This year, the Raven­na Fes­ti­val in Italy will ded­i­cate large seg­ments of its pro­gram­ming to Syr­ia and to the fight for free­dom led by Kur­dish women. Under these cir­cum­stances, what could be more log­i­cal than to have Zehra Doğan be an active par­tic­i­pant along with singer Aynur Doğan. The Ital­ian media talk about it.

Italiano La Cronaca di Ravenna | Français | English

From prison, Zehra Doğan wrote: “Not being able to draw, not hav­ing access to my sup­plies, for me, this is anoth­er form of tor­ture”.

The 31 year old Kur­dish artist and jour­nal­ist with Turk­ish cit­i­zen­ship will be in the Corel­li Hall of the Dante The­ater on July 2 at 10 AM for the pre­sen­ta­tion of the Fes­ti­val book “Raven­na Fes­ti­val”. First impris­oned in 2016, then again until 2019, pre­cise­ly because of a draw­ing which she pub­lished on social media and was con­sid­ered to reveal too much. It tes­ti­fies to the destruc­tion of the town of Nusay­bin fol­low­ing a mil­i­tary siege dur­ing which the Turk­ish author­i­ties attempt­ed to avoid all press cov­er­age.

Zehra Doğan ben­e­fit­ted from a large inter­na­tion­al mobi­liza­tion, from Banksy among oth­ers who ded­i­cat­ed a huge New York out­door mur­al to her. The Ital­ian pub­lic met her at the end of 2019 dur­ing the Che tem­po show under the direc­tion of Fabio Fazio and today, here in Raven­na, you may meet with her in per­son, lis­ten to her words and admire her intense and dra­mat­ic works some of which are pub­lished in the Fes­ti­val book in the large sec­tion ded­i­cat­ed to Syr­ia, before see­ing one of her artis­tic per­for­mances on July 3rd, to the music of singer Aynur Doğan, also a Kurd.

The artist and jour­nal­ist with the indomitable spir­it will be an active par­tic­i­pant in one of the artis­tic per­for­mances dur­ing the con­certs titled Roads of Friend­ship, planned for July 3rd in Raven­na and July 5th in Paes­tum.

Ded­i­cat­ed to Syr­ia and specif­i­cal­ly to two of the vic­tims of ISIS and of the mil­i­tary – mil­i­tant Hevrin Kha­laf and arche­ol­o­gist Kaled al-Asaad — the per­for­mance of Beethoven’s Sym­pho­ny N° 3 “Eroica” under the direc­tion of Ric­car­do Muti with the Gio­vanile Lui­gi Cheru­bi­ni orches­tra and the musi­cians from the Syr­i­an Expat phil­har­mon­ic orches­tra, the event under­lines the Raven­na Fes­ti­val’s strong human­i­tar­i­an impli­ca­tion. An impli­ca­tion which, since the first edi­tion of the Friend­ship Roads – now cel­e­brat­ing its thir­ty-first edi­tion – has con­cen­trat­ed on bring­ing sub­lime music to the peo­ples of regions touched by con­flicts and in need of sup­port from all sources. Because music is imma­te­r­i­al but nur­tures broth­er­hood among humans and sol­i­dar­i­ty main­tained in the face of suf­fer­ing.

Patrizia Lup­pi

Zehra Doğan, Kur­dish artist and jour­nal­ist of Turk­ish nation­al­i­ty, was born in 1989 in Diyarbakır on the shores of the Tigris in south­east­ern Turkey, where she received an art and design diplo­ma from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Dicle. She is one of the found­ing mem­bers of the JINHA news agency, the first such agency entire­ly com­posed of women, which was closed down by gov­ern­ment decree fol­low­ing the spe­cial laws from the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment in 2016. Thanks to her field work as a jour­nal­ist, she received the “Metin Gök­te­pe” Prize in 2015, named after the jour­nal­ist who died fol­low­ing tor­ture by the police in 1996 – the prize is award­ed to jour­nal­ists who “defend the integri­ty of the pro­fes­sion by resist­ing against pres­sures and obsta­cles.” In Zehra’s case, she was award­ed the prize for turn­ing the spot­light to the sto­ry of Yazi­di women, a reli­gious minor­i­ty in north­ern Irak con­sid­ered as heretics by ISIS and who were sub­ject­ed to phys­i­cal elim­i­na­tion, slav­ery and the sale of women and chil­dren on an inter­na­tion­al mar­ket for human bod­ies by the self-pro­claimed Cal­i­fate.

On July 21 2016, she was arrest­ed and impris­oned for over 4 months pri­or to her tri­al, because of a draw­ing and a few arti­cles writ­ten dur­ing the con­flict in Nusay­bin. Jour­nal­ists had been barred dur­ing the mil­i­tary siege of this Turk­ish town, hold­ing a major­i­ty of Kurds (a small Assyr­i­an minor­i­ty also lived there until 2016 of whom only one fam­i­ly remains). Then, in March 2017 and based on satel­lite imagery, the UN pro­duced a report accord­ing to which, some 355 000 to 500 000 inhab­i­tants were forced to flee the region and 70% of the build­ings were razed. The num­ber of dead and wound­ed is unknown. At that time, Zehra Doğan decid­ed to cov­er events on loca­tion in order to tes­ti­fy, and signed her own sen­tence by so doing. Lib­er­at­ed in Decem­ber 2016, she was tried on Feb­ru­ary 23 2017 and sen­tenced to 2 years and 9 months in prison.

From June 12 2017 onward, she was detained at the wom­en’s prison in Amed up until her forced trans­fer to the max­i­mum secu­ri­ty prison in Tar­sus. She was lib­er­at­ed on Feb­ru­ary 24 2019 and has resided in Lon­don since March 2019 as a guest of the British PEN.

Dur­ing her incar­cer­a­tion, the Chi­nese artist Ai Wei­wei, the Inter­na­tion­al PEN Club and Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al sup­port­ed an inter­na­tion­al cam­paign for her lib­er­a­tion as a pris­on­er unjust­ly impris­oned for her opin­ions. The artist Banksy ded­i­cat­ed a huge mur­al to her on the Bow­ery Wall in New York. In Novem­ber 2017, the Swiss asso­ci­a­tion Frei Denken award­ed her the Free­thinker Prize, joint­ly with the Per­sian jour­nal­ist Masih Aline­jad and in May 2018, the Deutsch­er Jour­nal­is­ten Ver­brand (Ger­man Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists) award­ed her the Spring of Press Free­dom Prize: prizes which she could not receive in per­son, in both cas­es, since she was still in prison. But in April 2019, she could final­ly receive the Index on Free­dom of expres­sion prize in Lon­don for her artis­tic work. And in May of that same year, the Tate Mod­ern held an exhi­bi­tion of her instal­la­tions: on this occa­sion, the artist declared that while rec­og­niz­ing the impor­tance of this exhi­bi­tion of her works in a British muse­um, her deep­est wish was to be able to do so in her coun­try, which is cur­rent­ly an impos­si­bil­i­ty. On Octo­ber 11 2019, she received the Prize of Courage of the May Chidi­ac Foun­da­tion in Bey­routh, sig­nal­ing excep­tion­al courage in jour­nal­ism. The fol­low­ing month, her book “Nous aurons aus­si de beaux jours” (We Shall Also Know Fin­er Days) was pub­lished by Edi­tions de Femmes in France, which served as an inspi­ra­tion for the title of the exhi­bi­tion of her works held recent­ly in Bres­cia.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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