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In let­ters she sent them, Zehra Doğan thanked artists Ai Wei­wei and Banksy for their sup­port. Although dif­fi­cult, a cor­re­spon­dence had begun with the two cel­e­brat­ed artists and Zehra dur­ing her incar­cer­a­tion, and some of those let­ters were pub­lished by PEN Inter­na­tion­al, on Banksy’s Insta­gram account, and in the media.

This time, the let­ter sent to Banksy will remain con­fi­den­tial or he will will choose the means for its com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but Zehra sent us a copy of the one she sent to Ai Wei­wei. Here is its full translation.

Dear Ai Weiwei, 

I thank you for the sup­port you have shown me since my arrest and all through my imprisonment.

As you say, the most fun­da­men­tal of all rights is that of free­dom of expres­sion and of iden­ti­ty. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, demand­ing democ­ra­cy in those lands which are at the bot­tom of the class in terms of human rights, and where every­thing is done to dena­ture the world and trans­form it into a uni­verse of weapons and war, is equiv­a­lent to a death sen­tence. And, what is  odd, the one who demands it is declared a trai­tor to the Home­land, con­sid­ered a “ter­ror­ist” and sent straight to jail. I write you this, not know­ing if I will be sent back to jail. I can’t risk a guess. In coun­tries that don’t even apply their own laws, this kind of ques­tion­ing is ordi­nary. Because the fact you are con­sid­ered a “ter­ror­ist” does not rest on the laws, but on the lead­ers’ amount of ego.

In the lands where I live, there is an iden­ti­ty prob­lem. Here for cen­turies we have shared these lands togeth­er, Arme­ni­ans, Syr­i­acs, Chaldeans, Mhal­lamis, Lazes and oth­er peo­ple still. Now, even say­ing this and demand­ing to live on one’s own lands, with one’s own iden­ti­ty and lan­guage is inter­pret­ed as a “wish to divide the coun­try”. For this rea­son, thou­sands of peo­ple are cur­rent­ly in jail. Thou­sands of chil­dren sick peo­ple and elders are in jail. Politi­cians, artists, defendors of rights, jour­nal­ists, authors, are in jail. Today a hunger strike began at the insti­ga­tion of Ley­la Güven (a jailed elect­ed deputy), has been joined by thou­sands of pris­on­ers who are pur­su­ing it. We are still liv­ing in a peri­od where the body becomes an instru­ment of the strug­gle. Hun­dreds of my friends have put their body to the test, and I reit­er­ate their demand.

Inside, there is a high lev­el of per­se­cu­tion. Mean­while, oppres­sion con­tin­ues against artists. Their draw­ings are con­fis­cat­ed, their note­books filled with poet­ry are seized, as are drafts of author’s nov­els. This is going on at the moment. Many artists are sub­ject­ed to these oppres­sive mea­sures. Despite every­thing, we man­aged to trans­form the jail into an art work­shop. And we man­aged to do this with the help of many peo­ple, includ­ing you, Ai Wei­wei. This can hap­pen thanks to the col­lec­tive struggle.

Dear Ai Wei­wei, the coun­try where you were born is also an oppres­sive coun­try in mat­ters of human rights. For this rea­son, I’m con­vinced you under­stand very well what I have attempt­ed to express. You nev­er gave up either. If per­se­cu­tion exists some­where, always, there also exists a dynam­ic against it. And art is the finest of those dynam­ics. I hope to go on breath­ing with this conviction.

I thank you again for your support.

Zehra Doğan
March 14 2019

Zehra is true to her word and does not keep qui­et. The promise she made to her co-detainees to make known their con­di­tion and that of the chil­dren, is not with­out dan­ger for her, as she states in this letter.

For these rea­sons, vig­i­lance and sol­i­dar­i­ty must remain in full force.

As a reminder, some forty of Zehra Doğan’s orig­i­nal works, includ­ing a good num­ber real­ized in prison, can be seen until the end of March in France, at the Rennes Opera House.

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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.