Zehra Dogan

Kurdish artist and journalist (via Skype)

Zehra Doğan is a Kurdish artist and a journalist. She is founder and editor of Jinha, a feminist Kurdish news agency with an all-female staff. Zehra was one of the first journalists to report on the Yezidi women’s escape from the hands of the Islamic State. For her work Zehra has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Metin Göktepe Journalism Award for her reportage The Screams of Yezidi Women.

During her journalistic career she has often mixed words and painting to denounce massacres and injustices. In 2017, she was sentenced to 2 years, 9 months and 22 days in prison for “terrorist propaganda” because of her news coverage, social media posts, and because of sharing a painting on social media depicting the destruction of Nusaybin, a town in southeastern Turkey, after the clashes between state security forces and Kurdish insurgents. During her imprisonment, Zehra continued to paint, despite the ban, using any recycled material, including her own blood. She made a studio out of a dimly lit stairwell. She drew on newspapers, cigarette papers and even her fellow inmates’ backs. She rifled through rubbish for possible pigments in the scraps of leftover food. Coffee grinds, tea bags, cigarette ash, potato peelings, pomegranate juice, all of these were used in her work.

In March 2018 the anonymous British artist Banksy unveiled a 70ft long mural - made in collaboration with graffiti artist Borf - in the Manhattan borough of New York to protest against the arrest of Zehra. She was awarded for her reporting from the conflict areas in Turkey’s Kurdish-populated southeast districts and provinces such as Cizre and Nusaybin with the “Exceptional Courage in Journalism Award”, given each year by the May Chidiac Foundation.

Zehra was released from Tarsus Prison in February 2019. She is one of the protagonists of Terrorists, Zehra and the others (produced by Creative Nomads) the Italian documentary on the repression of the Turkish government, based on a clandestine letter written by Zehra in prison and sent to the Italian journalist Francesca Nava.

Zehra now lives in London and exhibits her paintings and works of art all over the world. She is the first political prisoner to be detained for a drawing.

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Events in past editions