"Thank you for this collective solidarity on behalf of prisoners… With all my heart I thank PEN International and all the PEN clubs."
Kurdish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan is the founding editor of the all-female news agency Jin News Agency (JİNHA), one of the many media outlets to have been closed in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup in 2016. Zehra herself was also among the many journalists to be arrested and imprisoned, serving almost three years in prison in Turkey on charges of ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’ in relation to her work. A key case of concern to PEN throughout her time in detention, Zehra was finally released from prison in February 2019.
Zehra arrived in London in March 2019, and in April won the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for Arts. She dedicated the award to those still imprisoned in Turkey:
“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… 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 them.”
During her residency, Zehra was active and engaged with the UK and international art world, including presenting installations and exhibitions, taking part in public events with a number of key art partners, writing articles and stories, and painting. She travelled to France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland for exhibitions of her work, meetings with publishers, and to take part in public events, conferences and performances. A collection of her writings Nous aurons aussi de beaux jours (We will also have beautiful days), translated into French by Naz Öke and Daniel Fleury, was published in France by Editions des Femmes in October 2019, and the graphic novel she worked on during her residency is forthcoming from Editions Delcourt.
In October 2019, Zehra travelled to Beirut, Lebanon where she was announced as winner of the May Chidiac Foundation Exceptional Courage in Journalism Award. Zehra dedicated the prize to ‘journalist colleagues who are searching for real information in Rojava at this very moment.’
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We are grateful to our partners, and to Index on Censorship and the International Women’s Media Foundation, for their support for Zehra’s residency.