A Turkish-Kurdish painter and journalist has been sentenced to almost three years in prison for creating a piece of artwork that depicts the destruction that was caused by Turkish security forces in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province, a Kurdish region in Turkey.
Turkish daily media Cumhuriyet stated that the reason for the Mardin Second High Criminal Court in Turkey handing down the two years, nine months, and 22 day sentence to artist Zehra Doğan was due to the detail of Turkish flags in the painting. These flags were placed on buildings that were destroyed by the Turkish forces. Although, Artforum dispute this as the reason, and point towards another feature of the artwork, claiming that the cause of her prison sentence was the painting featuring military operations.
Doğan posted a tweet, that has now been deleted but was reported by online Turkish journalism and human rights platform Turkey Purge, saying, “I was given two years and 10 months [jail time] only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, [the Turkish government] caused this. I only painted it.”
Reports state that the authorities arrested Doğan while she was at a cafe in July, whilst stating that her art “proved that she was connected to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)”, who are considered to be a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government. Ali Pasinli, Doğan’s lawyer, said according to Voice Project, an international organisation committed to freedom of expression and creative activism, “Art and paintings can never be used in such a way. This is an attack on art and artistic expression.”
Amnesty International’s report from the end of last year stated that Turkish authorities were currently implementing violent crackdowns, which resulted in half a million people being forced to leaves their homes during the past year. In a statement for Fairpress, Doğan said, “[The judge has] punished the wrong actor: Not the one who destroyed the town, […] not the one who shot the photo, but the one who painted the photo. They made this painting, not me.”