Day of the Imprisoned Writer
Zehra Doğan – Journalist, painter, poet
Zehra Doğan is serving a prison sentence of 2 year, 9 months and 22 days. On 24 March 2017, she was convicted of ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’ (Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law) by the Second High Criminal Court of Mardin province, for her work as a painter and journalist. PEN International considers her imprisonment a violation of her right to freedom of expression as an artist and a journalist, and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.
In a letter to family member in October 2027, Doğan wrote:
‘When they were coming to a verdict on my work exposing the destruction in Nusaybin, they asked “Did you create this picture?” and I replied “No, you did” and was arrested. During my previous detention, I had commented “They imprisoned me for my writings and drawings but I still have my brush and pen”. This time round they’re not giving me my brush. But to provoke or prevent me from producing my art is nobody’s business. I learned within these walls to mix drawing colours from food and drink – I continue to paint and write. A person’s imagination expands when imprisoned. I paint the women here and write about their stories. You can imprison an artist but you can’t stop her productivity.’
Take Action – Share on Twitter, Facebook and other social media
Please send appeals:
- Urging the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Zehra Doğan, as she is imprisoned solely for having exercised her right to freedom of expression as an artist and as a journalist.
Minister of Justice
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi No: 22
Fax: +90 312 419 33 70
Salutation: Your Excellency
Çankaya Mah. Ziaur Rahman
Fax: +90 312 422 10 00
Salutation: Your Excellency
Please send a message of support
Please consider sending a letter or postcard to show support and solidarity. Please note that the prison only accepts letters in Turkish. If you do not speak Turkish, you can use the model letter provided.
‘Zehra, yalnız değilsin. Emeğinle gurur duyuyor, cesaretini kutluyoruz. Sesinin dünyada duyulduğunu bilmeni istiyoruz. Özgürlüğün için mücadele vermeyi sürdüreceğiz.’
(Reads: Zehra you are not alone. We are proud of your work and celebrate your courage. Your voice is heard around the world and we will keep advocating for your freedom.)
Zehra Doğan BK-4
5 Nisan Mah. Emek Cad.
Diyarbakır E Tipi Kapalı CİK
PEN members are encouraged to:
- Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting Zehra Doğan’s case;
- Organise public events, press conferences, poetry readings or demonstrations;
- Share information about Zehra Doğan and your campaigning for her via social media.
Please use the hashtag #ImprisonedWriter
- #FreeZehra – #Turkey must release painter and journalist Zehra Dogan #ImprisonedWriter @PEN_Int
- On Day of the #ImprisonedWriter take action for writers imprisoned for exercising their right to #FoE
In July 2016, Zehra Doğan was charged with ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’ and membership of a terrorist organisation. She spent 4.5 months in pre-trial arrest, prior to her release pending trial on the first of these charges, the latter having been dismissed. On 24 March 2017, she was convicted of ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’ under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law by the Second High Criminal Court of Mardin province and sentenced to 2 years, 9 months and 22 days in prison. She was taken into custody on 12 June 2017, while she was on her way to visit her family. Since her arrest, Doğan has been held in Diyarbakır Prison.
The criminal charges against Doğan relate to a painting, a news article and her social media activity. The painting at issue is her recreation of a photograph taken by the Turkish military and disseminated by social media accounts linked to the Turkish security forces. The picture was taken during the five-month curfew imposed on the town of Nusaybin, which was a site of the conflict between the Turkish army and the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party). Although Doğan neither took the picture nor added the Turkish flags, the Court in its decision states that, ‘the defendant photographed a scene in Nusaybin and painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. It is clear that the painting is against the operations that were conducted as a result of the PKK terrorist organisation’s violence and force. The painting is beyond the limit of criticism of the operations carried out by the security forces in order to restore public order and it is propaganda for the PKK’s barricade and trench policy’. Doğan argued at her trial that producing a painting of a real-life event based upon a photo taken and disseminated by the Turkish military was part of her work as a journalist.
The news item in question is an article written on 22 December 2015, in which Doğan cites the call of Elif Akboğa, a ten-year-old resident of Nusaybin, to all children: ‘We are hearing gunfire right now. When the shots intensify we run to our homes. When the tanks go away we take to the street to protest. I think we are right. I know our voices will be heard one day.’ Lastly, the Court also considered Doğan’s social media activity between 21 December 2015 and 9 December 2016 to be evidence of her guilt. In a (subsequently deleted) Tweet posted after the Court’s decision, Doğan wrote: ‘They gave me a prison penalty for taking the photo of destroyed houses and putting Turkish flags on them, but it wasn’t me who did it, it was them. I just painted it.’
Zehra Doğan (born in 1989) is the founding editor of the all-female news agency Jin News Agency (JİNHA), which was closed on 29 October 2016 by Statutory Decree No. 675. It is one of over 180 media outlets that have been closed since the beginning of the state of emergency. For her work for the agency between 2010 and 2016, Doğan received numerous awards, including the prestigious Metin Göktepe Journalism Award for her reportage ‘The Screams of Yezidi Women’.
Please let us know about your activities and send us a report about them by 15 December 2016 so that we can share them with other Centres.
For further details contact Laurens Hueting at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: email@example.com