For pris­on­ers, in the harsh­est of times, col­lec­tive sol­i­dar­i­ty is the great­est source of morale and energy.

In those places where they tear humans away from their envi­ron­ment, lock them away, iso­late them, do every­thing in their pow­er in order to sub­ju­gate them accord­ing to their men­tal­i­ty, com­mu­nal life inside and col­lec­tive sup­port from the out­side remain what keep a per­son upright, always.

Such a strength trans­forms you into an entire­ly dif­fer­ent per­son. You become much stronger than you were before, gain hope and expe­ri­ence hap­pi­ness. You tie your own dynam­ic to a life lived in free­dom and, in order to regain your own vital ener­gy, you launch your­self against these hideous walls, you open gaps in them. Those who are locked inside strike the walls from with­in, those who are with­out, from out­side. Inevitably, a chink opens up that lets a ray of light come in.  You know this light does not come from the false free­dom out­side. It’s an entire­ly dif­fer­ent energy…It is inde­scrib­able, it is the light of the real­i­ty you wish to attain. And this appears only through love that connects.

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I am now on the out­side. And even if I am in this crowd, in a wider cir­cu­la­tion space, I feel boxed in. And the rea­son for this sen­sa­tion: my friends who are still inside…

Four­teen days ago, I took leave of them, hold­ing in my hand a small plas­tic bag that con­tained every­thing I owned dur­ing my incar­cer­a­tion, a few draw­ings and note­books. The place where I saw them for the last time, where I turned around to look at them, was between two iron doors. It was a threshold.

So I looked at them for a last time as a free per­son. They were pris­on­ers and I was free.

The dif­fer­ence between us began at that moment.

And that moment was the heav­i­est in my life.  The final waves of the hand, the final humid eyes…My friends, with whom I shared every­thing for two years and with whom I was Me. I was present in the body of each one. And they were present in me. On that thresh­old, I felt their inner quiv­er­ing even more strong­ly. I was sep­a­rat­ing from them, leav­ing a part of myself in each one, and I was leav­ing with dozens of them in me. In a way, I had not become entire­ly free, nor were they still total­ly prisoners.

Now, I am out­side. And I must speak as I have nev­er spo­ken as much before. So that you may lend an ear to those voic­es express­ing them­selves tire­less­ly and that I car­ry in me, I must speak with­out ceas­ing. For­give me, per­haps I will tire you, but as I said, I am not alone in speaking…

The one speak­ing is Songül Bağatır, who hav­ing now been a pris­on­er for 27 years, will remain a fur­ther 45 years locked away. It is Semi­re Direkçi who joined the gueril­la at 12, who was arrest­ed, wound­ed, and has now been in jail for 22 years. It is Rahşan Aydın, sen­tenced to per­pe­tu­ity, a sen­tence to be served in full (the sub­sti­tute for the death sen­tence since its abo­li­tion in Turkey in 2004). Sima Dorak, Nursen Tekin, Azize Yağız have been pris­on­ers for 16 years…This is also the case for Rukiye Bakış who left her quin­tu­plets out­side, far away. Neza­hat Şingez, pulled away from her cats in the gaol in Amed, into forced exile to Tar­sus, and on whom tri­als keep rain­ing down. Nur­san Demir, moth­er of five chil­dren, a woman from Nusaybin.

And also Nur­can, 16 years old, also arrest­ed in Nusay­bin dur­ing the cur­fews, against whom the courts have demand­ed 73 sen­tences of incom­press­ible per­pe­tu­ity. It is also Sem­ra, 18 years old, and many oth­er women sen­tenced to per­pe­tu­ity speak­ing. Sara Kaya, Nusay­bin’s may­or, also under threat of per­pe­tu­ity.  These are all women whose lib­er­a­tion has been delayed, using the sanc­tions of iso­la­tion cells as an ali­bi, all speak­ing through my mouth, Söz­dar Oral, Süm­eye Gök, Silan Fidan, Evin­dar Aydın, Kulilk, Zeynep, jour­nal­ists Meltem Oktay, Hicran Ürin, Özlem Sey­han, Kib­riye Evren … Speak­ing also are those chil­dren incar­cer­at­ed with their moth­er, Ayşe, Der­sim, Çınar, Rüz­gar, Önder, Beyza, Viyan, and more than sev­en hun­dred oth­er chil­dren in Turkey

The pris­on­ers who have joined the hunger strike ini­ti­at­ed by par­lia­men­tar­i­an Ley­la Güven and who have put their sole tool of resis­tance, their own body, to the test, in order to demand the respect of their most ele­men­tary con­sti­tu­tion­al rights; Menal Temel, Hat­ice Kay­mak, Ley­la Tey­mur, Dil­birin Turgut, Dilan, Nursen Tekin, Hilal Ölmez, Kib­riye Evren, Evin, Zelal Fidan, Miz­gin Alphan, Hac­er Karaoğlan, Elif Atdemir, Songül Aşıla, Merge Polat, Bahar Avcı, Hal­ime Işıkçı and thou­sands of oth­er male and female prisoners.

I am not the one speak­ing, they are.

Every woman I touched has left a part of her­self in my heart. And those parts do not take days and nights into account, they speak. They speak inces­sant­ly, with­out fear, do you hear them?

