades of imprisonment, without ever seeing the outside world again. Families are constantly organizing funerals for their sick imprisoned relatives.

Today, a hunger strike initiated by Leyla Güven, an imprisoned elected member of parliament, continues with the participation of  hundreds of women prisoners. Using their body is the only tool they have left to express their demands. These strikers are in critical condition. I’m convinced that, for their part, authors and artists must intensify their struggle for a life of equality and freedom.

It is thanks to your support that I am now a new Zehra, more insistent in her words, and who manages to transmit her own dynamic in the struggle.

I thank PEN International infinitely, the entire PEN family dispersed across the word, all the organizations, associations and individuals, the artists and authors, for their precious support. And particularly those who contributed to the organization of this exhibition in Rennes.

To them I make the promise that I will hold my pencil with a hand even more assured.

Zehra Doğan, Istanbul, March 2 2019

There is already talk of this exhibition in a small section of the Turkish press still under reprieve, and this is a good thing.

As usual, Zehra Doğan does not talk about herself but of the singular story of Kurdish women, imprisoned or part of the resistance. Her words are collective and, through art, are a thousand times more moving than many speeches or marches.

A book containing a good part of her prison correspondence will be published this year, in French translation, at Editions des Femmes. Thus Zehra is set to meet with you again in only a few months.

And since you undoubtedly wanted to ask the question, here is the answer… Yes, she’s doing well since her liberation into this Turkey of semi-freedom. And you haven’t finished hearing or reading her collective words, or visiting her exhibitions… This is her promise to you.


It will be inaugurated on March 5th at 18 PM

Someone will be in attendance every Wednesday between 2 PM and 6 PM. Those who wish to learn more about Zehra’s expression and testimonial are warmly wellcomed.

This exhibition, an invitation to listen to Zehra’s silent cry of transmission, will also serve as the epicenter to other initiatives.

• A conference and debate will be held on March 10 at 6h30 PM at la Maison Internationale, 7 quai de Chateaubriand.

With the participation of

  • Jacques Massey, freelance journalist, author and ex-auditor for the IHESI. He has worked on inquiries into the assassinations in Paris of three Kurdish militants in 2013, Rojbin, Sakine and Fidan.
  • Hazal, an active member of the Kurdish Women’s Movement – Mouvement des femmes kurdes, an organization grouping women (whether Kurdish or not) sharing an objective of emancipation for women throughout the world, through a fight against patriarchy, not only on the front but also in daily life. (See “jineologie“)
  • Duygu Erol, Kurdish journalist in exile, correspondent for Jinha, the feminine and feminist news agency of which Zehra is one of the co-founders. This agency was forbidden and shut down by decree in 2016. Since then, it has risen from its ashes, many times under different names, every time it is muzzled and shut down by the State.
  • André Metayer, founder and precious dean of the association Kurdish Friendship of Brittany – Amitiés Kurdes de Bretagne.

• A concert on March 15th at 8:30 PM (attention the date of 16th March is changed) at the Baba Zula Bar, 182 General Patton avenue in Rennes,
for a total immersion in the colorful universes of the Yıldız group, which draws its inspiration from the oriental universe, its musical diversity and the richness of its tongues, be they Kurdish, Armenian, Turkish…

You may look up the exhibition event here on Facebook.

And you can also follow and read Zehra on social networks: on Facebook by signing up to the Free Zehra Doğan page. Here is her Twitter account @zehradoganjinhaa. During her absence, her accounts are managed by family and friends.

For more information on Zehra Doğan:
you may look up her website 
and Kedistan's special dossier on Zehra Doğan

Picture : by Gael Le Ny

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