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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