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Arrest­ed in July 2016, I spent exact­ly 141 jours in Mardin prison, while await­ing judg­ment. That same year, in August, a tra­di­tion­al Kur­dish news­pa­per Özgür Gün­dem, to which we are all attached, was closed down by decree fol­low­ing a raid.

The news­pa­per was already sur­viv­ing as best it could under cen­sor­ship and repres­sion, and the authors, jour­nal­ists, a wait­er such as Aslı Erdoğan had come to its sup­port. But there was noth­ing to be done, the regime ordered it shut down and pro­ceed­ed to the arrests. Fol­low­ing this, peo­ple were sen­tenced for “pro­pa­gan­da”.

We had heard of this in prison, in our cell­block in Mardin. It had made us angry. And that is how was born “Özgür Gün­dem — Geol” , with the thought : “since the jour­nal­ists are in prison, let’s make prison newspapers.” 

This was not the first time that pris­on­ers cre­at­ed news­pa­pers in prison. There were a num­ber of exam­ples of this dur­ing the years of repres­sion from 1980 to 2000.

There, Mardin, it so hap­pened that I had access to my draw­ing mate­ri­als and, notably large sheets of wrap­ping paper, some­thing that was denied to me in my sub­se­quent years of imprisonment.

With a few vol­un­teer co-detainees, pen­cils, ideas and a num­ber of shared tal­ents we pen­cilled out the first edi­tion. All done by hand. And not one page, mind you, but eight for our first edi­tion of which we were very proud.

This feel­ing of hav­ing worked togeth­er with the sen­sa­tion of hav­ing gone beyond a pro­hi­bi­tion almost gave us a feel­ing of lib­er­a­tion and, most­ly, boost­ed our morale. One had writ­ten the news, anoth­er reflec­tion pieces, poems, anoth­er some recipes, advices…Each one draw­ing on her skills. I for one also illus­trat­ed the issue. There was a sec­ond one.

These news­pa­pers are now exhib­it­ed in var­i­ous coun­tries as unique pieces illus­trat­ing resis­tance in Turk­ish prisons.

opzgur gundem nudem durak zehra dogan

But if I am telling you this, it is not so as to speak about myself.

A pris­on­er who was also detained in Mardin at the time, and who is still incar­cer­at­ed now but in the prison of Bay­burt, also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the cre­ation of this news­pa­per which was a way of thumb­ing our noses at the pen­i­ten­tiary’s admin­is­tra­tion. And I know that a mobi­liza­tion in her favor is ongoin­gin   France.

This pris­on­er’s name is Nûdem Durak. She is an artist, con­demned for hav­ing sung and made oth­er sing in Kur­dish, just as I was con­demned for… a drawing.

I had also writ­ten an arti­cle relat­ing her sto­ry for the  Özgür Gün­dem — Geol edi­tion.

Nûdem Durak was sen­tenced in April 2015 to ten and a half years of prison. As police lat­er said they had been search­ing for her since 2014, her sen­tence was increased to  19 ans in 2016, with­out the ben­e­fit of a fur­ther trial. 

This small tes­ti­mo­ni­al for Nûdem is the expres­sion of my total sup­port for her, sup­port I add to all the voic­es speak­ing up for her lib­er­a­tion today and for all the oth­er polit­i­cal hostages in Turkey; to some, this may seem like a use­less ges­ture. But, believe me, when you are inside, the fact of not feel­ing that you have been for­got­ten, receiv­ing signs of sup­port, mail, know­ing that out­side, some are think­ing very hard about you, helps tremen­dous­ly in resist­ing inside.

Pussy Riot Nadedja Tolokonnikova Nudem Durak

In these days of coro­n­avirus, of course, the pen­i­ten­tiary admin­is­tra­tion takes advan­tage of the sit­u­a­tion in order to iso­late the pris­on­ers even more by deny­ing them access to their mail.  Save it for bet­ter days, to avoid hav­ing them throw it away, but take note of the address. Under con­fine­ment, you have plen­ty of time to write.

I know this is not the first cam­paign on Nûdem’s behalf.

For exam­ple, Pussy Riot Nad­ed­ja Tolokon­niko­va, who spent two years in a forced labor camp her­self for hav­ing sung a song, came out in her defense and singers have sung for her.

That a new cam­paign was under­tak­en as because of Covid-19, dis­cus­sions in Turkey were under­way con­cern­ing the even­tu­al lib­er­a­tion of pris­on­ers was important.

Even if that dis­cus­sion end­ed with the exclu­sion of all polit­i­cal pris­on­ers from this mea­sure and if only mafiosi and rapists were let free, we must not lose courage, espe­cial­ly dur­ing this iso­la­tion period.

My tanks to one and all.


