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.
Since arriving in the UK, Zehra has hosted an installation – E Li Dû Man (Left behind) – at the Tate Modern and was among the contributors to this year’s Art the Arms Fair. She has also travelled to France, Germany and Italy for exhibitions of her work and meetings with publishers. A collection of her letters from prison Nous aurons aussi de beaux jours, translated by Naz Öke and Daniel Fleury and with a preface by Aslı Erdoğan, will shortly be published by Editions des Femmes.
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.