On this, the 4th of April 2019, the kedi are pleased to final­ly hug Zehra Doğan at the Index on Cen­sor­ship prize cer­e­mo­ny in London.

A few months ago, Zehra Doğan was nom­i­nat­ed in the Arts cat­e­go­ry for this prize which comes with a one-year bur­sary, as recog­ni­tion for a remark­able strug­gle on behalf of free­dom of expres­sion against censorship.

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At 29, Zehra has already won a num­ber of prizes. In 2015, she was award­ed the Metin Gök­te­pe prize in jour­nal­ism, named as a trib­ute to the jour­nal­ist killed in 1996 while in police cus­tody. The prize reward­ed Zehra’s reports on Yazi­di women. On Novem­ber 5 2017, the Swiss Asso­ci­a­tion of free thinkers, Frei Denken, award­ed her the Free­thinker Prize for that year, along with the Iran­ian jour­nal­ist Masih Aline­jad. Zehra was then in jail…On May 3 2018, Deutsch­er Jour­nal­is­ten Ver­band (Ger­man asso­ci­a­tion of jour­nal­ists) award­ed her the “Spring of Press Free­dom” prize. Final­ly, on June 19 2018, she was award­ed the “Courage in jour­nal­ism” prize by the Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Media Foun­da­tion. Zehra was still in jail at that point.

Thus, this is the first time since 2015 that Zehra can appear in per­son before a jury award­ing a prize for her art.

Need we spec­i­fy: Zehra did not sol­lic­it any of these prizes.

Could you tell them that, with this prize, I and all my friends here received incred­i­ble moral sup­port, and that I’m per­fect­ly aware of the fact this prize was offered, through me, to all pris­on­ers of con­science. I am hon­ored…” she wrote on Novem­ber 12 2017, for the Swiss Free­thinker prize. She added :

Today, all day, I did house­work, I washed the clothes, I made tea sev­er­al times, I cooked. It was my day on duty. Those on duty rise à 6AM, pre­pare tea and break­fast, sweep the floor then mop it, dust the shelves, the TV and the win­dows, emp­ty the garbage, pick up the bread and the meals in the can­teen and han­dle their dis­tri­b­u­tion, pre­pare more tea, clean the tea pot, clear the tables…I did all this today.

 Who knows, per­haps you were receiv­ing the prize while I was sweep­ing the floor. The strange and odd sides to life…

 I would have loved for us to be togeth­er. But I look at this from anoth­er angle also: the fact that my thoughts are reward­ed while I am a pris­on­er makes sense. This prize was award­ed to all pris­on­ers of opinion.

(excerpts of correspondence)

A num­ber of asso­ci­a­tions, col­lec­tives, indi­vid­u­als and per­son­al­i­ties – we can’t name them all – gath­ered togeth­er behind Zehra’s pow­er­ful voice tire­less­ly describ­ing, as a jour­nal­ist and artist, as a writer also, the oppres­sion of her peo­ple, the Kurds, but also the con­crete lid cov­er­ing all thought in Turkey. This pro­vides some reas­sur­ance con­cern­ing mankind. Such prizes, pre­cise­ly, are sym­bols of this reassurance.

They also help Zehra Doğan in the real­iza­tion of her many projects and will allow her to pur­sue her resis­tance, even far from her home­land, now that she is in exile.

As a jour­nal­ist, writer, woman and Kurd from Turkey, Zehra will nev­er be sep­a­rat­ed from these mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties, wher­ev­er she may be, nor will she lose her dogged deter­mi­na­tion to do bat­tle, even when tem­pered and human­ized by her good heart. She has not fin­ished impress­ing us…

More than ever her exhi­bi­tions will dis­play her work as an artist, of course, but also, often­times in her pres­ence, her work as archivist and decoder of con­tem­po­rary Kur­dish his­to­ry. The last exhi­bi­tion was mag­nif­i­cent and oth­er dates and places are being final­ized. Her words will be avail­able before the end of the year through the pub­li­ca­tion of her prison cor­re­spon­dence in French trans­la­tion by Edi­tions des Femmes in Paris. And Zehra’s words, nev­er sub­ject to self-cen­sor­ship, are heard already in arti­cles appear­ing in Europe. “I am out of prison and will not be silent”.

Zehra’s warmth and her smile, her strength also shine through this arti­cle but tears of joy can­not be seen by internet.

The strug­gle is far from over and you will hear Zehra, again and again, speak­ing out for jailed chil­dren, for polit­i­cal pris­on­ers, for women, against patri­archy and injus­tices, for demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­etal projects in Syr­ia. For those who don’t understand…perhaps she will have to draw a picture?

Because you must have sus­pect­ed, she was award­ed the prize !

For 2019, the Index on Cen­sor­ship prize for free­dom of expres­sion and against cen­sor­ship in the Arts cat­e­go­ry is award­ed to… Zehra Doğan, for the strug­gle she con­duct­ed in prison along­side her co-detainees and in order to help her keep up the struggle.

Let’s leave the last word to Zehra, who this time received an award from her own hands.…
Here is the trans­la­tion of her speech in Kurdish:

As an artist, imag­ine your­self in a city destroyed by war. Can you think about any­thing oth­er than por­tray­ing the destruc­tion you see around you? 
“This pic­ture has crossed the line between art and criticism.” 
These words belong to the judge who gave me a prison sen­tence for a pic­ture I painted. 
The lim­its of art, which the artis­tic world has not been able to agree upon for cen­turies, have appar­ent­ly been fig­ured out by the deci­sion of a Turk­ish court. 
It is not only art that has had bound­aries drawn around it in Turkey: the things that can be said between friends, the top­ics you can write about, and the con­cepts you can debate at school with your stu­dents have all been lim­it­ed by the author­i­ties. And those who reject these lim­i­ta­tions find them­selves in prison. Jour­nal­ists who reject these lim­i­ta­tions and this “free­dom of expres­sion” either lose their jobs, their free­dom, or their lives. Women who come out against the repres­sion of the patri­ar­chal order face more dif­fi­cul­ties today than ever. The same is true for Kurds who want to express their iden­ti­ties. Kurds who do not fit into the moulds shaped for them by the author­i­ties face house raids, arrests and even death. 
Turkey’s pris­ons are filled with artists, intel­lec­tu­als and politi­cians, because we reject these lim­its forced upon our free­dom of expres­sion and we will con­tin­ue to reject them. There are thou­sands of pris­on­ers on hunger strike, fol­low­ing the exam­ple of mem­ber of par­lia­ment Ley­la Güven. Many are crit­i­cal­ly ill, please share their story. 
Although they are try­ing to restrict our free­dom of expres­sion in the pris­ons through the books they refuse to give us and the let­ters they find “sus­pect”, there are count­less inmates who have over­come this sit­u­a­tion through their own pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. I ded­i­cate this prize to Ley­la Güven, free pris­on­ers and the peo­ples of struggle.

Zehra dogan Londres

(Pho­to: Eli­na Kan­sikas pour Index on Censorship)


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