You can sup­port Nûdem Durak

Petition Free Nûdem Durak • Facebook  Free Nûdem Durak • Twitter @NudemDurak •  Youtube Free Nûdem Durak • Write to Nûdem and her friends in prison: Nûdem Durak M Tipi Kapalı Cezaevi Bayburt — TURKEY


Here then is the arti­cle that I had writ­ten about Nûdem for Özgür Gün­dem — Geol.

The price of singing in Kurdish: 19 years in prison

2016 —  Mardin Prison, Zehra Doğan, Özgür Gündem — Geol


With the AKP gov­ern­men­t’s geno­ci­dal oper­a­tions against Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions, the num­ber of polit­i­cal pris­on­ers has climbed to 9 thou­sand. From jour­nal­ists to aca­d­e­mics, from artists to health work­ers, from the elder­ly to the chil­dren peo­ple from every social stra­ta are locked up in prison. Nûdem Durak, the young singer from the group Koma Sorxwin is one of those who have received their share in the geno­ci­dal poli­cies undertaken.

Nûdem who devotes her­self to music and who expressed the suf­fer­ings and per­se­cu­tions of the Kur­dish peo­ple in her melodies was arrest­ed for hav­ing sung en stage, in Kur­dish, and she is now in prison.  Nûdem, incar­cer­at­ed for close to two years now, was judged in two dif­fer­ent tri­als under the same accu­sa­tions and was sen­tenced to  19 years in   prison.

She accomplished her dreams

Born in a fam­i­ly of  deng­bêj* [bards], Nûdem grew up in Dêngül, in the dis­trict of Şırnex (Şır­nak in Kur­dish). Every mem­ber of this fam­i­ly is involved in music. Her inter­est in music appeared at a young age and over time, it became a true pas­sion. As a child, her first artis­tic prac­tice was play­ing on the instru­ment she had made by fix­ing a wood­en han­dle on an emp­ty box of hal­va, and adding a string. Nûdem spent her child­hood wait­ing for the day when she would go on stage. She accom­plished her dream by tak­ing to the stage with her father, dur­ing a con­cert in Amed (Diyarbakır in Kurdish).

She bought a guitar by selling her mother’s wedding ring

In 2009 she began work­ing at the Mem û Zin cul­tur­al cen­ter.  Nûdem’s ulti­mate dream was to own a real gui­tar. Her fam­i­ly had very lim­it­ed means, so she sold the wed­ding ring her moth­er had giv­en her and…bought a gui­tar. This is how she accom­plished her dream, pro­gressed musi­cal­ly and soon start­ed putting a group together.

Her artistic dreams imprisoned

The first group she put togeth­er dis­band­ed. But  Nûdem con­tin­ued giv­ing con­certs dur­ing events such as March 8th cel­e­bra­tions with a new group she had found­ed, called Koma Sorxwin. Oppres­sion against her grew and so did the threats.  Sev­er­al inves­ti­ga­tions were opened against her for hav­ing sung and hav­ing spo­ken in Kur­dish.   Nûdem was placed in cus­tody ten times, and arrest­ed on three occa­sions. With the three arrests, she spent a total of one and a half years in prison. She is then lib­er­at­ed (under judi­cial review) dur­ing her tri­als. Her sen­tences after the two tri­als under the accu­sa­tion of “belong­ing to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion” are con­firmed by the Court of Appeal. She is sen­tenced to 10 and 9 years in prison, thus a total of 19 years.

The price for singing in Kurdish is 19 years in prison

Nûdem con­tin­ues singing nonethe­less, even if she is not on stage, to the accom­pa­ni­ment of a saz she found hid­den between walls, and says her pas­sion for music is unquench­able. “Even if I am lim­it­ed by these walls, I will always pur­sue my work”, she says, and she adds “I was arrest­ed sole­ly for singing in Kur­dish. I was judged unjust­ly. For me, the price of singing in Kur­dish was 19 years. I sang all my strand (Kur­dish songs) about Peace. And I will con­tin­ue the same way. This peo­ple real­ly needs peace and serenity.” 

(*) Dengbêj : In Kurdish “deng” means “sound” and“bêj ” is the verb “to say”.  Thus, the  dengbêj is the one who says the words in a harmonious way, the one who brings sounds to life. Traditonally, the dengbêj who lives by moving from one village to another, is a precious vehicle for the oral Kurdish literature. He “says“epics, stories, “kılam” (words, prose, poem…) and sings“stran” (song). Most dengbêj use nothing but the human voice, a few of them accompany their voice with the sound of instruments such as  « erbane » (daf) or « bılur » (a kind of kawala or flute). The dengbêj covers a wide variety of themes, from heroism to injustice, from the beauty of spring to the joys, love and pleasure, but also the sufferings.

With Eng­lish subtitles.

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