In truth, this text should be a thank you let­ter for Kedis­tan,  its con­trib­u­tors, its read­ers, for all the sol­i­dar­i­ty they have brought to all the pris­on­ers of whom I was one…

But speak­ing of Kedis­tan, my words must reach far beyond, I know… It would be impos­si­ble for me to express thanks with­out evok­ing all of that. I think this alone demon­strates how col­lec­tive was the sup­port. And I am immense­ly hap­py to know that this col­lec­tive sol­i­dar­i­ty con­tin­ues today, for Ley­la Güven, who con­tin­ues her action with deter­mi­na­tion, for the may­ors Gül­ten Kışanak and Nurhay­at Altun, for deputies Figen Yük­sek­dağ, Sel­ma Irmak, Bur­cu Celik, Seba­hat Tun­cel, Edibe Sahin, all present­ly in jail.

While I was impris­oned, many peo­ple lent me an ear and lis­tened to my words. They gave mean­ing to them and gave me their sup­port. This is why I felt so good inside, like I had  nev­er felt before.

Despite the bars, I was able to go on work­ing, to make myself heard. I thank you infi­nite­ly for this.

I would like to thank the Kur­dish press first and fore­most, where I learned to express myself. I would like to thank Kedis­tan, its read­ers, and spe­cial­ly Naz Oke, Daniel Fleury, Sadık Çelik, Maite, Renée Lucie Bourges, who will scold me for sin­gling them out and also the whole team and all the friends sur­round­ing them.

I thank Aslı Erdoğan, Aynur Doğan, Titi Robin, Ai Wei­wei, Banksy, whose words brought me strength. As well as the orga­ni­za­tions that hon­ored me with prizes, such as Frei Denken, Deutsch­er Jour­nal­is­ten Ver­band, Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Media Foundation.

With all my heart I thank PEN Inter­na­tion­al and all the PEN clubs across the world, Amnesty, Index Cen­sor­ship, Free Muse, CPJ, Ifex, Artist at Risk, Voice project and all the oth­ers I am cer­tain­ly forgetting.

I thank to my lawyers Deha Boduroğlu, Alp Tekin Ocak, Olguner Olgun and Gözde.

A huge thank you for the gift of their beau­ti­ful music to artists Erik Marc­hand, Denis Péan, Col­ine Lin­der, Christophe Bel­l’œil, Eléonore Four­ni­au, Nol­wenn Kor­bell, Güler Hac­er Toruk, Syl­vain Barou, Neşet Kutaş, le Groupe Yıldız, Ruşan Fil­iztek, Mireille Mast, Yohann Vil­lan­ua, Hay­dar İşc­en and to all the oth­er musi­cians… I thank Niş­ti­man Erd­ede, Gian­lu­ca Costan­ti­ni, Elet­tra Stam­boulis and all the artists I am for­get­ting. Many thanks to the team at Lucie Lom, to Jeb Rabil­lon who pho­tographed all my works, to Philippe Leduc, for his advice and scenogra­phies of the exhi­bi­tions and for the book. I thank the dozens of big-heart­ed peo­ple who took the risk of bring­ing my works to Europe but also many oth­ers, who worked at fram­ing or print­ing them. Thank you to Michel Bernard of the Ral­lumeurs d’é­toiles for the mag­nif­i­cent huge star bal­loons I dis­cov­ered on the net.  Thank you to Daniel Mes­guich, Bernard Froutin, the deliv­er­ers of Le dire et l’écrire and all the oth­er voic­es, for hav­ing car­ried mine and that of my pris­on­er friends. Many thanks to Jacques Tar­di and Dominique Grange for their warmth. I thank my jour­nal­ist col­leagues doing their job with heart such as Marie Laverre, Valérie La Mes­lée, Güler Yıldız and Geneviève Bridel… I thank Edi­tions des femmes and Les Arts Dess­inés and Les Cahiers de la la BD for their inter­est. I was informed of all their atten­tions dur­ing these more than two years…

I thank all the orga­ni­za­tions, fes­ti­vals, asso­ci­a­tions which rein­forced and widened this wave of sol­i­dar­i­ty with exhi­bi­tions and ini­tia­tives of all sizes, each one more cre­ative than the other.

I thank all the peo­ple who offer their ener­gy gen­er­ous­ly, orga­nize work­shops and ini­tia­tives and who con­tin­ue to rain down cards and let­ters in pris­ons. They are in Angers, in Rennes, in Brit­tany, in Mar­tigues, Graul­het, Paris, Vienne, Genève, Det­mold, Lon­don, San Sebas­t­ian, in Que­bec, Bel­gium and oth­er coun­tries, towns and vil­lages I can­not all list by name…

I thank you one and all, with the hope of  warm­ly embrac­ing each one of you, some day soon.

Zehra Doğan
March 9 2019

Pic­tures : 8.03.2019. Zehra, dressed in a prayer rug that she saved from the rub­ble of Cizre under cur­few in 2015.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Zehra Doğan
Auteure, mem­bre d’hon­neur de Kedistan
Jour­nal­iste, artiste. Jour­nal­ist, artist. Gazete­ci, sanatçı.